All the Lovely Bad Ones

I’m sitting here in the dark writing about a ghost story. No, I’m not trying to set the mood for this post. For some reason, I have no lights in my library this morning. (Everything else is working fine, but it’s kind of dark in here.) I can’t see to do much work in the library, and very few students are coming down to check out, so I decided to go ahead and write up this post on a book I finished yesterday, All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for the past few years, and my students finally hounded me into it. If you’ve ever read any of Hahn’s other books (like The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall), you know that All the Lovely Bad Ones, winner of the 2011 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, is yet another ghost story. I just wasn’t prepared for exactly how much it would freak me out. This may be a children’s book, but it is creepy. Luckily, I read it during one sunny afternoon, so I didn’t have to worry about reading it in the dark. (Writing about it in the dark is bad enough, and, yes, I am a wuss of the highest order.)

In All the Lovely Bad Ones, siblings (and all-around troublemakers) Travis and Corey are spending the summer with their grandmother at her inn at Fox Hill, Vermont. The Fox Hill Inn has a history of being haunted, but the kids’ grandma thinks that’s all a bunch of hokum. Travis and Corey, though, think a haunted inn might be just the thing to boost business, so they get it into their heads to make visitors believe that Fox Hill does have some ghostly residents. What starts out as a prank, however, quickly becomes more than either child ever bargained for…

Without realizing what’s happened, Travis and Corey have apparently awakened the real ghosts of Fox Hill. Some of the ghosts seem to be rather harmless–moving things around, pinching, pulling hair, setting mice loose in the kitchen, etc.–but there’s one ghost who terrifies all who encounter her (even other ghosts). This ghost seems to be malicious, and Travis and Corey soon realize that it’s up to them to find out who this ghost is and how to finally put her–and the other ghosts–to rest.

As Travis and Corey search for what really happened at Fox Hill in the past, they will encounter some disturbing truths. Fox Hill has a dark history, and they will have to make things right before the ghostly residents can have the peace they’ve long been denied. Will these two kids be able to give the ghosts of Fox Hill the rest they crave? Are all of the ghosts even willing to move on? Find out how the dead are finally put to rest–and how the living cope with the truth–when you read All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn.

After reading this book, it’s easy to see why so many of my students love it. It’s scary without being too terribly threatening, and good wins out in the end. (I’ve only read two of Mary Downing Hahn’s books at this point, but I assume that most, if not all, of her ghost stories are like this. It works.) This book may also convince young readers to research the concept poor farms or poorhouses and how the poor were–and still are–treated in society.

For more information on All the Lovely Bad Ones and other books by Mary Downing Hahn, visit http://www.hmhbooks.com/features/mdh/. You may also enjoy the book trailer below. It was created by librarian Analine Johnson from Centeno Elementary in Laredo, Texas. This trailer perfectly captures the creepy tone of All the Lovely Bad Ones. Enjoy!

True (…Sort of)

I love it when new books remind me of old favorites.  My latest read, True (…Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan, brought to mind such favorites as The Great Gilly Hopkins and Maniac Magee.  This nominee for the 2012-2013 South Carolina Children’s Book Award tells the tale of Delly, a young girl who has a very close relationship with trouble.  (I have a feeling quite a few of my students will identify with Delly.)  No matter what she does, or how good her intentions might be, Delly gets into predicaments that get her labeled as a “bad kid.”  Now, Delly knows she’s not really bad, but the people around her are starting to make her think that she’ll never outrun the trouble that always seems to follow her.  With the arrival of a new kid in town, however, Delly may have a chance to turn everything around…

No one knows much about Ferris Boyd. The new kid never talks, can’t be touched, spends all her time alone, and is often mistaken for a boy.  Delly Pattison, though, sees Ferris Boyd as her way out of trouble.  When Delly–and her little brother RB–are with Ferris, trouble seems to stay away.  And Delly desperately needs to keep away from trouble, or her parents will send her to a reform school–or a reDellyformatory. 

Even though Ferris doesn’t talk, Delly, Ferris, and RB find a way to communicate and form real friendships that will help all of them through the issues they’re facing.  Even though Delly is quite familiar with her own brand of trouble, Ferris is dealing with something much more serious…something that has robbed her of the ability or desire to speak.  With the help of Delly, RB, and Brud, another unlikely friend, Ferris will be able to come to terms with the fear that has held her captive.  And Delly will learn that some things–like the safety and well-being of a dear friend–are worth the risk of getting into a little trouble.

True (…Sort of) is a quick, often hilarious, read that will grip readers from the first page.  Delly is a character that is often misunderstood by those around her, something that nearly everyone can relate to on some level.  Her quest to stay out of trouble is admirable, and readers will rejoice in her successes, but they’ll also be wowed by Delly’s ability to find a bit of fun in the small things around her and turn even the most mundane things into Dellyventures. 

I also think young readers will be inspired by Delly’s vocabulary.  Her made up words tell so much about her personality, and I hope that my students will create their own vocabulary to explain the truly unique things about their own lives.  (There is a “Dellyictionary” at the back of this book with a list of words and definitions for all of the words Delly uses throughout the book.)  Even the non-cuss words Delly makes up tell readers how unique–and creative–this character is.

Even though this book is lighthearted at times, it also deals with a serious issue.  This issue is personified in the character of Ferris Boyd, and it will be all too easy for readers to realize that something is really wrong in this young girl’s life.  Her selective mutism and aversion to touching tells everyone that this girl has been through something awful.  She may still be involved in something no child should ever have to deal with.  Delly sees what others don’t.  She sees that her friend is sad and afraid, and, even though Delly knows she’ll get into trouble for helping Ferris, she does what no one else has before.  She puts Ferris’ safety above everything, and that decision changes more than one life…for the better.

True (…Sort of) is a book that will resonate with readers of all ages, and it is my hope that we’ll all pay a little more attention to children who might otherwise be overlooked, especially the “troublemakers” and the “invisible.”  Sometimes, these are the kids who need us the most and who are just looking for their chance to shine.

For more information about True (…Sort of) and other books by author Katherine Hannigan, visit http://www.katherinehannigan.com/.