Sam­my and the Head­less Horseman

  • Review
By – March 24, 2017

The time is the sum­mer after World War I. The set­ting is the Pine Grove Hotel in the Catskill Moun­tains, a resort where Jew­ish fam­i­lies come for vaca­tions. Young Sam­my thinks he will be a guest like his cousin Joshua but finds out his Aunt Pearl has decid­ed to bring him to the hotel as hired help. As it turns out, the staff mem­bers of his age are much more inter­est­ing than his cousin who is a pest. 

The hotel is owned by the Leib­man fam­i­ly. Mrs. Leib­man is very super­sti­tious and when her dairy dish­es are smashed, her strudel is destroyed, and frogs are put in the swim­ming pool, she is con­vinced it is her grand­moth­er’s ghost who has come back to haunt her because her grand­moth­er nev­er liked her. Addi­tion­al­ly, there is a spooky head­less horse­man who runs through the coun­try­side and at times runs through the grounds of the hotel itself.

Sam­my and his peers are deter­mined to find out what is going on and form a group called the Ich­a­bods”. The group is smart and resource­ful. They put all the clues togeth­er and are able to find out who is caus­ing the prob­lems and why. They hold the per­pe­tra­tors account­able. Through­out, it is inter­est­ing to watch Sammy’s per­son­al devel­op­ment. He finds he has skill as an enter­tain­er, both as a com­ic and as a singer. He’s even giv­en a cou­ple of offers to con­tact two pro­fes­sion­als who he’s per­formed with at the hotel.

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.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 9 – 11.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

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