The Crossroads

The Crossroads

by Chris Grabenstein


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375846984
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 05/12/2009
Series: A Haunted Mystery Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 363,369
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.82(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Chris Grabenstein is the Anthony Award–winning author of Tilt a Whirl, Mad Mouse, and Whack a Mole. He used to write TV and radio commercials and has written for the Muppets. Currently, Chris and his wife live in New York City with three cats and a dog named Fred, who starred in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Broadway. You can visit him (and Fred) at

Read an Excerpt

Billy O'Claire was doggy-dog tired.
He'd been trying to fix the toilet in the brandnew house for over six hours and the weather outside was extremely hot and muggy, especially for the Friday before Memorial Day.
Billy was sweating up a storm.  Since nobody lived in the new house yet, they hadn't turned on the air-conditioning. His work shirt was a soppy sheet of wet cotton with full-moon stains oozing down below both armpits.
It was nine p.m.
He tightened one last nut, then gave the trip handle on the toilet a flick. Instead of the customary whoosh of water swirling into the bowl, Billy heard a roaring gurgle. The toilet was working backward. He raised the lid and saw a commode burping up chunks of brown gunk. Leaves. Dirt. Twigs.
Nothing else, thank heaven, because nobody had actually used the toilet yet. This woodsy debris had to be seeping in from a cracked sewer line, and Billy realized they might have to rip up the newly sodded lawn to fix a drainpipe ruptured, most likely, by tree roots.
But that was a Monday-morning kind of problem.
Fortunately, it was Friday night and Billy was finished working for the week. He cranked the shutoff valve behind the toilet and went out to the driveway, where he had parked his pickup, the one with O'Claire's Plumbing painted on the door over where it used to say O'Claire's Painting and, before that, O'Claire's Satellite Television Repair.
Billy sat in the cab and drank half a gallon of water out of a glugging plastic jug and aimed two of the truck's air-conditioning vents up at his armpits.
It felt good. Real good.
He yawned and thought about grabbing a quick nap. Instead, he slammed the transmission into reverse and backed out of the driveway, not realizing that something wicked was lurking a little ways down the road—just waiting for the next doggy-dogtired driver to come along.


A flashing red stoplight hung suspended over the intersection where County Route 13 crossed Connecticut State Highway 31.
A gigantic oak tree stood near one corner, and its highest branch—as thick around as the trunk of any ordinary tree—suddenly started to move. No wind was blowing. No sports car zooming past had sent up a swirling wake. But the massive limb began to bend and rotate. It sensed an easy target approaching and, longing for a little fun, tore against itself—slowly at first, then with gathering speed. When the final strands ripped free, the bough broke off and fell like a two-ton truck, tearing down the blinking beacon.
Then the tree stopped moving.


Billy O'Claire remembered that there used to be a flashing red stoplight hanging over the intersection of 13 and 31. Tonight, however, there wasn't one.
Billy didn't want to stop.  He needed to find a bathroom. Bad. Chugging half a gallon of water straight from the jug will do that to you. And he preferred a bathroom where the toilet didn't gurgle back at him. He pressed down on the gas pedal.
"How dry I am," he crooned off-key. "How wet I'll be, if I don't find . . ."
Suddenly he saw someone standing in the middle of the road.
A cop.
A motorcycle cop—holding up his hand and commanding Billy to stop.
So Billy slammed on his brakes and the pickup skidded sideways. Tires screeched, the truck swerved, and he almost hooked on to the bumper of a car he hadn't even seen coming. He spun around and wound up on the far side of the intersection—backward and straddling a ditch.
Billy wasn't injured, just totally dazed. He could see the taillights of the car he had nearly hit as it zoomed up the highway. Glancing at his rearview mirror, he saw the cop standing next to his motorbike, which was very weird-looking—it had a moonfaced headlight and chrome fenders swooping up over its tires.
It's from the 1950s, Billy thought. An old Harley Softail. Billy liked old motorcycles. Wished he had one right now so he could hightail it out of here before the cop came over and started hassling him. Then Billy realized: The cop's uniform and hat looked old-fashioned, too.
It looks like he's from some black-and-white movie. One of those old monster movies where the police try to capture Godzilla.
The cop marched slowly toward the truck.  Billy strained to see if it was anybody he knew, thinking this was some kind of practical joke. He tried to see the cop's face.
Only the cop didn't have one.
He had a crew cut and mirrored sunglasses and ears but no face!
Billy jerked up on his door handle hard. When it wouldn't budge, he kicked the door open. He screamed once and scrambled out of the truck and ran as fast as he could up the highway.


The police officer didn't care about Billy O'Claire. Didn't chase after him.
His job was done for the night. He had prevented a horrible, possibly fatal, collision.
Something he had tried to do once before.
June 21, 1958.
The day he had died.

Customer Reviews

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The Crossroads 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
The-Bunny-Of-Doom More than 1 year ago
This book may have a slow start, but it's still a pretty great book. The whole time reading it seem to always have me guessing and waiting to see what might happen next. I would recommend to this book to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book starts off slow and doesn't get exciting until most of the characters are introduced. Once all this occurs, you start getting sucked into this very interesting plot and it seems as if you can't put the book down. Overall, I gave it four stars because of the slow beginning..but still it's a very exciting book that keeps you guessing.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
There's a tree that stands watch over the crossroads of County Route 13 and Connecticut State Highway 31. There's a memorial on the tree. Someone leaves a dozen fresh roses there every Monday. And the tree is at the back edge of Zack Jennings's new yard.

Zack, his father, and his new step-mother have left the city and moved to Connecticut. Zack lost his mother to cancer, and now that his father has remarried, the family is making a new start in Zack's father's hometown. They have a brand new house, Zack got a new dog, Zipper, and things with his step-mom might actually be okay.

But there's something strange going on in the town. Zack has a new friend, Davy. They have great adventures together, but it always seems like Zack is the one doing the hard work while Davy comes up with the plans. Judy, Zack's step-mom, gets a flat tire on the deserted highway and a Greyhound employee comes to offer aide. Though like with Davy, he can tell her how to fix it but he just can't do the work himself.

At the same time, the 50th-anniversary of a horrific bus accident at the intersection is about to occur. At the heart of the accident is Clint Eberhart. Trying to finish business with his first wife, the bus goes off the road and bursts into flames. The Thunderbird that Clint was driving smashes into the same tree that now holds a memorial dedicated to him.

Through the shrine that is kept at the tree, all the participants of that awful night fifty years ago are kept bound to the earth. It seems Zack has been the one chosen to help them release their souls. The only problem -- Zack doesn't know he's been chosen, nor does he even know that the spirits exist. At least he doesn't in the beginning...

THE CROSSROADS is a heart-pounding, page-turning ghost story that will keep even the strong-willed awake long after the last page has been turned. Clint Eberhart is pure evil, and the spirit and perseverance of one young boy is all it takes to face off against him. The book flows quickly with short chapters to keep the action constantly moving. The book is easy enough for most readers, but because of the ghosts and some of the scary content, I selected the older age group as a recommendation for readers.
AuthorChris More than 1 year ago
"If Grabenstein's first YA book were to receive a one-word review, the word would be Coooool, a term that applies in a variety of ways¿from the book's cover image (a face peering out of the bark of a tree) and its hitchhiking, hot-rodding ghosts to its creepy atmosphere, believable story, and suspense that engulfs readers from the very first page. Even the characters are cool, including contemporary, doo-wop, and even Dickensian. Grabenstein, who has won the Anthony Award for his adult mysteries and whose writing career encompassed work for the Muppets, brings a great sense of timing to this mystery-fright ride. Zack Jennings, a kid uprooted following his mother's death and his father's re-marriage, sees a leering face in a gnarled tree in the park near New York City's American Museum of Natural History. A move to Connecticut doesn't extricate Zack from evil apparently lodging in trees. Readers soon learn that at a crossroads just behind Zack's new home there's an oak tree capable of branching out into murder¿and a number of dissatisfied ghosts that prey on passing motorists. An absorbing psychological thriller (the ghost of Zack's malevolent mother plays a part) as well as a rip-roaring ghost story, this switches points of view among humans, trees, and ghosts with astonishing elan. Expect lots of requests."

"Grabenstein does a wonderful job bringing this ghost story to life. He includes the urban legends so many kids enjoy scaring themselves with ¿the motorcycle cop who died, but came back to prevent another accident, the woman hitchhiker who disappears. He adds his own creative ghost story, one fifty-years-old, and adds humor. There are explosions and fire, kidnapping, ghosts, and wild chase scenes. The Crossroads is a perfect book for summer escape reading. And, if you can pry it from your kids' hands, it's enjoyable summer reading for adults as well."
¿Lesa Holstine, USA

"The Crossroads is a heart-pounding, page-turning ghost story that will keep even the strong-willed awake long after the last page has been turned. Clint Eberhart is pure evil, and the spirit and perseverance of one young boy is all it takes to face off against him. The book flows quickly with short chapters to keep the action constantly moving."
¿Teens Read Too, (read the full review here)

"A truly frightening ghost story with plenty of action and a mystery at the heart of it all."
¿Mystery Scene

"This book is incredibly appealing¿it really grabs you quickly and takes you for quite a wild ride. A creepy, haunting tale that made it difficult at times to read at night. This is a great psychological thriller that has surprising twists and turns. You'll love it."
¿Knights Read Books Blog!

"Chris Grabenstein is an author of adult mysteries, but his first book for younger people will not disappoint. While he is known for his humor, readers should be prepared for many scary twists and turns in this very dark story, which will tie together secrets across grandparents, fathers and sons. Zack is funny and curious but finds his true heart in his battle with evil from living people and ghosts."
GSSFX More than 1 year ago
I gave The Crossroads a 12/16. the ending of the book made a lit I gave The Crossroads a 12/16. the ending of the book made a little sense, but I didn't really understand it. I loved the book because it had the perfect amount of action in it. When I read it I felt like it was lacking detail so I couldn't picture it in my head. The title wasn't very helpful to me because I don't understand how the crossroads are important in the book. I wish there was a second book. I would recommend this to people who like ghost stories.
LMBSFX More than 1 year ago
I gave The Crossroads a 12/16. the ending of the book made a little sense, but I didn't really understand it. I loved the book because it had the perfect amount of action in it. When I read it I felt like it was lacking detail so I couldn't picture it in my head. The title wasn't very helpful to me because I don't understand how the crossroads are important in the book. I wish there was a second book. I would recommend this to people who like ghost stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Finished it a while ago, very good book especially the end was very tender. I highly recomend this book
Wing Sue Shiu More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing! Sometimes you may get confused, but you' ll have a great 'AHA!' moment as you finish. Great book for mystery/action lovers. May be a little sad or creepy for some readers.
Marlyn on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This YA book is a ghost story, and it's fairly spooky.But it's also a self-realization story, and a very good one, at that.The town of North Chester has an unhappy history. In 1958, there was a bus accident at the edge of town, and 41 people were killed, including the bus driver, the driver of the car that hit the bus, and a local policeman.The only bus passenger who survived the accident was Mary O'Claire, who is now in a nursing home in North Chester, and is looked after by her grandson Billy, a plumber.Gerda Spratling is the last survivor of the family whose business, Spratling Clockworks Factory, supported the town in its infancy.Zack Jennings is 11 years old. His mother died of cancer, for which she blamed him. She said she had to smoke so she wouldn't have to think about what a rotten kid he was.We meet him just before the wedding of his father, George, to children's book author Judy Magruder. After the wedding and family honeymoon, they move to the small Connecticut town where George grew up. That's right, North Chester.Zack meets a boy his own age named Davy, and they become good friends. Zack has never really had a close friend before; he always felt he didn't deserve one. Davy, though, keeps complaining about a shrine old Miss Spratling built around a large oak tree in the Jennings' back yard, and tries to convince Zack to destroy it.Judy encounters Miss Spratling paying a visit to her descanso, becomes intrigued by the story and begins to research it. George Jennings goes away on business.The 50th anniversary of the bus accident approaches, and all the elements are in place for something big to happen.Chris Grabenstein was kind enough to send me this book ages ago. I read the first chapter and set it aside, because seemed too scary that evening. I came across it again recently, decided to give it another try (a sunny afternoon helped), and finished it in a couple of hours.My apologies to Chris for taking so long to read and comment on his very fine book!
dcoward on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Zack grew up with a verbally abusive mother. After his mother's death, his father remarries a funny woman named Judy, and gets Zack a dog named Zipper. Zack's life is looking up until he starts seeing ghosts. A funny, scary book with great characters.
ohioyalibrarian on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is a real page-turner of a ghost story! After an ill-fated event in which many people died at a crossroads, the spirits of all the deceased are left to wander in limbo near the scene until a resolution is found. Zack has just moved into the house which stands at the crossroads and must help the spirits get their due. The mystery and suspense surrounding the accident fuel the story more than the ghosts do, making this not true horror, but more a supernatural suspense story. This, however, makes the book perfect for it's intended middle school audience.
midnighttwilight101 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The Crossroads is mostly geared toward a younger audience (the main character is an 11 year old boy) but i found the plot pretty interesting. Although there were some parts that were somewhat immature there were also a lot of violent parts (I can't even recall how many people died in this book). This book is told through many people's points of view, so it's almost like a bunch of little stories put together to make the full story. Some supernatural books seem like they could happen in real life, somewhere, sometime. This story on the other hand is a little far fetched, though it is VERY entertaining.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Zack and his family move to a small rural town. On their property is a tree that Gerta Spratling has devoted as a memorial to the boyfriend who died in a crash between his car and a greyhound bus over fifty years ago. This is a very creepy, scary book. Gerta Spratling is the equivalent of an evil Miss Haversham and the spirit in the tree is evil incarnate intent on killing anyone who had anything to do with his death, right on down to the grandchildren. While most of the ghosts are creepy not all of them are bad, some even go out of their way to help Zack and his stepmother, Judy, such as the traveling salesman, a bus driver, three nuns and a group of children bound for Bible camp at the time of the crash.This is a fast read. Short chapters propel the reading along. The ending was predictable to this reader but still the characters were a lot of fun, even the nasty ones. I enjoyed the book but the 11 year old protagonist felt too young for this mature story. I'd recommend this for the 10-12 year age range. Older teens will find the main character too childish and younger children will either find the book too scary or just won't relate to a very old lady and her dead boyfriend.
dorisannn on LibraryThing 8 months ago
One of the very best juvenile ghost stories I've ever read. A really wonderful "stepmother" anda "cool" librarian, plus, of course, a great kid.
Drewano More than 1 year ago
‘The Crossroads’ wasn’t a bad book it just wasn’t for me. I love Chris Grabenstein’s work, both adult and young adult, but this one was just missing something. Maybe because because of the tone (normally there is a light current flowing through his books) or maybe it was just focused on too young a crowd for me (I think this would be really good for a grade school kid) I just couldn’t get into and enjoy this book as it was a bit too bland and predictable for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the story line. Kept you interested. Didn't want to put the book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. On my opinion this was as good as percy jackson. It has just the right scare in it. If your looking for something with even more scare in it, read the screaming staircase.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Omg this thing scared the hell outv me. When i got to the part when It said zach saw a face in the tree i went back to the cover page and looked for the face. When i saw it i nearly screamed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love all of his books
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Really good
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