Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

Like many of my favorite stories, this one begins in the middle of the action. Something tragic has happened to cause Ryan and his best friend Sarah to be split apart. Their parents probably will never allow them to see each other again. Something terrible has happened to Ryan, but we don’t know what exactly is wrong. And, what about Sarah? Is she okay?

Finally strong enough to do what he loves best, which is to write, we read in Ryan’s journal entry that this is the first time since being in the hospital that he hasn’t been awakened by the sound of shuffling feet, the dry chalk-dust smell of his nurse’s skin, and the soft shaking of his shoulder.

He reflects over the events that have transpired by writing in his journal. He has to. He doesn’t know how to deal with what happened in any other way.

When Ryan looks back at what they started, he writes that he can see them, all the warning signs.

He imagines Sarah wouldn't call them "warning signs." She would probably call them "invitations." She was the adventurous one. She could even be outrageous. One of her favorite things to do was to take her video camera and interview complete strangers off the street and possibly the occasional hitchhiker that wandered into their dusty old town.

He writes in his journal:

“I miss her.

I blame her.

I’m scared for her.”

“It ‘s not like she tricked me into anything.

I went along willingly.

I was the one who put my life on the line.”

It all seemed innocent enough at first. What could anyone else expect; they were bored. There was nothing to do in their hole-in-the-wall town of theirs. Its only claim to fame was a deserted gold mine nearby. The town wasn’t always called Skeleton Creek. Before 1959 it was called Linkford, a bland, respectable, safe name for a town. Sarah and Ryan decided to find out why the town’s name was changed. They picked up a lead at the local library, but Gladys Morgan, the town librarian, warned them that she would not help them any further. There were secrets buried in Skeleton Creek that were meant to stay that way.

Somehow they figured the mystery about the town’s name involved the deserted gold mine in the forest and the broken down dredge machine that was used to swallow up the earth in order to shake out bits of gold. According to an account they uncovered, Ryan and Sarah learn that a worker at the mine years ago accidently got his leg pulled into the gears of the dredge machine. No one else was working at the time to hear his cries for help. His leg was mangled into an unrecognizable limb. He later died and was buried nearby.

In chapter one Ryan doesn’t reveal what happened to himself and why he has been in the hospital. All we know is that he's extremely nervous, like someone is watching him.

We catch Ryan at the end of chapter one at a moment of decision. Will he decide to watch the video that Sarah emailed to him without her parents permission? Maybe knowing more will make him less nervous.

Apparently Sarah brought her video camera the night of the incident, but as Ryan discovers, the video won’t make him feel any better.

To watch the video that Sarah emailed Ryan go to:

If you like a mystery that is part horror, part suspense, then I'd like to recommend, Skeleton Creek, by Patrick Carman.

(There is a password required to get in. You’ll have to read the book to obtain the passwords for all of Sarah’s videos that reveal answers to why Ryan is so nervous and that perhaps reveal the mystery about Skeleton Creek. -Okay, here's one password to try out: houseofusher)

Also, check out the following:

Interview with author Patrick Carman about his new book, Skeleton Creek: goto interview.

Scholastic's Skeleton Creek Webpage.

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