Due to their parent’s professional obligations, a reluctant Olivia and her younger brother, Theo, are sent to spend the summer with their uncle, the brilliant, eccentric Professor Austin Hazelsmith, imminent scientist and inventor. Olivia is skeptical when her father promises that a summer spent with Uncle Austin is a summer she’ll never forget, but as soon as the train lets Olivia and Theo off at Bedford Falls, she and her brother enter a world of danger and intrigue, ultimately rescuing their mysteriously missing uncle and defeating a pair of terrorists intent on world domination.
When Uncle Austin fails to meet their train, Olivia and Theo wonder if something is amiss. Their suspicions deepen when they arrive by cab to their uncle’s home and are greeted by Lena Zelinsky, Professor Hazelsmith’s creepy housekeeper, and Vladimir Trokov, his unscrupulous laboratory assistant. The two tell Olivia and Theo that their increasingly absent-minded uncle has left on a sailing trip and might be gone for weeks. Olivia and Theo join forces with Will, a neighbor boy, to uncover the truth about Professor Hazelsmith’s whereabouts. When they find the professor’s sailboat in its slip in the harbor, the kids engage in some serious sleuthing. They discover the professor and his former housekeeper are shrunken to doll size, imprisoned in rodent cages, and in constant fear of becoming snake food to the creatures in Professor Hazelsmith’s serpentarium. The devious Trokov and Zelinsky are holding them hostage with the goal of stealing the professor’s scientific formulas and using them for evil purposes. The children, with bravery and brains, outwit Trokov and Mrs. Zelinsky in a spirited and exciting showdown. Their father’s promise is fulfilled; Olivia and Theo will never forget their summer with Uncle Austin. In fact, they can hardly wait to visit their uncle again next summer, for another adventure.
Orphan Chance Jameson, the almost thirteen-year-old hero of The Haunting, develops a startling ability to communicate with ghosts after Miss May, director of the Oak Hill Orphanage, dies in a bizarre accident, leaving the orphanage at the mercy of the Whipley twins.
The heartless twins are up to no good. Driven by their goal to make money off of the orphanage by hook or by crook, they destroy the atmosphere of happiness and wellbeing created by Miss May.
In a daring effort to scare the Whipleys out of the orphanage, the ghosts of Miss May and her long lost fiancé, Zachariah, team up with Chance. Together they plan a “good old-fashioned haunting.”
During secret rehearsals held in the wee hours, the orphans and their ghostly friends produce a clever skit with some awesome supernatural effects. The staged haunting is spectacularly successful and the thoroughly spooked Whipleys run off to fetch the proper authorities to deal with the unruly orphans.
In a satisfying finale, Chance presents evidence of the Whipleys’ crooked intentions. Justice is served when the authorities end up taking the wicked twins into custody. Happiness is restored, and Chance can get back to his crush on fellow orphan, Sarah, and to playing basketball with his best friend, Juan.
Kristin Fulton lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Washington, D.C. before settling in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California. She studied Theatre Arts and English at college, and earned a teaching credential from University of San Francisco. English and Drama were among the courses she taught at Sonora High School. In addition to the middle grade novels Snake Food and The Haunting, the author is working on Sweetbrier’s Thorns, a novel for young adults, Ten Thousand Golden Marbles, a children’s melodrama in two acts, and Sam’s Birthday Wish, a picture book for children. When she isn’t writing, Ms. Fulton enjoys hiking, gardening, singing and playing the Ukulele.
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I am a strong believer that reading is an avenue to enlightenment and inspiration. My brothers and I were lucky; our mother read aloud to us before bedtime. Mom was a good reader who made the stories come alive in the minds of her listeners. We subscribed to the Rainbow Classics Junior Deluxe Editions, and beautiful hardbound books came in the mail every month. As the resident bibliophile, I’d rip the packages open excitedly and peruse the latest arrival in the Nelson Doubleday series. The titles are too numerous to list, but I remember The Wind in the Willows, Oliver Twist, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Robinson Crusoe, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and Swiss Family Robinson to name a few.
Listening to the stories was thrilling, and it was a part of the day when we didn’t bicker with our siblings or make mischief, as we were known to do. I am grateful for Mom’s practice of reading to us in the evening; it inspired my own love of reading independently whenever I could. Both sets of grandparents were put on alert that I wanted books for Christmas and for my birthday, and when I was out of reading material at home, I’d insist on going to the local library.
Whether I was reading Mary Poppins or Anne of Green Gables or The Secret Garden, I was riveted to the page. At night, while my family members slept, I’d read for hours, often finishing a novel by the time the sun rose. As a teen, my tastes matured, with favorites like Wuthering Heights, The Diary of Anne Frank and Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
Teaching English and Drama broadened my spectrum; besides satisfying my own reading penchant, I needed materials that appealed to my students. A friend introduced me to Roald Dahl’s clever short stories; afterwards, I read almost everything written by him. Dahl’s ability to create wonderful characters and beguiling plots makes him a favorite of mine. I am fondest of his short story collections for adults, but The Twits is a great example of children’s literature that adults can enjoy and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Dahl’s classic tale of personal transformation, is ageless in its appeal.
During an ongoing search for literature that captivated the most reluctant readers, I found the books Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, Holes, by Louis Sacher, The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter, and Green Angel, by Alice Hoffman were generally hits, along with To Kill a Mocking Bird, Of Mice and Men, and the old Jack London standard, The Call of the Wild. The list of good reads for adolescents and young adults is long and constantly evolving.
As a writer and educator, a goal of mine is to engage and encourage young readers through entertaining literature. Snake Food and The Haunting were written with that purpose in mind. I hope that the books will help fulfill my goal of inspiring readers.