Dreamland Lake

Dreamland Lake

by Richard Peck

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Flip and Brian have been best friends since grade school. But everything changes during the spring of seventh grade. That's when they find a man lying dead in the leaves near Dreamland Lake. What happens in the summer that follows will change the course of their friendship—and their lives—forever.

"A finely tuned shocker."—Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101664339
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 05/01/2000
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 717,871
File size: 432 KB
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Born in Decatur, IIlinois, Richard Peck has written over 41 books for young readers. He is the winner of the 1990 Margaret A. Edwards Award, a prestigious award sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association in cooperation with the School Library Journal; the 1990 National Council of Teachers of English/ALAN Award for outstanding contributions to young adult literature; and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award. In 2001 Mr. Peck was awarded the Newbery Medal for A Year Down Yonder.

Read an Excerpt

The face of death

I heard Flip say, “Shoes . . . a pair of shoes.” He was standing still, ankle-deep in the leaves. Before I caught up with him, he’d whirled around facing me. “Behind me,” he said in a funny, tight voice. I couldn’t figure out what had come over him. “Come on,” he said, “we’re getting out of here.” But he didn’t move. And neither did I.

He was swallowing air fast and breathing, “Jesus, oh Jesus.” I looked past him and saw a pair of shoes sticking up out of the leaves at a funny, splayfooted angle. They were leaf-colored and round-toed like old construction boots. They didn’t make any sense to me. I kept staring while Flip kind of half turned and tried to get another look out of the corner of his eye. Underneath the leaves, past the shoes, I saw what looked like a pile of old clothes. And farther up something else, something shiny.

There was a breeze that whisked the leaves around a little. I was staring at the shiny place, and then right away, I was looking at a grin. A big, yawning grin right down on ground level and a black eye socket. A leaf was over the other one. And some hair on the clean, white bone of a skull’s forehead . . .



Are You in the House Alone?

Father Figure

The Ghost Belonged to Me

The Great Interactive Dream Machine

A Long Way from Chicago

Lost in Cyberspace

Strays Like Us

Table of Contents



There was a dead man in the weeds up at the woodsy end of Dreamland Lake. He’d been there the better part of the winter, freezing and thawing like the lake. But, by the end of March, the trees were beginning to leaf out. The little creek that fed into the lake was almost at flood tide, which meant you had to take a running jump to clear it. The crocuses were up—purple and yellow—and the violets were on the way.

If you had all morning, you could count every tree in it, so it isn’t a real woods. Any more than Dreamland Lake is a real lake. Nowadays, people call it the duck pond. There isn’t much you can do with it except feed the ducks. And nobody does that except the Park Department and a few little kids with bread crumbs who only come there in the summer.

Some of the old-timers around here, like Mrs. Garrison, still call the place Dreamland Park because they remember it from way back. The days when it was right out in the country. A mile from the city limits, with a streetcar track that had a turnaround at the gates. It was an amusement park in those days—with a dance palace the Baptists closed, and a race track the county closed, and a roller coaster that swooped right down level with the lake. The roller coaster had the quickest end of all. It caught fire one night in 1922 and burned right down to the water. But by then, there wasn’t much amusement park left so the fire chief let it burn itself out.

Then later, the town grew out in that direction, took the land for back taxes, and turned it into a regular city park named Marquette Park. They cleaned it up, put in picnic tables, and turned the dance palace into a clubhouse for the tennis players. And they put mallards and teals and a pair of swans in Dreamland Lake. But they left the woods up at the end of it. And a half century after the roller coaster burned, that was where Flip and I found the dead man.

I’m writing all this down pretty much like it happened. If some of it sounds like a murder mystery or something, remember, it isn’t. But that’s the way Flip and I saw it at the time. Mainly because we wanted to, I guess. And partly because somebody else wanted us to. Nobody killed the dead man as far as I know. He probably didn’t have an enemy in the world—or a friend, for that matter. We never thought about him as being alive, ever. It was the death angle that got to us.

We were on this local history kick. Flip hated English, but he loved looking things up. He was just going into his amateur photography phase, so books on How to Build Your Own Home Dark Room drew him to the Coolidge Middle School library. It was the first good library we had entrance to. The grade school one was mainly full of dog stories by Albert Payson Terhune. And we’d been barred from the public library downtown since the time we dropped the persimmons down the stairwell and they splattered all over the Reserved Books desk. That was in fifth grade, but librarians remember.

So Flip came across this book in the school library and got wrapped up in local history. Like I said, he went through these phases, and I used to go through most of them with him. I used to, a couple of years ago, when we were kind of a team. But that was a couple of years ago. We aren’t a team anymore, and I guess that’s why I’m telling this story.

He came racing up to the bike rack after school one day waving an old, dusty, brown book. It was A Centennial History of the City of Dunthorpe, Black Hawk County, and Environs by one Estella Winkler Bates.

“Can you believe it?” Flip said. “Somebody wrote a book just about this county. And look, nobody’s checked it out since 1952. This is a real, undiscovered find!”

We hunkered down right there, with our backs against the bike rack, and started in to find out how Estella Winkler Bates had managed to fill three hundred and two pages with nothing but local history.

The title page said that the book was in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the first settlement. They had this big celebration back in 1929 which inspired Estella Winkler Bates to sit down and write a Cultural and Economic History. Across from the first page was a photograph of the Centennial Pageant. It showed a lot of old-fashioned, flapper-looking girls wrapped in the American flag hanging onto an old, open Buick and holding up a big banner that said:


After that, the going was uphill because the Bates style was heavy. It seems they held the celebration in the fall of 1929 because she started out,

In this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, we point with particular pride to the pioneer perseverance that brought this metropolis of the plains and the verdure of its surrounding loam out of the rough lawlessness and the unbroken sod of its primeval period. We point, too, ahead to yet another century of promise and perpetual progress—we have come from the Conestoga Wagon to the modern automobile. From the Pony Express to the modern aeroplane and dirigible. From the. . . .

Flip stopped reading and said, “What’s she talking about? We never had any Pony Express around here. That was way out in St. Joseph, Missouri.”

“She’s full of hot air,” I told him. “All she likes is P’s.”

“What?” said Flip.

“P’s,” I said, and pointed them all out. “Look—point, particular, pride, pioneer, perseverance, primeval, promise, perpetual, progress. She’s in love with P’s. Forget it. Take it back to the library before you lose it and have to pay for it.”

“And dirigibles,” Flip said. “She thought we were going to spend the next century flying around in dirigibles.”

“Yeah,” I said, “dirigibles. That’s a laugh.”

“I’ll tell you another one,” Flip said. “You don’t even know what dirigibles are.” That’s the kind of challenge that used to end up with Flip and me trying to stomp one another’s heads in. But we were in the seventh grade by then, and trying hard to leave that kind of childishness behind us.

“Dirigible is some old kind of airplane,” I said.

“Wrong,” Flip said. “I knew you didn’t know. It’s an airship. A big bag full of hydrogen or helium with a little cabin underneath where people rode—called a gondola. I knew you didn’t know it as soon as I read the word.”

“That’s what I meant,” I replied, and tried to look wise.

“Well, you didn’t,” Flip said, and turned to the Table of Contents to see if the book might pick up any later on. There, about halfway through, was a chapter called “Dreamland Park: Dunthorpe’s Own Coney Island.”

“What’s this?” Flip said.

“Hot air,” I explained. “There’s no such a place as a Dreamland Park around here. It’s something like Estella Winkler Bates would think up when she was getting carried away.”

“I guess I’ll take this home and read it when I have some peace and quiet,” Flip said. He closed the book and tossed it into his bike basket.

But that night, he called up and said Dreamland Park was not hot air, and that it had been an actual amusement park, and that its remains were no more than two blocks from the street we both lived on.

He quoted from Estella Winkler Bates for evidence:

Dreamland Park, that popular and mildly notorious resort that flourished from the turn of the century until the Great War, lured the “shady ladies” and sporting gents of the period. Following an afternoon of harness racing, the crowds thronged to the commodious dance palace, the capacious veranda of which commanded a prospect of Dreamland Lake itself. Over this picturesque patch of moon-kissed water arched the delicate tracery of a cast-iron bridge, illuminated by the bewitching glimmer of Japanese lanterns.

“Knock it off,” I said to Flip. “I can’t take any more.”

“Shut up and listen,” he said.

Providing a dramatic backdrop for this scene of melodious revelry was the giant roller coaster—a scenic railway which elevated its passengers to dizzying heights, only to plunge them, to the accompaniment of their own breathless screams, to the very surface of the lake itself.

“Are you going to read out the whole book?” I asked Flip.

“There’s just a little bit more on the park,” he said. “Listen.”

Alas, the erosions of time and taste and an awesome conflagration which consumed the roller coaster spelled the end of the fantastic fun fair’s palmy period. Today, it forms a part of the tranquil city park bearing the name of Pere Marquette, early explorer of our region and man of God. One hundred and eighty-one acres of Nature’s Own Preserve mutes the purposeful roar of our expanding metropolis. Dreamland Park is now but a dream! But in the words of the poet, Anderson M. Scruggs,

“Yet after brick and steel and stone are gone,

And flesh and blood are dust, the dream lives on.”

“Shady ladies?” I said to Flip over the phone. “Yuch.”

“Well, anyway, it proves there was a Dreamland Park and a roller coaster. And you know what? There’s a picture of the duck pond. The same bridge and everything. And the tennis clubhouse hangs out over the pond just like the dance palace did in the picture. And there was a roller coaster. A big one.”

“Somehow, I can’t picture a roller coaster in Dunthorpe,” I said. “In Indianapolis, maybe, but not Dunthorpe.”

“Well, I’m telling you it was there, and, if we did a little archaeological spadework, we might come up with some fresh evidence of our own.” So from that day on, we referred to the duck pond as Dreamland Lake, but we didn’t get around to archaeological spadework until early spring.

It was still basketball season, which took up most of our time. I was the tallest seventh-grader, and Flip was the fastest on his feet. So we had to go out for inter-middle-school basketball. But we were on the bench a lot. Even though I was the tallest, guys a head shorter could outjump me. And though Flip was the fastest, he had no sense of direction at all and often dribbled right up into the bleachers.

It didn’t matter much, though, because the coach saw we weren’t going to be big-time high school material. He concentrated on working up the better players and kept off our backs. “You two have got the natural advantages,” he told Flip and me, “but you’ll never do anything with them.”

So on a mild afternoon in March, Flip and I avoided the gym altogether after school and headed out to Dreamland Lake. Out to where we found the dead man.


We stood on the bank of Dreamland Lake, comparing the present with the picture in Estella Winkler Bates’ book. The cast-iron footbridge over the middle part of the lake was pretty much the way it always had been. From a distance. But now, Park Department sawhorses blocked off the approaches to it on each side because the floorboards were rotted out. The porch of the tennis clubhouse sagged over the south shoreline and needed a coat of paint bad. And back where the roller coaster had been, a jungle of trees and undergrowth had taken over. A few mallards V-ed across the lake in our direction on the off chance we’d brought bread crumbs.

We walked our bikes around the shore to where a path dipped down into the woods, following the creek that fed the lake. At first, it was like a tunnel of branches, so we left our bikes and went on, bent nearly double. It was damp-smelling and dim inside the woods. Flip sat down on an old concrete block to get his bearings.

“We haven’t explored in here since we were kids and didn’t know anything,” he said. “According to the picture, I figure we’re right about where the roller coaster was. We ought to be able to find part of the foundation or something. They must have had to sink some kind of supports for the superstructure.”

“You’re sitting on one,” I told him.

He jumped up and looked at the concrete thing. Then in his Sherlock Holmes voice, he said, “You know, Bry, I think you’re right for once.” He jumped up on it. “This is one of them! Look—right between my feet is a hole where the wooden beam went in. And straight up, maybe a hundred, maybe a hundred and fifty feet. And the track on top of that! And those cars roaring down. Boy! Think of it!”

“Yeah, well, we never got to ride on it,” I said. In the seventh grade, I had the idea that all the parties were over and we’d been born too late.

“Come on,” he said, jumping down. “If we locate all these supports, we’ll be able to trace the route of the roller coaster. If they’re all this big, they still ought to be above ground level.” We found another concrete block, covered with moss and tipped at an angle, beside the creek. And, on the other side, another one. I jumped the creek to get to it, but Flip was talking as he made his jump and landed with one foot in the water.

It didn’t slow him down any, though. “We’ll just get a rough idea today and come back with graph paper and make a ground plan. It must have been a big devil.” He was plowing on ahead of me, kicking through the piles of wet, dead leaves.

Then I heard him say, “Shoes . . . a pair of shoes.” He was standing still, ankle-deep in the leaves. Before I caught up with him, he’d whirled around facing me. “Behind me,” he said in a funny, tight voice. I couldn’t figure out what had come over him. “Come on,” he said, “we’re getting out of here.” But he didn’t move. And neither did I.

He was swallowing air fast and breathing, “Jesus, oh Jesus.” I looked past him and saw a pair of shoes sticking up out of the leaves at a funny, splayfooted angle. They were leaf-colored and round-toed like old construction boots. They didn’t make any sense to me. I kept staring while Flip kind of half turned and tried to get another look out of the corner of his eye. Underneath the leaves, past the shoes, I saw what looked like a pile of old clothes. And farther up something else, something shiny.

There was a breeze that whisked the leaves around a little. I was staring at the shiny place, and then, right away, I was looking at a grin. A big, yawning grin right down on ground level and a black eye socket. A leaf was over the other one. And some hair on the clean, white bone of a skull’s forehead. I looked at it with both eyes, and Flip looked with one. It was a dead man, but I didn’t know it at first.

The parts seemed all disconnected. Some of it just looked like rags on the ground, except for the grin. I kept looking at it, and my mouth was open like the dead man’s. Then I saw one of the teeth in his jaw was gold. I knew then what I was looking at. I heeled around in slow motion and took off running back the way we’d come.

And when I came to the last concrete block we’d found, I flopped over flat on it and threw up in the creek.


March 22


Two local boys playing in the wooded, marshy area west of the Marquette Park duck pond discovered a badly decomposed corpse late Tuesday afternoon.

Alerted by the boys’ parents, the Police Department made investigation and have cordoned off the area to discourage curiosity seekers. Black Hawk County Coroner V. H. Horvath estimates the middle-aged male may have been dead for as long as three months. Police Chief Ross H. Heidenreich speculates that the man was a vagrant of the type who still follow the disused right of way of the St. Louis, Effingham & Terre Haute Railroad, running along the northern border of Marquette Park. Coroner Horvath has called an autopsy “well-nigh impossible” and has declared the death to be of “presumed natural causes.”

The youngsters, Philip Townsend, 12, son of Commander and Mrs. Wilmer Townsend, 134 Oakthorpe Avenue, and Brian Bishop, 12, son of Mr. and Mrs. Murray Bishop, 243 Oakthorpe Avenue, are students at the Coolidge Middle School.

Though Chief Heidenreich holds out scant hope for a positive identification, he calls for the cooperation of any persons who may have pertinent information.


March 24



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Dreamland Lake 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
pachun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Flip and Brian, two middle school boys find a body of a dead man while exploring the woods. Intrigued with the mystery of his death, Flip and Brian seeks to find out how this man had died and why. With several visits to where the body was found, the boys find various physical clues around the area. All of these items had swastikas, which encouraged the boys to wonder if these items were of the murderer. Their story, recounted by Brian's point of view tells a story of friendship surviving through different trials, coming of age, and even tragedy.Middle school boys may be able to relate to Brian and his adventures with his best buddy Flip. The story may seem like a mystery, but the ending doesn't really satisfy your questions. There wasn't really a theme that can be easily identified. I don't think this book is a must-have. It may be interesting to see what middle school boys think of this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! There was so much mystery and Suspence all combined in this one book ...and the ending will leave you stunned when you find out that someone dies! I dont want to give too much info out so I think that everyone should go out to barnes and nobel now and buy Dreamland Lake
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked around 20 decent-looking books to read over my Winter break. Of all the books, this is one of the best. Peck combines mystery and suspense with the powerful adventures friendship can lead to. Great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a very well written book that about two kids discovering a dead body near Dreamland Lake that led to two friends becomeing best friends because of all the investigating they had to do to find out who this body belonged too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Throughout history, many things have been discovered and rediscovered over and over again. Some may make an impact on the world, some may not. In the case of Dreamland Lake by Richard Peck, two boys' discovery makes a small, yet meaningful, impact on the town of Dunthorpe. The whole story starts when two bests friends, Bry and Flip, want to find out about their local history. They read about a place in a book called Dreamland Lake, so they decide to go check it out. There they find a body of a dead man. They report it to the police and of course they become locally famous. Then they go back to the spot where the body was to take some pictures. When they develop the pictures, they see a face in too of them. They get the pictures blown up and they find out that the face is Elvan Helligrew. Then they try to get close to Elvan to find out why he followed them. They manage to become 'friends' with him and they find out he's obsessed with the Nazis. This freaks them out so when Elvan goes too far, they try to end the friendship by meeting him at 'The Spot' . . . Both Bry and Flip change by the events in the story. They become amazed at their discovery at Dreamland Lake, which made them famous in Dunthorpe. Their fame soon dies down and their adventure really begins with Elvan. In the end, they are devastated and they wondered why what happened did happen and they regret it. Dunthorpe is a small town as you can imagine, not much news comes out of the town and goes to other places. This keeps the story centered in one place without goind anywhere else. This keeps the whole story straight with no false information leaving the town. The main theme of the story would be friendship. The story shows the different worlds that you can be led into through friendship. Whether it's hatred, love, or remorse, friendship is one road with a lot of forks in it. This is why I gave this story five stars. It truly shows how friendship is the path to all things in life.