The Grave Robber’s Secret
In 1800s Philadelphia, Robby Hare is a sensitive and intelligent twelve-year-old boy whose mother runs a boarding house. His ne’er-do-well father, a bully and a drinker, comes up with a plan to bring in some income: he and Robby will steal corpses and sell them to the local medical school for dissection. Robby is repulsed by the thieving, but is intrigued by the activities at the medical school. When a Mr. William Burke arrives with his daughter to seek lodging at the boardinghouse, Robby is glad that the extra money will mean an end to the midnight raids on the graveyard. But Burke proves to be a sinister character with mysterious secrets. Before long, Robby finds his family in peril.
This middle grade novel is loosely based on real-life events and draws attention to the ethically challenging question of how bodies were obtained for teaching purposes in the early 19th century. It is fast-paced and well written, and the reader will empathize with Robby’s dilemma. However, younger middle-grade readers may find the material too disturbing.