cover image On the Day I Died: 
Stories from the Grave

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave

Candace Fleming. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-375-86781-1

Dead men may tell no tales, but dead teenagers do. In this clever collection of ghost stories, 16-year-old Mike Kowalski discovers an abandoned cemetery for teenagers where nine 15- to 17-year-old ghosts tell him how they died. The stories span 100-odd years and give a colorful survey of Chicago through the decades and across classes (“Back in those days, Chicago was lousy with funeral homes, what with all them gangsters running around”). Fleming has been rightly praised for her children’s nonfiction (Amelia Lost; The Great and Only Barnum), and underneath this group of chill-inducing tales lays a wealth of detail about Chicago’s historical immigrant communities, criminal underbelly, the 1893 World’s Fair, and more. (Sneaky!) They also span horror subgenres that include campy ’50s science fiction, gothic (“Lily,” starring a lovelorn high school student in 1999, is a faithful homage to “The Monkey’s Paw”), and wry Hitchcockian suspense; Fleming brings plenty of humor, too. The genre-flipping and varied narrative voices prevent any sense of monotony. A welcoming and well-written introduction to many styles of horror. Ages 11–14. Agent: Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency. (July)