Double Gravestone Haunts Children’s Writer


Halifax-based children’s writer, Jessica Scott Kerrin, was delighted to learn that her latest work of fiction, a mystery novel called The Spotted Dog Last Seen, is a finalist for the 2014 John Spray Mystery Award (Canadian Childrens’ Book Centre).

In this novel, aimed at middle readers, Derek isn’t happy about having to do repair duty at the old cemetery for his grade-six community service project, especially because of his troubled past. But when the lessons on cemetery care turn out to be so strange and interesting, Derek doesn’t have time for the heebie-jeebies. Then, an anonymous donation arrives at his library. It’s copies of a new mystery novel, with a secret code penciled inside. And when Derek and his friends Merrilee and Pascal track the clues from one mystery novel to the next, they discover a time capsule filled with items that may finally help Derek put his haunting past to rest.

When asked why Jessica chose a graveyard for her latest setting, she replied, “I live in  downtown Halifax, and every day when I walk to work I pass by two or sometimes three historic cemeteries, depending on my route. These cemeteries are all surrounded by black cast-iron fences, and I would march by them like so much wallpaper. It never occurred to me to go into them. But then one day, I did. And I felt like Alice in Wonderland, falling down a rabbit hole.”

Asked if that’s when she came across a ghost or a vampire, she said, “No. I simply walked from stone to stone – each one different, each one unique like the people buried beneath. But then something did stop me dead in my tracks at the Old Burying Ground: a double grave marker meant for a couple, a husband and wife. Except it had only one inscription: the wife’s side was completely blank. What happened to the wife? I wondered out loud. I realized then that these rare and contemplative places are a treasury rich in heritage artifacts. They are wonderful outdoor museums worthy of any school trip. And in that historic place, which tries to hard to freeze time and space, I decided to tell a story.”

The Spotted Dot Last Seen was officially launched at the 2013 Nocturne Halifax: Art at Night. The launch involved a public installation at the Old Burying Ground on Barrington Street in Halifax.

Jessica Scott Kerrin is the author of the newly launched Lobster Chronicles trilogy and the bestselling Martin Bridge series. Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff! was chosen by the Horn Book and the New York Public Library as one of the best books of 2005. Born and raised in Alberta, Jessica moved to Nova Scotia to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Surrounded by shipyards, fog and historic cemeteries, she remains in downtown Halifax, where she lives with her family and pet tortoise.