(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Waldameer’s Mega Vortex isn’t just a ride — it’s an alien spaceship, and it’s giving Lux, a social media star, superpowers for the Waldameer arcade. As proof of his superpowers, Lux plays countless perfect games of Skee-Ball. Are aliens real? Did they give Lux superpowers? The detectives of the “Waldameer Mystery Files” aim to find out in the newest book, “The Arcade Absurdity.”
It’s the fourth installment in a series of children’s books that are set at Waldameer and Water World. It’s an apt setting for author David Gorman who is a modern authority on the topic. Gorman’s family owns and operates the Erie amusement and waterpark. In fact, he grew up working at the park, first as a wrist-bander, then as a food server at large events before finally graduating into office work, answering phones and handling customer service.
“Waldameer is a really fun place. There are a lot of different people from different backgrounds that come to the park,” Gorman said of the park. “I don’t work at the park anymore, but my family still runs the park. This is my way of being connected to the park from afar.”
Gorman has an undergraduate degree in creative writing and he also has a master’s degree in school counseling. He spent time teaching English in Vietnam after earning his undergrad degree.
The “Waldameer Mystery Files” series is essentially a case of stars aligning — fate. Gorman’s personal upbringing, his passion for creative writing, his experience abroad and being immersed in a new and unfamiliar culture, and his vocation (as a day job, Gorman is a middle school counselor in Virginia) are combined to create the series.
“I’ve always been drawn to being a mentor figure to kids, also I just love education, so I put two and two together and through that, school counseling was a great fit.” Gorman said. “I incorporate characters who are immigrants and refugees so that there’s a global perspective in the books. Those perspectives teach children about other countries and their traditions.”
The first book of the series, “The Long-Lost Locket,” was released in 2016. That was followed by “The Sneaky Sabotage,” which Gorman says is his favorite book of the series (“The Whacky Shack is one of my favorite rides, so ‘Sneaky Sabotage’ will probably always be my favorite,” he said). The third book of the series is “The Curious Clues.” Now there’s “The Arcade Absurdity.”
These are children’s books for ages seven through 11. They can each be read as standalone stories, but Gorman says they’re best enjoyed read in order to appreciate the recurring characters and settings. And while they’re intended to be enjoyable and engaging mystery stories, they’re also written with the intent of being taught in classrooms. The books deal in themes that are necessary for the development of children — friendship, second chances, teamwork, integrity, empathy, overcoming fears, critical thinking and internet smarts.
“As an educator, I very much wrote my books with teachers in mind. Each book has discussion questions and activities for teachers to use,” Gorman said. “I have had teachers read the books with their class and put it in the school library. One of the goals is to have teachers read the books in school. Kids who maybe are reluctant readers, having a book about a place they know and love like Waldameer can excite them and get them to read more.”
The back of each book in the series includes teaching tools, like discussion points and activity guides. Gorman also makes himself available for Q&As and author talks.
While the books are written with Erie children in mind, Gorman said the books still have a broad appeal. Children in Ohio, New York and throughout western Pennsylvania have visited or know of Waldameer Park. And students who haven’t been to or don’t know about the park can still enjoy the setting, themes and story.
“I have friends in Virginia whose kids have read the books having not been to Waldameer. They’ve read the books and want to go. There’s a natural appeal,” Gorman said.
The books are available via Gorman’s website. He is planning to attend two upcoming book signings in Erie. The first will be at Pressed Books (1535 W. 8th St.) from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 21. That will be followed by a signing at Werner Books (3514 Liberty St.) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 22.