Written by Lois Szymanski
Illustrated by Kelli Nash
Life along the Chesapeake is different than the life most other children experience. Fourth grade readers will learn a lot about Chesapeake life in a fun and exciting way in this family-style mystery.
As soon as Charley sees the houseboat his deceased grandfather left, he knows he has to restore it to its former glory. Charley’s father is a tough sell because he feels Grandfather let the family down by squandering money and the boat is just a piece of junk. But he comes around when he realizes Charley can be trusted. Charley and his friend Evan begin tearing up the floor inside the cabin. Suddenly, Charley hears and voice and feels his grandfather’s touch. Evan can also see the ghostly shape of Grandfather, who then tells the boys he needs them to retrieve some items that belong on the boat. The boys also encounter a ghostly lady who is guarding one of the items. And they learn of a third ghost. When the apparitions achieve their goals, they are able to pass on. Nash’s cover art is the perfect accompaniment to this enjoyable tale.
Throughout the narrative, the boys are shown using good safety techniques, adding to comprehension of the perils of life on the water. The boys use goggles and masks when working with chemicals. They always wear life vests on the water. When a storm hits unexpectedly, they wait it out like Charley’s father instructed him.
A number of excellent websites exist, which would aid in developing reading activities related to Szymanski’s story. http://www.kentislandheritagesociety.org/ and http://www.smithisland.org/ are two such sites.