cover image Sauerkraut


Kelly Jones, illus. by Paul Davey. Knopf, $19.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6595-8

The hero of this funny, kindhearted novel is HD Schenk, a 12-year-old self-proclaimed “black geek”—he’s a biracial German-American— who dreams of building his own computer with help from his understanding parents, his best friend Eli, and others in his small town. His summer takes a turn when he discovers an old pickling crock among his late grandmother’s belongings. “All pickling crocks are haunted,” says a local mystery writer. Enter Marietta, the ghost of his German great-great-grandmother, who has an agenda of her own: get other to make her famous sauerkraut and win the title of Pickle Queen at the county fair. Jones weaves identity into the story seamlessly, and offers a model for incidental representation: the diverse cast of characters (including HD’s disabled veteran father and gay uncles, and Eli, who grapples with a learning difference), encounter casual racism as well as brief ableism and homophobia, but these incidents are more like bumps in the road than central plot points, and HD and company confront them swiftly and effectively. Jones’s nimbly constructed plot features no adversary beyond competing needs for time and attention in a happy family, and it doesn’t bother with the usual conflicts about who can see the ghost (everyone, eventually). Celebrating the collision of old and new worlds, this simple but smart saga will appeal to kids who like their ghost stories more sweet than sour. Ages 8–12. [em](Sept.) [/em]