One for Sorrow

A month from today, Mary Downing Hahn’s newest spooky story, One for Sorrow, hits the shelves. It’s pretty well-known that I’m a wuss, so I figured this book would likely freak me out. I didn’t, however, expect it to scare the crap out of me–so much so that I couldn’t read it when it was dark outside. I don’t know how most young readers will respond to the book (the target audience is 4th-6th grade according to Booklist), but I found it to be absolutely terrifying. That’s probably all I need to say to make sure it flies off my library shelves (if I make the decision to purchase it).

The year is 1918. America is involved in a world war, and an influenza epidemic has gripped many communities. Annie Browne and her family have just moved to town. She is the new girl at school, and she’s nervous about making friends.

Someone claims Annie as a best friend almost immediately, but Annie’s not so sure she truly wants to be friends with Elsie, a strange, violent, and manipulative girl who won’t let Annie play or befriend the other girls at school. Annie’s a bit scared of Elsie, and she’s not sure how to free herself from her “friend’s” clutches.

Eventually, when Elsie’s out of school for a couple of days, Annie gets her chance to befriend some other girls and escape Elsie’s influence. Annie even joins her new friends in mocking Elsie. She feels a little guilty about making Elsie miserable, but she doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize her friendship with the other girls. Besides, Elsie brings a lot of this negative attention on herself.

While Annie and her new friends are tormenting Elsie, the horrible Spanish Influenza has hit their town. Dozens of people are dying each day. Schools and businesses close, and people are taking all the precautions they can to keep from getting sick.

One of Annie’s friends, Rosie, gets the bright idea to take advantage of the situation. She comes up with a plan to visit all the homes with black wreaths on the door, pretend to know the deceased, and load up on all of the cookies, candy, and cakes left for the mourners to eat. As for Annie, she does not want to see any dead bodies, but she goes along with Rosie’s morbid plan. (It’s hard to say no to Rosie.) Things are going okay with this whole scheme…until they recognize a girl lying in a coffin. It’s Elsie, Annie’s former “best friend” and the target of the girls’ relentless teasing.

Annie feels horrible about Elsie’s death, and she wonders if she and her friends may have had something to do with it. Annie’s feelings only intensify when she realizes that Elsie hasn’t gone very far. Her ghost has returned and is determined to make Annie her eternal best friend…or else.

Annie doesn’t know where to turn. Elsie, the very definition of a vengeful spirit, is turning everyone against Annie, making her say and do things she would never normally do, and convincing her friends, her teachers, and even her parents that Annie is going crazy. If Elsie doesn’t cross over soon, Annie’s entire world will be upended.

Is there any way for Annie to rid herself of Elsie for good, or will she forever be the focus of Elsie’s rage? Read One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn to find out!


One for Sorrow is a great fit for middle grade readers. I’m on the fence right now about recommending it to upper elementary readers. I’ll do a bit more research and read other reviews before I decide whether or not to place it in my elementary school library. If you’d like to weigh in on this, please let me know what you think in the comments.

In addition to being an excellent scary story, One for Sorrow teaches readers about the horrors of the flu epidemic of 1918 as well as providing a cautionary tale about bullying. Now, I’m not saying bullies will be haunted by the ghosts of those they tormented or anything, but it’s clear that there was bad behavior on all sides here. Elsie was horrible to Annie and the other girls in school, but did that mean the other girls should have been equally horrible? No, it did not. I think the lesson here is that you never know what someone else is going through, and a little kindness goes a long way.

If you’d like to read this gripping novel for yourself, One for Sorrow will be available on July 18th. It’s definitely a page-turner that will be hard to put down. For more information on this book and others by Mary Downing Hahn, visit the author’s website.

Ghost House

Next week, Ghost House, a new book by Halo author Alexandra Adornetto, will be released. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy via NetGalley this weekend. I was in the mood for something kind of spooky, and that’s what I got with Ghost House. It was a bit predictable and vaguely “Twilight-ish” at times, but it was a fairly enjoyable book that will be a big hit for those readers who like a bit of romance–especially seemingly impossible romance–in their supernatural tales.

Chloe Kennedy recently experienced a loss that shook her entire world. When her mother passed away suddenly, the walls Chloe had carefully built in her mind came tumbling down, and she was no longer able to block out the ghosts that haunted her as a child.

Now, Chloe is dealing with even more change. Her father has decided that he simply can’t cope with his own grief and that of his children, so he’s sending Chloe and her younger brother to live in England for the summer. Chloe is not happy about spending weeks on her grandmother’s estate, Grange Hall, but this may be her chance to escape the ghosts that have suddenly reappeared. Well, Chloe is about to learn that her encounters with ghosts are only just beginning…

On her first day in England, Chloe meets a strange young man in the woods. He’s not dressed like anyone she’s ever met, and, while Chloe is wary of him, she’s also oddly drawn to this young man. His name is Alexander Reade, and Chloe soon realizes that Alex is not altogether “real.” He’s a ghost. Alex lived at Grange Hall long ago, and he is still very much connected to the house…and what happened there.

As Chloe learns more about Grange Hall’s horrific past–and Alex’s place in it–she finds herself developing some disturbing feelings for Alex. Chloe knows nothing can really come of a relationship with a ghost, but she can’t help but fall a little more in love with him each day. That is a problem, especially when a vengeful spirit named Isobel is determined to do anything–even kill–to make sure Chloe and Alex remain apart.

What is Alex’s connection to the mysterious and menacing Isobel? Can Chloe do anything to stop the approaching horror before someone gets caught in the crossfire? Is Chloe willing to sacrifice her beloved Alex–or herself–if it means stopping Isobel once and for all?

Join Chloe and Alex on a harrowing journey through life, death, revenge, and redemption when you read Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto.

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Ghost House is a great read for a dreary, rainy day. It started off kind of slow, but the action really picked up the more I read. I read the last three-quarters of the book in just a few hours, and the ending kind of threw me for a loop. I look forward to seeing how things progress for Chloe (and Alex) in the next book, Ghost Hour. (There’s currently no publication date for book two, but I’m guessing we can expect it sometime next August.)

I would recommend Ghost House to teen (and adult) fans of books like Twilight, C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series, and even the ghost stories of Mary Downing Hahn.

For more information on Ghost House and author Alexandra Adornetto, visit her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter. A book trailer is supposed to be released soon, but as of this posting, it’s not available yet.

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!

Liesl & Po

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Lauren Oliver.  I loved Before I Fall, Delirium, and Pandemonium.  When I first heard that she was coming out with a novel for younger readers, I knew it would be as awesome as her young adult novels.  Well, I finished reading Liesl & Po this morning (I started it last night.), and it was even better than I thought it would be.  I’m going to give it the highest praise I can think of:  It reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.  (I love Neil Gaiman…a lot.)  This book is sure to be a hit with elementary readers up through adults.  Anyone who enjoys stories filled with magic, sadness, and, most importantly, hope, will find Liesl & Po to be as enchanting as I did.

All sunshine has gone out of the world.  Life is dull and gray for everyone, especially two children, Liesl and Will, who want nothing more than the hope that things will get better…

Liesl spends her days and nights trapped in an attic by her vile stepmother. Her father passed away three days ago, and Liesl feels more alone than ever before. That’s about to change, though. When a ghost named Po–and his ghost pet Bundle–begin to visit Liesl from the Other Side, she doesn’t feel quite so alone. She even begins to hope that her life can change a little and that she can even find some way to reconnect with her father.

Will is an apprentice to an alchemist. He spends his days doing errands, assisting with potions, and never getting anything right. (He’s beginning to think his name is really “Useless.”) The only bright spot in Will’s life is looking at the girl in the attic window and wondering what it would be like if they were to ever meet. As fate would have it, he is about to find out…

When Will mistakenly switches a box full of powerful magic with the box that contains Liesl’s father’s ashes, forces collide that take Liesl, Po, Bundle, and Will on a path that will lead them to each other.  They will fight against evil, cruelty, loss, sadness, and some misunderstandings to get to something better than what they’ve known.  In the process, they will discover friendships that cross the boundary of death.  They may even find a way to make the world a brighter place for everyone.  After all, when magic and hope are involved, anything is possible.

I urge any and all librarians who work with children and young adults to add Liesl & Po book to your collections.  For those of you who aren’t librarians, add this book to your reading list.  It’s a wonderful book about overcoming loss and sadness and restoring color to a dull, gray existence.  Even in the darkest times, there is a sense of hope in this book and its characters that I think we could all use a dose of.  Read this book!  You won’t be sorry.

If you’re still not convinced, check out this awesome book trailer for Liesl & Po (from HarperKids):

For more information on Lauren Oliver and all of her amazing books, visit http://www.laurenoliverbooks.com/.  You can also follow her on Twitter @OliverBooks.

Ruined

I just finished reading Ruined by Paula Morris, and I’m still somewhat shaken by how events unfolded in the book.  In some ways, I kind of saw how everything was going to end up.  In others, though, the author threw me a few curveballs.  I can’t say that I was happy with the ending because I really want to know more about how things ended up for the main character and how the events at the end of the book were covered up.  All that being said, Ruined is definitely a good mystery/ghost story.  The setting of New Orleans makes the story even more vivid and believable.

Rebecca Brown is being forced to temporarily move to New Orleans while her father is in China on business.  As a New Yorker, Rebecca feels extremely out of place in New Orleans.  She is living with her aunt, an eccentric lady who reads tarot cards in the French Quarter.  Rebecca is also attending a new school where outsiders are looked down upon, and Rebecca is the very definition of an outsider.  The super-rich girls, part of New Orleans royalty, make no secret of the fact that they see Rebecca as a nobody.

Rebecca doesn’t really have a friend in the world.  Until one night when she loses her way in Lafayette Cemetery.  It is here that Rebecca meets Lisette.  At first, Rebecca thinks that Lisette is a homeless girl displaced by Hurricane Katrina.  She later realizes, however, that Lisette is a ghost, and Rebecca is one of the very few people who can see her.  Why can Rebecca see her?  The answer is a mysterious secret of this wealthy neighborhood and one that no one seems to want to speak of.

As Rebecca learns more and grows closer to Lisette and the local golden boy, Anton, secrets begin to unravel.  Rebecca realizes that her own future is tied to a dark curse.  How is it possible that she has any ties to any of these secrets?  She’s from New York and has no connection to anything that’s been going on.  Or does she?  Read Ruined by Paula Morris to find out if Rebecca will figure out the truth before her life as she knows it is in ruins.

Like I said, Ruined is a great mystery.  The author definitely kept me on the edge of my seat and eager to turn the page.  I love books like that.