The Grave

  • Hardcover published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 2000.
  • Paperback by Laurel-Leaf, 2002.
  • Groundwood Books in Canada, 2000.
  • Corgi Book in Great Britain, 2002.
  • De Fontein in The Netherlands in Dutch, 2003.

YALSAnew2Selected as a American Library Association (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults, 2002

Winner of the Sheila A. Egoff B.C. Book Prize for Children’s Literature, 2001 BCbookprizelogolarge

mrchristiesilversealWinner of a Mr. Christie’s Book Award Silver Seal, 2000

nyplchildrensbooks2000A New York Library Pick for the Best 100 Children’s Books of the Year 2000

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) Top Shelf Pick 2001 and one of their selections for the Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror 2000

juniorlibraryguildlogoA Junior Library Guild Pick

Nominated for :

  • Keystone State (Pennsylvania) Reading Association Young Adult Book Award, 2001-02
  • Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award, 2002
  • Arthur Ellis Award for Best Juvenile Crime Fiction, 2001
  • Canadian Geoffrey Bilson Historical Fiction for Young People Award, 2001

“An engaging, beautifully written story with a complex, appealing narrator… engrossing… compelling…”
Shelle Rosenfeld, Booklist

“Throughout the fast-paced story, coincidences between the past and present accumulate until they from a bridge that leads Tom to his real identity and helps him understand what ‘family’ means.” Kirkus Review

“Honest and uncompromising…” The Horn Book


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.

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 rumours 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 it’s 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 Tom’s double? Tom stands by the Monaghans in their plight, and in so doing discovers that the past, and the Monaghans, hold the key to his destiny.


FROM HORN BOOK. The strongest parts of the novel describe the desperate living conditions of the Monaghans and their fellow Irish immigrants, driven from their homeland and traveling to England in hopes of finding free passage to America by serving as ship ballast. In the teeming streets of Liverpool, blanketed by “fog the color and smell of horse dung,” they seek shelter in squatters’ cellars and suffer the horrors of “Irish famine fever”-typhus. Many will eventually be buried in the mass grave where coffins are stacked sixteen high… Honest and uncompromising. Copyright © 2000 The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.

FROM SHELLE ROSENFELD IN BOOKLIST (Gr. 7-10). 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 Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

graveukjpgFROM KIRKUS REVIEWS (Oct. 17, 2000). …Superbly crafted time-split novel… Throughout the fast-paced story, coincidences between the past and present accumulate until they form a bridge that leads Tom to his real identity and helps him understand what “family” means. Loosely based on the discovery of a mass grave in Liverpool, the characters and situations here ring true. A riveting adventure. (Fiction, 12-14).

FROM LANE DEVEREUX, AB LIBRARY, HOUSTON TX. James Heneghan has created a world, which should be improbable and hokey, but is completely believable. The main success of his story rests on Tom Mullen, a boy as genuine and likeable as your next-door neighbor. Streetwise and savvy enough to stand up for himself against the creeps of the world, Tom is nonetheless good-hearted and generous to those who deserve it or need it. Through this appealing character, the reader is drawn into the sad, fascinating story of the terrible Irish Potato Famine in 1847. The ending, which surprisingly does not seem contrived or sappy, is a satisfying completion to a well-told tale.

thegravejapaneseFROM CATHERINE SAFER IN THE SUNDAY DAILY NEWS. An excellent adventure, though rife with sadness, Heneghan spares no detail of the devastation caused by famine, and no love for those who might have saved so many lives. Let the youngsters know that what they are reading ö The Grave is based on terrible truth. Heneghanâs writing is wonderful.

FROM JEFFREY CANTON IN QUILL & QUIRE (November 2000). James Heneghan… has used the real-life discovery of a mass grave in Liverpool to create a compelling mystery and time-travel adventure. Heneghan’s sensitive portrayal of the Irish famine victims is vivid, as are the authentic details of mid-1970s Liverpool life, including the popular music Tom would have listened to. As well, the mass grave itself is a marvelous time-travel device that neatly bridges the past and present, adding just the right dash of the supernatural to a novel that in so many other ways is rooted in realism. A gripping mystery, a compelling time-travel adventure, and a devastatingly realistic glimpse into the past… Terrifically satisfying. (Ages 12-15)

thegravecanadianFROM PJB IN BOOKTRUSTED NEWS.  The first person narrative and the fast pace of this book draw in the reader from page one. . . . The way in which feelings of love and friendship begin to grow in this previously unloved and lonely boy are conveyed with great sensitivity and charm. My only (minor) criticism is with regard to the cover design [Corgi English edition], which could be somewhat misleading. [It does] not do justice to the contents of this rather wonderful book.

FROM DANA VANCE IN THE ALAN REVIEW. “The Grave” is a compelling combination of current and historical fiction. Tom Mullen lives in the Liverpool of 1974. …Combining a strong take of romance and adventure, the author weaves a fascinating historical coming of age story in a most unlikely setting.

FROM MARGARET POOLE IN THE HALIFAX CHRONICLE-HERALD (December, 2000). Tom is a memorable and convincing character, growing out of the tough and gritty exterior he as built up for himself as the story unfolds. Tom’s eventual realization of his true connection with the Monaghans gives meaning to his life in Liverpool and opens up a whole new future for him.