A noisy mystery for kids to squeal about

The mystery of mineral gorge By Julia Van Nutt Illustrated by Robert Van Nutt Doubleday, unpaged, $15.95 Ages 4-8

"The Mystery of Mineral Gorge," by wife-and-husband team Julia and Robert Van Nutt, is an exciting tale set in the fictional community of Cobtown, USA. Told through the pages of 10-year-old Lucky Hart's diary, the tale takes place in the mid-1800s. The denizens of this little town are disturbed and frightened by shrieks coming from nearby Mineral Gorge. No one knows what they could be.

At a town meeting, one old-timer puts forth the notion that the unearthly sounds may be coming from the ghost of a mysterious Lady in White. This scares people even more - everyone except Aunt Heddy Peggler. She proposes a search party, saying, "The sooner we stop all this ghost nonsense and start searching ... the better."

Most folks find other things to do during the afternoon expedition to Mineral Gorge. Nonetheless, a small band, including Lucky and her Aunt Heddy, ventures into dark and dangerous territory. On the trek there are plenty of things to frighten the searchers, but in the end they discover the screams have come from a small striped pig stuck between rocks in a cave that creates echoes.

The search party rescues the little porker, now named Oinkey, and returns to relieved and jubilant neighbors. The local newspaper editor declares the group's success front-page news for the next day's "Observer."

Visual elements in this volume are as appealing as the story. Old-style-newspaper end papers, slightly yellowed diary pages, and some little mementos (tickets and pressed leaves) complement the glowing illustrations, done in golds, oranges, and browns.

*Karen Carden reviews children's book for the Monitor.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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