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The Spirit of Cattail County

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  255 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Scholastic has bought Victoria Piontek's middle grade debut, The Spirit of Cattail County. The Everglades-set novel follows 12-year-old Sparrow as she attempts to untangle the secrets of her Florida town in order to convince her best friend—a silent ghost no one else can see—to send a message to Sparrow's recently deceased mother. Publication is slated for summer 2018.
Published 2018 by Scholastic
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Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved it. Sparrow is a very real girl with very real issues, but nothing about her life is boring. The people and places of her community are true Southern characters and I was absolutely transported to Cattail County. As my plane pulled up to the gate, I had about 20 pages left to read, and I have never wanted my flight to be longer ever before! I simply had to finish it the moment I got home.
Jennie Louwes
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First, let it be known, this review is coming to you from a self professed, sentimental sap: This book held me close from its first page to its last. It was oh, so good!

Akin to the movie "Pan's Labyrinth". Not because of anything mystical, and no it doesn't equate to that movie's darkness; but, akin to it within its overarching sadness. A sadness so deep you feel it within your bones. You ache with the main character.

Once again, this was a book I read out loud to my kids, from the hallway betwee
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-grade
I read this book not remembering what it was about, because it was standing on my shelf for a long time.
Anyway, this is a ghost story that is also about family, about grief, about having hope, about family, friendship, about finding yourself in the midst of difficulties. I feel like this book would be perfect for the young readers that perhaps gone through what Sparrow gone through. This is a book that I know would help me if I lost a family member when I was a kid.
Victoria's writing is so gentl
You don't often read a children's book that starts out with a funeral/someone dying; that's pretty unusual, pretty fascinating (some might say "morbid"). I thought that it was a great plot device, and that the opening sentence totally caught my attention: "They buried Sparrow Dalton's mama the day the fortune-teller came." Wow.

Throughout this whole book, the atmosphere of the Swamp and the South kept me company; it was almost as much a character as the feuding families or the run-down house wher
Ms. Yingling
ARC from ALA Midwinter

Good, creepy, Southern ghost story. Unfortunately, I have a number of those (many from Scholastic, actually) that don't get checked out very much. Considering.
Amy Warren
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this charming YA ghost reminded me a LOT of the books I read by Wylly Folk St. John in the 70's and 80's. Really memorable characters, beautiful description of setting. I really felt like I was RIGHT there with the characters. Great job for a debut novel.
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
The Spirit of Cattail County by Victoria Piontek, 275 pgs, Scholastic Press, $16.99

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “F”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G



Sparrow Dalton is the odd one out in her neighborhood. However, she is not friendless. She has The Boy to keep her company, a spirit that only Sparrow can see. So, when her mother dies, Sparrow believes she can bring her mother’s spirit back. When Sparrow is confronted with a diffi
Trina M.
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book with my third grade class. It was a bit slow to start but then we were all engrossed in the book. We were living the life with Spirit and could not wait to find out how it ended. It was a great tale of how a girl learns to deal with the loss of her mother. No spoilers but the end left my students wanting more. Victoria Piontek graciously held a chat session via the internet with my students and shared why she wrote the book and my class was excited and enthralled by her answers.
Carrie Houghton
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars

The writing in this book is beautifully descriptive, but doesn't stifle the pacing of the story.
Valerie McEnroe
There's the good and the not-so-good. First the good.

Piontek does a great job setting up the scene of a drab white house sitting on the edge of the swamp. It's the sweltering hot Florida Everglades and a small town with a flea market and long history. Three families own this history. The rich Monroes, the redneck Castos, and somewhere in the middle are the Daltons. Sparrow is a Dalton and her beloved mother has just died. She is left in the guardianship of her Aunt Geraldine who's as mean as a
After Sparrow Dalton's mother dies, she is left in the care of her maternal aunt, Geraldine, who seems determined to change everything about Sparrow. Not only does she try to rein in the free-spirited child and keep her from making friends, but she plans to sell the house, the only place Sparrow has ever called home. Sparrow is convinced that her best friend, a ghost, can help her mother come back. After all, the Boy, as she calls him, is always close by to keep her entertained and protected so ...more
Elizabeth Seals
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Honestly, for some reason when I think of the South, Florida doesn't come to mind; my mind kept thinking this book took place in Georgia for some reason. Now onto the review. . . Sparrow is now an orphan in a town that doesn't much like her because she is different. Her mother died without ever telling anyone who Sparrow's father was and she doesn't even look like the Dalton namesake.
But all of this fades slightly because Sparrow has a friend who is always by her side, a ghost called The Boy. T
Rachel Lovingfoss
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Saved Passage

"Though the two of them had always been different. She, a girl who looked at death. He, a ghost who looked like life." p2

"But the way they looked didn't matter. they looked the way they did because that's the way they'd been born. It didn't make them one thing or the other. Dandelions and roses looked vastly different, but they were both flowers." p176

"Sparrow pretended not to notice his withdrawl and repressed the sting of a rejection so infinitesimal and instinctual it felt fused
I received an ARC from the publishing company in exchange for an honest review.

Sparrow has always been able to see Boy, a ghost who hangs around her house. After her mother dies from a long battle with cancer, she hopes that she will be able to see her mother as a spirit, as well. When that doesn’t happen, Sparrow tells Boy that she will help him if he helps bring Sparrow her mother’s ghost. Sparrow’s struggles with her mother’s death are worsened by her new guardian Aunt, who is super mean, wan
Shawna Busby
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book had everything. Sparrow was dealing with the death of her mother, she didn't know who her father was, and the caste system of society was in play as well. She felt her aunt didn't like her and she had The Boy always with her. Deep South living with a ghost, fortune teller and historian. Definitely a quick read for me. Within this story you also learned about the Orphan Train which is very interesting. Sparrow learned the story about The Boy and almost fell victim to the same happenstan ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a sweet story in the tradition of Clare VanderPool's MOON OVER MANIFEST or DiCamillo's RAYMIE NIGHTENGALE. Sparrow, a lonely girl who is haunted by spirits in a small Southern town finds some unlikely friends after the death of her mother. Along with Maeve and Johnny, she meets Elena, a young fortune-teller from a travelling flea market. The four of them try to help Sparrow connect with the spirit of her mother to save her from her new guardian, Auntie Geraldine who is selling Sparrow's ...more
Katie Reilley
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good, southern middle grade mystery.

Sparrow’s life is not easy. She’s not like other kids, her mother’s just passed, and she’s left living with a cruel aunt who can’t wait to sell Sparrow’s home that’s been the family for generations. Oh, and the only friend she’s got is a ghost she calls Boy.

Enter two siblings who can’t seem to stay out of trouble and a child fortune teller who wants to help Sparrow solve the mystery of her ghost.

Though the story started slow, I was hooked and hoping for t
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Attentively evokative of the hot and humid south, The Spirit of Cattail County follows Sparrow Dalton as she grapples with her only parent’s death. Sparrow has no friends in the prejudiced small town she lives in. Being different means going against the grain of the conservative townsfolk, and they don’t like her for it. Placed in care of an aunt who seems determined to change everything about the life Sparrow and her mother cherished, the lonely girl turns to her only reliable friend for help. ...more
Giselle Smith
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read from cover to cover. Victoria writes with ease and the descriptions of places, people and things create a wonderful scene in your mind as you read. Growing up in a small community with most of my friends being relatives, friends of relatives etc; this book brought back many fond memories of things that I did in my childhood related to what happens in the story. I loved the bit of fantasy and the dynamics between all the characters.

For recommending: no sweari
Carolyn O'Doherty
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a thoroughly engaging book with interesting, believable characters, and a story that keeps you turning the pages. Sparrow sees ghosts, but this isn't a ghost story, it's a story of loss and acceptance and finding your place in the world. Young readers are sure to relate to Sparrow's struggles and cheer her successes. The author tells a story which could be terribly sad but somehow isn't. Even though Sparrow's motivation is based on the loss of her mother, Sparrow herself moves through th ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Such a lovely story. Goodness I absolutely hate Auntie Geraldine and the way she treats Sparrow I really felt like punching her. And when she said "You're a child. You don't know what's best", wow I was so angry. Some adults really think they know what's best when they are just clueless!! However I'm glad she came back to her senses and finally really behave like a proper adult. I felt so sad about Sparrow desperately wanting to bring her Mama back (I would have felt and done the same if I were ...more
I enjoyed the Spirit of Cattail County which is middle grade Southern Gothic novel. Sparrow has recently lost her mother and is hoping the ghost that resides in her family home will help her mother return to visit her. Sparrow was a likable character but not fully fleshed out as was the case with all the characters in the book. The book had a bit of a reveal at the end so I’m hoping a second book will solve the mystery of the identity of Sparrow’s father. Good read but needed more meat to fill i ...more
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
What would you do to see your mother one more time after she died? Sparrow has always been able to communicate with Boy, a ghost. So when her mother passes on, she is certain she will be able to see her mother again as a spirit. If not, shouldn't Boy be able to pass on messages to Sparrow's mom?

But before Sparrow can make contact with others in the Spirit realm, she must solve Boy's mystery. Then she must come to terms with what she discovers.
Melodie Pennington
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a first novel?

Victoria Piontek gave the world a beautiful treasure in the Spirit of Cattail County. Honestly, when I put the book down, I had to pick it back up and flip through it...I could have sworn there were illustrations because I could picture Beulah, Sparrow, the Castos, the Flea Market...all of it.

This is a quick, satisfying read. It's deeply bittersweet, as one should expect most ghost stories to be. Finishing it felt like getting a hug from a motherly spirit.
McKenna Paul
Published 2018 by Scholastic
Novel, Fantasy
I didn't care for this novel after reading it. Though, I would still have it in my library because it may be the novel that inspires a student to love reading. In my opinion, the storyline could've been shortened, it seemed to run a little long and was hard to follow between what was real-life and what wasn't.
Lovely story for young readers who might like a spunky girl who may or may not be an orphan who befriends a kind-hearted but sad ghost who cannot seem to move on. There is historical fiction as well in this otherwise ghostly tale. Orphan Trains. Nice intro into this genre for young readers. Easy and interesting read.
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Got to read an advanced copy of this book and I REALLY loved it! It has a ghost, a fortune teller, a mysterious swamp and characters that feel just like friends. The writing is very beautiful and haunting. This is a book you get lost in and one you don't want to end!
Amber K.
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This intriguing mystery will keep you turning the pages! I loved the surprise history in this book about the orphan trains of the early 1900s. This would make a great Fall read aloud in grades 3 and up!
Michael Kott
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jake-zoe
This book was a pleasant surprise. Very engaging characters and a great story. If you know middle schoolers I recommend this book. I think the author, Victoria Piontek, has a bright future. Her characters are well crafted and the story is well told.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5th-grade-plus
There is a mystical element to this story that is set in the Florida Everglades. The figurative language is lovely and adds to the mystery around the main character, Sparrow, the boy "spirit" that lives with her, and the intertwined family histories.
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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. 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. Better with Butter is her second novel.

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“Mama's death had brought her so much sadness, but it had also brought her other things, happier ones - Maeve, Johnny, Elena, a daddy. She wondered why life hadn't let her have all the good things at once.” 0 likes
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