Cover image for The grave
The grave
Heneghan, James, 1930-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, [publisher not identified], [2000]

Physical Description:
245 pages ; 22 cm
Thirteen-year-old Tom, an unhappy foster child in Liverpool, falls into a massive open grave and is transported to Ireland in 1847, where he finds himself in the midst of the deadly potato famine.
Reading Level:
810 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.4 9.0 44872.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.3 14 Quiz: 28241 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Pulled into the past to discover his future Abandoned in a shopping mall when he was a baby, thirteen-year-old Tom Mullen has no family - he's spent his life shuffled from one rotten foster home to another. When he hears rumors that a mass grave has been unearthed on his school grounds, he feels himself inexplicably drawn to it, and then down into its terrible darkness and beyond. He discovers that he is no longer in Liverpool in 1974 but in Ireland in 1847, the height of the potato famine. A family named Monaghan takes him in, and Tom experiences for the first time what its like to have parents and siblings who cleave to one another even amid terrible hardship. But why has Tom been transported across time and place? And why must the grave keep yanking him back, at intervals, to his dreary, lonely existence in Liverpool? Most of all, what does it mean that the Monaghan's son Tully is practically Toms double? Tom stands by the Monaghan's in their plight, and in so doing discovers that the past, and the Monaghans, hold the key to his destiny.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-10. Thirteen-year-old Tom Mullen, shuffled from foster home to foster home since birth, is tough, independent, and thinks he doesn't need anybody. All that changes when he falls back in time through a hole at a construction site, beginning a vivid, emotionally charged journey to nineteenth-century Ireland that illuminates a tragic part of Ireland's past, and forever changes the present. The engrossing novel, which begins in 1974 Liverpool, is equal parts adventure, fantasy, and historical fiction. It is also a compelling story of a teen who learns the rewards of love and family, particularly in times of adversity. Tom's expressive, first-person narrative, reminiscent of an edgier Holden Caulfield and filled with period detail, vividly portrays the impact of Ireland's Potato Famine on individuals and families, while revealing the vulnerability beneath Tom's tough facade. Tom is a likable, three-dimensional character, whose dilemmas are compassionately and realistically revealed. Although some readers may find the book's resolution too fairy tale^-like, it opens a door of possibilities for change, hope, and redemption. An author's note briefly describes the real-life events that inspired the book. An engaging, beautifully written story with a complex, appealing narrator. --Shelle Rosenfeld

Publisher's Weekly Review

This eerie time-travel tale revolves around the excavation of a mass grave in Liverpool, England. Thirteen-year-old narrator Tom, a mistreated foster child, investigates an abandoned construction site and falls into a hole lined with decaying coffins and scattered bones. From here, he is magically transported to 1847 Ireland just in time to save the life of Tully Monaghan, an impoverished boy who could pass for Tom's identical twin. Imaginations will spin as readers speculate about the purpose of Tom's mission and his connection to a lookalike. Tom shuffles between past and present, helping the Monaghans survive the potato blight and returning to present-day slow-witted Brian, a foster brother in need of his help. Heneghan (Wish Me Luck; Torn Away) skillfully conveys a tug-of-war between Tom's allegiances and allows readers to empathize with the hero's subtle shifts: initially the Irish setting is more compellingly drawn because Tom feels a sense of belonging there, but as the protagonist recognizes that he also has a place in his own world, the strengths of his present-day situation become more apparent. The author relies heavily on coincidence to construct a neat, happy (and highly improbable) resolution, but many readers will be willing to suspend disbelief to welcome a brighter future for a hero who has experienced more than his share of darkness. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-Tom Mullen, nearly 14, has spent his life shuttling from one "fozzy" (foster home) to another after being abandoned as a baby. At his latest school, a construction project arouses his curiosity and he and his fellow foster kid, a developmentally slow boy named Brian, investigate the site. Skirting the security guard, Tom falls into a mass grave and out of 1974 Liverpool. He hits the ground in Ireland in 1847 just in time to perform CPR on a drowned, slightly older boy who could otherwise be his double. Tom stays with the Monaghans-Tully, Hannah, Brendan, and their parents-learning to care for them, especially Hannah, until accidentally transporting himself back to 1974. He manages to slip back to the past a few more times, experiences the forced migration caused by the potato famine, and comes to realize that the Monaghans are his ancestors and Tully is his great-grandfather. Heneghan's story-written in a very British vernacular-will appeal to time-travel fans who like their fantasy with an edge. Tom, while not always a likable character, tells a gripping story. The sections in 1974 have a gritty, almost impersonal feel to them, mirroring the atmosphere of foster-home life. In contrast, the parts with the Monaghans are warmer and more homelike. The ending, in which Tom finds his real parents, seems a little too pat, but makes for a satisfying conclusion. Recommend this to readers who enjoyed Nancy Bond's Another Shore (McElderry, 1988; o.p.) or to fans of historically detailed time-travel stories.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1 . . . caught like an animal in a leg-hold trap Basically, I'm a loner. My name is Tom and I'm small for my age, which is thirteen and three-quarters. My mother left me crawling in Toys on the fifth floor of Lewis's department store when I was a baby and never came back for me. It was downtown Liverpool, Christmas, 1961. She probably kissed me on the cheek and told me, "Be a good boy," before she took off, but that's guesswork because how would I know that? Maybe she wished me a Merry Christmas. Anyway I never saw her again. They found a note pinned to me that said "Tommy." That was it, just "Tommy," no birth date, no second name, nothing. I don't even know whether she was sad or glad to be rid of me, but whenever I think of her I always imagine her saying, "Be a good boy, Tommy," and then taking the elevator down to the main floor and pushing her way through the revolving doors and running down Renshaw Street with her coat flapping. I've been a loner ever since. I still live in Liverpool, a few miles from Lewis's downtown, in a suburb called Old Swan, and I've got a story to tell. I'll be surprised if anyone believes it because sometimes I don't even believe it myself. But I've got to tell it. It all started when I fell into the black hole. Or was dragged, more like. It wasn't one of those black holes way out in space, the kind that's supposed to suck up asteroids and space debris like a vacuum cleaner--no; this black hole was just a deep pit on a construction site, hidden behind a corrugated steel fence in the school yard. Men and machines had been working behind the high fence for a whole year, building the new school, though the actual building hadn't started yet because they were still working on the excavation. Why a whole year just to dig a hole? Nobody knew the answer. Rumors of all kinds were flying around: the delay was caused by the important discovery of ancient Roman ruins and the government had sent experts to check it out; or the workmen had uncovered the grisly remains of a singer, famous for her blond boldness and unconventional music, who disappeared a year ago and was now found murdered, chopped into pieces with a butcher knife; or the construction crew had discovered a hoard of buried treasure dating back to the Spanish Armada; or they had found a secret tunnel to Australia. Everyone laughed at the rumors but soon stopped when they saw fresh rolls of razor wire and a uniformed guard put on to patrol the fence perimeter twenty-four hours a day. For several days I'd felt a powerful impulse to explore behind the fence, like there was something, or somebody, commanding me; like my very life depended on it. It was nothing but my overactive imagination, I told myself, the exciting idea of exploring Roman ruins more than a thousand years old, or of seeing Spanish gold, or of being the first through the tunnel to Australia. I thought about it so hard I couldn't sleep. When I slipped out of bed Brian heard me getting up and thought I was running out on him, so I ended up having to take him with me. We crept out under the cover of moony darkness. Don't think I wasn't scared, because I was. I was scared out of my mind if you really want to know the truth. But I just had to see what was behind the fence, no matter what. The moon was almost full, but dodgy with thin cloud. The urge was stronger the closer I got, like there was a magnet dragging me. We got to Snozzy's school yard--Snozzy's is what all the kids call St. Oswald's--and hid in the bushes near the church. Brian was scared, too. "I don't like this place, Tom," he whined. "Could we go back now?" "You can go back, but I've got to see what's behind the fence." Brian said, "Wha?" I should mention that Brian's bread isn't baked all the way through. "Or you can stay here and wait for me," I told him. "I'm scared, Tom. Don't leave me here by myself!" "Then shut up." The uniformed guard stood with his back to the fence smoking a ciggy. He finally ground the butt end under his boot and started patrolling slowly along the fence. When he disappeared round the bend I said, "Let's go!" We moved sharpish, me pushing Brian along to keep him moving. The gap under the corrugated fence was wide enough to drive a double-decker bus through. We dived under and crouched on the inside, listening. Not a sound. The moon edged out from behind thin cloud. I looked around quickly but there wasn't much to see, only an ordinary construction site: soil piled in high pyramids; a crane with a long jib; a forklift gleaming yellow in the moonlight; picks and shovels leaning against the church wall; a stack of timber; black shadows everywhere. I could almost hear my heart hammering. And again the pulling, like that black hole in space I already mentioned, trying to suck me into its dark belly. We stood and edged forward. Brian tripped. "Look out!" I grabbed his arm to stop him falling. I stared down at the object Brian had tripped over. It was like, what, a thighbone? And then I saw boxes, several of them scattered about on the ground, plain wooden boxes, but coffin-shaped and horrible. I kicked at the side of a box. The rotted wood collapsed easily. I kicked again, harder this time, and part of the top came away. I crouched and leaned forward, staring into the box. Rags and . . . bones. It was a coffin, sure enough. Terrified, I backed off, my chest pounding, and bumped into Brian. That scared me even more. "I wanna go home," Brian moaned. "Shurrup!" I said fiercely. "You wanted to come, didn't you?" I moved on and Brian followed, moaning, clutching my jacket. The rumors were wrong. All that secret digging behind the fence; it was really just an old graveyard. Nothing to be scared of in a graveyard, I told myself; dead people couldn't harm me. The moon rode clear and I froze. One more step and we would have fallen into a black pit the size of a swimming pool. I grabbed Brian's arm so he wouldn't topple in and stood peering down into the black hole, Brian clutched to me and whimpering like a beaten dog. In the silvery light I could see coffins, hundreds of them, in a pit more than twenty feet deep. This was way scarier than I'd expected. This was too much. I was finding it difficult to breathe. I wanted to run away but I was caught like an animal in a leg-hold trap. Brian was pulling at me and crying at the same time. "Tom! Tom!" I sucked in a deep breath to try and calm my bursting chest and found the smell from the open grave wasn't bad the way you'd expect from so many dead people, but was sweet and musty instead, like mushrooms, or like those tiny samples of extra-old cheese they give away in Sainsbury's on Saturday mornings. But it wasn't the smell that got to me, it was the feeling that something in the black pit was reaching out to me, pulling me, that same urge again, the one I'd been getting for the past couple of days, but stronger now and more powerful. It terrified me if you really want to know the truth. "Do you feel anything?" I asked Brian, trying to keep my voice from shaking. He pulled at me, crying and moaning. "I wanna go home, Tom!" So did I. I tore myself away from the pit and its stacks of boxed skeletons and started back toward the fence, Brian still clutching my jacket, but something was dragging me back and it wasn't Brian. I struggled, but it was like trying to run in deep water. "Hold it right there!" Bright beam of light in my face. The guard! I swore aloud, unable to see anything in the blinding light. "Run for it, Brian!" "Tom! Tom!" Brian screamed. I moved. The next thing I knew I was falling into the black pit, and I didn't know if it was because Brian, moaning and terrified, had stumbled against me, or if it was something in the grave reaching out and grasping me and dragging me down, down, into its terrible darkness. Excerpted from The Grave by James Heneghan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.