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When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.
So with the help of Brandon Jones, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert’s history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter’s promise before the answers slip into the past yet again?
1. Candice’s grandmother says, “Just because you don’t see the path, doesn’t mean it’s not there.” (p. 7) but Candice isn’t sure she knows what that means. What do you think she means?
2. Revisit the letter once you’ve finished the book: what clues surprised you the most? What clue did you think was the trickiest or the hardest to figure out? Did you figure anything out before Candice and Brandon?
3. Adam Douglas says: “Here’s the truth about people: We make a lot of assumptions about each other.” (p. 226) What does he mean? Do you agree? Can you think of an example of when that’s happened in this book?
4. Siobhan tries to talk to her father about the difference between justice and revenge. (p.260) What do you think the difference is?
5. Why do you think Mr. Parker insisted that to earn the inheritance the person who solved it must share what they discovered with the world?
6. At the end of the book, Candice thinks “If the news won’t tell the right stories, I will. One day.” What do you think she means? What kind of job do you think Candice might have when she grows up?
7. Candice and Brandon uncovered a lot of information about what their town was like in 1957. Sixty years from now, in 2080, what do you think will surprise kids about the way our community was in 2020?
8. How did you feel about the book switching timelines? Did it make you want to keep reading? Which timeline did you think was the most interesting? Would either have been as interesting or as fun to read without the other?
Varian Johnson is the author of several novels for children and young adults, including The Parker Inheritance, which won both Coretta Scott King Author Honor and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor awards; The Great Greene Heist, an ALA Notable Children’s book and Kirkus Reviews Best Book; and the graphic novel Twins, illustrated by Shannon Wright, an NPR Best Book.
Varian was born in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering. He later received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is honored to now be a member of the faculty. Varian lives outside of Austin, TX with his family.
Varian was born in 1977, and grew up in the thriving metropolis of Florence, SC (population 30,248—2000 Census). He has a twin brother and a younger sister, and his parents, unlike many of his characters, were actually pretty good in the parenting department.
Varian excelled in many subjects while growing up, specifically math and science. He was the typical high school “geek”—he played the baritone in marching band, was a member of the Wilson High School Academic Challenge Team, and he counted his Hewlett-Packard 48G calculator as one of his most prized possessions. However, Varian also enjoyed English—especially creative writing.
After writing novels for older readers, Varian began writing middle grade novels. His caper novel, The Great Greene Heist, is his first work for younger readers. It was recently named a Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book of 2014. Kirkus praised the novel in a starred review, stating, “The elaborate bait and switch of this fast-paced, funny caper novel will surprise its readers as much as the victims. They’ll want to reread immediately so they can admire the setup.”
Varian’s puzzle mystery, The Parker Inheritance, has been called The Westing Game meets The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963. The Parker Inheritance, released in 2018, reviewed starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Horn Book, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and was named a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Book and a 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book among other accolades.
Twins, illustrated by Shannon Wright, is Varian’s debut graphic novel. It received five starred reviews, and was named an NPR best book, and a Washing Post Best Children’s Book, and a Texas Library Association Little Maverick Reading List Selection among other accolades.
Varian loves traveling around the world (seriously, the world!) talking about writing and books. Please contact him if you’re interesting in having him speak at your school or event.