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Skeleton Creek (book 1) Hardcover – Print, February 10, 2009

105 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6 Up—Ryan McCray and Sarah Fincher wonder how Skeleton Creek, OR, received its name. Research takes them on a nighttime expedition to a mechanical dredge, where Ryan breaks his leg. The teens think the dredge is haunted by Joe Bush, a miner killed there. The book is interspersed with Sarah's videos, which can be accessed on the Internet. The mystery remains to be solved; sequels are guaranteed. Plot weaknesses mitigate the teen appeal of the Internet tie-in concept. The book's central flaw: it is not scary. Ryan's narration should provide creepy immediacy, but his constant insistence that he is petrified never plays out in the story. The book ramps up and peters out, without a climax or resolution of the mystery. The repetitive musings hold the pace to a slow walk, and Carman relies on contrivance to keep adults at bay. Another reason it lags is the lack of synergy between Ryan and Sarah, even though they are supposedly best friends. They communicate only via electronic means (their parents have forbidden their friendship), and their individual findings don't dovetail into one coherent story line. Even if one stops to watch Sarah's videos, there seem to be missing pieces of information that make the plot hard to follow. The actual telling is a sad departure from the intriguing premise.—Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A gimmick? You betcha. But given the novelty and the advertising blast this novel with accompanying Web videos is getting, this is something kids will want. And Carman’s accessible, journal-type text, full of mystery and foreshadowing, pulls from the outset. Teenage Ryan records the circumstances that landed him with a broken leg, forever—according to his parents—parted from his partner in mischief, Sarah Fincher. But parental edicts mean little in the face of a true mystery in the teens’ boring town, so the two use technology to keep in touch: while Ryan journals and frets, Sarah films her adventures, references to which appear periodically in the journal along with the address of a Web site where they can be viewed. With an appropriately homemade look, the nicely choreographed videos definitely build atmosphere, but for most of the novel, readers won’t miss vital clues if a computer isn’t close at hand. It’s the ending that really annoys: the last page of the journal leads to a video that promises answers—but not until May 2009. A spoiler? Not quite, but certainly something book purchasers should know about. Grades 5-8. --Stephanie Zvirin

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; Slp edition (March 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545075661
  • ISBN-13: 978-1765043549
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By T. Jonker on February 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Skeleton Creek. Part book, part online movie. It incorporates text and video in a way that has not been done before. Skeleton Creek will be the topic of some debate, folks (What is reading? What is a book?). None of it would be worth much if the book wasn't so much fun to read.

The story moves from the get-go. We find out that the book is really Ryan's journal. Ryan is a compulsive, passionate writer who would be lost without the ability to put pen to paper. In handwriting-style font, Ryan describes a recent accident that has left him bed ridden, separated from his friend Sarah, and wrapped up in a mystery that he is in no position to solve. Skeleton Creek, a tiny mountain town that was once bustling with gold rush activity, has been host to some strange goings-on. The abandoned dredge in the nearby woods may be haunted. Ryan and Sarah's first nighttime visit to the dilapidated old machine nearly killed Ryan. Sarah, a curious amateur filmmaker, wants to get to the bottom of things. The two are forbidden (by their parents) to talk, but communicate anyway though email and videos that Sarah sends (and the reader watches). As the mystery becomes more complex, involving family members, Ryan and Sarah become increasingly brazen in their investigation. It all culminates in a genuinely scary middle of the night trip to the Dredge that ends with our protagonists in peril.

It's the kind of cliffhanger ending that will leave some readers frustrated. Scratch that - outright displeased. But it's for the right reasons. There is a sequel that will be released in September `09 (Ghost in the Machine), so that will ease some readers, anxious to know how it will end.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Books and Literature for Teens (BLT) on July 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
After a "accident" happens while exploring the old dredge (a huge mining machine), Ryan McCray is left with a broken leg and a encounter he'll never forget. While Ryan is recovering, he starts recounting his story in his journal, whereas Sarah takes things into her own hands and starts getting to the bottom of this chilling mystery one video at a time. Two teens, one ghost, and a town full secret society members. Something is wrong with Skeleton Creek, but can the twosome find the answer before they burn the dredge to ground and all it's secrets with it?


Master of creepiness or an artists with panicky words? That is the question. When I first started reading this book I noticed that how the author got you scared was with simple words and phrases like "fear", "too terrible to write down", "dredge", "watching", or even "window". I hate windows at night. And wouldn't you know it, that is how the "ghost" is introduced... peeping through a window (see book cover). Is it just me or do I feel a chill? Hmm, oh well. The first two videos are creepy and I would highly recommend a buddy being there with you. Good news though, the rest of the videos are fine. No creepy things popping up, mainly stuff about the mystery. The mystery parts were actually quite interesting and I'm anticipating the next book, but I'm a little nervous about the videos. I can't say that I was so scared out of my pants that I couldn't continue, but it was enough to creep me out. I don't particularly like ghost stories unless I have a good hunch (and it turns out to be true) that the so-called ghost is a real person just scaring people. (I think I watched too many Scooby-Doos.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Book Sp(l)ot Reviews on February 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Skeleton Creek is a new kind of book-the text we're used to seeing in books, but also links to a website where you can enter passwords and watch short videos relevant to that part of the book. Here's a bit of a summary: Ryan and Sarah are determined to get to the bottom of the weird happenings in their town of Skeleton Creek (including where that name came from). But after a mysterious accident injures Ryan and leaves him housebound, their parents forbid them from seeing each other and they are forced to communicate (and mystery solve) in private. The storyis told Ryan's journal entries and Sarah's videos.

I'll admit that at first I wasn't sure about the idea of combining a traditional book with web videos as part of the storytelling. I know that kids and teens (and boys in particular) are reading less now and using the internet more (and yes I'm aware that I'm using the internet to review books), but the idea of saying, "Hey, read 20 pages of this book and you can watch a video!" gave me a little pause.

I was really surprised, though, just how much I did enjoy the format and the book. While it's listed as being for 9-12 year-olds, I think older readers could enjoy it as well (I know I did). I also think the video integration was done really well so that younger readers really can read the book because except for the last video, the journal entry following each video explains enough in Ryan's reaction that if one did miss the video, they could go on with the story.

What this means is that parents could go through and watch the videos to see if they had a problem with them for their kids (some of them might startle you or be creepy but nothing's violent or bloody or has bad language), and not allow them to watch those specific ones.
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