Does your favorite young reader love ghost stories? If they find it fun to scare their friends with stories of ghouls, and blood, and mad killers, Chris Grabenstein's second Zack and Judy adventure, The Hanging Hill, is the perfect book. The sequel to The Crossroads is even creepier than the first book. It's the perfect late-at-night or Halloween book for readers nine to twelve. Creepy, with some humor, The Hanging Hill, has a heroic young man, a terrific stepmother, and, Zack's dog, Zipper.
Zack Jennings, and his stepmother, Judy, thought they were taking a relaxing summer trip to Chatham, Connecticut, where Judy's story, Curiosity Cat was going to be produced as a play. Zack thought he was leaving his adventures with ghosts behind, but The Hanging Hill Playhouse is haunted, and, naturally, Zack can see the ghosts - unusual ghosts of a juggling young girl, a familiar looking woman. But, he also sees horrid ghosts, a Pilgrim who was hung, a woman with a hatchet. He doesn't want to bother Judy before her musical is produced. Fortunately, when the two young leads show up, Meghan McKenna is more than a movie star. She can also see the ghosts, and she quickly joins Zack in investigating the stories behind the haunting of The Hanging Hill Playhouse.
Zack and Meghan will need to dig for the theater's history because something is definitely wrong with the strange director of Curiosity Cat. The man is preoccupied with a strange old book. But, Zack will find a supporting cast of ghosts. He'll need all the help he can get if he's to survive demons such as Diamond Mike Butler, the Butcher Thief of Bleeker Street, and Mad Dog Murphy, who died in the electric chair in 1959. Once again, Zack and Judy will have to use their wits to defend themselves against evil.
Grabenstein combines horrible villains with ghosts and humor for a successful ghost story. As a librarian, and mystery fan, there were two notable points that younger readers will miss. Zack and Judy, Meghan and her mother, a teacher, all appreciate the public library, and head to the local library for research. And, the inside joke for mystery fans is the presence of Doris Ann Norris as the librarian. Norris, the former director of the Kaubisch Memorial Public Library in Fostoria, Ohio, calls herself the "2000 Year Old Librarian" on mystery and library listservs.
Chris Grabenstein is the author of The Hanging Hill and The Crossroads for young readers, as well as the Ceepak mysteries for adults. His website reflects his dual nature as a writer. Check out www.chrisgrabenstein.com.
And, as an added treat, here's the YouTube trailer for The Hanging Hill, with typical juvenile humor.
The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein. Random House, ©2009. ISBN 9780375846991 (hardcover), 336p.