The Baker brothers, Simon (11), Henry (10), and Jack (6), are realizing that there’s something decidedly odd about their new hometown of Superstition, Arizona.
The three boys are the heroes of Elise Broach's Missing on Superstition Mountain, the first book in a projected trilogy. Along with their parents and their cat, Josie, the brothers have moved from Chicago to Arizona because their father’s eccentric relative willed Mr. Baker his house. Behind their new home is the “enormous, craggy,” aptly named Superstition Mountain. The boys aren’t allowed to explore it, but one fateful day, their cat dashes off the back porch and scampers up the mountain. Concerned about Josie’s safety, the boys chase after her.
Jack, the youngest brother, quickly learns that coming down can sometimes be a whole lot harder than going up when he falls over a boulder. Scrambling to rescue Jack from the ledge where he's landed, Simon and Henry discover something sinister: three human skulls.
“Henry felt a chill of foreboding. ‘And there are three of them,’ he said slowly. ‘Like the three of us.’”
Not wanting to get grounded after their escapade, the boys think it prudent not to tell their parents about the skulls. But not telling and forgetting are two different things. The boys and a new friend, Delilah, are soon trying to solve the mystery of the human remains. What they discover is that while some people who ventured up the mountain never came back down, there are some people who have made it back down, but are never the same again.
I’ve not read anything by Elise Broach before, but it’s clear that she is a writer who actually likes her audience, young readers aged 8 to 13. Missing on Superstition Mountain is a delightful book, full of danger, mystery, and sorrow.
To make her story richer, Broach bolsters the fiction with historical facts and geography. And refreshingly, she portrays children interacting with their parents and other adults respectfully, and integrates the boys’ lives with those of their parents throughout the book.
Another encouraging aspect of this book is that it’s filled with rich vocabulary words like decapitated, dehydrate, and catastrophe. But Broach’s approach isn’t didactic; the words are used in the context of situation or a character explains their meanings without insulting the reader or awkwardly interrupting the story.
Young readers possess a keen sense of right and wrong, good and bad. Missing on Superstition Mountain appeals to that moral sense.Besides building their imaginations through reading this well-written story, readers also explore moral themes and traits like empathy and honesty. And with all this, Broach’s style and storytelling abilities are great. In fact, when they’re old enough, I look forward to introducing her book to my grandsons.
Image copyright Henry Holt & Co. Review copy received from publisher.
Kim Moreland manages the Colson Center Library, is a research associate for BreakPoint, and writes feature articles and blog posts for BreakPoint.
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