By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer
(Nov. 26, 2020) School teacher Maria Grosskettler will sign copies of her historical fiction book, “Tracks,” Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Greyhound Independent Bookstore and Fine Art Gallery on South Main Street in Berlin.
“The cool thing about ‘Tracks’ is from an outside perspective you wouldn’t really know the historical relevance of the things that I mention in the book, but if you’re from Berlin and you know the history of Berlin, there’s a lot of historical pieces that I tie in,” Grosskettler said.
She self-published the book this summer.
“Tracks” follows Natalie and John Paul, 12-year-olds who live in Berlin, as they unravel mysteries after strange men arrive to town.
The main characters explore abandoned train stations, old museums, and the haunted Atlantic Hotel to possibly solve a half-century old missing person case.
The title has figurative and literal layers.
“It’s twofold. It’s the tracks of life that people go on and where your tracks lead and how we have these crossroads that arise, but then also in the book, one of the key points is the trains and when they stopped running,” Grosskettler said.
She added that her main character, Natalie, sees the tracks as a route out of town and away from her problems.
Grosskettler was inspired to write “Tracks” from her husband’s recollections of Berlin. “He grew up there, and we have visited there many times,” she said. “We love it.”
Her husband lived on Jefferson Street as a child and had an unusual neighbor.
“It just made me think how little kids interpret different people in the world, especially when you’re growing up and you don’t really know the big picture of the world,” Grosskettler said. “That story resonated with me, and I just started thinking about all these people in the world who have untold stories, that we only see them from the outside looking in.”
Grosskettler hopes young readers realize that everyone has a story.
“Don’t judge someone by the outside or from stories you heard of them or situations that they’re going through in life even,” she said. “We need to be open to understanding everybody.”
Although “Tracks” takes place in 2020, Grosskettler captures Berlin from her husband’s memory when the town was struggling.
“The storyline is that this person who comes to town is going to help lead to that revitalization piece,” Grosskettler said.
Originally, Grosskettler set the narrative in the 1990s, but a literary agent advised against it.
“That’s not what kids want right now because it’s not relevant to them,” Grosskettler said. “They have cell phones. They have Instagram. They have this world of technology.”
“Tracks” is targeted to children between third and fifth grade.
Grosskettler, a first-grade teacher at Cape St. Claire Elementary School in Annapolis, said the reading level is for upper level 9-year-olds to 13-year-olds.
“My first-grade parents have bought the book and are loving reading it aloud to the kids, so even though the kids can’t read it themselves, they can still get joy out of the story,” she said.
Paperback copies are available at The Greyhound, Old Fox Books in Annapolis, Franklin’s Toys in the Park Plaza Shopping Center in Severna Park and Barnes & Noble in Annapolis for $12.99.
Grosskettler plans to write a sequel to “Tracks” and another book set in Lewes, Delaware.
“The book closes nicely, but there’s definitely still stories that could be told,” she said. “As I was writing it, I kind of already had the sequel playing out in my head and now that [‘Tracks’] is out there, I’m already getting requests for a sequel and a prequel.”
Grosskettler will also be writing lesson plans about ‘Tracks’ for other teachers to incorporate the book into their curriculums. The plans will be available soon on her website.
“As a teacher, I truly value literacy education, and I constantly say that out of everything that we can give the kids, teaching them to read is the greatest gift that they will ever have,” she said.
For more information, visit www.mariagrosskettler.com.
Ocean City resident Gemma Hoskins will also be at The Greyhound on Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to sign copies of her debut book, “Keeping On.” Stephanie Fowler, author and owner of Salt Water Media, a self-publishing company in Berlin, will join the authors to sign copies of “Chasing Alice.”