HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Riddle of Raven’s Gulch
Author: Mary Francis Shura
Illustrator: Salem Tamer
Publisher: Dodd Mead, 1975
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Shura, Mary Francis. The Riddle of Raven’s Gulch (Publisher in 1975 by Dodd Mead; republished by Weekly Reader Books, 1250 Fairwood Ave., Columbus, OH 43216). Young Barton Scott, known as Bart, lives with his mom, who works as a secretary in a law office, and his seventeen year old sister Debbie, who calls him “Boobie-Bart,” in a small Nebraska town. His father had passed away with a heart attack. To earn money for a new ten speed bike, Bart gets a job delivering newspapers which takes him out in the country, down Ravine Rd., past Raven’s Gulch, to the home of old Mr. Burgen, a German immigrant who is hoping for his son Helmut and family to return from Europe soon, and his housekeeper Mrs. Pearson. Bart becomes good friends with the two, and Raven’s Gulch is his favorite hide-away place.
Then Bart’s school friend Matt Jamison tells him that the Gulch has developed the reputation of being haunted. First, there is a terrible car wreck where an unidentified man runs off the road and is burned to death in the crash. Neighbors start seeing strange lights and hearing mysterious noises at night. Some folks think that it’s the dead man’s ghost. One evening Bart himself sees a shadowy figure running away in the woods and also notices a black car with out of state license plates parked along the road from time to time. Mrs. Pearson is so afraid that she leaves Mr. Burgen. And when Bart decides to do his own investigation of these events, he is shot at. What is going on? Why are these things happening? And who shot at Bart?
Wow! For a juvenile fiction story, this book has some really dangerous situations and truly thrilling suspense—just the kind of tale that I reveled in reading when I was a lad. There are some common euphemisms (darned, gee, gosh), and a couple of characters smoke either a pipe or a cigar. However, the gripping plot is sure to capture and hold any reader’s attention. Yet, it can be read in one day. In addition to that, it portrays a loving and caring relationship in the Scott family, in spite of some normal sibling rivalry and teasing. Kirkus Review wrote, “Blink once and you’ll miss Bart’s reason for not telling the police and clearing up the whole mess immediately, but then this is the sort of escapade that’s meant to hang together on atmosphere alone. At least Bart comes out of it with a new 10-speed bike.” I thoroughly enjoyed this one.