Four boys form a club to investigate haunted houses while navigating the challenges of neighborhood bullies, mean dogs, nosy sisters and not getting in trouble in DeGrado’s double-header YA adventure.
DeGrado’s work (Savior, 2001, etc.) comprises two young-adult tales. “The Round House” introduces the mystery-chasing quartet: Louie, narrator and resident of the double-wide trailer where a storytelling ritual evolves into the adventure-seeking Questors Club; Mike, his bug-loving little brother; shoe-obsessed Shane, stuck with parents who only let him stay over occasionally; and Chad, Louie and Mike’s frail neighbor. “The Moaning Walls” brings the chills closer to home: Strange sounds come from the attic, there’s a creepy vibe in the unused stables, and a grave in Shane’s yard makes the boys fear that he’s in mortal danger. Added to the mix in “The Moaning Walls” is mentor Ms. Brown, inexplicably teaching an open lab class on unexplained phenomena at their school. Preteen readers will easily insert themselves into the goofy, spooky but not really scary challenges the Questors create for themselves, which transform dusty furniture and weird sounds in the night into mysterious expeditions of sneaking around in the dark and anticipating certain death at every turn, and older readers will also appreciate the implicit story of friendship deepening in the short period when boys are ready to explore the idea of being men. The 1980s setting recalls the days when cellphones and Facebook weren’t part of a boy’s world, when they had to retreat to their treehouse to make plans away from prying adult ears. A third adventure is mentioned at the end of the book, and the structure established in the first two works could easily be continued as a series.
Unambitious but engaging tales about friendship and adventure for nostalgic 40-somethings to read with their kids or to keep them hooked into reading once they’ve made their way through their parents’ old Hardy Boys collection.