word craft


The Seer of Shadows

What’s this book about?

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Car­pe­tine has been raised to believe in sci­ence and ratio­nal­i­ty. So as appren­tice to Enoch Mid­dled­itch, a soci­ety pho­tog­ra­ph­er, he thinks of his trade as a sci­en­tif­ic art. But when wealthy soci­ety matron Mrs. Fred­er­ick Von Macht orders a pho­to­graph­ic por­trait, strange things begin to happen.

Horace’s first real pho­tographs reveal a fright­ful like­ness: it’s the image of the Von Machts’ dead daugh­ter, Eleanora.

Pegg, the Von Machts’ black ser­vant girl, then leads him to the truth about who Eleano­ra real­ly was and how she actu­al­ly died. Joined in friend­ship, Pegg and Horace soon real­ize that his pho­tographs are evok­ing both Eleanora’s image and her ghost. Eleano­ra returns, a venge­ful wraith intent on pun­ish­ing those who abused her.


Story Behind the Story

When you think of all the images you see there is no more ubiq­ui­tous art form than pho­tog­ra­phy. The first pho­to­graph is thought to have been made in 1826 (1827?) but it took a long time for it to become acces­si­ble to vast num­bers of peo­ple. I have long been inter­est­ed in pho­tog­ra­phy as a fine art, and for a good num­ber of years had what was called a “dark room.”

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Awards and Recognition

  • School Library Jour­nal Best books of the year, 2008
  • School Library Jour­nal, starred review
  • Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, starred review
  • Chica­go Pub­lic Library’s Best of the Best Books list, 2008
  • Coop­er­a­tive Chil­dren’s Book Cen­ter Book of the Week
  • Coop­er­a­tive Chil­dren’s Book Cen­ter Choice, 2009
  • Mis­souri Mark Twain Read­ers Award nom­i­nee, 2010–2011


… In per­haps [Avi’s] best work yet, [he] has cre­at­ed a tru­ly chill­ing tale that will stay with the read­er long after the last page is turned and the lights are turned out.” (Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture)

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