POTTSVILLE, Pa. — Sunbury Press has released From Blue Ground, Joe Harvey’s historical YA novel about a brother and sister trying to solve the mystery of their late father’s murder.
Set in 1876 in the coal hills of Pennsylvania, the story follows two unwitting orphans, Patrick and Sissy Hughes, who are propelled on a desperate journey after witnessing the murder of their father. They carry with them a wooden box retrieved from a secret compartment beneath their father’s bed. His dying words to them: “keep it safe, keep it hidden.” Powerful men are looking for what’s inside the box and they will do anything they can to get it.
One hundred miles to the South, large crowds have gathered at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Patrick and Sissy’s father had promised to take them there for the Fourth of July celebration. Instead, they are running for their lives. Alone and on the run, they are pursued by their father’s murderer, James McKenna, a Pinkerton Security Agent who is working undercover investigating the Molly Maguires for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. Patrick and Sissy’s only hope is to unlock the mystery of the contents of the box: a diary, a translucent blue stone and a bag of blue ground. That hope lies in Philadelphia with Henry Carvill Lewis, a professor of mineralogy at the Academy of Natural Sciences. As they make their way to Philadelphia, their pursuers grow in numbers and Patrick and Sissy must fight against time and the odds to stay together.
Years later, when the ghosts of his childhood had long since faded, Patrick would remember the wooden box as clearly as the night he and his sister had found it. He remembered every detail: the pieces of scrap wood it was made of, the broken hinge that didn’t quite hold the lid, the frayed twine that was wrapped around it. It seemed strange that he would remember such an ordinary thing because, like every box, the box itself was not important. It was what was inside the box that mattered. The same was true of this box. Its contents sent Patrick and his sister off on an unexpected—and unwelcome—adventure.
It began with a warning in the small hours after midnight on July 3, 1876. Patrick nudged his sister across the bed. “Sissy, are you awake? Sissy?”
Sissy was fourteen, just two years older than Patrick, yet she had been a continued source of comfort to him since their mother died, when he wanted her to be, that is.
“What is it Patrick?” Sissy asked, still half asleep.
“I heard something.”
“I don’t know . . . a noise.”
“What kind of a noise?”
“I don’t know . . . . Did you hear the whippoorwill?”
“The whippoorwill? That’s just a dumb bird.”
Patrick didn’t think so. The Native Lenape believed that the bird’s call was a bad omen, a warning that it intended to capture someone’s soul to carry it to the spirit world.
“Well, I heard something,” Patrick said.
Sissy propped herself up on her elbows and listened. She heard only the sounds of the sleeping mountain: crickets, an owl, a distant loon. “I don’t hear anything, Patrick.”
Patrick sighed. Bothered, Sissy listened again. Still silence. “It’s nothing Patrick—probably that ol’ black bear down from the mountain to scratch at the smokehouse again. Papa will scare it off. Now go back to sleep.”
I won’t be able to go back to sleep, Patrick thought. I’m sure I heard something—maybe it was a banshee. He pulled the blanket close to his nose, his eyes widened. Papa’s room lay just beneath their bedroom loft. If there was something outside, surely Papa would have heard it, he thought.
A cool mountain breeze moved the curtains and cleansed the cabin of the thick summer air. Their family’s cabin lay deep in the folds of Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Mountains, in the heart of the eastern coal region. Patrick and Sissy’s grandfather named the wooded hill where they lived “Shannon’s Hill” after the river in Ireland where he had made his living before coming to America during the Potato Famine of the 1840’s.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Joe Harvey is currently a fourth grade teacher at Saucon Valley Elementary School in Hellertown, PA. He began his career teaching music. Joe received his bachelor’s degree in education from Millersville University and his Elementary K-6 certificate from DeSales University. He holds a Master of Arts from West Chester University and has conducted historical research in the field of musicology, identifying a lost symphony by the mid-nineteenth century American composer William Henry Fry. He is six credits shy of a Master of Education from DeSales University. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Kara. They have two children. Outside of teaching, Joe loves to read, write, play the guitar, watch the Iron Pigs and root for the Phillies.
From Blue Ground
Authored by Joe Harvey
List Price: $14.95
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Black & White on White paper
Sunbury Press, Inc.
BISAC: Juvenile Fiction / Historical / United States / 19th Century
Coming Soon on Kindle
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