If you’ve got a child of upper elementary or middle school age who enjoys reading and likes spooky stories, you’ll definitely want to check out Ghosts of Rockville: Search for fhe Dominion Glass, a new book by Justin Heimberg. It’s the first book in the Ghosts of Rockville series, and it has not only a great story but also a very unique twist on involving your young reader in the investigation. And at 275 pages, it’s got plenty of twists, turns, and mysteries that will entertain your young reader and have them anxiously awaiting the June 2012 release of Book 2.
The story takes place in the town of Rockville, a town full of oddities known as the Seven Unnatural Wonders that includes crop circles, a spooky forest, the Cave of Shadows, and an ominous location called the Cliffs of Death. Readers will follow the adventures of four young supernatural investigators as they take on an assignment to locate the famed Dominion Glass, a relic that apparently allows the user to talk to and control spirits.
First, there’s Jay — his dad disappeared years earlier under mysterious circumstances and Jay has an experience that gets him interested in the paranormal. He’s the leader of the group, and he’s got his own agenda when it comes to the Dominion Glass. He’s good at researching, too, and that skill will be beneficial to the remaining members of his team.
Pam comes from a family of mediums, and her mother and sister are well known in the town for offering up their skills for cash. Unfortunately, the supernatural powers don’t seem to have trickled down to Pam, and she finds herself constantly frustrated at her lack of success when her team puts her to the test. But she’s in for a surprise (and so is her team) when she soon discovers her skills slowly building up in reliability.
Brian is the odd man out — a popular kid at school, he’s also one of the smartest kids around. But he hides his intelligence by acting dumb and failing tests. It puts a strain on his investigator friends who must find new and interesting ways to talk to him so he doesn’t blow his cover with his popular girlfriend and the rest of the school. Brian has a superb memory and is good at puzzle solving… and it’s going to come in handy for hunting the Dominion Glass.
Finally, there’s my favorite character… Danni. She’s a kid-sized version of CSI, always willing to string up police tape and start an investigation. From determining who turned a squirrel into roadkill to examine handwriting and fingerprints on various clues that the team receives during their investigation, she’s an entertaining character, and her puns are hilarious. (Think CSI: Miami‘s Horatio Caine’s play on words at the beginning of each episode, and you’ve got the idea.)
The team helps fellow students battle poltergeists, find lost items, and other minor activities, but when they get a major assignment from a secretive organization (hiding in plain sight) to find the Dominion Glass, the risks really ramp up fast as they are chased and threatened by living and dead foes. At various points, each team member begins to question his or her role and value to the team, but they each will discover they have important contributions to make if the team is to succeed.
I loved the story — the four young investigators are well-written and each has a unique personality. The mystery is original, and the puzzles the team encounters are fun to figure out using a unique method called MagicView. The book comes with a small plastic square called the MagicView Lens that is placed over the various images included in the book. Depending on how the square is placed over the image, different hidden images and text are revealed. There are four letters scattered around the edges of the square that correspond to the first letter of the team members’ names — J, B, P, and D. If Jay is looking at a book page for example (and that book page is shown as a figure), you place the MagicView Lens so that the J letter is at top and see what appears. If all team members are looking at something, you simply rotate the square 45 degrees three more times to see what the other team members see… some images have only one hidden image and some have a full four hidden images.
The MagicView Lens is also an interesting method for providing the solution to a handful of puzzles provided in the book — it allows readers to first try their hands at solving the puzzle before using the square to see the answer. A few puzzles I was able to figure out on my own, but there are a couple that I could not and had to reach for the MagicView Lens. Fun stuff.