Broach follows her acclaimed Masterpiece with an exciting adventure set in a real-life Arizona mountain range that boasts numerous legends about colorful historical figures, unsolved murders, strange disappearances, and rumors of a hidden gold mine, which entices fortune-seekers despite the mountain's explicit dangers. The summer that 10-year-old Henry Barker; his know-it-all older brother, Simon; and his fearless younger brother, Jack, move into the house their family inherited from the boys' iconoclastic great-uncle, their parents declare Superstition Mountain forbidden territory. But when their cat runs away, the boys chase after her, and their escapades begin with the discovery of three human skulls. Joined by another newcomer, 10-year-old Delilah, the children research local history and folklore, study old coins and maps, and become acquainted with a variety of odd townspeople in preparation for a secret return to the mountain. Caparo's skillful grayscale illustrations add a spooky element: three skulls mark each new chapter, and images like a black cat sitting on a crooked gravestone inspire chills. Classic horror and thriller elements combine with modern touches in Broach's page-turner, a very promising start to this series. Ages 8–12. (June)
“In this novel for children ages 8-12 she [Elise Broach] purposely leaves storylines dangling, the better perhaps to lure us back for sequels that will (we hope!) disclose what has gone missing on Superstition Mountain.”
The Wall Street Journal
“A spine-tingling adventure unfolds over the course of swift-moving short chapters, enhanced by Caparo's engaging black-and-white illustrations throughout.”
“Children will be pleased by the mountain climbing and clue-finding aspects.”
School Library Journal
“Broach follows her acclaimed Masterpiece with an exciting adventure set in a real-life Arizona mountain range that boasts numerous legends about colorful historical figures, unsolved murders, strange disappearances, and rumors of a hidden gold mine . . . . Classic horror and thriller elements combine with modern touches in Broach's page-turner, a very promising start to this series.”
Starred, Publishers Weekly
“With the unusual setting, the lure of mystery and adventure, and a certain innocence reminiscent of the Boxcar Children series, this story should find a ready audience.
When the Barker family moves to Arizona because they have inherited their Uncle Hank's house, the three boys in the family find the local mountain enticing. Its name aloneSuperstition Mountainmakes them want to explore it. Despite the rumors of a possible gold mine on the mountain, the boys are warned by their parents, the police, and local historians not to go on the mountain. People who go up usually don't come back down, or if they do, they come back irrevocably changed. When the boys' cat goes missing, they take off after her and look for her on Superstition Mountain. The mountain is a spooky place and the boys find three skulls. They don't find their cat, but their curiosity is piqued and they must find a way to return and discover who the skulls belong to. When they find their cat at Delilah's house, she is eager to help them find out the secrets on the mountain. They lie to their parents and head back to the mountain, but when Delilah falls and is injured, they have to get help and reveal the reason they lied and went up the mountain. This novel is based on some real legends out West. Young readers will delight in the mystery and adventure in this story. Reviewer: Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Children's Literature - Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Gr 4–6—The powerful opening line says it all: "The day Josie ran away was the beginning of everything: the bones in the canyon, the haunted mountain, the buried treasure, the town full of secrets. But the Barker boys didn't know it then." The three Barker brothers—scientific Simon, bookish Henry, temperamental Jack—and their parents have inherited their crazy Uncle Hank's house in the Arizona desert. The boys are intrigued by their mysterious uncle's reputation as a wild army scout, gambler, and ladies' man who apparently knew dangerous Superstition Mountain like the back of his hand. Finding a Spanish coin and a cryptic scrap of paper in his personal effects fuels their curiosity, and they hike up the mountain even though they were forbidden to do so by their parents, the sheriff, and the local librarian. To learn more about Superstition Mountain and the artifacts they discover, the children go to the library, search archived newspapers and maps, and find information at the historical society—an excellent model for students. Just when all the doubts and suspicions are raised, the book ends abruptly and listeners will have to wait for the next volume in the trilogy. Elise Broach's story (Holt, 2011) is adequately narrated by Luke Daniels, although Jack's voice is particularly grating.—Lonna Pierce, MacArthur Elementary School, Binghamton, NY
School Library Journal - Audio
Gr 4–6—Superstition, AZ, is the new home of Simon, Henry, and Jack Barker. The family inherited a house from an adventurous relative, Hank Cormody, for whom Henry is named. The boys know they are not supposed to explore Superstition Mountain, but when their cat runs away, they chase her up the mountain. They feel its eerie, oppressive atmosphere even more when they discover three human skulls. With the help of Delilah Dunworthy, a girl in the neighborhood, the brothers begin to investigate the stories full of mysterious disappearances and lost gold mines. Determined to identify the skulls, the clue hunters head back up the mountain for another dangerous sortie. Henry finds some of his great-uncle Hank's bravery and begins to appreciate Delilah's contributions. The dialogue is functional and the characterizations are broad. But for the most part, this book is a series opener with the associated deficiencies. Many of the adults' motives seem unclear or mysterious. Children will be pleased by the mountain climbing and clue-finding aspects, but until the next books arrive, there is much they won't know about this fascinating setting and its secrets. Black-and-white pencil drawings augment the story.—Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT
This engrossing mystery pits three brothers recently transplanted from Chicago against the rocky caverns of Arizona's Superstition Mountain.
Simon, 11, feisty 6-year-old Jack and narrator Henry, 10, quickly grow curious about the menacing mountain that adults pointedly warn them against climbing. Their first clandestine trek ensues as they chase their roving cat, Josie. The boys feel the mountain's oppressive eeriness and encounter three skulls on a precarious ledge. After some research with library books and a historical-society pamphlet, the three secretly return to the mountain with Delilah, a smart fifth grader who's also new to Superstition. Broach brings her customary skill to this first of a projected series, articulating the boys' personalities, sketching out adults (Mrs. Barker, a medical illustrator, is the most interesting) and adding the evenhanded Delilah. A fall injures Delilah and brings adults to the rescue, but it also permits Henry's discovery of a hidden canyon, an old pair of saddlebags and a strange map. Broach sympathetically explores Henry's voice, allowing the third-person narration to filter his perceptions as a lonely middle child. He loves reading, relishes the big words he learns and worries about not living up to his namesake, the late, roguish Great Uncle Hank.
Broach reserves plenty of suspicious characters, spooky landscapes and loose ends for the slated sequels, which both boys and girls will savor. (author's note)