It is 1892, and Jonathan Capewell, a farm boy who dreams of becoming a big-city detective, is sent from home to look after his mysterious grandfather. Grandpa is a traveling photographer, and his independent ways have never included family members -- certainly not his youngest grandchild.
After a grueling journey, Jonathan and Grandpa shoot an image of a puzzling struggle on a raging river in the Maine woods. At first they don't suspect it's anything more than a logging accident. But later the scene comes back to haunt them when a stranger shows an uncommon interest in the undeveloped negatives.
Who is this over-friendly stranger? Why does he seem so determined to have those pictures? The clues point to something that Jonathan has already begun to suspect: what happened on the rapids that day was no accident....
|File size:||3 MB|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
"I started writing stories almost as soon as I began to read. They were derivative and predictable-as much a way of revisiting characters and places in books I loved as it was a means of self-expression. I don't remember when words and their use became important. In the beginning was the story, and for a long time it was all that mattered.
"Even though I always wrote, I imagined becoming an explorer or an animal trainer. This was long before I had to be gainfully employed. It wasn't until after I'd landed in the workplace, first in museum research and then in teaching, that I returned to story writing-this time for my young children. Then a fellowship in creative writing at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College gave me and my storymaking a chance. One affirmation led to another, and now there are books-and some readers.
"When I talk with children in schools and libraries, I realize that child readers are still out there. When they get excited about a character or a scene, a new dimension opens for them, a new way of seeing and feeling and understanding.
"Of course there is always one child who asks how it feels to be famous and to be recognized in supermarkets. I explain that the only people who recognize me are those who have seen me working my sheep dogs or selling my wool at sheep fairs. That response often prompts another query: Why write books if they don't make you rich and famous? I usually toss that question back at the children. Why do they invent stories? How does story writing make them feel?
"Eventually we explore the distinction between wanting to be a writer and needing to write. If we want to write, then we must and will. Whether or not we become published authors, we all have tales to tell and stories to share. Literature can only continue to grow from the roots of our collective experience if children understand that they are born creative and that all humans are myth users and storytellers."
Read an Excerpt
The Sunday Mrs. Miranda Noone appeared at church, a day that was to prove momentous because of what it sparked, Jonathan Capewell missed all the early signals that should have alerted a detective in training.
That was how he thought of himself: a detective like Wizard Will, the Boy Ferret of New York, or Fergus Fearnaught, the New York Boy, heroes of the fast-paced dime novels he read whenever he could.
Even though Jonathan had never set foot in any city, he could almost see the mean streets where sly criminals lurked. In his mind's eye he would close in on them like those young detectives. It didn't matter that he lived on a farm in northern Maine. He had only to spy an arrowhead in a freshly plowed field to imagine it a vital clue to a crime that he alone could solve.
Only Jonathan's best friend, Warren, who supplied the detective stories, knew that every arrowhead Jonathan added to his collection served as a training trophy -- just so long as Jonathan had discovered it himself.
But that spring Sunday he blundered along like a rabbit heading unaware for the snare that is set for it. To begin with, he was the last in his family to notice that Mrs. Noone and Grandpa seemed to be old friends. He did see that his sister, Rose, couldn't keep her eyes off Mrs. Noone's fashionable, lavender-scented traveling dress. He even heard Mama mistakenly call her Mrs. Moon, only to be corrected by Grandpa: "No, Sara, this is Mrs. Noone of Masham." When Mama tried to cover her confusion by remarking on the great distance Mrs. Noone had traveled, and all by herself, too, Jonathan still failed to detect the edge of disapproval in Mama'stone.
Grandpa said he would attend to Mrs. Noone's horse. It would have a good rest and feed in the village before she had to return to Masham. His family would make room in the wagon for her and for the photographic supplies she had brought him.
Jonathan just assumed that everyone was proud to receive such an elegant visitor. But appearances are distracting, if not downright deceiving. Even though detectives are supposed to have eagle eyes so that no detail escapes their notice, Jonathan didn't have an inkling about Mama's alarm until they were home in the parlor and she went all blotchy red. Jonathan found this bewildering. All he could tell was that Grandpa expected Mrs. Noone to stay to Sunday dinner.
Mama whispered to Grandpa that she needed some warning if she was to serve guests at her Sunday table. Grandpa replied that Miranda didn't need things gussied up for her. Then Mama fled to the kitchen, leaving the rest of the family tongue-tied and Mrs. Noone seated on the edge of the good chair, her hands folded and a stiff smile scoring her face.
When Mama called for Rose, Mrs. Noone asked if she could help, too. "I don't mean to put you out," she said. "Maybe I could -- "
But Mama cut her short. "Thank you, no."
Mrs. Noone stood up, walked to Grandpa, placed one pale hand on his dark sleeve, and said, "Perhaps we should try this visit another time, when you can give your daughter-in-law some advance warning."
Looking embarrassed, Grandpa declared, "'You're welcome here anytime. Isn't that right?" he demanded of Mama. "Sara, aren't my guests welcome in my house?"
Mama stepped out of the kitchen, her floured hands held out in front of her. "Yes, of course," she replied. "Your house," she repeated.
Mrs. Noone then said, "Thank you so much. This has been a pleasant visit, and I've stayed long enough." She moved toward the front hall, turned, and said, "I enjoyed meeting you all and seeing where Rodney lives when he's not in Masham. "
"Did you hear that?" Mama asked after Grandpa had hitched up Teddy and driven away with Mrs. Noone. "She enjoyed seeing the house. I'll bet she did."
"Sara," Dad responded, "that was just manners."
Mama started to retort, then pressed her lips together before returning to the kitchen.
Later, as Sunday dinner drew to a close without Grandpa, Dad suggested setting a plate on the stove to keep warm.
Mama turned her indignation on Dad. "I don't need to be instructed. Haven't I taken care of your father all these years?
"Very well, Sara," Dad replied. "But don't forget that he's on the road a good many months and seeing to himself."
"Or being seen to," she retorted. Then she sighed. "Later," she said to him. "We'll speak of this later."
Even though she was talking to Dad, Jonathan caught the sweep of her glance. It was directed at him.
His brothers and sister applied themselves to the food on their plates. No one said another word until Mama asked Rose to fetch the pie.
Jonathan couldn't tell whether Mama had focused on him just because he was the youngest or for some other reason beyond his grasp. Maybe his brothers and sister understood why his parents were so stirred up over Grandpa's "friend." All Jonathan needed to do was ask them. It ought to be as simple as that.
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