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.