Tag Archives: Horror

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller

Elizabeth & Zenobia by Jessica Miller. September 19, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 208 p. ISBN: 9781419727245.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.8; Lexile: 670.

Abandoned by her mother and neglected by her scientist father, timid Elizabeth Murmur has only her fearless friend, Zenobia, for company. And Zenobia’s company can be very trying! When Elizabeth’s father takes them to live in his family home, Witheringe House, Zenobia becomes obsessed with finding a ghost in the creepy old mansion and forces Elizabeth to hold séances and wander the rooms at night. With Zenobia’s constant pushing, Elizabeth investigates the history of the house and learns that it does hold a terrible secret: Her father’s younger sister disappeared from the grounds without a trace years ago.

Elizabeth and Zenobia is a wonderfully compelling middle-grade story about friendship, courage, and the power of the imagination.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Eerie content

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 4-7. Elizabeth’s best friend Zenobia (others might claim she’s imaginary, but she’s vividly real to Elizabeth) is utterly convinced there’s a ghost at Witheringe House, and she’s determined to use all her divining skills to find it. Elizabeth is terrified at the prospect, but she joins the hunt anyway, especially after mysterious pages of a fairy tale about a magical kingdom of plants appear in a book only at midnight, and she learns about her father’s late sister, Tourmaline, who disappeared from Witheringe House at age seven. Elizabeth and Zenobia’s polar-opposite personalities make the mood pretty playful at the beginning, but debut author Miller keeps the story certifiably eerie, thanks to a creepy gardener, weed-choked hedge maze, and mutating wallpaper in the abandoned nursery. As Elizabeth gets braver and more insistent on finding Tourmaline, Miller amplifies the wondrous-yet-weird elements of Witheringe House until they snowball into ghastly, creeping nightmares. Her spare, evocative language and direct sentences contribute to the suspenseful pacing, particularly toward the end, when the Plant Kingdom gets truly invasive. Comical characters, ghost story tropes, and a lively pair of intrepid protagonists help keep this spooky novel from getting too scary, and Bryksenkova’s faux-naïf illustrations contribute. Fans of Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest (2015) will appreciate this similarly atmospheric, haunting tale.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Debut novelist Miller concocts a blend of Gothic horror and spine-tingling mystery. Elizabeth feels lonely and forgotten when her father moves her to his ancestral home, Witheringe House, after her mother abandons the two of them. At least best friend Zenobia has come along, though with her contrary nature, Zenobia is not exactly a comfort. She’s also not exactly real. That is, not to anyone except Elizabeth. Aussie Miller sets her tale in the gauzy nebulousness of the early 20th century, delivering a stunning slow burn full of creepy atmospheric tension and heartbreaking loneliness. The back-and-forth dialogue between Elizabeth and her imaginary companion is laced with tension—give and take—illustrating the tumultuous extremes of Elizabeth’s psyche. Add a family nursery and wallpaper gardens in which the plant life appears real, a family cemetery, plus an alter ego in search of spirits from beyond and an ending as unpredictable as the beginning or middle—and what readers get is a fascinating tale that feels like Edgar Allen Poe, revisited. Miller’s painstaking crafting of language and attention to atmospheric detail create a clever story where nothing is as it seems. Drawings reminiscent of Gorey and references to gloomy classic poetry add beguiling texture. Eerie and dazzling—a perfect book for a dark and stormy afternoon or a favorite graveyard reading spot. (Horror. 9-13)

About the Author

Jessica Miller is a children’s writer and PhD student from Brisbane, Australia. She currently lives in Germany. Elizabeth and Zenobia is her first novel.

 

Around the Web

Elizabeth and Zenobia on Amazon

Elizabeth and Zenobia on Goodreads

Elizabeth and Zenobia on JLG

Elizabeth and Zenobia Publisher Page

Advertisements

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Thornhill by Pam Smy. August 29, 2017. Roaring Brook Press, 544 p. ISBN: 9781626726543.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.3.

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a Ella unravels the mystery of the girl next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines Mary s through intimate diary entries and Ella s in bold, striking art Pam Smy s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, and a suspense-filled story

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Murder, Bullying, Arson

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Dual stories set decades apart unfold together in this hybrid novel told in diary entries and eerie grayscale illustrations. More than 30 years ago, Mary Baines kept a diary about her life at Thornhill, an orphanage, and the cruel torment she experienced at the hands of another girl there. Meanwhile, in the present, Smy’s cinematic artwork shows lonesome Ella curious about the dilapidated former orphanage outside her window and the newspaper clippings she finds about a girl who went missing there, named Mary Baines. As Mary becomes more and more tormented for her love of books and the strange puppets she makes in her room, Ella sneaks onto Thornhill’s grounds and finds remnants of Mary’s dolls, which she takes home and lovingly repairs before returning them. The interplay between Mary’s diary entries and the images of Ella’s investigation builds depth in both girls’ narratives, though Ella’s can be a bit harder to decipher. Still, the enigmatic narrative, believable horrors, and haunting conclusion will be riveting for fans of ghost stories.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Decades after the tragedy at and closure of gothic Thornhill Institute, a new girl in town is drawn into its story.The past storyline is told through white, orphaned Mary’s diary entries (dated in the early 1980s); white preteen Ella’s modern, voiceless story unfolds, Wonderstruck-like, in intercut, illustrated, wordless sequences (frames of which occasionally have text, such as newspaper clippings). Selectively mute Mary is a puppet-making, literature-loving outcast at Thornhill, her situation complicated by the return of her chief tormenter and the ringleader of the other girls, back from a failed foster placement. These are Thornhill’s last days, the girls being sent to new placements so the property can be developed. Stoic Mary thinks she just wants to be left alone, until a taste of irresistible friendship turns to cruelty. In the present, lonely Ella is intrigued by Thornhill, especially the girl she sometimes sees beyond the locked walls. She sneaks onto the grounds, finds puppets, and repairs them before returning them, striking up an odd, at-a-distance friendship with the mysterious girl—who, she realizes, is likely the dead girl from the orphanage’s past. The puppets and doll figures take a familiar creepy motif and make it a source of joy and comfort. The striking monochromatic art is atmospheric and emotional in an understated way that gives it more power rather than less. It’s capped by an ambiguous climax and chilling denouement. Beautiful, moody, sad, and spooky—all at once. (Horror/graphic hybrid. 10-adult)

About the Author

Pam Smy studied Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, part of Anglia Ruskin University, where she now lectures part-time. Pam has illustrated books by Conan Doyle (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Julia Donaldson (Follow the Swallow) and Kathy Henderson (Hush, Baby, Hush!), among others. She lives in Cambridge.

Her website is pamsmy.blogspot.com

Around the Web

Thornhill on Amazon

Thornhill on Goodreads

Thornhill on JLG

Thornhill Publisher Page

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh. July 25, 2017. HarperCollins, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062430083.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 680.

We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh returns with Spirit Hunters, a high-stakes middle grade mystery series about Harper Raine, the new seventh grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. A riveting ghost story and captivating adventure, this tale will have you guessing at every turn!

Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Dark subject matter including allusions to self-harm, Grotesque imagery

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 4-7. Harper feels it from the second her family moves into the creaky, old house: there is something deeply evil lurking there. She’s always been attune to the spirit world, a fact that has frightened her parents into denial. She even had an encounter with a ghost so terrifying and damaging that she was sent to a mental institution for a while. This relocation to D.C. was supposed to be a fresh start for their family, but Harper soon realizes with horror that her sweet little brother Michael is being possessed by the malevolent ghost of an evil boy who died in the house years before. As Michael grows more and more violent under the spirit’s control, Harper realizes that her family is in grave danger. Can she learn to master her powers and conquer her fears to defeat the spirit before it overtakes her brother completely? Oh’s book is truly and deeply creepy, with increasingly haunting and disturbing imagery culminating in a wonderful and terrifying battle of spirits. Even more impressive than the shiver factor is the way the author skillfully uses the compelling premise to present a strong, consistent message of not rejecting what you don’t understand—a most welcome message.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
A neophyte Korean shaman, or “mudang,” takes center stage in this chilling thriller by Oh, of We Need Diverse Books.The story starts when mixed-race 12-year-old Harper Raine, who is half white and half Korean, moves into a new home in Washington, D.C., that her new Jamaican friend, Dayo, tells her is haunted. Before the Raines left New York City, Harper survived both a fire and a traumatizing illness, but she has blocked all memories of these events. The creepiness ramps up in mind, gut, and heart as readers see Harper’s little brother making a new “friend” in their home. As she witnesses an evil spirit slowly overtaking her brother, Harper’s memories begin to resurface. While Harper selflessly tries to save her brother’s life from multiple evils, she juggles the psychological conflict of her mother’s broken relationship with Harper’s beloved Korean grandmother, who lives nearby. The tension of the life-ending danger stretches across sometimes confusingly paced chapters, as help arrives slowly. While the writing level skews young, the graphic content is gruesome. Readers will not want harm to come to the likable Raine family. The well-rounded and diverse cast provides interesting cultural touchstones of Korean and Jamaican heritage throughout the novel. Korean shamanism, specifically, is explored with respect and curiosity. Combining Korean-American experience with ancient cultural traditions for a new twist on exorcism, this tale’s for beginning horror fans and readers looking for a decent scare. (Horror. 10-14)

About the Author

Originally from New York City, Ellen Oh is the founder of We Need Diverse Books and the author of the Prophecy trilogy (ProphecyWarrior, and King) for young adults. Spirit Hunters is her fourth book and her first for middle grade readers. A former adjunct college instructor and lawyer with an insatiable curiosity for ancient Asian history, Ellen lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and three daughters and has yet to satisfy her quest for a decent bagel.

Her website is www.ellenoh.com

Around the Web

Spirit Hunters on Amazon

Spirit Hunters on Goodreads

Spirit Hunters on JLG

Spirit Hunters Publisher Page

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield. May 2, 2017. First Second, 211 p. ISBN: 9781596439368.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

Part of series: The Spill Zone (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Smoking, Gore, Horror themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. As he did in the YA favorite Uglies (2005), Westerfeld crafts a world drastically and subtly altered by an extranormal development, then rivetingly explores its practical and psychological consequences. The development in this case is something otherworldly that has “spilled” into a small town in upstate New York. Addison illegally penetrates the spill zone to photograph its disturbing effects on people, animals, and environment and sells the pictures as black-market art to support her little sister, an escapee from the spill zone but not, perhaps, from its effects. When Addison is approached with a shady deal to penetrate the zone more deeply than ever before, she will have to break every rule she’s ever set to buy freedom for her sister and herself. Westerfeld handles the spooky business of the infected town magnificently, spiking the eerie and inexplicable with moments of genuine horror while always keeping the emotional tensions of his highly accessible teenage protagonist at the center. Puvilland provides rough, gritty visuals that deliver on the haunted world of the zone as well as the more realistic world of subterfuge and danger that Addison must navigate. The story breaks at a high-tension moment with plenty left to resolve in book two, but it is nevertheless a terrifically satisfying read.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
This first entry in a creepy, addictively suspenseful graphic novel series makes for compulsive reading. Three years ago, something very strange happened in Poughkeepsie, New York–no one is certain exactly what–but weird things happened in the city and weird things now populate it. Although the entire Spill Zone has been cordoned off, Addie continues to live just inside the checkpoint with her younger sister, Lexa (who doesn’t speak, except to her doll Vespertine), after losing both parents in the Spill. Addie regularly and illegally rides through the Spill Zone on her motorcycle, photographing the bizarre things she witnesses and selling her pictures to a local art dealer. Then a wealthy collector (who, it turns out, has bought up all of Addie’s photographs) makes her an offer she can’t refuse: a million dollars for retrieving a single item from a building inside the Spill Zone. As Addie sets out on her mission, the local authorities discover that she is the rogue motorcyclist; the North Koreans (who are also interested in this item) begin to close in; and, worst of all, Vespertine becomes animated by the same evil presence that permeates the Spill Zone. Puvilland’s dynamic panel layouts, striking use of unexpected colors, and sketchy line work serve the story well while conveying the unsettling mood of the piece. Westerfeld has set up his series with a provocative premise, and as the precise nature of the Spill Zone continues to be revealed, the stakes are sure to be raised accordingly in future volumes. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Scott Westerfeld is a New York Times bestselling author of YA. He was born in the Texas and now lives in Sydney and New York City. In 2001, Westerfeld married fellow author Justine Larbalestier.

His website is www.scottwesterfield.com.

 Around the Web

Spill Zone  on Amazon

Spill Zone on Goodreads

Spill Zone on JLG

 

Spill Zone Publisher Page

Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ by Miles Hyman

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman. October 25, 2016. Hill and Wang, 160 p. ISBN: 9780809066490.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 560.

The classic short story–now in full color

Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” continues to thrill and unsettle readers nearly seven decades after it was first published. By turns puzzling and harrowing, “The Lottery” raises troubling questions about conformity, tradition, and the ritualized violence that may haunt even the most bucolic, peaceful village.

This graphic adaptation by Jackson’s grandson Miles Hyman allows readers to experience “The Lottery” as never before, or to discover it anew. He has crafted an eerie vision of the hamlet where the tale unfolds and the unforgettable ritual its inhabitants set into motion. Hyman’s full-color, meticulously detailed panels create a noirish atmosphere that adds a new dimension of dread to the original story.

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation stands as a tribute to Jackson, and reenvisions her iconic story as a striking visual narrative.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; depiction of nudity

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” gets graphic treatment by the author’s grandson in this adaptation of her most well-known work. Using an effective combination of striking visual images and pithy snippets of dialogue, the story, about an annual ritual of sacrifice in a small town and the dangers of blindly following tradition, is distilled to its brutal core. The story is well served by the bold illustrations—intensely saturated color work seems at first incongruous with iconic images that hearken back to the mid-twentieth century, but it lends intensity to the panels. Hyman has a keen eye for composition and creates strong visual interest with unusual angles, using a variety of panel sizes and perspectives to pull the reader in as the scenes unfold from different viewpoints. Lonesome street scenes and empty fields only heighten the sense of isolation and unease delivered by the text, and deliberate visual pacing during a pivotal scene focuses all the reader’s attention on the drama swiftly unfolding. One of the strongest graphic adaptations of a classic work to come along in some time.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2016)
A stunning graphic adaptation of a chilling classic. Hyman, grandson of Shirley Jackson, original author of “The Lottery,” offers his interpretation of her iconic story. In it, townspeople gather to partake in a disturbing tradition—the origins of and reasons for which we are not told. There is mention of bigger towns, where the lottery takes two days, and talk of other, radical towns where the lottery has been eliminated altogether. To follow their lead would mean regressing to living in caves and “eating stewed chickweed and acorns.” Each head of family must draw from an heirloom box a slip of paper. He who draws the slip with the black, circular mark is chosen; his family must draw again. The member of his family who draws the marked slip will be stoned, presumably to death, by the rest of the town, including the remaining family members. Hyman’s illustrations are powerful: rich and evocative graphic realism, softly colored, marrying Rockwell-ian and American Gothic style. The tone, at first, is both ominous and mundane. As the townspeople gather in the June sun, they banter with familiar ease—“Wouldn’t have me leave m’dishes in the sink, now, would you, Joe?”—but beneath the banal, the mood is decidedly baleful. When the black spot is drawn, the mood, along with the color scheme, shifts dramatically: both are immediately drained of the bucolic and sonorous. The rest of the story is starkly depicted in black, white, and harvest orange. The most unnerving illustration depicts a small boy taking up a fistful of child-sized rocks to aim at his pleading mother.A haunting story of humanity’s herd mentality, brilliantly rendered.

About the Author

A Vermont native, artist and author Miles Hyman currently lives in Paris. His prize-winning adaptation, with screenwriters Matz and David Fincher, of James Ellroy’s novel “The Black Dahlia” appeared to rave reviews in 2013. Upcoming publications include his authorized graphic adaptation of his grandmother Shirley Jackson’s thrilling masterpiece, “The Lottery” (Hill and Wang, October 2016).

Her website is www.mileshyman.com.

Teacher Resources

The Lottery Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” on Amazon

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” on Goodreads

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” on JLG

Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” Publisher Page

The Inn Between by Marina Cohen

The Inn Between by Marina Cohen. March 22, 2016. Roaring Brook Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9781626722026.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 580.

The Shining meets “Hotel California” in this supremely creepy middle grade novel about the bizarre things that happen to two girls stranded at a desert inn.

Eleven-year-old Quinn has had some bad experiences lately. She was caught cheating in school, and then one day, her little sister Emma disappeared while walking home from school. She never returned

When Quinn’s best friend Kara has to move away, she goes on one last trip with Kara and her family. They stop over at the first hotel they see, a Victorian inn that instantly gives Quinn the creeps, and she begins to notice strange things happening around them. When Kara’s parents and then brother disappear without a trace, the girls are stranded in a hotel full of strange guests, hallways that twist back in on themselves, and a particularly nasty surprise lurking beneath the floorboards. Will the girls be able to solve the mystery of what happened to Kara’s family before it’s too late?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Dark subject matter including death; child abduction; and vivid depiction of hell; Grotesque imagery

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2016 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Long-time friends Quinn and Kara find their friendship sorely tested when Kara’s family moves to California and Quinn accompanies them on a road trip to their new home. An unexpected stop at a strange desert inn full of increasingly spooky disappearances reminds Quinn too vividly of how her younger sister, Emma, went missing earlier that year. When Kara’s parents and brother appear to vanish, Quinn is determined to solve the inn’s mystery. The employees have names that might tip off astute readers to the inn’s real nature—Sharon and Persephone, for instance. Eerie flashbacks to Emma’s plight haunt Quinn, who catches glimpses of the little girl at the inn, but always in places she can’t reach. In an attempt to escape, the girls face increasing terror—a subbasement of horror and a flight across a scorching landscape that further tests the way Quinn and Kara are linked. For readers who enjoy being scared silly, this will fit the bill while also providing them with a thought-provoking ending.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2016)
A haunted hotel seeks new victims in this middle-grade suspense novel. Eleven-year-old Quinn’s best friend, Kara, is moving. Quinn is having difficulty letting go, so she makes the trip from Denver to Santa Monica with Kara and her family. When Kara’s parents stop to rest at the Inn Between, a grand Victorian hotel in the desert, Quinn is unnerved by the hotel’s strange architecture, its isolated location, and the odd guests and even odder hotel employees. Kara’s parents and brother disappear after the first night. Knowing they aren’t safe, the girls resolve to escape, even if it means traveling through the hot desert with little food and water, but before Quinn can leave the Inn Between, she must wrestle with some demons–both literally and figuratively. Shifting between past and present as Quinn reflects on her difficult relationship with her younger sister, Emma, and her immediate dilemma with Kara and the Inn Between, Cohen’s emotionally gripping tale perfectly captures the essences of friendship and sibling love. Heavy themes are handled with sensitivity, offering a cathartic experience for readers who may be dealing with similar situations. Readers should not be misled by the book’s innocuous cover–the book deals with such dark subjects as death and child abduction, and the concept of hell is described in vivid, frightening detail. Readers looking for a mystery with heart, humor, and hairy moments will be captivated. (Supernatural fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Marina Cohen grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, where she spent far too much time asking herself what if… She has an M.A. in French Literature and is the author of several horror and fantasy novels for kids and teens.

In elementary school, one of her favorite authors was Edgar Allen Poe. She loved stories like The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum and aspired to write similar stories. She is a lover of the fantastical, the bizarre, and all things creepy.

Her website is www.marinacohen.com.

Around the Web

The Inn Between on Amazon

The Inn Between on Goodreads

The Inn Between on JLG

The Inn Between Publisher Page

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. February 7, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 224 p. ISBN: 0374282102.

Life in a small town takes a dark turn when mysterious footage begins appearing on VHS cassettes at the local Video Hut

Jeremy works at the counter of Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. It’s a small town—the first “a” in the name is pronounced ay—smack in the center of the state. This is the late 1990s, pre-DVD, and the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut. But there are regular customers, a predictable rush in the late afternoon. It’s good enough for Jeremy: It’s a job; it’s quiet and regular; he gets to watch movies; he likes the owner, Sarah Jane; it gets him out of the house, where he and his dad try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when Stephanie Parsons, a local schoolteacher, comes in to return her copy of Targets, starring Boris Karloff—an old movie, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store—she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, Lindsey Redinius brings back She’s All That, a new release, and complains that there’s something wrong with it: “There’s another movie on this tape.”

So Jeremy takes a look. And indeed, in the middle of the movie the screen blink dark for a moment and She’s All That is replaced by a black-and-white scene, shot in a barn, with only the faint sounds of someone breathing. Four minutes later, She’s All That is back. But there is something profoundly disturbing about that scene; Jeremy’s compelled to watch it three or four times. The scenes recorded onto Targets are similar, undoubtedly created by the same hand. Creepy. And the barn looks a lot like a barn just outside of town.

Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious. In truth, it freaks him out, deeply. This has gone far enough, maybe too far already. But Stephanie is pushing, and once Sarah Jane takes a look and becomes obsessed, there’s no more ignoring the disturbing scenes on the videos. And all of a sudden, what had once been the placid, regular old Iowa fields and farmhouses now feels haunted and threatening, imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. For Jeremy, and all those around him, life will never be the same . . .

Book Trailer

About the Author

John Darnielle (born March 16, 1967) is an American musician and novelist best known as the primary (and often solitary) member of the American band the Mountain Goats, for which he is the writer, composer, guitarist, pianist, and vocalist.

Teacher Resources

Around the Web

Universal Harvester on Amazon

Universal Harvester on Goodreads

Universal Harvester on JLG

Universal Harvester Publisher Page

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox. March 15, 2016. Viking Books for Young Readers, 400 p. ISBN: 9780451476333.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 740.

An eerie gothic fairytale with a World War II setting and magic at its heart– and the recipient of four starred reviews and multiple honors.

Twelve-year-old Katherine Bateson believes in a logical explanation for everything. But even she can’t make sense of the strange goings-on at Rookskill Castle, the drafty old Scottish castle-turned-school where she and her siblings have been sent to escape the London Blitz. What’s making those mechanical shrieks at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And who are the silent children who seem to haunt Rookskill’s grounds? Kat believes Lady Eleanor, who rules the castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must face the truth about what the castle actually harbors–and what Lady Eleanor is–before it’s too late.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns; Mild language; Child abuse; Ethnic slurs

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Robbie is thrilled at the prospect of going to school in a Scottish castle, an escape from London’s Blitz during WWII. His older sister, Katherine, takes a more measured view, suspicious of what lies ahead: their father plays an undercover role in MI6, Britain’s intelligence service, and has trained Kat in his clock-repair business (“You’ve a mind for patterns and a careful, patient hand”). Kat’s suspicions only increase when her great-aunt Margaret hands over her odd-looking chatelaine, an antique belt with charms attached—each supposed to be suffused with magic should Kat need it. Sure enough, a dark and perilous challenge lies ahead, and Kat is destined to take it on, though the level of malice she faces may be greater than she expected. Lady Eleanor, ostensibly in charge of the castle and school, is a malevolent force straight out of horror tales, and the children will need to fight for their lives—and souls. This wonderfully written gothic fairy tale pairs the horror elements with a steampunk witch and mysterious staff, all while telling a war-espionage tale. Embedded lessons—even including Plato’s cave allegory—from a pair of sympathetic castle teachers provide clues to defeating the evil witch. Readers will curl up and keep the lights on with this chilling page-turner.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2015)
During the Blitz, 12-year-old Londoner Kat, along with two younger siblings and an American boy, is sent to a distant relative’s Scottish castle, where they confront evils both old and contemporary. Though Lady Eleanor claims to be starting an academy in her castle and has hired faculty to attend to the curriculum, it’s soon clear that none are what they claim to be. The old castle keep is burned out, and the newer part seems to have weird twists and turns, secret doors and strange goings-on, including several ghostly children. Clues multiply early on that Eleanor is the same woman for whom the creepy, unnamed village magister has replaced living parts one by one over decades, each given in payment for a charm for a child’s soul. Kat’s father–now away working for MI6–is a watchmaker, and Kat has his gift for numbers, gears, and puzzles. Witchy magic, Nazi menace, and clockwork all come into play, along with an Enigma machine and spies for both the Allies and the Nazis seeking occult sources of power or protection. After the breathtaking climax, various threads of the story are tied up in a drawing-room denouement in which the characters decide to dispose of toxic magical artifacts rather carelessly–though in a way that invites anticipation (and fortuitously leaves room for sequels). An original, clever, page-turning adventure. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

About the Author

Janet S. Fox (Janet Fox) is a writer, mom, and former high school English teacher. Her first young adult novel Faithful (Speak/Penguin, 2010), was a 2011 Amelia Bloomer list pick, and is set in Yellowstone National Park in 1904. Forgiven, a companion YA novel (Speak/Penguin, 2011) set in 1906 San Francisco at the time of the Great Earthquake, was a Junior Library Guild selection and WILLA Literary Award finalist. Janet’s third YA, Sirens (Speak, 1012), is a “noir romance” set in 1925 New York. Get Organized Without Losing It is her award-winning middle grade self-help book for kids (Free Spirit Publishing, 2006), and her debut middle grade novel, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, is a spooky historical fantasy set in Scotland (Viking, 2016). Look for her second middle grade novel, The Last True Knight, from Viking in 2018. Janet is a 2010 graduate of the MFA/Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Janet currently lives in the mountains of Montana. The family loves dogs and is ruled by a rambunctious yellow lab puppy.

Her website is www.janetsfox.com.

Teacher Resources

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle Discussion and Activity Guide

Around the Web

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle on Amazon

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle on JLG

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle on Goodreads

 

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew Kirby

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew Kirby. September 27, 2016. Scholastic Press, 352 p. ISBN: 9780545817844.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 850.

Fear the living more than the dead.

It’s London 1888, and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the people of the city. Evelyn, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work in a matchstick factory, who has nowhere to go, does not know what to make of her new position as a maid to the Elephant Man in the London Hospital. Evelyn wants to be locked away from the world, like he is, shut in from the filth and dangers of the streets. But in Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, she finds a gentle kindred who does not recoil from her and who understands her pain.

When the murders begin, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper’s dead, setting Evelyn on a path to facing her fears and uncovering humanity’s worst nightmares.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Sexual assault; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. After a fateful stint in Bryant and May’s match factory leaves 17-year-old orphan Evelyn Fallow with “phossy jaw”—and the scars that come with it—she seeks refuge within the supposedly secure walls of the London Hospital. Assigned to attend the notorious Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, Evelyn is both boundlessly grateful and fiercely frightened. Though the two bond almost instantly, their friendship is swiftly punctuated by the arrival of late-night apparitions, which they soon recognize to be victims of “Leather Apron’s” concurrent murders. With the nightly return of each—first, the tormented Polly Nichols; second, the shrieking Annie Chapman; third, the inconsolable “Long Liz”; and, finally, the self-destructive Catherine Eddowes—Mr. Merrick’s fragile condition worsens. In order to save him, Evelyn will have to appease each spirit, inevitably confronting the squalor she escaped, as well as Jack the Ripper. While the anachronistic prose can be distracting, Kirby’s character development, particularly his portrayal of the extraordinary Mr. Merrick, is consistently impressive. Austen devotees are sure to appreciate Kirby’s commitment to the gothic entanglements of Northanger Abbey.

Publishers Weekly (June 27, 2016)
In this grisly fantasy from Kirby (the Dark Gravity Sequence), the year is 1888 and London’s slums are soon to be terrorized by Leather Apron (later known as Jack the Ripper), who murders prostitutes in the most gruesome manner possible. In a nearby East End hospital resides a monster of a gentler sort: Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, who has a new maid, 17-year-old Evelyn Fallows. Some would label Evelyn a monster as well, her jaw destroyed by phosphorus necrosis from working in a match factory. Evelyn is initially repulsed by Merrick’s deformity, but she soon recognizes him as a gentle soul. After the murders commence, the ghosts of Leather Apron’s victims begin to appear in Merrick’s room. Concerned about the effect of these monstrous apparitions on Merrick’s health, Evelyn ventures into the slums in an attempt to put the suffering ghosts to rest. Evelyn-all grit, anger, and distrust-is a complex and engaging character, the slums and slang of Victorian-era London are carefully delineated, and the eventual revelation of Leather Apron’s identity and fate will leave readers gasping. Ages 12-up. Agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary.

About the Author

Matthew Kirby was born in Utah, and grew up in Maryland, California, and Hawaii. As an undergraduate he majored in history, and then went on to pursue an M.S. in school psychology. For ten months out of the year he works with students, and during the rest of the year he writes. He and his wife currently live in northern Utah.

His website is www.matthewjkirby.com.

Teacher Resources

Jack the Ripper Activities and Questions

Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man) Biography

Around the Web

A Taste for Monsters on Amazon

A Taste for Monsters on JLG

A Taste for Monsters on Goodreads

 

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

The Creeping Shadow: Lockwood & Co. Book 4 by Jonathan Stroud. September 13, 2016. Disney-Hyperion, 464 p. ISBN: 9781484709672.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.0; Lexile: 690.

After leaving Lockwood & Co. at the end of The Hollow Boy, Lucy is a freelance operative, hiring herself out to agencies that value her ever-improving skills. One day she is pleasantly surprised by a visit from Lockwood, who tells her he needs a good Listener for a tough assignment. Penelope Fittes, the leader of the giant Fittes Agency wants them–and only them–to locate and remove the Source for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. They succeed in their very dangerous task, but tensions remain high between Lucy and the other agents. Even the skull in the jar talks to her like a jilted lover. What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving Steve Rotwell and Penelope Fittes just may do the trick. But, in a shocking cliffhanger ending, the team learns that someone has been manipulating them all along….

Part of Series: Lockwood & Company

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Murder; Violent imagery; Cannibalism; Suicide

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 5-8. Though Lucy’s making a go of it as a freelance psychic investigator, when Lockwood knocks on her door, asking for help with a case, she’s willing to work with the old firm again. Their tasks escalate from eradicating the ghost of a cannibalistic Londoner to descending, unarmed, into a den of brutal thugs and thieves. Soon the four young Lockwood agents stumble upon their most alarming and momentous challenge yet. Dispatching a vicious ghost is one thing, but uncovering a vast scheme of calculated evildoing is quite another. While the novel’s epic climax will please any lover of chills, thrills, and explosions, the simultaneous conversational counterpoint is not to be missed. A revelation in the concluding pages will leave readers wondering what dark secret lies behind the plague of spirits terrorizing England for 50 years. The wry first-person narrative is a pleasure, relating the story with an impeccable, understated sense of drama. Appearing at chapter headings, Adams’ dark, richly atmospheric, and often ghostly vignette drawings can make even a sandwich look downright sinister. Stroud’s scene setting and storytelling are second to none, but it’s his ability to create credible, idiosyncratic characters and relationships that makes avid fans of the Lockwood & Co. series.

About the Author

Jonathan Stroud is an author of fantasy books, mainly for children and youths.

Stroud grew up in St Albans where he enjoyed reading books, drawing pictures, and writing stories. Between the ages seven and nine he was often ill, so he spent most of his days in the hospital or in his bed at home. To escape boredom he would occupy himself with books and stories. After he completed his studies of English literature at the University of York, he worked in London as an editor for the Walker Books store. He worked with different types of books there and this soon led to the writing of his own books. During the 1990s, he started publishing his own works and quickly gained success.

Stroud lives in St Albans, Hertfordshire, with his two children, Isabelle and Arthur, and his wife Gina, an illustrator of children’s books.

His website is www.jonathanstroud.com.

Around the Web

The Creeping Shadow on Amazon

The Creeping Shadow on JLG

The Creeping Shadow on Goodreads