The Forgotten Girl, by India Hill Brown

It hasn't actually been particularly snowy or cold here in southern New England yet this winter, but if you are looking for chills, and lots of snow, try The Forgotten Girl, by India  Hill Brown (Scholastic, November 2019), a middle- grade story of friendship in the present, and remembering the past.

Iris is feeling a bit fed up at her school in small town North Carolina.  She's having trouble getting her Step Team, and herself, the recognition they deserve (part of nasty pattern of racism at the school).   She has her best friend Daniel, though; they have been inseparable for years, in and out of each other's houses, having each other's backs.

One cold winter night, Iris can't resist the lure of the freshly fallen snow, and signals to Daniel (they can see each other's windows) to convince him to sneak outside with her. Daniel's superstitions grandmother is terrified of snow, and its spirits who can capture children, so snow play is forbidden to him, and they aren't allowed to go play outside at night in any weather.  But having broken these rules, they break another, going farther into the woods behind their houses than they ever have before.  There in a clearing Iris makes a beautiful snow angel, only to find she's made it on top of the grave of  Avery Moore, who died in the 1950s when she was just about Iris's age.

Avery's cemetery has been abandoned.  But now Avery is awake, and is tired of being forgotten.  Iris finds her window wide open, letting the snow inside.  She has vivid nightmares, and feels pulled back to the cemetery.

For a social studies project, Iris and Daniel set out to find out the history of the forgotten cemetery and the girl buried there.  They learn it was a black cemetery, one of many reminders of the segregation that meant separation even in death, and they learn that Avery was one of the first black kids to integrate their school.  And they challenge the golden girl, Heather (whose own social studies project involves Confederate history), who wants the school's clean up club to spruce up the basketball court--instead, they organize a cemetery cleanup, to bring the forgotten back into living memory.

Still the creepiness in Iris's life is getting worse, and there are hint that her little sister is being pulled into Avery's spooky orbit too.  Avery's been able to pull Iris out of the house and down to her clearing, and one snowy night, Avery plans to make Iris her best friend...forever.

But the history the two kids have dug up about the cemetery isn't all that long ago, and the person who can give Avery peace is right there, if she can confront her memories of what happened on a winter night fifty or so years earlier....Avery was never forgotten at all.

The spookiness of the ghost story brings the history of mid-twentieth century racism to the forefront, gently (though creepily); the supernatural never takes over the story, but kind of pushes the way toward the difficult process of confronting the past.  This might mean that those who like really creepy ghost stories will be disappointed by the chill factor, but I think it makes it a better book.

It's one that hit home for me personally, because part of my professional life is being one of the people that looks after the forgotten cemeteries of Rhode Island, making sure that the poor and forgotten people buried here get respect in death.


  1. Thanks for this review and Happy New Year. I've been wanting to read this book for a while, now I'm going to have to, you make it sound so irresistibly creepy.

  2. This book has been on my TBR for so long that I had forgotten what it's about...thanks for the refresher! It sounds like it has similar themes to Just South of Home, which also uses ghosts as a way to explore Black history and racism.


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