Mystery, Intrigue and Friendships Drive Piontek's Spirit of Cattail County

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Spirit of Cattail County

Sparrow Dalton is a 12-year-old girl living in the small town of Beulah. Her mother has just died, and to make matters more difficult, she never knew who her father was.  Sparrow’s aunt (her mother’s sister) has come to live at Dalton House to take care of Sparrow. Auntie Geraldine is strict, does not like Beulah, and Sparrow thinks she hates her. 

Sparrow has always been an outsider, unaccepted by the others in the town.  Nonetheless, Sparrow loves Beulah, Dalton House, the marsh, and her mother.  And Sparrow has a secret: she sees the Boy, a ghostly presence who is her best friend.  On the day of Sparrow’s mother’s funeral, a fortune-teller comes to the annual flea market in town.  Surprisingly, the fortune-teller is a young girl no older than Sparrow.  Sparrow hopes Elena, the fortune-teller, can help her bring her mother back, believing that if she can see the Boy, she could see her mother again.  Sparrow misses her mother so badly, it hurts! Needing money to have Elena do her reading, she makes a deal with Elena’s uncle, Eli, giving him an heirloom the Daltons had in a junk drawer to find out if it is valuable enough.

In this small town, your last name is very important.  There is a divide among families.  Over the course of events, Sparrow becomes friends with the Casto clan.  Sparrow is ecstatic to finally have Maeve and Johnny Casto as friends.  The Casto children think their uncle could be Sparrow’s father.   All three children end up befriending Elena, and Sparrow revels in the thought that Mason Casto could be her father.

Sparrow decides to share the secret about the Boy with Elena, who explains to Sparrow that the Boy needs something to pass to the other side and find peace.  The children set out on a discovery mission.  At the graveyard, they find a tombstone with no name for a child around the age of 10.  Eli suggests Sparrow get access to the town’s archives to uncover the story of the tombstone.  The Monroe’s, the elite family in Beulah, own the archives.  Sparrow tricks her aunt and Ansley, the Monroe’s daughter Sparrow’s age, in order to get access to the archives, where she finds what she is looking for.

Back around the 1900s, the Monroe family worked with the railroad to place orphans with families.  It was called the Orphan Train, and it journeyed from New York City to Beulah.  The last stop was Cattail County.  The story in the paper describes how the Monroe family adopted the last child on the train.  Later, the family accused the boy of stealing a timepiece and running away.  He got lost and drowned in the marsh near Sparrow’s house.  Interestingly, a photo taken before the orphans even left on the train showed the young boy with the watch.

Will Sparrow discover who her father is?  Will Auntie Geraldine and Sparrow learn to love each other?  Will Sparrow be able to help the Boy find peace?  And what is Sparrow’s future in Beulah?  

I truly enjoyed this book.  Mystery, intrigue, friendships, and family are all part of this loveable story.  I could not stop reading toward the end.  I wanted answers to all the questions I had.  It gave me a renewed faith in family bonds and filled me with a warm feeling.  Victoria Piontek used similes and imagery so well, the reader becomes completely immersed in the marsh and the town of Beulah!

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0