Mayne Island Skeletons, by Amber Harvey: A Review by Lael Whitehead

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Amber Harvey’s latest book for children, Mayne Island Skeletons, is a gripping tale that will have the whole family on the edge of their seats. It has all the ingredients of high adventure – ghost sightings, criminals, run-aways and unsolved murders from long ago – all of which keep us turning the pages. But Mayne Island Skeletons is also a story about the importance of friendship. The tale’s young heroine stands by her friend even when others believe him to be guilty. In the end her kindness, loyalty and courage save the day.

The story takes place on peaceful, rural Mayne Island, home to little more than a thousand residents. Magda, a plucky, adventurous preteen, has a summer job on a local farm, but in her spare time she is an eager sleuth. One of her closest friends is a boy named Brent, whose troubled mother is increasingly unable to care for him. Together the two children have discovered an abandoned old house with a mysterious past. Is the house haunted by the ghosts of a family murdered long ago?

Magda, Brent and their friends have fun teasing some of their younger neighbours with tales of ghost sightings at the haunted house. But their fun and games come to a sudden stop when Brent is accused of stealing art treasures from an elderly island resident. Afraid of being arrested and sent to foster care, Brent goes into hiding. Magda then has two mysteries to solve: the ancient mystery of the haunted house and the very present problem of how to prove her friend innocent and keep him from being sent away from the island.

Without giving away the plot, let me just say that, with help from Sport, her neighbour’s, friendly black dog, Magda eventually solves the mystery of the haunted house. She also discovers the true criminals responsible for the theft of the art treasures and brings them to justice. Brent’s suffering comes to an end. He finds a permanent, safe and happy home on the island.

Mayne Island Skeletons is a highly readable story that will appeal to preteens and that families will enjoy reading aloud. Harvey’s writing is clear and engaging, her characters sympathetic and real and her setting evocative. Magda is a very likable and memorable heroine, one that today’s children will relate to. Magda  struggles, as we all do at times, between obeying the rules and following her curiosity. In the end, her instincts guide her true. I look forward to hearing about her further adventures!

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