Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 8 to 18
- Grade: 3 to 12
Thanks to his Aunt Pearl, eleven-year-old Sammy is stuck in the Catskill Mountains for the summer with his awful cousin Joshua. While he doesn't relish the idea of getting to know his new stepmom, at least he'd have his gang to hang out with in New York if he got to stay there instead. But when Sammy realizes he was brought on to be hired help at the hotel, he makes the most of it and enjoys bunking with his teenage co-worker, Adam.
Trouble seems to follow Sammy as he becomes entangled in a series of mysterious occurrences, including a terrifying headless horseman who seems to be haunting the reclusive "Hermit" at the top of the neighbouring hill. Sammy and his new friends form a team called "The Ichabods" to crack the mystery.
Set in the early 1920s, after WWI.
About the author
Rona Arato is a children’s author with a strong interest in human rights. As a writer and editor for over twenty years, she has written on a wide variety of subjects including education, business, travel, fashion and Internet technology. Her work has appeared in mag-azines and newspapers in Canada, the United States, and England. Rona is the author of Fossils, Clues to Ancient Life and World of Water (Crabtree, 2004) and Ice Cream Town (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2007). Her new books include Working for Freedom: The Story of Josiah Henson for Napoleon (Fall 2008), Making a Difference for Maple Tree Press (Fall 2008), and Design It! for Tundra Books (Spring 2009). Rona began writing in the mid 1970s while raising her three children. She has also worked as a public relations consultant for profit and non-profit. She has taught adult Creative Writing for the Toronto District Board and conducted business writing workshops for profit and non-profit organizations in the Toronto area. She has written educational materials for organizations including Mosdos Press in Cleveland, Girl Guides of Canada, and B’nai Brith Canada. From 1994-1998, Rona had the privilege of serving as an interviewer for Survivors of the Shoa, a Steven Spielberg project that recorded the histories of Holocaust survivors. It was this experience that fostered her interest in and desire to write about human rights. Rona discovered Josiah Henson’s story while researching a project on Canadian heroes. She was immediately taken with his strength and courage in the face of seemingly insur-mountable obstacles. His dedication to human rights and freedom spoke to her heart and she hopes that his story will affect others, especially youth, in the same way it has affected her.
"The story moves along briskly, grabbing and holding the reader's interest with the unfolding events, but what I actually found more interesting was the picture it draws of both positive and negative racism. Sammy is Jewish, the Pine Grove Hotel is not only run by Jews and for Jews, but it is a kosher establishment where Gentiles might feel rather uncomfortable, to say the least. Sammy belongs to the Jewish gang in New York (of which his father did not approve and which was one of the reasons why Aunt Pearl was enlisted to whisk him off to the Catskills for the summer). Almost everybody hangs out together with its own group racism by choice, as it were. Then there is the antagonism or negative racism between the old fashioned mountain men, and Zeke, the black ex slave. This was more or less accepted as the way things were in the period between the wars when a family vacation was just becoming an affordable reality for relatively new immigrants to the U.S. For me, the Jewish flavour of the book adds to its charm Yiddish words, milk and meat dishes that must be kept separate, and so forth. It does no harm for kids to see another culture and how separate it can be while still being part of the American melting pot.
"One of my favourite pick it up/put it down books is The Joys of Yiddish with its wry humour, self-deprecating stories, and wonderful cadences of language. Sammy and the Headless Horseman, the book, has some of the same flavour and charm, and, at the same time, Sammy, the character, is a real boy with courage and ambition who should appeal to a wide audience. It's a good combination.
— CM Magazine
"The strength of the story lies in the author's exploration of the Jewish culture, which is presented in a way that non-Jewish readers can fully engage with."
— Resource Links
"The story is just the right amount mysterious and has enough comic highlights to keep the reader engaged. The theme of taking responsibility for one's actions and the subsequent consequences is handled with a light touch."
— The Jewish Book Council
Other titles by Rona Arato
Righting Canada's Wrongs: Anti-Semitism and the MS St. Louis
Canada's Anti-Semitic Policies in the Twentieth Century
The Last Train
A Holocaust Story
The Ship to Nowhere
On Board the Exodus
On an American Day Volume 1
Story Voyages through History 1750–1899
The Ordinary Things We Use Every Day and the Not-So-Ordinary Ways They Came to Be
On a Medieval Day
Story Voyages around the World
Mrs. Kaputnik's Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium
Protists: Algae, Amoebas, Plankton, and Other Protists
On a Canadian Day
Nine Story Voyages through History
Working for Freedom
The Story of Josiah Henson