“Mystery on Pine Lake” by Tamra Wight, illustrated by Carl DiRocco, September 2013, Islandport Press, 152 pages, hardcover, $16.95.
Cooper wants to be a Maine game warden when he grows up, but for now, he’ll settle for protecting the wildlife at his family’s campground on Pine Lake — that is, when he’s not stuck doing chores — cleaning bathrooms and picking up trash. Living at a beautiful vacation spot year-round definitely has its ups and downs.
In “Mystery on Pine Lake,” a book for middle schoolers set to be released in September, Cooper and his new friend, Packrat, are out to save the lake’s pair of loons from a mysterious foe, even if they have to break a few campground rules along the way.
Penned by Tamra Wight of Poland, Maine, the story contains lessons about Maine wildlife and explores the concepts of friendship, bullying and family. And through the eyes of 12-year-old Cooper, readers will experience the joys and oddities of growing up in a Maine campground.
“Cooper is a lot of me,” Wight said in a recent interview. “Writing this book, I relived a lot of my childhood.”
Wight and her husband own and run Poland Spring Campground on the shore of Lower Range Pond in Poland, where they raised two children, now ages 16 and 24.
“We’ve owned it for 16 years, but I’ve been here for 22,” said Wight. “It’s a lot of hours, you know, and it’s like having 132 families as your company every day, all summer long, but you meet so many cool people, interesting people from all over.”
Over the years, Wight has developed a fascination for the pair of loons that live on the pond.
“Being on the lake, I see a lot of wonderful things,” Wight said. “But every now and again, I do hear that maybe boaters are going too fast around the loon nest or that people are actually canoeing up to the loon nest. I want to get the message out there about how to be around nature and enjoy it from a distance.”
In researching for the book, she invested in a big camera lens and photographed the loons on Lower Range Pond from a distance.
Each chapter of the book starts with an interesting fact about loons. For example, “Some scientists believe loons have been on Earth for 20 million years.” And while Wight wanted to teach children more about the state’s majestic “feathered fish,” her primary focus was in writing a story that was entertaining and enjoyable for ages 8-12.
“I wanted a lot of humor. I know that kids like humor,” Wight said. “And I wanted some interesting characters.”
Cooper is likeable and relatable. In fact, he may just steal your heart. And Packrat — a boy who carries every gadget imaginable in his oversize trench coat — is quirky, confident and loyal. In addition to the inseparable duo is Cooper’s cute and mischievous little sister, a campground bully, one particularly disgruntled camper and a campground growing increasingly full as the days get warmer.
Several events in the story are brought to life in black-and-white illustrations by award-winning children’s book illustrator Carl DiRocco, a resident of Reading, Mass., who loves to camp with his wife and three sons.
Wight is also the author of the picture book “ The Three Grumpies,” published in 2003 by Bloomsbury.
“That did pretty good, but I never could really find that second story — or interest anyone in a second story, either,” said Wight.
Yet her perseverance and desire to write for children paid off.
“Mystery on Pine Lake,” picked up by Islandport Press of Yarmouth, is beautifully designed and may just be the first in a three-book Cooper & Packrat Series. Wight has already written the second story, which will also impart lessons on a certain Maine creature. In addition to the loons on Lower Range Pond, a pair of nesting eagles has captured Wight’s attention and stirred her imagination.
For information, visit www.islandportpress.com.