The Spirit of Cattail County


They buried Sparrow Dalton’s mama the day the fortuneteller came.

A day so hot, some say the swamp started to bubble. The water of the Everglades rose in the air and hung there, a steaming mist that cloaked the little town of Beulah in a persistent haze.

Sparrow watched as they lowered Mama’s casket through the lingering precipitation and into the ground. As the casket creaked and swayed on the ropes that held it fast, vapors

swirled in a way that had nothing to do with the weather.

Among those rising vapors, Sparrow searched for Mama.

She felt with deep certainty she would see Mama again, and she had good reason for this conviction.

Sparrow saw spirits.


The Spirit of Cattail County

By Victoria Piontek

Published by Scholastic

ISBN 978-1338167054

Ages 8-12

“Wrapped in prose as mysterious and lovely as a southern breeze lies a story about loss that haunts, and the ghosts that help us heal. This story is a treasure.”—Natalie Lloyd, New York Times bestselling author of A Snicker of Magic

Sparrow doesn't have many friends. Some kids believe her house near the swamp is haunted. Others think there's something "unusual" about her.

But Sparrow's not lonely -- she has a best friend who's always with her. He sits with Sparrow on her porch swing. He makes her smile by playing pranks in church. Yet Sparrow is the only one who can see him . . . because the Boy is a ghost.

So when her mama passes away, Sparrow doesn't give up hope. After all, if the Boy can linger after death, then surely Mama can return as well.  

But the Boy has a secret of his own, one that Sparrow will need to uncover before the ghost will lead her to Mama. To solve the mystery, Sparrow joins forces with some unlikely allies -- Maeve and Johnny, siblings from a family of town outcasts --and Elena, a visiting child fortune-teller.

With its loving depiction of small town life, and characters who feel like old friends, this magical debut  will enchant you, dazzle you. . . and make you feel at home.

“With gorgeous prose, an eerie historical undercurrent, and a lush, larger-than-life Florida backdrop, Piontek not only delivers a taut exploration of fractured small-town dynamics, but an entrancing, compulsively readable mystery. Sensitive readers with a yen for all things supernatural will hungrily sleuth their way through this atmospheric debut.”Booklist

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Discussion Guide

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VICTORIA PIONTEK is the author of The Spirit of Cattail County a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year and a Sequoyah Children’s Masterlist selection. She is also the author of Better with Butter (Scholastic Press, Summer 2021) a story about a twelve-year-old girl suffering from anxiety who finds an unlikely friend -- an emotional support animal -- in the form of an adorable fainting goat. As a kid, she was lucky to have a menagerie of pets, including a goat that liked to follow her to the school bus each morning. When she's not writing, you can find her hiking with her gigantic fluffy dog.