The Last Crystal
By Frances Schoonmaker
When they board the L.A. bound Santa Fe Chief in Kansas City, the Harrison kids have never heard of the Last Crystal or the magic surrounding it. Worried about their father, who has been injured in World War II, they dread a summer with their boring, old Uncle James. But before the train is half way to L.A., J.D., Mary Carol, Robert, and Grace have crossed paths with a Nazi spy and one of the four has been kidnapped. Then, without warning, they find themselves off the train, drawn into a quest for the Crystal. To get home again, they must cross two thousand miles of wilderness and find the Crystal, with nothing to guide them but their wits, each other, and an old map that only the youngest can read.
My first published work was a mystery that appeared as a serial in the high school paper. It was complete with an astonishing number of bodies and a fireplace with sconces, one of which was the key to a secret passage. What can I say? I came across it recently and had a good laugh.
I taught in elementary school for a dozen-plus years before becoming a professor at Teachers, College, Columbia University. So you'll see a couple of my scholarly books in my list. People often ask why I decided to write for kids after being a professor. I haven't thought of it as a big change. My whole professional life has been devoted to children and their education. This is another way or supporting them. But I confess, I didn't quite leave the scholar behind. It was a real challenge to write a fantasy set in particular periods in history. My background in historical research was a great help as I explored new work on the Great Westward Expansion, World Wars I and II, and the Chumash people who settled along the Pacific Coast of Southern California.