The Ghosts of Rathburn Park

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9780385900645: The Ghosts of Rathburn Park
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Eleven-year-old Matthew Hamilton–a.k.a. The Hamster–is new in town, and just about the first thing he does is get lost in the woods of Rathburn Park. It’s a typical boneheaded thing to do, and Matt is trying to decide whether starvation is preferable to the embarrassment of a rescue party when a little dog trots past him. Matt senses that the dog wants him to follow, but as soon as they emerge from the trees, the dog vanishes.

Matt keeps wondering about the dog as he starts to learn more about the town’s strange past. Owned by a wealthy family named Rathburn, the whole town burned down decades ago and was rebuilt nearby. The old ruins are still hidden in the forest, too rickety and dangerous to go near. But they are also best avoided for another reason–ghosts. Still, Matt can’t resist looking for the dog, and as he’s looking, he meets a girl dressed in antique clothes who calls herself Amelia Rathburn. Are she and the dog both ghosts? Or is there another explanation for the strange goings-on in Rathburn Park?
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About the Author:

Raised in California, in the country--with no television and few movies to watch--three-time Newbery Honor winner Zilpha Keatley Snyder filled her childhood with animals, games, and books. Among her earliest acquaintances were cows, goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, and horses. In fact, her family's animals were her closest friends, and a nearby library was a constant source of magic, adventure, and excitement for her. And when she wasn't reading or playing with animals, Snyder made up games and stories to entertain herself.
While Zilpha Keatley Snyder was growing up, interesting stories filled her household. Both of her parents spent a lot of time relating accounts of past events in their lives, so Snyder came by her storytelling instincts early. But unlike her parents, when Zilpha had something to tell, she had, as she says, "an irresistible urge to make it worth telling. And without the rich and rather lengthy past that my parents had to draw on, I was forced to rely on the one commodity of which I had an adequate supply--imagination." Consequently, at the age of eight, Zilpha Keatley Snyder decided to become a writer.
As a student, Snyder was very proficient in reading and writing, and experienced few problems in the small country schools she attended until the end of sixth grade. But upon entering the seventh grade in the city of Ventura, she was, as she recalls, "suddenly a terrible misfit." Snyder retreated further into books and daydreams, and admits: "Book were the window from which I looked out of a rather meager and decidedly narrow room, onto a rich and wonderful universe. I loved the look and feel of them, even the smell. . . . Libraries were treasure houses. I always entered them with a slight thrill of disbelief that all their endless riches were mine for the borrowing."
Snyder attended Whittier College in Southern California, where she says she "grew physically and socially as well as intellectually." There she also met her future husband, Larry Snyder. While ultimately planning to be a writer, after graduation Snyder decided to teach school temporarily. But she found teaching to be an extremely rewarding experience and taught in the upper elementary grades for a total of nine years, three of them as a master teacher for the University of California at Berkeley. Zilpha and Larry were married in June of 1950, and went on to have three children, Melissa, Douglas, and Ben.
In the early sixties, when all of her children were finally in school, Snyder began to think about writing again. "Writing for children hadn't occurred to me when I was younger, but nine years of teaching in the upper elementary grades had given me a deep appreciation of the gifts and graces that are specific to individuals with ten or eleven years of experience as human begins. Remembering a dream I'd had when I was twelve years old, about some strange and wonderful horses, I sat down and began to write."
Season of Ponies, Zilpha Keatley Snyder's first book, was published in 1964. Her most recent novel, Gib Rides Home, follows an orphan boy who shows strength and courage as he endures harsh treatment during his five years at the orphanage before he finds a family of his own. Gib's story is a tribute to the memory of Snyder's father who grew up in an orphanage in Oklahoma.
Zilpha Keatley Snyder's three Newbery Honor books are: The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid, and The Witches of Worm. Other books for Bantam Doubleday Dell are The Trespassers, an American Bookseller Pick of the List; Cat Running, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and winner of the 1995 John and Patricia Beatty Award; and her newest work, The Gypsy Game, companion to The Egypt Game.
Zilpha Keatley Snyder currently lives in Mill Valley, a small town near San Francisco. In her spare time, she loves reading and traveling, and of course, writing, which besides being her occupation has always been her favorite hobby.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

One

He was lost. Matthew Hamilton, known as Matt or the Hamster, was hopelessly lost in an endless forest. And, as usual, it was all his own fault.

This particular disaster was his own fault because it wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been doing something he'd thought he'd pretty much outgrown and had promised to quit doing. Promised himself, that is. It wasn't the kind of thing you would promise your folks not to do anymore, because most of the time nobody knew he was doing it, at least not exactly. What the family thought was . . . Well, the way his brother, Justin, always put it was "The Hamster is weirding out again."

Of course, if you really were looking to blame it on something else, you might say the forest itself was partly to blame. The thing was, it was the kind of forest that you read about and see fantastic pictures of, but that, if you were from a place like Six Palms, you'd never seen up close and personal. Back home in Six Palms, a hike might take you to where you could see a few scrawny palm trees and a lot of prickly cactus, but here in a place called Rathburn Park, enormous trees marched away into the distance in every direction like endless armies of green giants. And far above, row after row of needle-fringed fingers pointed toward a faraway blue sky. A heroic forest every bit as wild and mysterious as . . . When Matt thought back over historic forests he'd read about and imagined, what immediately came to mind was--Sherwood.

That's what had done it. Remembering Sherwood had started Matt thinking that the forest all around him must be as incredibly dense and mysterious as Sherwood. Mysterious, that is, to everyone except Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

Robin Hood had been one of Matt's favorite historical heroes back in Six Palms, and this certainly wasn't the first time he'd done the Robin Hood thing, but somehow sagebrush and cactus hadn't been nearly as inspiring. This time there was not only this real, honest-to-God forest, but also a sturdy walking stick that he'd just happened to pick up near the beginning of the trail. A walking stick that was almost as big and strong as--a quarterstaff, maybe.

So there he'd been, leaning on his walking stick/quarterstaff while letting his mind surf back over all the fascinating stuff he'd read about Robin Hood and seen in movies and on TV. About a guy who'd robbed rich bad guys and helped poor people, and who knew every inch of an enormous forest the way an ordinary person would know his own backyard.

Remembering the quarterstaff fight with Little John, Matt had twirled his stick and sliced the air once or twice, and one thing had led to another. Before long, although he'd promised himself to stop doing that kind of thing, he began to morph into--Robin himself. So there he was, a tall, good-looking guy, dressed in Lincoln green, running down the rough trail with a speedy, surefooted stride. As he ran, he paused only long enough to whistle a signal to his Merry Men, or to listen, hand cupped to ear, for the approach of the evil King John and his dangerous gang of knights.

Somewhere along the way the trail rose, wound along the side of a hill, and then dropped again, crisscrossing a network of smaller pathways. Pathways worn into the forest floor by deer, perhaps? Or packs of bloodthirsty, ravenous wolves? As Robin picked up his pace, his eyes searched the underbrush for the gleam of white fangs.

Flecks of light filtering down through the branches looked almost like snow. And suddenly wolves were everywhere. Robin was forced to stop again and again to fight off their attacks with his trusty quarterstaff. He swung the heavy staff fiercely and the wolves yelped and cringed before they faded back into the snow-covered underbrush.

As he ran on, the wolves and the snow were followed by an even more dangerous attack. Warned by the distant thud of hooves, Robin hid beside the trail, his longbow ready. As King John's men appeared, he released arrow after arrow and then, as the few remaining knights turned and fled, he sped on.

But in the end it was just Matt again who staggered to a stop, his imagination as exhausted as his muscles. Just eleven-year-old Matthew Hamilton, propping himself up with a stick as he struggled to catch his breath. The sturdy walking stick that had been a quarterstaff and then a longbow was once again nothing more than a prop to lean on.

But at that particular moment, a prop was exactly what Matt needed. As he gasped for air, he told himself he'd overdone it for sure this time. He'd really let his imagination run away with him. He grimaced again as he realized that his runaway imagination had somehow managed to cover up some unpleasant realities, like a blistered heel, aching calf muscles and--he swallowed painfully--a tongue-shriveling thirst. Turning back the way he'd come, he began to retrace his steps.

He moved more slowly then, glancing from side to side as he looked for something familiar that would prove that he really was heading back the way he'd come. But one tree trunk looked pretty much like the next, and a vine-covered stump was only one of many vine-covered stumps.

He wasn't lost, he told himself. Not really. How could he be, while he was still on the path he'd been following since he'd left the parking lot? On the same path--or not? It was a trail, all right, but could it be a different one? One that started somewhere else and led to who-knows-where?

The trail climbed again, and Matt began to notice other, narrower pathways intersecting it from time to time. What if he'd taken the wrong turn somewhere along the way? Maybe that was why the trail he'd been following had never passed the old Rathburn mansion, the way the guy in the parking lot had said it would. Which might mean--and this was a pretty scary idea--that he had been off course for a long time.

As the awful truth began to sink in, Matt's forward progress slowed and finally stopped altogether. Leaning on his stick, he shook his head in disgust. He really was lost, and it was his own fault--nobody else's. He grinned ruefully, imagining what Justin would say, or even his sister, Courtney. It was easy to guess what anyone in the family would say if Matt tried to blame it on Robin Hood. No way. Robin was long gone and, as always, Matthew Hamilton was on his own. On his own in another embarrassing, and this time maybe even dangerous, mess. And he'd done it on what was supposed to have been a really important day for the whole Hamilton family. A day when Gerald Hamilton, Matt's dad, was being introduced to all the important citizens of Timber City at their especially historic, traditional Fourth of July picnic.
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Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (2002)
ISBN 10: 0385900643 ISBN 13: 9780385900645
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Book Description Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2002. Library Binding. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0385900643

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