Spirit Sleuths: How Magicians and Detectives Exposed the Ghost Hoaxes

Astra/Calkins Creek. Sept. 2024. 176p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781662680236.
Gr 7 Up–A natural and riveting follow-up to Jarrow’s Spooked and The Amazing Harry Kellar, her previous books about debunking hoaxes and the supernatural. In concise, approachable chapters, the author details the origins of Spiritualism, its popularity and most well-known practitioners, and the sleuths who dedicated their lives to disproving the methods and beliefs that made it popular. Ample time is spent on historical figures that young people might already be familiar with, such as Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose friendship suffered because of the magician’s mission to demystify mediums and the “Sherlock Holmes” author’s complete devotion to the Spiritualism religion. Readers also learn about Rose Mackenberg, a private investigator who often partnered with Houdini. The book’s emphasis on how these mediums and psychics used smoke and mirrors to swindle people serves as an excellent tool to teach young readers about the dangers of misinformation. The spacious white pages and photo-filled design add to the work’s readability. Reproductions of advertisements, newspaper clippings, legal documents, and posters ground readers into the time period in which most of the events occurred. Insets and sidebars delve deeper into subtopics and are set off by a violet color but are still seamlessly integrated into the large narrative. The 25 pages of back matter are a librarian’s dream and include an author’s note, time line, glossary, index, source notes, further reading, and more.
VERDICT The indomitable Jarrow crafts another enthralling narrative of nonfiction that will mesmerize curious readers and serve as an exemplar for educators and researchers.

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