Salerni, Dianne K. 2013. THE CAGED GRAVES. Boston, MA: Clarion. ISBN 9780547868530 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-12]
After the end of the Civil War, seventeen year old Verity returns to her hometown in Pennsylvania and accepts an arranged marriage with a local farmer. At first Verity is happy to reunite with her father and meet her fiancé, Nate. However, once she arrives home, Verity discovers her mother’s grave is surrounded by an iron cage and her father refuses to discuss the reason. Unsettling rumors about her mother’s death and unorthodox burial are whispered around town. Verity begins to question why she had been sent away as a toddler and search for answers in the suspicious community. It becomes clear that the mysterious circumstances surrounding her mother’s death must be resolved before Verity can find happiness.
On a trip to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, the author was intrigued by several caged graves in a historic cemetery. During her investigation Salerni couldn’t discover the reason behind burying the women inside the cages, so she wrote a possible story to explain the unusual practice. The author’s note describes her research on the graves and former inhabitants of the area. Curious readers can use these notes to start their own search for answers to this mystery.
Offer this novel to fans of historical fiction that enjoy books with connections to real life mysteries. Salerni’s work would make a good book club selection or writing prompt. Teens could conduct their own research and discuss possible reasons for the caged graves in Catawissa.
Other historical fiction mysteries for teens:
Donnelly, Jennifer. A NORTHERN LIGHT. ISBN 9780152053109
Harrington, Kim. THE DEAD AND BURIED. ISBN 9780545333023
Morris, Paula. RUINED. ISBN 9780545042154
By Kimberly C. Kinnaird