Review by Tyler Tichelaar
Laura Wharton, author of Leaving Lukens, and her ten-year old son, Will, have written the first of a planned series of children’s novels titled Mystery at the Lake House. In this first book, Monsters Below, we are introduced to Jock Avery, who has just finished fourth grade and is about to spend the summer with his grandparents at their home on Longleaf Lake. Jock is further excited when he learns his grandparents have new neighbors, including two children, Lynna, also ten years old, and her younger brother, Chip, age seven.
Spending the summer on a lake would be ideal for any boy or girl, but Chip, who once visited Loch Ness and claims to have seen its monster, is convinced that there is a monster in Longleaf Lake. While Jock refuses to believe it is the Loch Ness Monster, when he hears strange sounds coming from across the lake, he starts to wonder what could be causing them.
Soon Jock, Chip, and Lynna decide to investigate the mysterious noise. It seems to be coming from the direction of Mr. Harrison’s house and his cove, and considering that Jock’s grandfather says Mr. Harrison likes to keep to himself and was once in prison, Mr. Harrison appears to be the obvious culprit. When Mr. Harrison tries to chase Jock and Lynna with his boat when they are out sailing, and they also see him dumping something mysterious into the lake, they believe they have enough evidence to investigate further, including sneaking onto Mr. Harrison’s property.
The Whartons excel at providing great cliffhanger moments at the end of each chapter, and here’s one of them:
Jock and Lynna looked out at the lake in the direction Chip was pointing. The silhouette of a man in a rowboat was difficult to see that far out on the water without binoculars in the growing darkness. “It’s a little too late to be fishing,” Jock agreed.
“Maybe he’s just out for a moonlit boat ride,” Lynna offered.
“There’s no moon out tonight,” Jock countered. “Too much cloud cover.”
Just then, they heard a loud ker-splash followed a moment later by an eerie screeching sound.
Chip screamed, “He’s feeding the monster!”
Full of fun adventure, and all the joys of summer — from bike riding to sailing, bird watching to Grandmother’s baked goodies, and good books for the characters to read, Monsters Below will be enjoyed by boys and girls alike, and adults will find it a pleasant way to recall their own childhoods or share in the adventure by reading it aloud to their children.
A few notable features that make this book unique are that Jock enjoys reading adventure books called the Sam Justice series, so readers are given snippets of those books as Jock imagines himself acting like the hero of that series, providing stories within the larger story. The book also includes a bird watching checklist, the kids’ favorite recipes, a diagram to teach children about the different parts of sailboats, and an interview with ten year old author Will Wharton about how his mother and he wrote the book. Finally, a preview is provided of the next book in the series, The Mermaid’s Tale, soon to be released. I can’t wait to hear how the mermaid is explained!
For more information on the new and unique Mystery at the Lake House series, visit www.JockAveryAdventures.com.