Alexander has always been able to see ghosts, but no one except his mom--who left suddenly three years ago--has ever believed his stories. So when his dad drags him off on a trip to North Carolina to visit the woman he intends to marry, and Alexander begins to see visions of Civil War soldiers, he tells nobody--not his father, nor his hostess Paige, and certainly not her teenage daughter, Nicole. Instead he devotes himself to being unpleasant, clinging desperately to the belief that his mother will return.
The visions grow more and more real. Alexander even finds himself participating in a battle in the trenches, with mortars whizzing overhead. In the midst of his own terror, he witnesses the death of a young Confederate soldier his own age. Later that evening Richeson, the dead boy, appears again to Alexander, appealing to him for help in finding his sister, who was driven from their farm by Sherman's Marauders, but who has left a message for her brother in a metal box hidden in a tree trunk--a box that a ghost cannot open. In the course of solving Richeson's mystery, Alexander finds answers to his own problems. Middle-grade readers will enjoy this story that straddles three genres, and teachers will find its grounding in the actual events of the Battle of Fort Stedman a useful curriculum tie-in. (Ages 10 to 14) --Patty Campbell