The Ghost of Pirate Walk
Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.
When the offer of nine-year-old Ricky Tyler and his buddy Tony to be assistant, unpaid detectives on their unnamed Nova Scotia town’s police force is rejected by Chief Donaldson, the boys decide to find and solve a mystery in order to prove their worth. Opportunity presents itself when Mr. Tuffy, the teddybear belonging to Ricky’s younger sister Erica Ann, disappears without a clue as does a string of pearls owned by Ricky’s mother. Three adults also report having their hats stolen by a glowing-eyed, sword-wielding ghost on Pirate Walk, a path connecting the ocean beach to an old deserted house once owned by Killer Kane, a Nova Scotian pirate leader. The boys’ visit to the Kane house reveals fresh oil on the fence lock and a newly trampled path to the house, while Ricky’s and Tony’s nocturnal venture to Pirate Walk to confront the ghost leads to their being twice attacked by “it.” During the second “ghostly” encounter, the lads glimpse a gray wing and, with Chief Donaldson’s assistance, discover the ghost/thief of hats, teddybear, and pearls to be a Great Horned Owl. Other mysterious circumstances, such as the new path to the Kane house, are shown to have logical explanations.
The words “ghost” and “pirate” in the title should be sufficiently enticing to convince potential readers that the dull cover illustration is not indicative of the book’s contents. The nine pen-and-ink, full-page illustrations scattered throughout the text sometimes make the boys look significantly younger than nine and could deter the book’s principal audience of eight- to ten-year-olds. The book contains all the ingredients of a good mystery and, unlike many juvenile mysteries, enough clues are dropped that a perceptive reader can solve the mystery before the final pages; however, some junior naturalists might question the accuracy of the portrayal of the Great Horned Owl’s behavior.