Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ghost Light on Graveyard Shoal

Ghost Light on Graveyard Shoal

Elizabeth McDavid Jones
For ages 10 to 12
Skyview Books, 2009   ISBN: 978-1607544432

Rhoda Midyette lives on a small island off the coast of Virginia with her mother, father and sisters. Her father is the keeper of the U.S. Lifesaving Station on the island and it is his job to rescue people from ships which get stranded or wrecked on the deadly shoals that lie just off the island. While out on the dunes one day Rhoda sees something which both frightens and disturbs her; she sees lights. When she investigates further she finds footprints in the sand. Rhoda cannot help but think about the stories she has heard about wreckers, people who deliberately lure ships onto shoals and rocks so that they can collect the salvage from the wrecked vessels. Wreckers give no thought to the lives that are lost when they wave their lanterns at ships lost in a storm. Rhoda can hardly bear to think that anyone on her island, someone whom she must surely know well, would do such a thing, but at the same time she cannot find any other explanation for what she has seen.

Rhoda’s father dismisses her ideas as being fanciful, being based on fisherman’s tales. Despite her hurt feelings, undaunted, Rhoda keeps on looking for clues, thinking all the while that she cannot give up trying to find out the source of the lights. After all, if there is a wrecker on the island, how could she live with herself if she knew that she hadn’t tried hard enough to find the answer to the mystery.

At the back of the book there is a very interesting section “Looking Back: 1895” in which the author discusses the history of the Lifesaving Service and describes the men who dedicated their lives to it. The author also talks about wrecking. Though it appears that no one is sure that wrecking actually occurred in the United States, the author fails to mention the wrecking activities that took place off the coast of England. It is believed that there wrecking was, in fact, an unfortunate reality and not a ‘legend.’ All in all this is a gripping and highly satisfying mystery.