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The Great Emerson Art Heist book image The Great Emerson Art Heist

A Vocabulary-Building Mystery Novel!


August 1942: On board the 20th Century Limited out of New York’s Grand Central Station, Swedish-American girl detective, Ellen Anderson, has a chance encounter with Natalia Boroskova, a young Russian woman who has recently escaped from Stalin’s genocidal police state after her parents were liquidated during the Great Purge. By coincidence, both are on their way to Gary, Indiana, where Ellen’s father has a wartime contract with Gary Armor Plate, and Natalia hopes to link up with her Uncle Stanislaus, a veteran of the Russian White Army. Shortly after Ellen’s enrollment at the city’s historic Emerson High School, Gary is shocked to the core by the theft of Emerson’s precious art collection. At the same time, Natalia is being trailed by agents of the Soviet NKVD who believe she is in possession of secret documents left in her care by her late father which implicate the identities of Soviet agents around the world.

20th Century Limited

The Great Emerson Art Heist is a unique work of historical fiction, blending real life people and places of 1942 Gary with 2,143 bolded SAT vocabulary words, 374 bolded cultural literacy references, and 222 illustrations, including period postcards, photographs, period images, maps, and original illustrations that recreate Gary during the war years. Each of these SAT words and cultural literacy references is defined in accompanying glossaries. The Great Emerson Art Heist provides a fascinating window into the ‘City of the Century’ during World War II, when Gary was a melting pot of nationalities and a center of Allied war production.

Nells Island

Author and Gary historian, Kendall Svengalis, draws upon his intimate knowledge of the city of his birth, and oral history interviews conducted with nearly 100 former Gary residents, including graduates of Emerson and Froebel high schools, to paint a realistic and fascinating portrait of Gary in 1942. The action takes place primarily on the city’s East Side, the multi-ethnic and multi-racial Central District, the West Side, Aetna, and Miller, as well as nearby Chicago.

The bolded vocabulary words, along with other historical terms, are defined in a glossary at the back of the book.

West Side Highway

There is no work of historical fiction quite like The Great Emerson Art Heist, which takes two real life high schools, their faculty and students, and envelopes them in a thrilling tale of mystery, espionage, political intrigue, and danger. Written for adults, it provides students with a bridge to broader vocabulary skills and cultural literacy. Whether you grew up in Gary, or not, you will be drawn into the atmosphere of this vibrant, working class city and its inhabitants, as Ellen and Natalia confront events with significant implications for national security.

The Great Emerson Art Heist is a novel way of mastering essential vocabulary words naturally, in context. It makes the perfect gift for both adults and young adults, children and grandchildren, nephews and nieces, or as a supplementary language tool for schools. Give the lifelong gift of enhanced vocabulary and cultural awareness – but not before reading it yourself!

Review a PDF of chapter 29 (note: images are low resolution)