Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

It took me a while to read Skeleton Creek simply because I'm a wimp. There. I said it, and I can't take it back. The day is full of teaching, the evening is full of family, and the only time to read is at night. When it's dark. And, due to the aforementioned wimpiness, I wouldn't read it at night.

So for one day only I decided to blow off reading conferences (another admission) during reader's workshop time and read surrounded by my protective fourth graders.

Skeleton Creek is the journal of fifteen-year-old Ryan McCray. He begins by describing his past two weeks in the hospital, and then proceeds to the events that caused his stay. He and his best friend Sarah Fincher had gone to explore a mysterious, retired gold-mining dredge in the woods where a worker, Joe Bush, had reportedly died. Ryan seriously injures his leg after breaking through a crumbling safety rail and falling.

Ryan and Sarah have now been forbidden from seeing or contacting each other, but in the age of the Internet, contact is hard to stop. Ryan writes. Sarah emails video updates of her continued investigation, available to Ryan only (and readers) at SarahFincher.com via the passwords she sends.

The first video shows Sarah’s first visit to the dredge and their first evidence that someone (the ghost of Old Joe Bush?) is inside. The second video shoes the events surrounding Ryan’s accident. In subsequent videos Sarah lays out her findings – enhanced sound, image comparisons, interviews, and personal commentary. Readers get Ryan’s side of the story by reading his journal. Sarah’s part is presented through her videos and occasional email. It’s a unique concept for a book, this switching between text and video, and readers will enjoy it immensely.

The story continues through the small town of Skeleton Creek. Local history and residents become entwined in Ryan and Sarah’s story as their research unearths a secret society called The Crossbones, cryptic messages in the local newspaper, odd symbols, Ryan’s father, the new park ranger in town, and even the shotgun-toting librarian - and all somehow point to the dredge.

The online element of Skeleton Creek is enhanced by additional information and sites. Easter Eggs (click a window, click a doorway) occasionally appear on SarahFincher.com. Readers question whether Patrick Carman's story is based on real events at SkeletonCreekIsReal.com, and present their evidence. Speculation, news, rumors, and discussion forums are available at SkeletonCreekFans.com. Want to do a little research on your own? Wikipedia includes entries about Old Joe Bush and the original Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge.

Okay, back to the wimpiness. Sarah’s first two video are the creepiest. I could have handled the rest of them at night. Really. I could.

Until that last one…

Anyways, here’s the book trailer. Remember...it's creepy.


  1. My 10 year old is reading it and has taken me along for the ride 'cause it has her scared out of her wits. This is hands down one of the best books we've read together. It's engaging, fun, and incorporates the stuff kids are using today. Kudos to Patrick Carman.

  2. You are a brave mom, Myra. You have my utmost respect. I'd have a hard time being the brave, protective parent when I too was scared out of my wits. Thankfully the first movie is the creepiest...

    ...until that last one.

    Thanks for the comment. I'd be interested to hear how you feel once the book is finished. Book 2 isn't far off!


  3. We've watched Video one and video two "The Raven", I was trying to be extra brave for Bela but I almost jumped out of my computer chair at the end. Sooo, we are braving on. She is reading the book outloud and it has us on the edge of our seats.

    I have to say that the book grabbed us right off the shelf at Barnes & Noble because of the wrapping, I personally was dying of curiosity just by the cover.

    I'll keep you posted on how we weather this great summer read. Prior to this we read the light-hearted yet intriguing book titled, "The Doll People".

  4. Great! I only have students' perspectives (and my own, of course) on reading the book. I'm looking forward to a parent's view.

    The interaction between the text and the movie is entirely new and intriguing, but without a great story it would simply be a novelty. There's plenty more mystery and plot twists to come.




All comments are moderated and will not appear until approved. If your comment is an answer for the PBID Challenge, it will appear with all other answers on the following Monday. Remember to check back then!