Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Ghosts roam The Shadow House… but who are they?

shadow-house_coverThe Gathering (Shadow House #1), by Dan Poblocki, (Aug. 2016, Scholastic Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9780545925501

Recommended for ages 8-12

Poppy is pretty much an orphan, abandoned as a baby and raised in a group home, where she’s known as “Crazy Poppy” because of the ghostly friend that lives in her mirror and who leaves her little gifts. She receives a letter from a long lost relative, thrilled to have found her, and invites her to live with her at Larkspur Estate.

Marcus is a musical prodigy who always hears music in his head. He receives a full scholarship to the Larkspur Academy of Music and can’t wait to be around other musicians.

Azumi is lost without her sister, who disappeared into a Japanese forest on a family trip. She receives word that she’s been accepted to the prestigious Larkspur Academy, where she can start over in a place where no one knows her.

Dash and Dylan are twin brothers, child stars who have left their show to go on to bigger and better things. They’re offered the chance to star in a horror movie to be filmed at a school… Larkspur Academy.

When the tweens all arrive at Larkspur, they realize that something is wrong. No one is there to greet them or explain what’s going on. Children wearing ghostly masks show up and try to attack them. What is really going on in the Shadow House?

This first book in a new middle grade horror series is a lot of fun, with a lot of creepiness that kids will love. If they’re ready for a little more than Goosebumps, but not old enough yet for Madeline Roux’s Asylum books, this is the book to give them. It’s a fast-paced read, switching between the points of view of the main characters (one of whom is hiding a whopper of a secret) and revealing little bits of information at a time. The ending left me a little wanting, but I’m hoping that book two, due in December, will clear the confusion up.

Scholastic is going all out with this series. There’s a Shadow House website with links to a healthy print excerpt, an audio excerpt, and an app that lets users explore the Shadow House. I haven’t downloaded it, but I may snag my son’s iPad (my phone is almost out of memory) and try it out. If you use it, comment here and let me know!

If you have horror fans, add this one to your list. I’ll booktalk this with the Haunted Mansion and Haunted Museum series.

 

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Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Dare you venture into The Haunted Mansion?

haunted mansionTales from The Haunted Mansion, Volume 1: The Fearsome Foursome, by Amicus Arcane (July 2016, Disney-Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4847-1329-7

Recommended for ages 9-12

Four school friends band together over a mutual love of horror stories, forming the group, The Fearsome Foursome. One night, the friends find themselves at a spooky house – a mansion – and head inside, where they meet librarian, Amicus Arcane, who sits them down to tell them a few stories. But the stories are starring each of the foursome, and things get a little spooky from there. Inspired by the Disney ride, The Haunted Mansion, this is the first volume of short stories starring the ride’s narrator and Haunted Mansion librarian, Amicus Arcane, and is sprinkled with little references to the Disney experience.

If you haven’t been to Disney and don’t know much about the ride, you won’t miss a thing. It’s still a book of good, macabre stories – like Goosebumps, taken up a notch – for middle graders. If you are familiar with the ride, though, these little references are an added wink and nudge, giving you a little creepy chuckle that runs up your spine; right next to that little chill that’s headed in the same direction.

The stories are fun, spooky, and come with a twist, and the final reveal made me look forward to reading more. There are hideous sea creatures, possessed baseball mitts, witch bones, and a dare that will leave readers cringing. It’s a fast, fun read; perfect for a summer book. I’d love to see a graphic novel adaptation – any chance we’ll get one, Disney?

A fun add to burgeoning horror collections. Booktalk it with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and, naturally, Goosebumps.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

New spooky fun series! Bruce Hale’s Monstertown Mysteries!

werehyenaMonstertown Mysteries: The Curse of the Were-Hyena, by Bruce Hale, (July 2016, Disney/Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4847-1325-9

Recommended for ages 8-12

It’s another day in Monterrosa, California, and buddies Carlos and Benny are in class with their favorite teacher, Mr. Chu. Who starts acting really weird. He’s laughing and growling, he’s quick to be angry and aggressive with students, and… well, you’ll read about the chicken incident. Carlos and Benny start investigating the situation, enlisting the help of their local comic book dealer and a classmate who elbows her way into the group, they discover that Mr. Chu has been bitten by a were-hyena, and unless they can find the alpha hyena in a couple of days – in time for the full moon – Mr. Chu is doomed to be a were-beast forever!

This is the first book in a new scary-fun series for middle graders by favorite, Bruce Hale, and it’s perfect for Goosebumps fans who are looking for new territory. The kids rule the stories, there’s great characterization, some laughs, and lots of excitement, adventure, and mystery. Adults take a backseat and let the kids get the work done, but they’re supportive and there to help, like Mrs. Tamasese, the former pro wrestler turned comic book shop owner.

There’s also some very nice diversity in the book, with characters of different ethnicities and abilities (including Mrs. Tamasese, who’s wheelchair-bound, but doesn’t let that stop her from going on adventures).

I loved the book, and think this one will work nicely with the kids here, who have read my Goosebumps collection (in both English and Spanish) until they fall apart. I introduced the Eerie Elementary books to my younger readers, and they’ve snapped them up; something tells me that Monstertown Mysteries are going to find a very happy home on my library’s shelves. The ending sets up for a series very nicely. There’s some fun black and white illustrations that will keep readers’ interest, especially once you get to the Big Bad Hyena.

Add this fun series (number two is due out in the Spring) to collections where spooky and fun go hand in hand. If you’ve got kids in your life who love creeptastic excitement, put this on your list.

Bruce Hale is a hugely popular children’s author: the Chet Gecko, the Underwhere, and School for S.P.I.E.S. series are just a few of his hits. You can check out his author website to learn more about his books, author visits, and find some cool downloads and activities.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Science, Mystery, and Magic: The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee

thelma beeThe Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee, by Erin Petti/Illustrated by Kris Aro McLeod, (Sept. 2016, Mighty Media), $16.99, ISBN: 9781938063725

Recommended for ages 9-13

Eleven year-old Thelma Bee is always doing something. She’s reading, she’s working on science experiments, she’s hanging out with her best friend – a guy! – Alexander. Her father runs an antique shop in town and her mother is always off on some kind of adventure, exploring and searching for different animals, so she’s got adventuring and imagination in her blood. When a dour woman shows up at her father’s shop with a small box, things start going very, very wrong: her father is kidnapped by a ghost that very night, and it’s up to Thelma, Alexander, and a local group of ghost hunters to get him back safely. It’s a scary mission, but one Thelma has to undertake – and she’ll learn a lot about herself in the process.

The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee is so much fun! Middle graders are going to love the smart, spunky middle grader that doesn’t care about the mean girls and their dopey fashion choices – she has better things to do. When her dad is kidnapped by a ghost, right in front of her, she charges into action, amassing the facts she knows and researching what she needs to fill in the gaps of her knowledge and save her dad. She’s a great heroine for middle graders, girls and boys alike, because she shows that science, facts, and a clear path of reasoning will get you through some tough times.

The book is fast-paced, leading us into action pretty quickly, and not letting any lag set in. I’ll be booktalking this one hard, and pairing her with Hermione (Harry Potter) and Annabeth (Percy Jackson) for my fantasy-loving readers. Put this one right next to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, Sally Gardner’s Wings & Co. series, and Karen Foxlee’s Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy to create a solid girl-power reading display.

The book trailer is below, and you can visit Mighty Media’s Thelma Bee page here. Erin Petti’s author page is here.

If you’re going to be at BEA/Book Con this week, I am SO envious! Have a great time, and visit Mighty Media at Booth 2170 when you get a chance! They’ll be at BookCon from 10am-6pm, and Erin Petti will be signing ARC’s of The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee at 1PM, with a bookstore event to follow at 5pm at (Uncharted Books). 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Eerie Elementary still stands… and Recess is a JUNGLE!

Eerie Elementary is a school with a secret – it’s ALIVE! Possessed by the spirit of Orson Eerie, the school is locked in an eternal battle to eat the children of Eerie Elementary, and only Sam Graves, the Hall Monitor (and his mentor, janitor Mr. Nekobi) stands in the way of that happening. Along with his friends, Antonio and Lucy, Sam battles the forces of evil and keeps Eerie Elementary safe.

recess

Eerie Elementary #3: Recess is a JUNGLE!, by Jack Chabert/Illustrated by Sam Ricks (Jan. 2015, Scholastic), $4.99, ISBN: 9780545873529

Recommended for ages 8-10

This time, though, old Eerie may have our group of friends where he wants them. While Sam, Antonio, and Lucy are kicking a soccer ball around at recess, the ball gets away from them. They chase after it, only to discover themselves in a foggy jungle! The grass and trees come alive, trying to keep them in, and when they make it back to the school grounds, they find themselves in a giant hedge maze – while the jungle gym comes to life and heads toward the school to devour the students! No, my friends, it’s not just the school that’s alive: it’s everything on the school grounds! Will Sam and his friends be able to rescue the students of Eerie Elementary this time?

This series is just too much fun. For kids who are ready to something a little spooky and fun, but aren’t quite ready to tackle Goosebumps yet, this is the series to give them. The Branches books are perfect for young and developing readers, with illustrations on every page and short, fast-paced, easy to read chapters. This is the third book in the Eerie Elementary series, and they just get better as they go. You don’t need to read the series from the beginning, either – there’s a sentence or two worth of summary in the story that tells new readers what they need to know, and they’ll be happy to pick up the first books after they’re done.

There’s a good Branches page on the Scholastic site that provides links to all the Branches series, plus links to classroom and parent guides. Pair these with the discussion questions at the back of the book and have a great book chat with the little readers in your life!

Posted in Fiction

Eerie Elementary: The School is Alive, and the Hall Monitor is Your Only Hope!

eerie elementaryEerie Elementary #1: The School is Alive! (A Branch Book), by Jack Chabert (Scholastic, June 2014). $4.99, ISBN: 9780545623926

Recommended for ages 7-10

Scholastic is great for putting out affordable series that keep kids reading, and Eerie Elementary is firmly in that camp. The first book in their new Eerie Elementary series, The School is Alive! introduces us to elementary school student, Sam Graves, and his friends, Antonio and Lucy. The school year is starting, and Sam is bemoaning the fact that he’s been named a Hall Monitor. On his first day of duty, he almost sinks into quicksand on school property and hears strange noises coming from the school itself. He finds out pretty quickly that the school is alive, and it’s evil – and that the Hall Monitor is the last line of defense in keeping the students safe. Naturally, his friends think he’s crazy, but he’s determined to see his job through and keep his friends and fellow students out of the clutches of the evil school building.

The series is part of Scholastic’s new Branches line of books – chapter books aimed at newly independent readers. The books feature illustrations on every page, easy-to-read text, and fast-paced stories. I liked seeing main characters of elementary school age; many characters in series books are in middle school or older, relegating elementary school characters often to the role of annoying younger sibling. Establishing these characters early on will connect with readers new to chapter books and give them some exciting reading. I can’t wait to get these on my shelves for my younger patrons who are ready for a thriller, but have a hard time finding them at their reading level.