While volunteering at a local graveyard, Derek discovers that solving a mystery from long ago will also help him put his own present-day fears to rest.
While tracking clues from a secret code penciled in the margins of mystery novels at a public library, Derek Knowles-Collier discovers a time capsule that may finally put his haunting past to rest.
At QueensviewElementary, grade-six students are required to complete a community service unit as part of their school curriculum. Derek Knowles-Collier was sick when groups were assigned, so he is stuck with what’s leftover: landscape and repair duty at the local cemetery.
Derek is not happy about his assignment. When he was very young, his friend Dennis was killed by a car after running into the road to catch a ball. Ever since, Derek has had recurring nightmares, and he is afraid that spending time in a cemetery will make it even harder for him to sleep through the night.
It’s a relief, therefore, when his group’s lessons on all aspects of cemetery care are so interesting and strange that Derek just doesn’t have time to dwell on his experience with death. And when it rains, the lessons take place in the nearby public library, which takes him out of the cemetery altogether, at least for an afternoon.
One day, a book arrives at the library, an anonymous donation that happens every year. On reading the book, Derek and his group mates find a secret code written on an inside margin. One code leads to the next, with the last code leading the students to a time capsule.
Through a series of discoveries and deductions, Derek and his friends discover who has been sending books to the library every year. They also discover the truth behind Dennis’s long-ago death, which means that Derek is finally able to put his terrifying memories (and his nightmares) to rest.
INCLUDES A SECRET CODE FOR READERS TO DECIPHER!
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events
Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.
Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.
The author tells this story simply yet leads readers to several climatic sections with lots of twists and turns. This realistic fiction is well-written and well-developed.
Derek tells his own story, allowing readers to empathize with his fears and struggles as he comes to grips with them. . . . Surprising twists and turns amid laughter and tears.
Going far beyond mystery book conventions, Spotted Dog is also a well-told story of growth and self-forgiveness.