Ghost Town at Sundown — "Magic Tree House" Series
This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the 10th book in the "Magic Tree House" series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
As Jack sits on the porch reading, Annie looks toward Frog Creek woods and sees a rabbit. She believes it's a sign that the enchantress Morgan le Fay has returned. So the children follow the rabbit into the woods and find Morgan in the magic tree house. The enchantress has another riddle for the children to solve. After giving them a book on the Wild West and a scroll, she instructs them to read the scroll when they arrive.
The tree house lands just outside Rattlesnake Flats, a ghost town from the late 1800s. Jack and Annie read the riddle in the scroll, which prompts them to look for a voice calling out of the blue. At the abandoned general store in town, they don cowboy boots and hats. A sound draws them to the hotel where they discover a piano playing itself. Unnerved, the two leave the hotel only to hear horses approaching. Jack and Annie hide in two empty barrels and watch as a group of horse thieves rides into town. The children listen to the men talk about the unruly mustang they stole and her colt, which they left behind because it was too slow. The men ride out of town, planning to spend the night nearby.
Minutes later, the colt trots into town. Annie bonds with the horse and names him Sunset. She climbs onto the colt's back, intent on returning him to his mother. Before the siblings can come up with a plan, a cowboy named Slim surprises them. He tells them that the colt and all the horses the thieves stole belong to him. Annie wants to help Slim reunite Sunset with his mother. Slim agrees to take them along.
The three companions discover the thieves' camp, and Slim shares his plan. Slim and Annie will ride into camp and free Sunset's mother while Jack waits with Sunset. When they have the mustang, all three will head for Blue Canyon. Slim is successful in rescuing the stolen horse, but the thieves spot Slim and the children and begin shooting and giving chase. Jack falls off the colt and is struggling to remount when the thieves' horses spook. Jack sees that a ghostly figure moving across the ridge has frightened the thieves' horses. He manages to get back into the saddle and rides after Annie and Slim.
They make it to Blue Canyon and decide to spend the night there. The children share their riddle with Slim, but he says he doesn't know the answer. When Annie asks about the piano that plays itself, Slim tells her that a ghost named Lonesome Luke is the one playing the piano. Jack remembers seeing the figure on the ridge and believes it was Luke helping them.
Slim tells them that Luke loved a woman very much, but she didn't like the West and returned home. After she left, Luke was so distraught that he would sit in the hotel and play "Red River Valley" on the piano every night. One day, he disappeared into the prairie and was never seen again. As Slim plays "Red River Valley" on the harmonica, Annie and Jack recognize it as the song they heard the piano playing.
The next morning, Slim shares his breakfast of biscuits and coffee with Jack and Annie. He tells them that he always wanted to write a book. Annie encourages him to let his mustangs go free and pursue this dream. Slim likes the idea and lets the two horses go. After Annie calls goodbye to the horses and her voice reverberates against the canyon wall, she and Jack realize that an "echo" is the answer to Morgan's riddle.
Back in town, Jack and Annie say farewell to Slim. As they take their borrowed cowboy boots off, they hear the sound of the hotel's piano. Rushing into the hotel, they see Lonesome Luke playing the piano. He waves to them before disappearing. They return to the magic tree house and travel home.
Once home, Jack realizes the book Morgan gave them about the Wild West was written by Slim. The cowboy thanked the pair in the book's dedication. Annie is sad that they won't be able to see Slim again, but Jack tells her that reading Slim's book will be like talking to him.
Other Belief Systems
The tree house is a magic place belonging to Morgan le Fay, an enchantress. Her magic allows the tree house to transport the children through time and space to places they find in the books that are in the tree house.
Jack and Annie believe in ghosts. Annie mentions the ghost they saw in ancient Egypt. Jack and Annie believe a rabbit is a sign that Morgan le Fay has returned.
A ghost named Lonesome Luke is supposed to be the one playing the piano. Jack thinks he sees Lonesome Luke on a distant ridge. At one point, Jack and Annie see Lonesome Luke playing the piano. He waves to them before disappearing.
When Slim first meets Jack and Annie, he assumes they are the horse thieves. He rides out of an alley with his gun drawn and confronts them. He doesn't holster the gun until after they convince him they aren't horse thieves. An illustration shows the children with their hands held up in surrender and Slim with a weapon pointed at them.
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