Mysterious Vanishing Place: Charles A. Salter
Charlotte is a curious nine year old who loves to explore and hunt in the woods. With a special sixth sense and perfect instincts she sometimes can ward off trouble but in this case her instincts at one point to not totally kick in and it might cost her more than just her life. The setting is Ellicott City, Maryland and the place is the woods as she goes deep inside the forest and finds a puppy hanging on for dear life. But, that’s not all there’s a giant piece of land that seems to be sinking and what she does not know it’s about to get even deeper and this patch of forest land seems to be vanishing. What does this all mean? Charlotte has what her granddad tells her are premonitions trying to help her understand why she somehow can sense danger. Taking the dog home with her she decides to name it Cocoa. Hoping that her parents will allow her to keep it she learns that someone might have posted an ad for a missing dog and maybe even flyers. But, until someone claims ownership she is allowed to take care of this precious dog. Cocoa is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel a very rare breed and when the owner comes forward Charlotte hopes that her father and mother will agree to buy him for her.
Mr. Smithson is the owner of many dogs like Cocoa and she explains about the sinking land and that the land under his fence might provide an escape route for his dogs to find their way just like Cocoa did to the woods. When listening to her he considers her words and hoped that he would come up with a price that her parents could afford. But, children of nine about to be ten are often conflicted when choices have to be made and Charlotte had to decide between the dog, when a price was finally reached and having a huge birthday party with all of her friends. You can guess who won out!
The one thing I like about this book is that the adults took her seriously and did not discount what she was saying as if she was making it up or not really telling the truth. Calling in a geologist he explains the meaning of Sinkholes and the dangers they imply as the research is extensive and the explanation allows readers to understand the gravity of the situation and if something is not done more animals and people could be harmed or worse.
Charlotte is determined to make sure that no one else gets stuck in the sinkhole and each time she sees the spot where the ground is falling she notices the differences and hopes that something will be done. But, she is also an explorer and although warned not to visit this area in the future she and Cocoa wind up there because of some innate feeling or instinct. This time her instincts falter and what she experiences will explain to readers that young children don’t always follow orders or the rules and yet sometimes not following them will not only teach a lesson in but in this case what might have happened if she did not break the rules.
Dr. Macgregor explains the meaning of sinkholes, why they cause a dangerous situation and enough warning is often given for people to get to safety. Yet, Charlotte was afraid. She was concerned about the puppies down the street closer to the sinkhole. Charlotte and Cocoa went on their usual walk on the trail and she could not believe what she saw. Rationalizing that the geologist and his team might not get there in time to save the puppies that are in danger she decided to explore even more seeing that the sinkhole was now the size of a football field at least on the edges of it. Where was the dirt going as she hears some creaking noises? Seeing the puppies exercising and beyond the fence and Cocoa responding like he understand the gravity of the situation, Charlotte knew that she had to do something and fast. Another puppy was stuck and trying to get under the fence to escape. While she was thinking things through the ground under Cocoa started to sink more taking him along with it.
Level headed and smart she goes back to get some help but no one was there and her cell had no reception. Now it was up to her to save Cocoa and the other puppy. Could she do it even though she might fall into the sinkhole too? A terror sets in; fear yet Charlotte knows that panicking will not help save the dogs and herself. What happens allows readers of all ages to understand the meaning of sinkholes and that taking a child seriously is paramount as in this case. But, will anyone get there to save her and the pups and will she be punished for breaking the rules? A tension filled ending and a young girl named Charlotte who is smart, astute and persistent. Loyalty, friendship, responsibility and using your common sense are at the heart of this novel. Find out what happens when you open the book and you too experience the danger and magic of the mysterious vanishing place.
Fran Lewis Just reviews/MJ Magazine