West Virginia teens Emma and Brody, are on a mission to help their neighbor, Mr. M, find new samples of his famed rock and mineral collection that were destroyed in a vicious robbery. Little did they know that collecting the rare samples would sending them traveling through time in a magical crystal cave. Determined to find the perfect Black Opal, Emma and Brody with the help of Mr. M’s granddaughter Max, travel to Lightning Ridge, Australia in 1925. As they navigate a herd of stampeding kangaroo, goat cart races, and flying boomerangs, the kids meet Rose, a young girl whose mysterious secret will rock their world forever. When their attempts to collect the perfect opal anger the locals, the kids flee and accidentally land over 2000 years in the future in South Carolina. Can the kids figure out how to return to their own state and time? Will Rose’s secret stop them from helping Mr. M? Will Max finally figure out who destroyed her Grandfather’s prized rock and mineral collection and why? The answers are all inside but may leave you with a new mystery to solve. Black’s Opal is the third book in the middle-grade adventure/sci-fi series Crystal Cave Adventures. If you like a little excitement thrown in with your science, then you'll love Tracy Barnhart's fast-paced and exciting series.
Rose is one of my favorite characters. She is the type of kid who is a little mischievous and sometimes does the wrong thing for the right reasons. She certainly gets Max upset in this scene when she steals a huge Australian black opal from a man more than twice her size. They’d better run!
I chose Lightning Ridge, Australia for the setting for this book because of the abundance of Black Opal’s in the area. As I started to research the town and surrounding area, I found that it is absolutely fascinating with amazing festivals, natural artesian bore baths, of course, amazing Black Opals and the best road names ever. As a geologist, I love all things rocks and minerals. Lightning Ridge has a lot of roads named after different rocks and minerals including Opal Street, Silica Street, Onyx Street, Kaolin Street, Gem Street, and Agate Street. This town is a geologist’s dream!
Emma loves traveling across rainbow colored slides among the clouds. She feels happy when she and her friends are sliding through time. But this time, no one seems to know who and how the time portal opens. This is an important part of the mystery in Black’s Opal. I can’t give you any hints but the answers may surprise you!
Lightning Ridge, Australia is a really need setting for the book Black’s Opal. Some of the streets really are named after geological terms. I enjoyed reviewing the maps of the town and learning about all of the different features and activities. The street names in this scene are the actual names from the town.
I had a lot of fun researching the area of Lightning Ridge. The area has such an amazing history from the way the town got its name to the rock and mineral street names and their Easter festival, which until recently, featured goat cart races. You can still see videos of the goat cart races on YouTube.
In Black’s Opal, Brody, Emma and Max find themselves at another great bakery. They may be in the early 1900s but those delicious aromas of muffins, scones and bear claws is the same in any decade! At Heniretta’s bakery, however, they encounter a mysterious young thief.
When I started writing this series, I based the character of Max on my own daughter. She has a friend that I used as the basis for Rose’s character. While the real girls have never been in a fight like this, it was fun to picture them in my mind as this scene unfolds. Will Rose reveal the secret she is keeping or will she keep it hidden a little longer?
This scene reminds me of a very frequent conversation in my own household. My daughter wants a husky puppy so badly. I would not mind a dog that she can go running with but I would rather she have a Malamute. The bigger issue is that we already have a 100-pound Great Pyrenees and had a kitten adopt us a few weeks ago. Rose, my daughter knows how you feel!
I’ve always been fascinated by boomerangs and wondered if I could really get one to work. That is why I was excited when Brody decided to buy one during their adventure to Lightning Ridge, Australia to find the rare Black Opal. The boomerang scenes were really fun to write and bring to life. I hope the kids who read this book are as excited as I was to see how Brody’s first throw of the boomerang turned out!
The Bore Baths in Lightning Ridge, Australia are areas where water from the Great Artesian Basin flows through a bore under natural pressure which sends the water to the land surface from below ground. The temperature of the water is consistently between 104 and 122 degree Fahrenheit. In Lightning Ridge, the areas where the bore baths reach the surface are finished like a swimming pool for the residents and visitors to enjoy.
Brody and Emma love traveling through time helping to collect new mineral samples for Mr. M’s collection. However, they never would have learned the secret of the cave if someone had not broken in to Mr. M’s house and destroyed his samples and maps. The mystery surrounding the break-in runs through the series and the reader learns a major clue in Black’s Opal, but it certainly is not what you might think! The mystery of who destroyed the collection was one of the most enjoyable plots to write. I hope that kids have fun trying to figure out who destroyed the collection and why.
A time traveling cave. A vicious band of miners…and pure gold. When West Virginia teenagers Emma and Brody promised their neighbor, a famous geologist, to help rebuild his decimated rock and mineral collection for a museum display, they didn’t know they would be in for the magical ride of a lifetime. After a successful trip to 1775 England where they collected the rare Blue John Fluorite, the teens are quick to jump at the chance to travel to the California Gold Rush in 1851. When they arrive at the Gold Rush and meet an old acquaintance, they think the mission will be easy until they realize their friend may not be able to help them at all. When their actions in the past erase their future, can Emma and Brody right the wrong? With a hostile group of miners hot on their trail, Brody and Emma must collect the gold, save their friends, and salvage the future before it is too late. Rusher’s Gold is the second book in the middle-grade adventure/sci-fi series Crystal Cave Adventures. If you like adventure and time travel mixed with your geology, then you’ll love Tracy Barnhart’s exciting series.
One of the aspects that I am most proud about with the Crystal Cave Adventures series is that the stories are fun adventures that kids love but there are just enough science facts sprinkled throughout that after they finish each book, they know just a little more geology than when they started. In this scene from Rusher’s Gold, Mr. M and Rusher are testing samples to separate gold from fools gold when the underground vault they are in suddenly floods with water from the water wheel overhead. Mr. M is using tests that real geologists use to identify samples, just hopefully, not under a moving water wheel!
One of the fun things about writing time travel novels is imaging what the characters go through when they end up in a time without of the comforts of home. At the Gold Rush, Emma find out quickly how much she is used to having the little things at home that she missed on her adventures. Don’t worry. She’s fine!
This is the second time that Emma and Brody travel to a time with no electricity or running water. The simple task of cooking breakfast makes Emma wonder how people survived. She learns how to cope and even managed a great pancake breakfast. We just love Emma!
Max and Mr. M know that time travel can be very complicated. Rule #1 is never see yourself in another time or cross path with everyone you are traveling with through time. Max and Mr. M learned that the hard way, but they have the hang of it now.
The character of Brody is based on my actual son, Noah. Like Noah, Brody runs track and field and specializes in the hurdles. Noah even had a coach named Nick! I like basing my characters on people I know because it gives me someone to picture as I write. The character of Max is based on my daughter, Piper.
Emma, Brody and Max always seem to find trouble as they search for their rare minerals. This time, they are about to be caught by the man Mr. M sort of stole some gold from in the past. I hope they can run fast!
One thing I like about sending the kids in the Crystal Cave Adventures series back in time is that they have to rely on each other to solve their problems. Even if they have their cellphones, they will not work and they have to keep them hidden from everyone they meet. In Rusher’s Gold, Brody is prepared for not having the use of his phone for research when they get to the Gold Rush. Smart kid!
There are many secrets in the Crystal Cave Adventures. In the first book, we found out at that Max had kept a big secret from Emma and Brody. In Rusher’s Gold, we find out there is even more! I love reveals that make the readers think, “NO WAY!” Usually, one secret leads to even more.
In Rusher’s Gold, the kids travel to Coloma, California where the real Gold Rush began in 1848. James Marshall, who was building a waterwheel-powered sawmill for businessman John Sutter, discovered gold nuggets in the American River. The men tried to keep the gold discovery quiet but within a few months, word had spread and people were flocking to the area in search of riches. Ironically, John Sutter decided to pursue his other businesses during the gold rush and never became rich from his discovery.
The dog in the Crystal Cave Adventures is based on my own dogs, Aspen and Sierra. Samoyeds are beautiful, white, fluffy dogs that you may see pulling a sled through the Alaskan snow. In the book series, Aspen joins Brody and Emma on all of their adventures and not just as a pup to tag along. She can be very helpful when they get into trouble or need a little extra muscle. If you are unfamiliar with the dogs, you can read about them on the American Kennel Club website or do a simple Google search. But I’ll warn you, they are so cute, you just might find yourself wanting your own Sammie!
Time travel is a fascinating idea. How you would feel while your body flies through dimensions is fun to explore in this series. At the beginning of Rusher’s Gold, Emma and Brody travel to the California Gold Rush in 1851 with Mr. M’s trusty companion, Aspen. The fluffy Samoyed helped them out of a few tough situations at Blue John’s Cavern and she is along for another great adventure. When Emma, Brody and Aspen land in 1851, they immediately meet a strange man, who interestingly, does not seem shocked that they fell out of the sky. Who is he and is he a friend or foe? All that and more is answered in Rusher’s Gold.
Time travel rocks! Traveling through caves, jumping through time. Nothing interesting ever happens in Diamond Falls, West Virginia, and that's doubly true for local teenagers Emma and Brody. Little do they know that their neighbor, a famous geologist, is about to show them the wildest time of their lives. When Mr. M's prized rock and mineral collection is destroyed before it can be displayed at the state museum, Emma and Brody jump at the chance to find new samples. The geologist accepts the offer, and promptly sends them back to the year 1775 to help! Back in time and across the pond in Derbyshire, England, Emma and Brody team with a mysterious young girl named Max to recover one of the rarest minerals in the world: Blue John Fluorite. Tapping into courage they never knew they had, the formerly ordinary West Virginians must protect a cave, avoid gun-toting soldiers, and return to the present before they're trapped forever. Blue John's Cavern is the first book in the middle-grade adventure/sci-fi series Crystal Cave Adventures. If you like a little excitement thrown in with your science, then you'll love Tracy Barnhart's fast-paced and compelling debut novel.
Whenever possible, I like to use real places in my books. The rare mineral samples that Emma and Brody are collecting are real in this book and so is the Blue John Cave. The names of the stalagmites and cave rooms are the real thing. The cave formed when two underground rivers collided, spawning a circulating water pattern which carved huge underground rooms connected by passageways. Definitely a must see if you are in the area.
Every geologist needs the right tools to identify and collect great samples. In this scene, Mr. M gives Emma and Brody their own geologist belts and some fun tools that they will use on their adventures. I hope that the kids who read this book love the different ways that Emma and Brody use the tools to find the perfect samples.
I love this scene. The bracelet tied to the trunk with the food and clothes is a clue to the overall mystery of the Crystal Cave Adventures series. I don’t think Emma reads too much into the fact that the trunk and Max have similar bracelets, but in time, she will start to see the significance. I love hearing the theories readers have when they read the scenes that relate to the major story arc of the books.
I have always love time travel stories in books and television. The mystery of what happens to you while you are traveling through time is intriguing. In the Crystal Cave, you fly through the sky on rainbows slides that make you feel as though you are zooming through a water slide. That is how I would want to travel. The Blue John’s Cavern novel has a companion activity book that allows kids to explore the areas in the book using maps and the internet to see the real Peveril Castle, Blue John cave and the town of Castleton. The book is full of word puzzles, activities, creative writing stories and more.
Max has a unique bracelet in the novel. The velvet ribbon wraps in a crisscross around her wrist and arm. A quartz crystal hangs down the back of her hand. I have a picture on my Pinterest page of a bracelet just like Max’s. Emma found a similar bracelet in the castle and wished now that she had kept it for herself. The bracelet is introduced in this book because it becomes important later…sorry, no hints! The Blue John’s Cavern novel has a companion activity book that allows kids to explore the areas in the book using maps and the internet to see the real Peveril Castle, Blue John cave and the town of Castleton. The book is full of word puzzles, activities, creative writing stories and more.
I’ve talked in some of the other book bubbles about how I love using real locations in my books and this scene is another circumstance where the real landscape adds to the story line. The real Peveril Castle sits on a hilltop with a long slope on the front side of the castle and a steep drop off in the back. When Brody, Emma, Max and Aspen run from the soldiers, they accidentally end up on the wrong side of the castle and Brody starts to fall. The Blue John’s Cavern novel has a companion activity book that allows kids to explore the areas in the book using maps and the internet to see the real Peveril Castle, Blue John cave and the town of Castleton. Hopefully, they will be excited to see the cliff where Brody starts to fall! I hope the girls can save him.
Mam Tor is a mountain near Castleton known as the “Shivering Mountain.” In the book, Brody, Emma, and Max must navigate the base of Mam Tor to reach the Blue John Cavern in its foothills. Mam Tor is nicknamed the “Shivering Mountain” because it has numerous landslides causing rock and sediment to fall down the mountainside. I recently published an Activity book to accompany the Blue John’s Cavern Novel. You can find out more about Mam Tor and the entire Castleton area in the activity book.
Emma and Brody are two clever teenagers. I love putting them in positions where they have to think outside of their normal lives and find new ways to accomplish their goals. When they are trying to piece their maps together and realize that tape did not exist yet, they have to come up with a new plan.
I still remember the day I wrote this scene. For the most part, I am the type of writer known as a “pantser.” That just means that while I have a general idea of the story, I do not pre-plan or outline every detail of every scene before I start. After I wrote this scene, I remember thinking that I cannot believe what came out on the paper because his what Brody found in that map drawer happened to me, I would have done more than just throw the maps in the air. This book bubble is the aftermath. You will find our more in the book, or if you just cannot wait, shoot me a message and I’ll let you in on the secret!
I love this scene with Emma popping the halite crystal in her mouth because it actually happened in our house. The first time I received a shipment of nice halite crystals, I convinced my kids to lick them without telling them that they were salt. The looks on their faces were so funny! I hope they have forgiven me.
One of my favorite aspects of the Crystal Cave Adventure series is that there is real science and locations mixed with the fiction. In Blue John’s Cavern, Emma and Brody travel to 1775 and to the town of Castleton, Derbyshire, England. The town and the Blue John Fluorite are real and so are many of the places in the book. Blue John Fluorite is truly a rare mineral that is only found in two caves in England. The story that Mr. M tells the kids about this amazing mineral is real. The time traveling…maybe not so much!
As a geology major at Furman University and the University of South Carolina, I had many great professors. One in particular, Dr. Wallace Fallaw, is the inspiration for Heath Matthews in the Crystal Cave Adventures series. He was funny and smart and yes, he did have an electric eraser and completely erased one of my maps once!
In Blue John's Cavern, the first book in the Crystal Cave Adventures series, teenagers Emma and Brody meet for the first time. Emma's family moved to Diamond Falls, WV only a few days earlier. Meeting a new friend for the first time can be awkward, especially when you are a kid. However, when Emma and Brody quickly find a common interest, they form a friendship that is the basis of the entire series.
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