Josh and the Skeleton: Christmas Eve Discovery
by Skip Ashworth
Author Reputation Press

"As Josh moved to follow the dog’s lead, the black crow messenger swooped down, almost hitting him as he started to run."

It is almost Christmas, but the mood is subdued for Josh, his sister Caroline, and Granma. The siblings are raised by their grandparents, and with Grandpa’s recent passing, the family isn’t feeling as festive as normal. However, a thick snowfall isn’t a common occurrence in Oklahoma, and Josh can’t help but run out to explore it with his dog, Flash. Although he has been warned not to go to the area, Josh and Flash soon find themselves in a ravine on part of the old Cheyenne campground. It is here that Josh begins to hear eerie noises and discovers a truck with a human skeleton inside. Frightened, Josh and Flash scramble home, and Josh isn’t sure if he should tell anyone or not. To make matters worse, the sounds seem to have followed Josh home.

Ashworth creates an interesting tale with engaging characters and a nice mix of ghost story, outdoor adventure, and personal development. There are hints of Jack London in the storytelling, and readers familiar with Gary Paulsen’s work will find a home in this book. The writing is clear, and the story is well-paced. At times, there is an over-abundance of descriptors or a slightly awkward analogy, but, overall, the setting and characters are realistically portrayed. Ashworth really shines in nailing the appropriate tone and vocabulary for the upper elementary/lower middle-grade readers he targets. This book should be a great addition to the libraries found in those schools, and it would be a good gift to give to those who enjoy outdoor adventures. It is particularly well-suited to the reluctant male reader who steers clear of lengthy reads.

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