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Sleuth & Solve: Spooky: Decode Mind-Twisting Mysteries Inspired by Classic Creepy Characters: What Will You Find?
Published: August 24, 2021 by Chronicle

Summary: Test your wits in this creepy collection of horror-themed mini-mysteries, a follow-up to Sleuth & Solve!

How does one boy discover the lair of Frankenstein’s monster? What is the identity of the werewolf who torments an isolated village? And how do two sisters escape the vengeful Loch Ness Monster?

Welcome to the world of Sleuth & Solve: Spooky, where creepy clues are hidden in every detail and clever twists put your wits to the test. These mind-bending mini-mysteries inspired by classic creepy characters feature familiar fiends as well as terrifying new tales of ghosts, witches, and more! Solving this suite of spooky puzzles takes keen observation, strong logic, and lots of creative thinking. Play solo or with friends, collecting points as you crack each compelling case, decode the solution using a clever cryptograph, and reveal whose sleuthing skills reign supreme!

SCARY STORIES ARE IRRESISTIBLE: From monster-themed birthday parties to Dungeons & Dragons, Stranger Things, and Monsters, Inc., it’s clear that readers of all ages have a perennial predilection for all things monstrous and scary. These tales are perfect for reading alone or together, under the covers or in the dark, around the crackling of a campfire . . . as long as you can crack the case before it’s too late. BOO!

EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD MYSTERY: From Encyclopedia Brown to Sherlock Holmes to Clue, mysteries transfix, engage, and entertain! Following the previous two books in the Sleuth & Solve series, this latest smart, age-appropriate take on mysteries for kids will quickly become a family favorite.

A-GAME-IN-A-BOOK: This engaging narrative formula incorporates both a game (players earn points for discerning each answer) and an opportunity to decrypt and decode the clever solutions to each puzzle, adding opportunities for interactivity and upping the stakes of the reading experience.

REINFORCES LOGICAL REASONING SKILLS: These clever mysteries are solved by way of deduction, inference, and logical reasoning, all of which are critical thinking skills crucial to young readers’ intellectual development both in and outside of the classroom.

IDEAL FOR RELUCTANT READERS: With a comic-esque style, unique narrative approach, quirky scenarios, and a compelling mystery/”scary stories” theme, this book packs loads of reluctant reader appeal.

ReviewThis is a great book for elementary and middle schoolers (or kids/adults of all ages!). I did it with my sons, and they both had a great time decoding the riddles and figuring out the puzzles. We spread out the reading of this book across many days, and we did a section each day. It made for a delightful, connected experience. This is a book that offers so many things at once. It includes a mystery that begs to be solved and a really neat cryptograph (that kids can write secret messages outside of the reading of the book!). The author offers advice for making the reading even spookier (reading at night with a flashlight!). After reading this one, we want to check out the other Sleuth & Solve stories!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a fantastic book to have at a table in the classroom for fast finishers. Kids will be engrossed in decoding the riddles! They don’t need to read/decode them all at once, so this offers many opportunities for working on these while waiting for peers to finish working.

Discussion Questions: Which was your favorite riddle to solve? Who was your favorite character? Which story was your favorite? What creative text features did the author use in this book?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Love: Spooky stories; Activity Books; Brain-teasers; Decoding; Riddles

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**Thank you to Eva at Chronicle for providing a copy for review**

 
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Watch Hollow
Author: Gregory Funaro
Published February 12th, 2019 by HarperCollins

Summary: Deep within the enchanted woods in the town of Watch Hollow stands the once-grand Blackford House, whose halls hold a magical secret: a giant cuckoo clock that does much more than tell time. But when the clock’s gears cease to turn, an evil presence lurking among the trees begins to come out of the shadows.

When Lucy and Oliver Tinker arrive in Watch Hollow, they have no idea that anything is wrong. A mysterious stranger has made their father an offer that’s too good for him to refuse. All Mr. Tinker needs to do is fix the clock at Blackford House and fistfuls of gold coins are his to keep.

It doesn’t take long, however, for the children to realize that there is more to Blackford House than meets the eye. And before they can entirely understand the strange world they’ve stumbled into, Lucy and Oliver must join forces with a host of magical clock animals to defeat the Garr—a vicious monster that not only wants Blackford House for itself, but also seeks to destroy everything the Tinkers hold dear.

About the Author: Gregory Funaro grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island, and wrote his first story, The Ghost in the Window, in the fourth grade. He considers this to be his finest work, but unfortunately it has been lost to time. Following high school Greg majored in theatre at the University of New Hampshire, and after various acting gigs, received his AM in Theatre Arts from Brown University and an MFA in Acting from the FSU/Asolo Conservatory. He began his literary career writing thrillers for adults, but switched to children’s books after the birth of his daughter. His first book for Disney-Hyperion, ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODDITORIUM (2015), was a New York Times best seller and an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and his second, ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODD AQUATICUM (2016), received a Kirkus STARRED review. Look for WATCH HOLLOW and THE MAZE OF SHADOWS, coming from HarperCollins in 2019/20. Greg also teaches drama at East Carolina University, and is busy working on his next novel.

Follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@GregoryFunaro) and visit his https://www.gregoryfunaro.com/ to learn more about his books and him.

Review: I am so glad that Harper allows Gregory Funaro to continue expanding his creative tendrils because every one of his books I read, I am intrigued by how he crafts a story, the voice he gives his characters, the point of view he decides, and the surprises he gives me throughout the reading. With Watch Hollow, I love how Lucy and Oliver obviously have a voice even though the book is in third person, the way he ties everything together from the slightest mention at the beginning of the book to huge events in the end, and I love that I cannot predict what is going to happen.

And not only is the story crafted well, the plot is one that is going to suck in our readers that are always looking for spookiness. It is just the right amount of weirdness, supernatural, creepy mansions, unknown creatures, and magic. The characters are also crafted really well which gives the readers someone to connect with.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Gergory Funaro’s fantasy is so different than the traditional fantasy books, and his stories will fascinate readers who may not be sure if they like fantasy because of the twist, turns, and intelligence in his narratives. Not only should his books be found in all libraries, classroom, public, and school, but it would also be an interesting to have an in-class book club focusing on different examples of fantasy and have students, at the end of the clubs, discuss what made their books fantasy and look at the wide variety within the genre.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the inclusion of illustrations throughout the book help with your understanding of the plot?
  • What does the animals quick acceptance of Lucy show you about her personality?
  • What were your initial assumptions about Mr. Quigley?
  • What did the inclusion of the crow from before they went to Blackford House tell you about the kids?
  • Once you find out the truth behind the house, what clues can you find when you go back through the book?
  • How did the third person limited point of view switching between the two siblings affect the narrative?
  • How did the author use imagery throughout the book to engage his readers?
  • How does the author set the Gothic and dark mood in the story?

Flagged Passages: 

“Oliver hung back in the doorway as Lucy and their father stepped into a cavernous, darkened foyer. Rectangles of dim dusty light filtered in from the rooms on the other side, and Oliver could just make out a wide staircase dissolving up into the gloom at the far end of the foyer…

Oliver pushed up his glasses, stepped inside, and set down his suitcase. His eyes had adjusted a bit, but with only the daylight streaming in, the foyer was still dim–in part because the walls were paneled three-quarters high in dark wood. To his left, he spied a shadowy parlor filled with antique furniture; to his right, a dining room with a long table. There were a handful of paintings on the walls, and where there was no paneling, the paper was peeled and gray…” (Chapter 4)

Read This If You Love: Explorer series by Adrienne KressThe Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie, The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review!**

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Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Author: Lita Judge
Published: January 30th, 2018 by Roaring Book Press

Summary: A young adult biography of Frankenstein’s profound young author, Mary Shelley, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of its publication, told through free verse and 300+ full-bleed illustrations.

Mary Shelley first began penning Frankenstein as part of a dare to write a ghost story, but the seeds of that story were planted long before that night. Mary, just nineteen years old at the time, had been living on her own for three years and had already lost a baby days after birth. She was deeply in love with famed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a mad man who both enthralled and terrified her, and her relationship with him was rife with scandal and ridicule. But rather than let it crush her, Mary fueled her grief, pain, and passion into a book that the world has still not forgotten 200 years later.

Dark, intense, and beautiful, this free-verse novel with over 300 pages of gorgeous black-and-white watercolor illustrations is a unique and unforgettable depiction of one of the greatest authors of all time.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Whew. I felt so many emotions as I read this book. I kept thinking, “My goodness, my students are going to love this book.” I was fortunate to receive two copies of this book in the mail, and those two copies have passed from student’s hand to student’s hand. The book doesn’t even make its way back up to my desk before another student snags it. This book defies genre sorting. It’s nonfiction, it’s horror, it’s romance, it’s an illustrated book in verse. I’ve already added it to my book list to teach next semester in my Adolescents’ Literature course.

Students will read this book and want immediately to read Frankenstein. The book reads fairly quickly because it contains verse and illustrations, but readers will struggle not to pause for several minutes to enjoy the beautiful illustrations on the pages.

I’m most excited about the classroom potential for this book. It offers so much to talk about regarding characterization, mood, and poetry. But it also offers a beautiful bridge to read with Frankenstein. I thought I knew a lot about Mary Shelley’s life, but this book told me so much more about it. Reading her story on these pages made me feel as if I was experiencing her life alongside her. If you haven’t read this book yet, I recommend it highly.

Discussion Questions: What factors may have influenced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? In what ways does the author use metaphor and symbolism to help us understand her experiences?; What might be the author’s purpose? Is she successful, in your opinion?; What textual features helped you understand Mary’s story? How might this book read differently if the author had used another form?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Horror; Gothic Literature

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie C. Dao
Published: October 10, 2017 by Philomel

Guest Review by Kaari von Bernuth

Goodreads Summary: An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Kaari’s Review: The entire time, I wasn’t entirely sure if the  protagonist was the hero or the villain. And, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I appreciated this book because it made me think. I’d be cheering for Xifeng and wanting her to win, and then she’d do an awful thing to help her win, and I’d be repulsed by her. This book highlights the struggle of ambition, and how difficult it is for a woman to achieve the dreams she has. And, while I am off put by Xifeng’s methods and don’t necessarily think they were the right decisions, her actions and the way she achieves power could spark great discussions.

The setting and the plot of this book was thrilling, and I Ioved the way that fantasy was woven into a world so seamlessly. The creatures and ideas introduced were thought provoking and had amazing descriptions that made me feel like I was living in the enchanted world with the characters. I do wish that there had been some more resolution regarding some of the magical beings and the warnings they gave, but I think that Dao intends for this to be the first in a series, and I’m sure that more resolution will come in later novels.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would definitely include this book in a classroom library for kids to check out if they want to read it. However, while this book is interesting, and explores an interesting take on female empowerment, I don’t think I would teach this book in a classroom setting, or use it in literature circles. I am a huge advocate for female empowerment, and discussing the paths for women to claim their power. However, I think that because Xifeng’s methods were so morally questionable, and readers aren’t sure if Xifeng is a hero or a villain, that Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is not the best novel to discuss for this topic. There are many other books that discuss female empowerment in a much more productive light. So, I’d include it in a classroom library, but not necessarily teach it in any way.

Discussion Questions: Do you think Xifeng’s methods were justifiable?; What does the social hierarchy look like in this novel?; Is Xifeng a hero or a villain in this story?; What is the effect of portraying a strong female protagonist in this way?; How is the fantasy world characterized?

We Flagged: “‘I’m a good man, Xifeng. I let you have your own way and speak your mind…’

‘You think I don’t know that? That I’m so blind and stupid?’

‘Yes, I do!’ he shouted, his face bright red. ‘I offer you the world…’

‘Yes, the world as you see it!’

‘I saved you from that evil woman!’

‘Only to trap me yourself.’ She watched him turn away and run a trembling hand over his head. ‘I was Guma’s, and now you want me to be yours. I have my own soul and my own destiny, and I’m tired of belonging to someone else’” (Advanced Reader Copy p. 125).

Read This If You Loved: Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu; Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin; Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Recommended For:

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  RickiSig

**Thank you to Kaari for reviewing this book!**

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There’s Someone Inside Your House
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published: September 26, 2017 by Dutton

Guest Review by Kaari von Bernuth

Goodreads Summary: One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

My Review: This book was gripping from the first page. I found myself getting sucked into it, trying to figure out the mystery of who the killer was, but also of what Makani’s past entailed. The author, Stephanie Perkins, did an amazing job of planting foreshadowing and clues that hinted toward the answers to the multiple mysteries that kept my brain working the entire time that I was reading.

I also loved the emphasis on friendship groups, feeling like an outsider, and bullying/hazing as many adolescents face these topics every day. The way that these topics were portrayed in Makani’s friend group, and the way that the friends help Makani to deal with her hazing trials were something that I appreciated. However, there were two things that I wish were approached differently in this book. 1. Even though this is a small point, one of the characters was a stereotypical, loud Christian character who tried to force his beliefs on everyone else, including a mention of how he managed to get rid of any mention of evolution in his school textbooks. He was characterized as a Lutheran. While this probably wouldn’t mean much to other people, I am a Lutheran, and all of the Lutherans I know believe and support evolution, and don’t at all act like this negative christian stereotype character does. But, this book makes it look like all Lutherans act this way. I wish that there had been no mention of the character’s denomination.  2. I wish that more emphasis had been placed on dealing with the deaths that occurred in the books, as well as the motivations of the killer, as those were both just glanced over. This is problematic as it leaves a huge hole in understanding of the novel, and makes it harder to talk about some of the prominent events in the story. Overall though, it was a very entertaining novel.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be a great book to have in a classroom library for kids to enjoy. Given the graphic, violent nature of some of the scenes, I wouldn’t recommend teaching to an entire class. However, it will appeal to students who enjoy the horror genre. This book also has great potential in literature circles. Perkins does a great job of foreshadowing and giving hints not only as to what is going to happen, but to stories that have already happened that the readers don’t know about yet. As I was reading, I loved being able to piece together the clues that were given to try to guess what had happened and also what was going to happen. A literature circle could have a lot of fun trying to piece those clues together as a group. This book also touches on other important topics such as bullying/hazing and family struggles which could be discussed in a literature circle, as well as the elements of forgiving oneself/dealing with guilt (which Makani experiences as a result of the hazing incident). The one thing that I found this book lacking was any form of dealing/acknowledging grief and death, as well as an acknowledgement of mental health issues (which the killer would have to have). These failings in the book could also be discussed in relation as to how to acknowledge those topics in a healthy way.

Discussion Questions: Where do you see foreshadowing in the early parts of the books?; How does Perkins create suspense in her novel?; What is Makani’s relationship with her parents like?; What was Makani’s experience with hazing like? Have you experienced something similar?; How does blame and justice appear in this book? Is it always fair?

We Flagged: “Sharing her story now, however, had opened a valve of tremendous internal pressure. Her secret- this self-inflicted burden- had finally been released.” (page 207 of Advanced Reading Copy)

Read This If You Loved: The Merciless by Danielle Vega; Dead by Morning by Kayla Krantz; The Forest Dweller by Deborah McClatchey; Confessions: The Private School Murders by James Patterson

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  RickiSig

**Thank you to Kaari for reviewing this book!**

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

frightlopedia

Frightlopedia: An Encyclopedia of Everything Scary, Creepy, and Spine-Chilling, from Arachnids to Zombies
Author: Julie Winterbottom
Illustrator: Stefano Tambellini
Published August 23rd, 2016 by Workman Publishing Company

Summary: Here’s the book for kids who love scary stuff, whether it’s telling ghost stories around a campfire, discovering the origins of various vampires, monsters, and witches, or reading creepy tales under the covers with a flashlight.

Combining fact, fiction, and hands-on activities, Frightlopedia is an illustrated A-Z collection of some of the world’s most frightening places, scariest stories, and gruesomest creatures, both real and imagined. Discover Borneo’s Gomantong Cave, where literally millions of bats, cockroaches, spiders, and rats coexist—in pitch darkness. Learn about mythical creatures like the Mongolian Death Worm—and scarily real ones like killer bees, which were accidentally created by scientists in the 1950s. Visit New Orleans’s Beauregard-Keyes house, where Civil War soldiers are said to still clash in the front hall. Plus ghost stories from around the world, a cross-cultural study of vampires, and how to transform into a zombie with makeup. Each entry includes a “Fright Meter” measurement from 1 to 3, because while being scared is fun, everyone has their limit.

Review: I loved the structure of this text, and students and other teachers will as well. Different than a traditional encyclopedia, the Frightlopedia mixes fact, fiction, traditional literature, and hands-on activities which makes this a perfect classroom text as it will suck in readers in so many different ways, and it will also work in such a variety of classroom activities as well.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like I shared above, this text has a really nice mix of genres along with hands-on activities. For example, parts of the text could be used during lessons on mythology, literary standards, traditional literature, science, or history. There is just so much, it is hard to actually share it all. Go into MONSTERS, if you want include mythological creatures; SHARKS or JELLYFISH during biology; CAPUCHIN CATACOMBS or MUMMIES in history; XYLOPHOBIA or CLAUSTROPHOBIA during word students of affixes; WRITE YOUR OWN GHOST STORY during creative writing; and so much more!

Discussion Questions: Which section did you find the most frightening? Why? The most interesting? Why?; Do you believe in ghosts?; How were mummies made in different cultures?; Which animal is the most frightening to you?

Flagged Passages: 

frightlopedia-vampire

frightlopedia-vampire-2

Read This If You Love: Ghost stories, mythology, being scared, learning about weird animals, learning about scary history

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top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Ten Scary Books I Recommend to Jumpy People

Kellee

I am not a huge scary book fan because I am really jumpy, and they can definitely make me have bad dreams, but these are ten scary books I’ve enjoyed recently and can recommend because the awesomeness of the story outweighs the side effects of the jumpiness.

1. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood

Now, I won’t lie. This one is pretty darn scary, but Anna is a fascinating character.

2. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

monstrumologist

Rick Yancey’s story mixes fantastical science with treacherous monsters to make a truly smart horror story.

3. Doll Bones by Holly Black

dollbones

Yes, this doll is super creepy!

4. The Haunting of Derek Stone: City of the Dead by Tony Abbott

city-of-the-dead

I read Derek’s story years ago, but it hasn’t left me yet.

5. and 6. In the Shadow of Blackbirds and The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

in-the-shadow-of-blackbirds cure for dreaming

Cat Winters has a way of writing magic realism with a touch of suspense and a dash of creepy. But it all mixes up into stories you won’t be able to put down.

*These are not sequels*

7. This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

this dark endeavor

How did Dr. Frankenstein become the mad scientist we all know? Read to find out.

8. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

coraline2

After reading, you will never hope to have a different family!

9. Guys Read: Thriller edited by Jon Sciezska

 guys-read-thriller

A collection of spooky stories ranging from humor to horror.

10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

a monster calls

Not a traditional horror story, but instead is a fantastical story filled with pain and fear and love.

Which scary books would you recommend?

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