On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave

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On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave
Genre(s)
Age Range
10+
Release Date
July 10, 2012
ISBN
9780375867811
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The phenomenally versatile, award-winning author, Candace Fleming, gives teen and older tween readers ten ghost stories sure to send chills up their spines. Set in White Cemetery, an actual graveyard outside Chicago, each story takes place during a different time period from the 1860's to the present, and ends with the narrator's death. Some teens die heroically, others ironically, but all due to supernatural causes. Readers will meet walking corpses and witness demonic posession, all against the backdrop of Chicago's rich history—the Great Depression, the World's Fair, Al Capone and his fellow gangsters.

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Beware of Ghosts
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
3.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Mike is hurrying down a country road trying to make curfew when a girl appears in the road, dripping wet, and asked to be taken home. When he drops her off at her house, she forgets her shoes in the car, but when he knocks on the door, an older lady answers. Every year on the same date, someone shows up with Carol Anne's shoes, because she died in a canoeing accident. The woman tells Mike to take the shoes to the cemetery, and when he does, he sees 55 pairs of weathered saddle shoes about, and is confronted by the ghosts of teenagers who all passed away. Their stories span the decades and are all set in Chicago. One girl dies in a fire when no one will believe her about a classmate who is an arsonist, another robs funeral homes during the Great Depression and meets a terrible end. The 1893 World's Fair and the State Asylum figure in the deaths of two other teens. Some meet their ends at the hands of demonic hood ornaments and an aunt who was a mob moll. At the end, we find out that Mike has met these ghosts because he was close to death himself, driving distractedly.

Good Points
This was a largely historical book that will be easy to give to students because of the ghost story element, especially since it starts with the old story of the driver who picks up a girl only to find out she died years ago. It's good and creepy, but nothing that will keep students awake at night. I think this will be good for readers who like Schwartz's or San Souci's collections of scary stories.
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Staying at the Grave
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
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On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave by Candace Fleming is a quick, interesting read. Usually a writer of children's picture books and of non-fiction, Fleming beautifully crosses over to the realm of children's longer fiction. Depending on how one looks at it, the novel can be picked up as a Young Adult novel.

The story mixes in some truth with paranormal fiction. In the Author's Note at the end of the book Fleming tells of where some of the inspiration for each of the phantom teen’s stories. Set in a real cemetery in Chicago, each of the teens buried at this gravesite receives the chance to share his or her story with Mike, a real boy. Why Mike is chosen by Carol Anne, one of the apparitions, is not revealed to the end of the novel.

What makes the novel so easy to read is the short stories that compose the book. Every ghost’s story makes up one chapter; all of which are connected through Mike. The tales are intricately linked after its end by returning us to the graveyard. Here, the chatter between the phantoms and Mike lead us into the next telling.

This concept may be very depressing; the telling of lives that were taken too soon from this world. The atmosphere is kept light by having most of the tales have some paranormal activity; monkey claws, wild stallions, a looking mirror that will suck one in and never spit you back out. This aspect helps the audience to not get too choked up with the sadness behind these tragic deaths.

One thing the novel is missing is Carol Anne's story. We hear of how she died in the introductory chapter, the one where Mike is led to the cemetery. After that we never learn of why she was in the canoe in the middle of the night in October. There may be bits and pieces of it but she never tells her story in her own words.

For me, “Our Story” is the theme of the whole novel. It may be fun, a little historical, but in the end it is all about every human being able to tell his or her own story in words straight from his or her mouth— no interruptions, no judgments.
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