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Seer of Shadows
HarperCollins, 2008
teaching guide
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The Seer of Shadows

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpetine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen.

Horace's first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness: it's the image of the Von Machts' dead daughter, Eleanora.

Pegg, the Von Machts' black servant girl, then leads him to the truth about who Eleanora really was and how she actually died. Joined in friendship, Pegg and Horace soon realize that his photographs are evoking both Eleanora's image and her ghost. Eleanora returns, a vengeful wraith intent on punishing those who abused her.

Behind the Book

Avi writes: If I have a hobby, it’s photography. I do less of it these days but there was a time I took classes, worked at it, took lots of photos (with film, not digital) and had a darkroom. I spent hours in the dim glow of a soft red lamp watching my photos emerge, mysteriously, from brews of chemical developing fluids. It was all very magical. It’s hardly a wonder that I tried to think of ways to use this experience in a novel.

The Seer of Shadows is the result. It’s the tale of a boy who has been taught that there is a scientific explanation for everything and who then confronts something that is beyond reason. While at its heart is the world of photography, most of all The Seer of Shadows is—I hope—a creepy ghost story.

Awards and Honors

School Library Journal Best books of the year, 2008
Starred Review, School Library Journal
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books list, 2008
Cooperative Children's Book Center Book of the Week
Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice, 2009
Missouri Mark Twain Readers Award nominee, 2010-2011


“… In perhaps [Avi’s] best work yet, [he] has created a truly chilling tale that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned and the lights are turned out.” (Children's Literature)

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