About the Book:
ZACK, HIS DAD, and new stepmother have just moved back to his father’s hometown, not knowing that their new house has a dark history. Fifty years ago, a crazed killer caused an accident at the nearby crossroads that took 40 innocent lives. He died when his car hit a tree in a fiery crash, and his malevolent spirit has inhabited the tree ever since. During a huge storm, lightning hits the tree, releasing the spirit, who decides his evil spree isn’t over . . . and Zack is directly in his sights.
Award-winning thriller author Chris Grabenstein fills his first book for younger readers with the same humorous and spine-tingling storytelling that has made him a fast favorite with adults.
About the Author:
Chris Grabenstein did improvisational comedy in New York City with Bruce Willis and Robin Williams until James Patterson hired him to write advertising copy at the J. Walter Thompson agency.
He spent seventeen years writing and producing television and radio commercials. During that time,he also wrote for Jim Henson's Muppets and co-authored the made-for-TV movie THE CHRISTMAS GIFT starring John Denver, which first aired on CBS-TV in 1986 and is rerun on cable channels every holiday season.
Chris quit advertising in 2001 and spent four years in a spare bedroom writing screenplays, TV shows, plays and novels nobody wanted to produce or publish.
In 2008, Random House Children’s Books published Chris’ first ghost story/mystery for middle grades (ages 8-13) readers, THE CROSSROADS. It went on to win both an Anthony and Agatha Award. The second book in that series, THE HANGING HILL, also won an Agatha Award and inspired Chris’ play CURIOSITY CAT, which is now published by Samuel French and available for production everywhere. The third book in the Haunted Mystery series, THE SMOKY CORRIDOR, is currently a finalist for the Black Eyed Susan young readers’ award in Maryland. The fourth book, THE BLACK HEART CRYPT, was published in 2011.
Chris has a new middle grade series with HarperCollins: RILEY MACK AND THE OTHER KNOWN TROUBLEMAKERS. He calls it a “Dortmunder caper series” for kids or “an Ocean’s Eleven for eleven-year-olds.”
Chris is currently working on a new middle grades book for Random House called ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY.
He recently released an e-book exclusive for young readers THE EXPLORERS' GATE, inspired by his daily runs through New York City's magical Central Park.
Chris lives in New York City with his beautiful and beloved wife, J.J., who, by the way, is the world’s best first editor and an excellent audio book narrator (she does the Haunted Mystery series for Audible).
They share their tiny apartment with two cats (Parker and Tiger Lilly) and 60-pound dog named Fred who has the best credits in the family: Fred starred on Broadway in the musical version of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG.
Okay, here's the dilemma. As a middle school teacher I can clearly see how kids will LOVE this book - it has all the classic elements that younger audiences are into: a ghost story, supernatural beings, a mystery, a main character that you just want to like right from the start, and an evil antagonist who comes around to haunt the living. I am considering adding this title to my book club rotation list for my 6th grade students.
That being said, the adult side of me struggled with this one because while it is a quick read and an entertaining one, the writing feels floppy and amateurish. I think that parts of the novel, especially at the end, jump around so much that it is a little hard to follow and the whole story doesn't "flow" like I like a novel to.
The storyline about Zach's mother just seemed not a relevant as the author might have intended and when Judy shows Zach the kind of love that a mother should it just doesn't have the warm and fuzzy feeling that it should. Gerda's character was interesting, but even that didn't hit-home like an evil character should. In other words, I didn't hate her like I should have!
I am torn on this book... I can see the value in it, but it just wasn't for me. I am always interested in checking out more by an author just to see if it was the one particular book or it is the author as a whole that I struggle with. I will be sure to get my hands on another work by Chris Grabenstein.
Rating: 3/5 Stars