The Crossroads
The Crossroads

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Series: Haunted Mystery Vol. 1   

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Annotation: When eleven-year-old Zack Jennings moves to Connecticut with his father and new stepmother, they must deal with the ghosts left behind by a terrible accident, as well as another kind of ghost from Zack's past.
Catalog Number: #31694
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Dell Yearling
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition Date: 2008
Pages: 329 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-375-84698-0 Perma-Bound: 0-605-21766-1
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-375-84698-4 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-21766-9
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2007024803
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Horn Book
In this atmospheric horror tale, eleven-year-old Zack must defeat evil forces that have been at work ever since a tragic car accident scarred his small Connecticut town fifty years ago. Grabenstein's solid mystery, eccentric characters (including a sympathetic stepmother), and intriguing ghosts (both good and evil) generate consistent suspense. The book's dark themes and violence won't appeal to the faint of heart.
Kirkus Reviews
Ghosts vengeful and benevolent, evil possession and dark secrets from the past all figure in this suspenseful page turner destined to grab reluctant readers, especially boys, and R.L. Stine fans. When 11-year-old Zack Jennings moves with his father and new stepmother from New York City to rural Connecticut, he becomes the target of a hateful old woman and the ghost of her 1950s sweetheart, now a body-possessing demon bent on wreaking vengeance on Zack's ancestor by murdering the boy. Brief, fast-paced action chapters, tight plotting, several murders and a sympathetic main character keep things moving, as long-buried clues to the mystery of a tragic accident are revealed with some help from kindly phantoms. One friendly ghost in particular may come as a surprise. Fans of the genre won't mind some of the implausibilities; they'll keep reading. (Fiction. 10-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 58 A well-told ghost story with plenty of twists and chills. Eleven-year-old Zack believes that his mother, who died from cancer, haunts his New York City apartment, continually disapproving of his behavior. He is immensely relieved when Dad marries Judy, a kind woman, and they move to Connecticut. Unfortunately, Zack cannot seem to escape the dead. Shortly after arriving in North Chester, they meet Gerda Spratling, the last survivor of the town's founding family. The abrasive woman mourns the loss of her fiancé, making a weekly pilgrimage to the crossroads outside Zack's yard where a massive oak marks the spot where Clint died almost 50 years ago. When Zack sees this tree, he fears that something evil is trapped within, and after the oak is split open by lightning, it soon becomes apparent that a malevolent spirit has been set free. With the help of Judy and a new friend, Zack takes on the menace that is plaguing their town and riling up a plethora of ghosts. This riveting tale is written in short, easy-to-read chapters, making it a good choice for reluctant readers. Throughout the story, the main characters grow closer to one another and gain heroic traits while the "bad guys" reveal greater depths of wickedness and insanity. Readers will relate to Zack and enjoy the book's scare factor and adventure. Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* If Grabenstein's first YA book were to receive a one-word review, the word would be Coooool, a term that applies in a variety of ways om the book's cover image (a face peering out of the bark of a tree) and its hitchhiking, hot-rodding ghosts to its creepy atmosphere, believable story, and suspense that engulfs readers from the very first page. Even the characters are cool, including contemporary, doo-wop, and even Dickensian types. Grabenstein, who has won the Anthony Award for his adult mysteries and whose writing career encompassed writing for television and work for the Muppets, brings a great sense of timing to this mysterious fright ride. Zack Jennings, a kid uprooted after his mother's death and his father's remarriage, sees a leering face in a gnarled tree in the park near New York City's American Museum of Natural History. A move to Connecticut doesn't extricate Zack from evil apparently lodging in trees. Readers soon learn that at a crossroads just behind Zack's new home there's an oak tree capable of branching out into murder d a number of dissatisfied ghosts that prey on passing motorists. An absorbing psychological thriller (the ghost of Zack's malevolent mother plays a part), as well as a rip-roaring ghost story, this switches points of view among humans, trees, and ghosts with astonishing élan. Expect lots of requests.
Word Count: 48,873
Reading Level: 3.7
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.7 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 122643 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.4 / points:13.0 / quiz:Q44194
Lexile: 620L
Guided Reading Level: Z
Fountas & Pinnell: Z
Billy O'Claire was doggy-dog tired.
He'd been trying to fix the toilet in the brandnew house for over six hours and the weather outside was extremely hot and muggy, especially for the Friday before Memorial Day.
Billy was sweating up a storm.  Since nobody lived in the new house yet, they hadn't turned on the air-conditioning. His work shirt was a soppy sheet of wet cotton with full-moon stains oozing down below both armpits.
It was nine p.m.
He tightened one last nut, then gave the trip handle on the toilet a flick. Instead of the customary whoosh of water swirling into the bowl, Billy heard a roaring gurgle. The toilet was working backward. He raised the lid and saw a commode burping up chunks of brown gunk. Leaves. Dirt. Twigs.
Nothing else, thank heaven, because nobody had actually used the toilet yet. This woodsy debris had to be seeping in from a cracked sewer line, and Billy realized they might have to rip up the newly sodded lawn to fix a drainpipe ruptured, most likely, by tree roots.
But that was a Monday-morning kind of problem.
Fortunately, it was Friday night and Billy was finished working for the week. He cranked the shutoff valve behind the toilet and went out to the driveway, where he had parked his pickup, the one with O'Claire's Plumbing painted on the door over where it used to say O'Claire's Painting and, before that, O'Claire's Satellite Television Repair.
Billy sat in the cab and drank half a gallon of water out of a glugging plastic jug and aimed two of the truck's air-conditioning vents up at his armpits.
It felt good. Real good.
He yawned and thought about grabbing a quick nap. Instead, he slammed the transmission into reverse and backed out of the driveway, not realizing that something wicked was lurking a little ways down the road--just waiting for the next doggy-dogtired driver to come along.

***

A flashing red stoplight hung suspended over the intersection where County Route 13 crossed Connecticut State Highway 31.
A gigantic oak tree stood near one corner, and its highest branch--as thick around as the trunk of any ordinary tree--suddenly started to move. No wind was blowing. No sports car zooming past had sent up a swirling wake. But the massive limb began to bend and rotate. It sensed an easy target approaching and, longing for a little fun, tore against itself--slowly at first, then with gathering speed. When the final strands ripped free, the bough broke off and fell like a two-ton truck, tearing down the blinking beacon.
Then the tree stopped moving.

***

Billy O'Claire remembered that there used to be a flashing red stoplight hanging over the intersection of 13 and 31. Tonight, however, there wasn't one.
Good.
Billy didn't want to stop.  He needed to find a bathroom. Bad. Chugging half a gallon of water straight from the jug will do that to you. And he preferred a bathroom where the toilet didn't gurgle back at him. He pressed down on the gas pedal.
"How dry I am," he crooned off-key. "How wet I'll be, if I don't find . . ."
Suddenly he saw someone standing in the middle of the road.
A cop.
A motorcycle cop--holding up his hand and commanding Billy to stop.
So Billy slammed on his brakes and the pickup skidded sideways. Tires screeched, the truck swerved, and he almost hooked on to the bumper of a car he hadn't even seen coming. He spun around and wound up on the far side of the intersection--backward and straddling a ditch.
Billy wasn't injured, just totally dazed. He could see the taillights of the car he had nearly hit as it zoomed up the highway. Glancing at his rearview mirror, he saw the cop standing next to his motorbike, which was very weird-looking--it had a moonfaced headlight and chrome fenders swooping up over its tires.
It's from the 1950s, Billy thought. An old Harley Softail. Billy liked old motorcycles. Wished he had one right now so he could hightail it out

Excerpted from The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Perfect for Halloween! From the New York Times bestselling author of Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library and coauthor of I Funny and Treasure Hunters, comes a series of spine-tingling mysteries to keep you up long after the lights go out.

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.

★ “A rip-roaring ghost story.”—Booklist, Starred


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