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The Crossroads: A Haunted Mystery Hardcover – May 27, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Haunted Mysteries Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From 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—from 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—and 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. Grades 5-8. --Connie Fletcher

Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 620L (What's this?)
  • Series: A Haunted Mystery (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; 1st Edition First Printing edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375846972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375846977
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #883,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Grabenstein is the author of many fast-paced and fun page-turners including the New York Times bestsellers The Island of Dr. Libris and Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library. Currently nominated for 34 different state book awards, Mr. Lemoncello has spent 38 weeks in the top ten of the New York Times Middle Grades bestseller list. Nickelodeon has optioned the book to become a movie. Chis is also the co-author with James Patterson of the #1 Bestselling I Funny, Treasure Hunters, and House of Robots series. He is the critically acclaimed author of over thirty books, a playwright, screenwriter, and former advertising executive and improvisational comedian. Previously, Chris wrote for Jim Henson's Muppets and co-wrote the CBS-TV movie The Christmas Gift starring John Denver. His dog, Fred, has better credits. Fred starred on Broadway in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.www.ChrisGrabenstein.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Have you ever seen a face hidden in the bark of a tree and known that the man trapped inside wanted to hurt you?" It's the perfect opening for Chris Grabenstein's ghost story, The Crossroads.

Grabenstein, author of the John Ceepak/Jersey Shore mysteries, and the Christopher Miller holiday thrillers, has tried his hand at a book for young readers, ages 9 to 12. And, he captures boys and ghost stories beautifully.

At eleven, Zack Jennings is moving to his father's hometown, North Chester, Connecticut, with his father and new stepmother, Judy. None of them know that their house sits on a haunted crossroads, an intersection where 41 people died in a collision with a car, a bus, and a police motorcycle. There are stories about the intersection and the killer trees at the crossroads, but newcomers have to discover the horrors themselves.

Zack is haunted by the memories of his mother, a woman who died of cancer. Because she blamed him for her life, he blames himself for her death. He'll discover a new life in Connecticut - a fun stepmother, a dog, a best friend unlike any friend he could imagine. And, he'll meet the woman who still tends the memory of her dead fiancé by bringing roses to the tree at the crossroads. When Zack's father said they'd move for a new life, he had no idea what Zack was getting into.

My compliments to the author for avoiding stereotypes. Judy, the stepmother, is a wonderful character, a children's author who enjoys Zack and his imagination. And, as a librarian, I appreciate the Mrs. Emerson, the public librarian. She does her job well, but she also shows spunk. And how many adult readers picture librarians going to "submarine races"?

Grabenstein does a wonderful job bringing this ghost story to life.
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Format: Hardcover
Zack Jennings is a fairly average kid. He's just moved from the city to Connecticut with his Dad and a fabulous new stepmom. Now he can even have a dog. It's a chance to start over after the death of his mother, except there is this mean, nasty ghost who has been waiting for fifty years to get revenge on those who played a roll in his death, and the Jennings family happens to be on his list.

While there is nothing particularly special about this horror novel, I found I enjoyed it much the way I enjoyed the movie, The Frighteners. That's the one where Michael J. Fox has developed psychic abilities after his wife is killed in a car accident. The movie is not exactly a comedy, but comedic moments are skillfully thrown in to mitigate any scene being too scary, and Grabenstein has applied this same device to The Crossroads. Whether it be the over-the-top country-boy accent applied to Zack's friend Davy, the freakish burger cravings of a possessed plumber, or the crazy, dangerous antics of a lady too old to physically hurt a fly, The Crossroads makes for a fun summer read. Oh, and the best part is that the stepmom and a librarian provide the key clues to solving the mystery of this ghost. Who says stepmoms are evil and librarians are boring?

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Format: Hardcover
Chris has written an excellent adult series, a fabulous series for those older kids and young adults and now he has followed up with this new story that is perfect for the younger readers out there. The story is fast moving and exciting and guaranteed to catch the attention of even those kids who do not like to read. Great book!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some of my students wanted to read a scary book, so we picked this one out and I read it with them. Unfortunately, it is not a book that I can recommend.

I enjoyed the basic plot. The book begins rather ominously, with a tree capable of murder. This is a scary idea that does not continue to play out. The plot becomes very convoluted, involving generations of the townspeople, all inter-related in ways that are difficult to understand. It comes together, sort of, but it does not read like a mystery as the dots are connected, it reads more like a mess. The ominous beginning involves the emotional abuse of a child, and this is another problem I had with the book. If this were used in a way that kids could relate to, and was provided appropriate resolution, it would be a positive. As it is, too many questions are left unanswered, particularly the role the father had to play, largely because characters (there was potential there) become unbelievable caricatures. The scary beginning ends up playing out in some preposterous ways, and at the end, unravels and resolves in much the same way a Scooby Doo episode would with a wild goose chase (if the ghosts in Scooby Doo were real). I appreciated the short chapters which made it easier for my students to read. The pacing was well done. But in the end, there was little in this book that they, or I, could relate to. The book lost us all. A decent beginning that fractured into trite, ridiculous nonsense.
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Format: Hardcover
There's a tree that stands watch over the crossroads of County Route 13 and Connecticut State Highway 31. There's a memorial on the tree. Someone leaves a dozen fresh roses there every Monday. And the tree is at the back edge of Zack Jennings's new yard.

Zack, his father, and his new step-mother have left the city and moved to Connecticut. Zack lost his mother to cancer, and now that his father has remarried, the family is making a new start in Zack's father's hometown. They have a brand new house, Zack got a new dog, Zipper, and things with his step-mom might actually be okay.

But there's something strange going on in the town. Zack has a new friend, Davy. They have great adventures together, but it always seems like Zack is the one doing the hard work while Davy comes up with the plans. Judy, Zack's step-mom, gets a flat tire on the deserted highway and a Greyhound employee comes to offer aide. Though like with Davy, he can tell her how to fix it but he just can't do the work himself.

At the same time, the 50th-anniversary of a horrific bus accident at the intersection is about to occur. At the heart of the accident is Clint Eberhart. Trying to finish business with his first wife, the bus goes off the road and bursts into flames. The Thunderbird that Clint was driving smashes into the same tree that now holds a memorial dedicated to him.

Through the shrine that is kept at the tree, all the participants of that awful night fifty years ago are kept bound to the earth. It seems Zack has been the one chosen to help them release their souls. The only problem -- Zack doesn't know he's been chosen, nor does he even know that the spirits exist. At least he doesn't in the beginning...
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