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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Town is an adventure mystery novel for children, grades 4-6, written by Stephen Kozan and illustrated by Tony Maulfair. What had happened to White Tanks, Pennsylvania, and who were the mysterious black shadow figures that so many of the town’s remaining residents had had the misfortune to see? Everything had changed when the nuclear facility on nearby Marathon Island had melted down. And while that had happened thirty years ago, the town had never recovered -- far from it. The town continued its long, slow slide into decay. The long-abandoned Duggan Brothers Steel Mill, which had employed most of the residents before the accident, was itself a ghostly presence in the small town, a monument to what had been… before. Some people still lived there, even though the trees had mostly died off and any leaves they still wore were long since turned brown and stiff, and the grass in the front yards of the empty houses had given way to weeds. Still, there were four friends, the Flying Tigers, 12-year-olds who found mystery and adventure in Cold Creek Forest and the wild places still thriving around White Tanks. They had a clubhouse, named Fort Bliss, which they had lovingly crafted out of scavenged wood and evergreen branches. Access was challenging, requiring a sortie across Old Man Horner’s farm, a trip across a handcrafted bridge and a rappel down some 20 feet to reach their hidden fortress of solitude. Once there, they delighted in sharing stories told by their grandfathers of World War II exploits and feats of daring. Once there, they watched carefully, monitoring the movement of the sun as things could get dangerous out there after dark.
Stephen Kozan’s adventure mystery novel for preteens and children, grades 4-6, Town, is rich in the magic that can happen when four kids come together -- even in a town situated uncomfortably close to the site of the at-the-time largest nuclear accident ever. This autobiographical novel was written by an author whose own home town, Bressler, was a scant eight miles away from the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant, and he was born three months after that nuclear meltdown had stunned the world and turned his hometown into a ghost town. As an unabashed fan of preteen adventure stories, I instantly fell in love with Cold Creek Forest and eagerly followed Michael, Nia, Kyle and Skyler as they explore their world and try to decipher the mysteries they find there. Tony Maulfair’s illustrations are intense and spooky, and Kozan’s inclusion of photographs from the town where he grew up are a marvelous touch, especially the cemetery, the location where the original Fort Bliss once stood, and the remnants of the ominous Black Path. Town is deliciously spooky, and one of those books you want to go on forever. Its characters are unforgettable, and the scary scenes are memorable and spine-tingling. Town is most highly recommended.