Skeleton Creek

Common Sense Media says

Book/online-video hybrid is creepy fun.





What parents need to know

Educational value

This is mostly a fun mystery, but it does still require reading. Also, the new hybrid format could lead to some interesting discussions; parents could use the questions in our "Families Can Talk About" section to sharpen kids' critical thinking skills.

Positive messages

There is a message here about being brave enough to seek the truth: Two curious teen friends know there is a mystery in Skeleton Creek, and they're determined to find out what it is -- even if Ryan's father may be involved.

Positive role models

The two teen protagonists may be disobeying their parents by continuing their investigation -- but readers will appreciate their curiosity, bravery, and connection.


A gruesome accident in which a man's leg is ground up in a machine, a boy is seriously injured in a fall, a man bashes a fish's head against a rock.

Not applicable
Not applicable

Food, soft drink brands mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book provides links and passwords to Web sites, which provide additional plot. Online, kids will see suspenseful, creepy videos that might be scary to younger or more sensitive readers/viewers, though nothing worse than a skeletal ghost is shown. This is mostly a fun, scary mystery, but there is a message here about being brave enough to seek the truth: Two curious teen friends  know there is a mystery in Skeleton Creek, and they're determined to find out what it is -- even if Ryan's father may be involved.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Ryan is housebound after he's seriously injured in a fall in an old dredge out in the woods that no one in town wants to talk about. He's also forbidden to have anything to do with his best friend, Sarah. But both have found and disabled their parents' monitoring software and are communicating by email, as Sarah continues their dangerous investigation and sends Ryan links to the videos she makes documenting her research into the horrific death of a worker on the dredge years ago, what may be his ghost, and the cause of Ryan's accident, and Ryan's father's possible involvement.

Is it any good?


The gimmick, if you will, of this book is that it tells only part of the story: the rest is told in a series of online videos, for which readers are given links and passwords at strategic places throughout the story, including the cliffhanger ending. The book is Ryan's journal, and the videos are the ones Sarah makes for Ryan, a mix of Blair Witch Project style frights in the woods and video journals. Together they tell the story, and neither is complete without the other.

Books and movies have had a symbiotic relationship for as long as there have been movies, so it's amazing that no one has done anything quite like this before now. Neither the writing nor the videos is of the highest quality (actually both are very much like something teenagers would make), but together they make a compelling package. Switching back and forth between the two media is fun, and reluctant readers may be enticed by the gimmick, as well as by the slim, easy-to-read text. A successful launch of what is sure to be a vibrant new genre: the book/video hybrid.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about this book/video hybrid. What do you think of the way they work together? Is this the beginning of a new form of media? Or just a gimmick? Would it have worked better if the whole thing was a book, or a movie? Or does the interaction between the two add interest?

  • The videos try to create a creepy mood, even without showing gore or anything really menacing. Are they effective? Can you figure out which elements in the videos have the most impact? Why do we like to play around with this kind of scary stuff?

Book details

Author:Patrick Carman
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:February 1, 2009
Number of pages:185
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 17
Read aloud:10
Read alone:10

This review of Skeleton Creek was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old April 25, 2009

Uuuuuh Scary!

This book is interesting but the video's you need to watch to get the book is dang scary. Don't read it.
Parent Written byFordhamGradStudents October 25, 2011

A critical perspective

This book could be used for an independent read or optional read for older students. As educators, this book is great for reluctant readers because the video element really entices a reader and engages the audience. It is also one of a four book series to continue reading. However, the video "footage" does add frightening perspectives in support of the text so we recommend previewing material. Overall, the book is an amazing integration of text and video, journal style writing, and strong writing elements. Check it out!
Kid, 10 years old April 13, 2009

Not likeable

Even for some 12 year olds, this book is scary and inappreate.


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