Sunday, December 25, 2011

The 13th floor a ghost story by Sid Fleischman

I first read this book in 1995 and today I re-read it and was surprised just how much of the plot I remembered.

The 13th floor a ghost story is a terrific action packed adventure filled with pirates, witch hunts and humor. Buddy is twelve and, following the death of their parents, he is living with his sister, a young lawyer. Liz and Buddy come from a family who settled in Massachusetts in 1910 but the family history goes back even further to a Captain Crackstone a pirate from 300 years ago. Legend has it that the Captain buried some treasure which has never been found and that his real name was John Stebbins is thus related to our hero Buddy Stebbins.

Money is short and it seems Liz will need to sell the family home. She heads off to work one morning and never returns. The evening before someone left a cryptic message on the answer machine. It is from a girl called Abigail Parsons. Her language and instructions are very strange, almost old fashioned. Searching for this sister leads Buddy to the Zachary Building where he finds the non existent 13th floor and is transported onto a pirate ship in 1695 where he meets the real Captain Crackstone. Luckily Buddy has his school back pack with him. It is fun to discover how many items in this bag prove useful along the way.

Liz has also been transported via the 13th floor but she arrives as Abigail is about to be tried for witchcraft. Liz is a passionate advocate and is ready to fight the case but 17th century Boston is not ready for an outspoken young woman to speak at the trial. I think this part of the plot and the references to the Salem witch trials are my favourite parts of the story.

If this all sounds complicated that is true but it is also a beautifully crafted, fast paced and occasionally very funny story which I do think middle Primary students can easily follow. Buddy needs to find his sister, Liz needs to save Abigail, and of course our 20th century family need to find a way to restore their fortune and keep their house. There is a very neat little twist at the end.

I am sad to discover Sid Fleischman died in 2010 but he does have a useful web site. Look for many of his books in our school library. I also enjoyed The whipping boy and Jim Ugly. You can read The 13th floor a ghost story book online here. I should also mention the excellent full page illustrations throught this book done by Peter Sis. Look for his picture books in our library too!

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