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David Tank 2

"Secret Santa: The Mystery of the Magic Watch," by David Tank.

Retired UW-Stout English professor David Tank has done it—again! If you’re looking for an original, locally-created gift for that little reader in your life, look no further.

Each chapter opens with a clue: a vintage photograph to tempt your imagination. Author Tank has packed this new escapade with many historical factoids, and woven into the characters’ lives are enduring life lessons. The gift of family, how stealing is stupid and whenever time-traveling always bring plenty of Milky Way candy bars to share.

This is the second Secret Santa mystery, and boy are the stars of the story off on a major magical adventure! As you probably already are well aware, time travel is a really handy way to get from one place to another, especially if you’re Santa and have all those gifts to deliver in only one night.

Normally this may seem a nearly impossible endeavor, but Nick, alias Santa, is not only the man behind the white beard, but also an avid inventor. One of those inventions is the Chronambulator, a time-traveling machine with many uses. As Nick’s knowledge of the invention grew, his closet-sized time machine shrunk to the size of a pocket watch.

Even Santa can be influenced by the myriad of advances in technology and in the case of his magical watch, a visit to the Apple Store was the catalyst.

“I’ve been using the Smart Watch as my inspiration, ” Nick says. “I’m shrinking the workings for my time machine down to a size that will fit into a pocket watch, which is synchronized with the full-sized Chronambulator. Let me show you.”

Sam, who is almost 12, and his sister Abby, 7, are the time-traveling duo along with their leader Nick. Abby inadvertently pockets the watch and literally disappears back to New York City; the year is 1922.

Besides the overall journey-through-time escapade, the reader is also given a great deal of historical facts to consider in the very real way author Tank shapes this story for his protagonists, such as the fact that sheep used to roam Central Park. That the merry-go-round ride running back in 1922 was actually driven by steam. After befriending not only the great magician Houdini but his wife, you even learn the secret of one of his most famous tricks! Which is—how in the world do you make an elephant disappear? Actually, the secret is safe with Abby.

By the time the story winds up, it is Christmas Day, and since the children had been time-traveling, no one is the wiser. All in all, this mystery will not only have your kids ready to find a watch like Abby’s, but also remember that the true gift of the holidays is found wherever family is gathered and magic is possible.

Happy holidays!

  • Stocking stuffer for sure
  • Invite author Tank to speak at your school
  • to order

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Jay Gilbertson is the Wisconsin author of The Madeline Island Series. His website is; “Like” him on Facebook, too. Feel free to contact Jay at


Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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