The Parker Inheritance

The Parker Inheritance

The letter waits in a book, in a box, in an attic, in an old house in Lambert, South Carolina. It's waiting for Candice Miller. When Candice finds the letter, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, after all, who left Lambert in a cloud of shame. But the letter describes a young woman named Siobhan Washington. An injustice that happened decad...

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Title:The Parker Inheritance
Author:Varian Johnson
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The Parker Inheritance Reviews

  • Kathie

    This is definitely one of my favorite middle grade reads of 2018. Rich in detail and content, wonderfully written, and highly engaging.

    ‪This is definitely one of my favorite middle grade reads of 2018. Rich in detail and content, wonderfully written, and highly engaging.

  • Lesley Burnap

    This book has all the feels and so many great messages for its readers. This is a beautiful story which moved me to tears. The mystery hooked me, but the masterful weaving of multiple stories kept me turning the pages. As much as I wanted to know where the mystery would lead, the stories of Candice, Brandon and the Washington family are what I'll hold in my heart. ❤ This is a new favorite. Well done, Mr. Johnson.

    So much more I'd tell you, but I don't want to spoil it for you. Highly recommended

    This book has all the feels and so many great messages for its readers. This is a beautiful story which moved me to tears. The mystery hooked me, but the masterful weaving of multiple stories kept me turning the pages. As much as I wanted to know where the mystery would lead, the stories of Candice, Brandon and the Washington family are what I'll hold in my heart. ❤️ This is a new favorite. Well done, Mr. Johnson.

    So much more I'd tell you, but I don't want to spoil it for you. Highly recommended. For grades 5+. Some 4th graders, perhaps. Know your readers.

  • Laura Gardner

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 for THE PARKER INHERITANCE by @mrvarianjohnson // thanks to the MA youth services blog for this review copy (#partner). This is headed to @kidlitexchange next! All opinions are my own.

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    Candice is spending the summer in Lambert, South Carolina in her grandmother's old home with her mother. Her father has stayed home in Atlanta because her parents are divorcing and he needs to fix up the house for a quick sale. Candice finds a mysterious letter in her deceased grandmother's attic

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for THE PARKER INHERITANCE by @mrvarianjohnson // thanks to the MA youth services blog for this review copy (#partner). This is headed to @kidlitexchange next! All opinions are my own.

    _*_*_*_*_*

    Candice is spending the summer in Lambert, South Carolina in her grandmother's old home with her mother. Her father has stayed home in Atlanta because her parents are divorcing and he needs to fix up the house for a quick sale. Candice finds a mysterious letter in her deceased grandmother's attic and shares its contents with her new friend Brandon from across the street. Soon the two are off on an adventure, researching the history of race relations in Lambert, SC with millions of dollars as the reward for solving the puzzle. The letter leads them to learn about Siobhan Washington, a young African American woman who was much beloved, a secret 1957 tennis game that further inflamed racial tension, as well as the writer of the mysterious letter who is not who he appears to be. Can they solve the mystery and find the reward?

    _*_*_*_*_*

    What an amazing book! A first-rate mystery, The Parker Inheritance will keep kids guessing throughout the entire book. Flashback chapters to the 1950s bring more meaning to the text and add greater depth to the historical characters that Candice and Brandon learn about. This is an excellent book for learning about the historical and present day effects of racial discrimination. Author notes in the end provide additional context and help separate truth from fiction.

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    Students who like puzzle mysteries and/or students who are interested in learning about the long lasting impact of racism will flock to this book. All elementary and middle schools should buy this book.

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  • Cassie Thomas

    What a fantastic story of friendship, differences, struggles, and love - with a dash of adventure, mystery, and history. I was so inspired by so many little comments throughout that it makes me want to do more, to inspire others to do better out there in the world.

  • Betsy

    The other day I was asked to come up with ten children’s book equivalents to Claudia Rankine’s book

    (which, should anybody ask you, is not for kids). To do this, I wanted to include a range of different kinds of books at different ages. Picture books and nonfiction titles. Early chapter books and poetry. And, of course, socially conscious middle grade novels (books for kids between the ages of 9-12). But as it turns out, books for young people that take a long hard look at systematic op

    The other day I was asked to come up with ten children’s book equivalents to Claudia Rankine’s book

    (which, should anybody ask you, is not for kids). To do this, I wanted to include a range of different kinds of books at different ages. Picture books and nonfiction titles. Early chapter books and poetry. And, of course, socially conscious middle grade novels (books for kids between the ages of 9-12). But as it turns out, books for young people that take a long hard look at systematic oppression in America in the 21st century are nine times out of ten written for young adults. On the surface this makes sense. Parsing the complexity of racist systems requires brains. Still, I wanted to include something on the younger end of the scale. Something that’s interesting and fun, but also manages to bring up some pretty serious issues at the same time. You can see where I’m going with this, and it shouldn’t surprise you that that middle grade novel I selected in the end was,

    by Varian Johnson. Until I read that book I’d never encountered a fun, casual middle grade puzzler that was, at the same time, socially conscious on the topic of race in America with a keen sense of how the past affects the present in every way. Come for the puzzle, then. Stay for the biting glimpse of America’s intolerant past.

    Candice’s grandmother wasn’t crazy or corrupt or anything like that but try telling that to the residents of Lambert, South Carolina. About ten years ago her grandma used her position in the city to dig up some tennis courts on some kind of a treasure hunt. When nothing was revealed she resigned and helped raise her granddaughter elsewhere. Now Candice and her mother have moved to Lambert, temporarily, for the summer while her father attempts to sell their house after the divorce. Candice knows for a fact that her grandma was never the loon some people in town still consider her to be, and she’s even more convinced of this when she finds a mysterious letter in her old things. A letter that insinuates that there’s a treasure to be found if you just look deep enough into the past. Now with the help of the boy next door, Candice is off to clear grandma’s name, find the treasure, and maybe even save Lambert itself.

    The natural comparison this book practically requires in blood is

    and that’s understandable. There are innumerable similarities. First and foremost, like Raskin’s classic, the clues aren’t linear or even all that comprehensible. This isn’t a book where each clue is neatly tucked away as a little rhyme in a little envelope, one leading to another. The letter contains all the clues and it’s up to the characters to pick that apart. There is good and bad to that. Unlike, say, an Agatha Christie book, the average child reader is not going to be able to figure out these clues on his or her own. You don’t read a book like this to actually solve the mystery yourself. That’s where the other readalike to this title comes in. As the action started to shift more regularly between Enoch Washington, Siobhan Washington, and other people from the past, to our present day heroes, I was reminded strongly of

    by Louis Sachar. Think about it. The sins of the past have repercussions in the present day and it’s the kids that have to shoulder that burden.

    As an author, Varian Johnson doesn’t make this book easy on himself. It would have been the simplest thing in the world to just “Mr. Lemoncello” it and be done with it. You know. Focus on the puzzle, include a single main character with a problem and some bit characters on the side, and keep focused on the goal. Instead, Mr. Johnson prefers to give not just his main characters depth, not just his side characters depth, but the state of the city and, let’s face it, 21st century America as well. The danger he runs in doing this is bogging the story down. He works in a boy who may or may not be gay, divorce, loving but intolerant grandparents, police brutality, the act of passing (and its long-term emotional effects), and much much more. At times it can feel like Mr. Johnson is throwing in everything and the kitchen sink into his story, but as you read on, the plot stuff settles into place. Personally, I read this book in fits and starts, and I can tell you that that is not the way to read “The Parker Inheritance.” This book requires a dedicated, steady read without interruptions. Otherwise you find yourself saying, “Wait. Who’s Siobhan again?”

    The author also touches on topics that I’ve never seen any middle grade novel for kids discuss. Take the end of segregation. At one point the grandparents are explaining to our baffled heroes that when the black schools were dissolved it had an detrimental effect on the community. “…if you were black, Perkins was your school.” And they go on to mention that back then high school was like college to them and that it meant something to graduate from there. There are other examples. I’ve been looking for the middle grade equivalent to

    for a while now and though this book doesn’t really veer too deeply in that direction, it does address issues of police and the abuse of adults in power. Oh. And it mentions that the Hoo family in

    is stereotypical. Good points all.

    And I liked the character moments. Those little telling details that say so much more about a person than a thousand lines of text ever could. One great example comes in the description of Big Dub. Describing why he was a fan of tennis the book says, “He liked that he didn’t need to depend on anyone else to win a match.” The flashbacks to the past are interesting because in the present day you are seeing everything alongside Candice. You don’t know anything contemporary that she doesn’t know. The past is different. There the reader is omnipotent. You can get into the heads of every player, understand every motivation, and never be left in doubt of why they do what they do. The tradeoff for that kind of knowledge is that the author has to let you have everything in pieces with trust, on the reader’s part, that this is all going to make sense at the end. I am happy to report that though it’s a little shaky at the start, once the author gets going he really sucks the reader in. And, best of all, there’s not a single dangling plot thread left by the close. Plenty of questions for a sequel, oh yes indeed. But nothing dangling.

    I’m going to ask you a question now, and I want you to take it seriously. Here goes. Should a book that discusses incredibly serious topics have a sense of humor? The answer to that question is one that I’ve been pondering for a long time. I don’t limit it to books either. What is the role of humor, whatever its bent, in documentaries or novels or anything really? We’re living in an age of peak comedy, but writing a book with serious themes, and then working in some humor, poses a definite risk. Too flippant and the tone of the book is off entirely. The goal of an author unafraid of levity is to use it to break tension, humanize the characters, and endear the written pages to the reader. Yeah it’s a risk, but it’s a risk worth running.

    isn’t what you’d call a laugh riot, but it definitely keeps things light and, many times, amusing.

    It’s all in the title, of course.

    . It seems on first glance to be a reference to the actual monetary inheritance that would go to the person that solves the puzzle. Like a natural counterpoint to a title like

    (another story of rich men with multiple names and masks they hide behind). But take a closer look at that word. “Inheritance”. This whole book is about what we inherit from the past. We get the genes of our ancestors, sure, but we can also inherit their prejudices, views, and systems. Systems that ensure that some folks stay at the top and others at the bottom. I know almost no books that have found a way to clarify this point for young readers. Now I have one. It’s not a lot. Not nearly enough, but at least there’s one out there now. The puzzle may be impossible, but nothing about this book is implausible. The new required reading.

    For ages 9-12.

  • Ann

    A fantastic puzzle of a book. The author name-checks The Westing Game, and I think the comparison is deserved, though they are very different books overall, the "feel" of the puzzle was similar, along with the necessary suspension of disbelief required to engage in a story where a rich and powerful man devotes considerable time and effort into hiding his inheritance.

    A fantastic puzzle of a book. The author name-checks The Westing Game, and I think the comparison is deserved, though they are very different books overall, the "feel" of the puzzle was similar, along with the necessary suspension of disbelief required to engage in a story where a rich and powerful man devotes considerable time and effort into hiding his inheritance.

  • Joy Smith

    Great combination of mystery and history. I'm not fond of alternating time lines, and sometimes I read one story line at a time, but I went straight through this one. I've read books where the characters for each time period are listed separately at the beginning and identified. I would have appreciated that because sometimes I lost track of what was happening to whom and when in the historical chapters. I like the characters, including Tori (Brandon's sister) who enthusiastically joined Candice

    Great combination of mystery and history. I'm not fond of alternating time lines, and sometimes I read one story line at a time, but I went straight through this one. I've read books where the characters for each time period are listed separately at the beginning and identified. I would have appreciated that because sometimes I lost track of what was happening to whom and when in the historical chapters. I like the characters, including Tori (Brandon's sister) who enthusiastically joined Candice and Brandon in their search. (They needed her to ferry them now and then.) And I love the way Brandon's and Candice's relationship developed, plus the family relationships are interesting--and real.

    The search and research--with a real puzzle--is fascinating, and the racism really is effective and sad; and "passing' is handled well. I was aware of it (some books on the subject are mentioned), but this brings out the reasons and the fear. (Btw, an episode of The Artful Detective included an example of that.) Worth reading for the mystery and the characters and their problems.

    Oh, and I put The Westing Game on my Amazon wish list.

  • Donalyn

    I loved so many things about this book--the characters, the history, and the mystery. This would be a fabulous read aloud or a jumping off place for conversations about racism, family dynamics, and friendship.

  • Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

    Candice's grandmother was a city official in the small town of Lambert before she fell into disrepute. She thought there was treasure buried under the tennis courts and had them dug up. When no treasure appeared, she was relieved of her duties. Candice and her mother are spending the summer cleaning out her grandmother's house after her death, and Candice has some letters that indicate there is still a treasure out there. It's a rough summer-- her parents are sepa

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

    Candice's grandmother was a city official in the small town of Lambert before she fell into disrepute. She thought there was treasure buried under the tennis courts and had them dug up. When no treasure appeared, she was relieved of her duties. Candice and her mother are spending the summer cleaning out her grandmother's house after her death, and Candice has some letters that indicate there is still a treasure out there. It's a rough summer-- her parents are separated, and her home in the city is being readied to sell, and there's no one to hang out with in Lambert while her mother is working on her book. Luckily, she finds bookish Brandon, and the two bond. She eventually shares the secret of her grandmother's letters with him, and the two follow the very detailed clues, learning a lot about the racial history of the town in the process. Will they finally find the treasure for which her grandmother was searching?

    Strengths: This offers an excellent view of what life was like in the 1950s for blacks in the South, and it was good to see this through the eyes of modern children. Candice's life has some challenges, since she misses her grandmother and her parents' separation has a bit of a twist to it, but her parents are supportive and present, and the mood is generally upbeat. The clues they follow are interesting, and the mystery itself is deliciously convoluted.

    Weaknesses: This took me about four days to read. I kept putting the book down and then thinking I was finished. This could have used some tighter editing to make it shorter and more fast paced. I wish the subplot with Brandon being bullied had been left out.

    What I really think: This reminded me VERY strongly of Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught. The investigative process was similar, it involved civil rights, but the end of the mysteries were different. I will buy because this author is popular in my library and the cover is great.

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