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Karl starts with a contemporary neglected child, sets her adventure in a lonely graveyard, and, for a twist, introduces the sci-fi motif of intergalactic communication. When her never-attentive mother takes off for a week or forever, sixth-grader Lucinda, the last child left at home, decides that it's safer to stay in the cemetery across the street than to remain in her own house as a sitting duck for a gang of kids determined to get back at her older, stoolie brother through his family. So Lucinda secretly moves into the unused caretaker's cottage, where she takes to confiding in ""Beloved Benjamin,"" the iron statue of a boy who died at seven in 1890. When Benjamin begins to glow and hum and finally speak, the voice is not that of the little boy's ghost--as you might suspect and the rational Lucinda does briefly--but of beings in space who have somehow established communication contact through the iron form. The statue's presence is lucky for them, as Lucinda might have been less eager to converse with, say, the kitchen faucet; as it is, she pores over library books on astronomy in order to answer ""Benjamin's"" questions about which planet he/it/they have contacted, and in the process makes as much progress in science as she has in social studies with her local history report on the cemetery. Meanwhile Benjamin is not the only one waiting: the gang threatens, lurks, and takes over her old former home, until finally a night fire there leads Lucinda to tell all (except about Benjamin--who'd believe it?) to the friendly cemetery guard, then call an older sister who arranges for congenial foster care. An unrealistically handy solution perhaps to Lucinda's real life problems, and as for the fantasy element it's almost incidental. But all together--with the watchful gang to keep you on edge and the space contact to rev up the usual cemetery encounter--the different strands mesh well to form a roundly satisfying adventure.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1978
Publisher: Dutton