Blog Tour with Review and Author Guest Post!: The Curse of the Were-Hyena by Bruce Hale

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The Curse of the Were-Hyena
Author: Bruce Hale
Published July 5th, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

Summary: What do you do when your favorite teacher starts turning into a were-hyena?

a) Flee in terror?
b) Try to cure him?
c) Bring him carrion snacks?

Mr. Chu, the coolest teacher ever, has developed some very unusual habits, like laughing hysterically for no reason, sniffing people’s homework, and chasing chickens. When best friends Carlos and Benny decide to find out what’s happening to him, they get caught up in some moonlight madness. And it looks like just the beginning of the weirdness that has arrived in the town of Monterrosa. . . . This first entry in a silly, sassy, and suspenseful new series will leave readers howling with laughter.

About the Author: Edgar-nominated author Bruce Hale is passionate about inspiring reluctant readers to read. He has written or illustrated more than 35 seriously funny books for children, including the popular School for S.P.I.E.S. and Chet Gecko Mysteries series; as well as picture books such as Clark the Shark, Snoring Beauty, and Big Bad Baby. An actor and a Fulbright Scholar in Storytelling, Bruce is in demand as a speaker, having presented at conferences, universities, and schools around the world. Bruce’s book The Malted Falcon was an Edgar Award Finalist and Murder, My Tweet won the Little D Award for Humor Writing. He lives in Santa Barbara, California with his wife and dog.

Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook

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Review: There are so many kids who are going to love this new series!  It immediately reminded me a bit of the Bailey School Kids series because it does such a good job being funny and scary (but not TOO scary; just enough), so this series is going to be a wonderful ladder between Bailey School and Goosebumps. I also really liked the easy inclusion of a diverse cast of characters. This will help a wide variety of readers to see themselves in one of the characters. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to a good Halloween or full moon read aloud and definitely a classroom library addition, The Curse of the Were-Hyena would be a good cross-curricular read because of the projects Mr. Chu has his students do as well as the interesting look into African art. First, Mr. Chu assigns an oral report on “Something that Makes me Crazy.” This would be a fun tie in to the book, and it would be a good public speaking opportunity. There is also mention of a social studies project which seems to be about traditions of cultures from around the world. These two things in addition to the African art (and even the moon cycle and comics) help the book tie into different subjects. Lasly, Hale’s use of imagery throughout the book makes for a perfect reading or writing mentor text.

Discussion Questions: What clues were there that Mr. Chu was a were-hyena and not a werewolf?; Predict as you read about who you think the alpha were-hyena is. Were you right? What clues did you miss?; Benny and Carlos went about solving the mystery in a quite dangerous way. How would you have done it?

Free discussion guide and activities can also be found on Bruce’s website!

Flagged Passages: “As I reached for my final item, the mauled tennis show, Mr. Chu surprised me. He peeled back his lips and growled–a serious growl, like a Doberman giving one last warning before taking off your arm. His eyes rolled upward, showing only the whites, which totally creeped me out.

All the little hairs on my body stood straight up. It felt like someone had dumped a six-gallon Slushie down my back.” (p. 6)

Author’s Guest Post!: I asked Bruce his formula for writing creepy books for kids, and he shared these secrets with us!

“Scaring kids for fun and profit”

When my wife and I were sharing the movies from childhood that really creeped us out, I couldn’t wait to show her The Omega Man, a movie that gave me nightmares when I was young. “This’ll knock your socks off,” I told her. When we watched it, however, we both burst out laughing at the cheesy special effects and stilted dialog. (To be honest, her movie, Monkey Shines, was no 28 Days Later either.)

That got me thinking. Tastes change. What scares kids can be quite different from what scares adults. And when it comes to writing creepy tales for the younger set, it’s good to bear three things in mind.

It’s the antici…pation

Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock famously said, “There’s no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” Writing scary stuff for kids isn’t just about piling on the startling scares; it’s largely about setting up expectations. That’s where true suspense lies. For example, if a kid is walking down a dark street and suddenly a monster pops out, that’s a surprise. Suspenseful? Not so much.

However, if everyone tells your young hero that something has been making neighborhood pets disappear, and that they’ve heard strange growls outside at night, that sets up an expectation. Then, when she’s forced to take a nighttime walk, it will be fraught with the terrors of her imagination. Every twig that snaps, every shadow that looms becomes a threat. And after all that anticipation, when the monster finally shows, the suspense goes off the charts.

Hold the murder

A dash of violence is fine, if it stays on the cartoony side. But when writing for middle-graders, it’s best to stay away from explicit murder and bloodshed. Kids that age can’t handle it. Or if you must get gory, see if you can keep most of the bloodletting offstage. Even the Goosebumps books, which were spooky to the max, didn’t feature any onstage murder.

Of course, just because nobody’s getting killed doesn’t mean you can’t make things scary. Close calls, chases, betrayals and so forth will keep the fear factor going just fine. And your readers won’t miss the murder.

Find the safety in scariness

When I was a kid, I reveled in scary movies—heck, I even had a shelf-full of hand painted classic monsters like Wolf-Man and The Mummy. But I liked the movies best when they weren’t too scary. It’s the same thing for young readers today. There’s a limit to how much actual, pulse-pounding terror is appropriate for 8-12 year-olds.

That’s why, when I wrote The Curse of the Were-Hyena, I deliberately sought a balance between humor and chills. By leavening the scariness with jokes, I made it less threatening. Of course, the trick is to find that happy balance. Make it too jokey, and the creepiness is lost. Make it too scary, and your readers hide under the covers.

If you manage to pull off all three of these things, you just might have crafted a scary tale that keeps young readers glued to your pages. Whether they roll their eyes when they re-read it as adults is another matter entirely.

Read This If You Loved: Goosebumps (series) by RL Stine, Bailey School Kids (series) by Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey

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The Full Moon of the Were-Hyena Howling Good Giveaway!

Ten winners will receive a copy of Bruce Hale’s The Curse of the Were-Hyena. Four Grand Prize winners will receive The Curse of the Were-Hyena plus an advance reading copy of the second book in the series, Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies! And as a bonus, Grand Prize winners will also get a signed photo of Bruce Hale disguised as a were-wolf! Click here to enter.

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for hosting the tour and providing a copy for review!!**

Burning by Danielle Rollins

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Burning
Author: Danielle Rollins
Published: April 5, 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s

Summary: After three years in juvie, Angela Davis is just a few months shy of release, and she’ll finally be free from the hole that is Brunesfield Correctional Facility. Then Jessica arrives. Only ten years old and under the highest security possible, this girl has to be dangerous, even if no one knows what she did to land in juvie. As strange things begin happening to Angela and her friends that can only be traced to the new girl’s arrival, it becomes clear that Brunesfield is no longer safe. They must find a way to get out, but how can they save themselves when the world has forgotten them?

Review: This book was the perfect balance between realistic, interesting characters and chilling, creepy fantastic characters. From the first moment that I met Jessica, my skin began to crawl. Angela, the narrator, is pushing a mop in Seg in the juvenile hall. Jessica is mysterious and quite scary. I was frightened right along with Angela! I love how the characters are developed. While the book is definitely fantastic, I felt genuinely connected with the characters and their stories. I’d use this book as a bridge to help students who love realistic fiction. It would help them explore different genres. The book ends with a hook, and I imagined that Rollins has a sequel in the works! I am very excited to read it!

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I imagine that this book will create genuine interest in juvenile halls. I’d ask students to explore and research their own juvenile halls. They might also examine privilege and how the characters’ home lives seems to play a role in the fact that they are in the correctional facility. This would offer an interesting class discussion.

Discussion Questions: Does Angela make good choices in this book? What are some of the choices she makes, and do you think she makes the right decisions? Is she a moral person?; Most of the characters in this book are female. Consider all of the male characters and determine what their role is. How do they add to the story?

We Flagged: “I’m so focused on the blinking red light that I don’t notice the skeletally thin girl in the cell to my left until she skitters across the floor on her hands and knees” (p. 51).

Read This If You Loved: The Merciless by Danielle Vega, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, Anything by Stephen King; Juvie Three by Gordon Korman

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Top Ten Tuesday: Scariest Topics

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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: Scariest Topics

These topics give us nightmares.

Ricki

1. Serial Killers

Ever since I was very young, I’ve found the idea of serial killers to be terrifying. Books about this topic scare me!

2. Death of Family Members

Because this is my greatest fear, reading about others who have lost family members makes me feel a wealth of terrifying emotions.

3. Drownings

Luckily, many books don’t feature drownings. When I was about five years old, I almost drowned, so reading drowning scenes makes me very frightened.

4. Bugs

I am embarrassed to say that I am very frightened by ladybugs. If a book has a bug scene, I flip a few pages.

5. Scenes in the Woods at Night

Do the woods creep anyone else out? I won’t go camping with my husband because of it.

Kellee

1. Realistic Apocalypse

I can read dystopian books without ever being afraid, but a realistic apocalypse in a novel freaks me out because there is such a chance those events could happen. The Living and Life As We Knew It are the ones that scare me the most.

2. Poltergeists

I don’t believe in ghosts, but I don’t not believe in ghosts, so realistic ghost stories with freaky poltergeists can give me some interesting dreams.

3. School Shootings

As a school teacher, this is too close to home.

4. Breaking & Entering & Killing

This is a real life fear, so anytime it is in a book, it really freaks me out.

5. Children Dying

No words for how terrifying this is. Sad and scary.

What topics give you nightmares?

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The Merciless by Danielle Vega

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The Merciless
Author: Danielle Vega
Published: June 12th, 2014 by Razorbill (TODAY!)

Summary: Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned.

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
 
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
 
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls … unless she wants to be next…
 
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

Review: My skin crawls as I try to determine what I should write for this review. I started this book in my car. My son was sleeping in the car seat, and I didn’t want to wake him. Once he woke up, I didn’t want to leave the car. I read through all of his naps and kept reading after he went to bed. I couldn’t handle the suspense! The back of this book says, “For mature audiences only,” and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there is a lot of violence and a lot of blood. I am not an avid reader of the horror genre, but I greatly enjoyed getting sucked into this story. It isn’t just a simple horror novel, either. Readers will truly ponder evil and whether it exists within us all.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Danielle Vega does an excellent job showing group think (or mob mentality). I would ask students to research this topic and consider why humans are naturally inclined to follow a group. They might consider times in history when group think was detrimental and dangerous. This is a psychological thriller, and students will likely enjoy investigating the power balance and actions between the girls in this book.

Discussion Questions: How does religion influence the girls’ decisions and actions? What role does religion play in the book?; Which characters are truly evil?; Do you agree with Sofia’s decisions at the end of the book? What might you do differently, and why?

We Flagged: “It’s a cat. A dead cat. Skin’s been peeled away from the cat’s body in strips. Flies buzz around its head and inside its mouth, crawling over its tongue and teeth. Red paint clings to the stiff grass beneath the cat’s body, and candles surround it, cemented to the ground in pools of black wax. It takes a minute for me to see that the paint is in the shape of a star, with a black candle at each point—like a ritual” (7).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, Anything by Stephen King

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Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee

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Nonfiction Picture Book 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!

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Encyclopedia Horrifica: The Terrifying TRUTH! About Vampires, Ghosts, Monsters and More!
Author: Joshua Gee
Published August 1st, 2007 by Scholastic

Goodreads Summary: Bursting with eerie photos and Special Investigations, a nonfiction compendium of all things ghoulish and ghastly–from Aliens to Zombies!

Vampires, ghosts, monsters, and more–Encyclopedia Horrifica invites you to join our quest for the terrifying truth about all things ghoulish and ghastly. But beware! Surprises lurk at the turn of every page. . . .

Discover a time line of ALIEN LIFE on earth–beginning 4 billion years ago! Meet a man recruited by the U.S. government to become a PSYCHIC SUPERSPY. Spend a dark and stormy night with professional GHOSTBUSTERS. Visit a mysterious library in search of DRACULA’s shocking origins. Witness new photos of the actual sea monster that inspired the mythical KRAKEN. And much more!

My Review: This book is full of crazy information that students are going to love. Information about ghosts, aliens, zombies, pixies, mummies, and crazy other things. The book is a perfect mix of text and photos/illustrations that will keep middle grade readers turning the pages.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book will find a happy home in the classroom and school libraries of middle schools around the world.

Discussion Questions: Do you believe in _____?; Pick one of the historical elements of the book and research it. What did you learn? What is your conclusion about the historical mystery?

We Flagged: Some of my favorite parts of the book are:

Ghost or Hoax? A section where the reader must decide if the photos being shared are a real ghost or just a hoax.

Q&A Sections There are sections throughout the book filled with questions and answers from paranormal people like a psychic spy and “Professor Paranormal” who knows all you want to know about the afterlife.

The Top Five Most Horrific Hoaxes Exactly what it sounds like and so interesting!

Read This If You Loved: Ghost stories, Nonfiction books about ghosts and monsters

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The Scary Places Map Book by B.G. Hennessy

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Over the next 2 weeks, many of my reviews are going to be in honor of Halloween.
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I am so happy to begin my two weeks of scary with: 

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The Scary Places Map Book: Seven Terrifying Tours
Author: B.G. Hennessy
Illustrator: Erwin Madrid
Published July 10th, 2012 by Candlewick

Goodreads Summary: Grab a flashlight for an after-dark exploration of seven very scary places. Giggles and goose bumps are in store!

Take a tour of seven spooky places, among them the Wicked Woods, a Ghostly Galleon, and the Western Terror-tories. Along the way, avoid booby traps, search for hidden objects, and learn basic map reading skills! A map key, items to look for, and points of interest, such as Dracula’s Castle and Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, are included for each eerie region. Tips for touring (never take the Transylvania tour during a full moon) add to the fun. Kids who love to mix the ghoulish with the humorous will pore over the atmospheric pictures time and again, transported to strange, mysterious, very scary places.

My Review: This book tells you seven stories through an interactive tour of a map. Each map has a different theme and starts with an introductory story. I loved  thinking of all of the fun ways this could be used in the classroom!

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: While reading, I thought of so many different ways that this book could be utilized in a classroom:

First, the book teaches map skills because it has a key and directs the reader to different sections of the map by using the grid system and the scale.

Second, the setting of each map would be a great jumping off point to writing a story.

Third, many of the settings are based off of books or history and would be easy to connect to novels. For example, the first map is “The Ghostly Galleon Cruise of the Seven Seas” which could be connected with the Young Jack Sparrow books. “Land of Mythical Monsters” is set in Greece so could connect to mythology and any book like The Lightning Thief. “Roundup of the Western Terror-tories” to The Case of the Deadly Desperados, “Tour of the Wicked Woods and Witchfield Village” to Tales of Dark and Grimm, “Trip Through Transylvania” to Dracula Doesn’t Drink Lemonade, “Sleepwalking Tour of Nightmare House” to All the Lovely Bad Ones, and “Museum of Haunted Objects” to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.

I have been very lucky that over the last year or so to be in touch with B.G. Hennessy about this book. I’m honored that based on my original review, B.G. has begun to make a comprehensive list of books to go with each book. This list is so awesome! She includes picture books, beginning readers, chapter books, nonfiction books, and activity books for EACH MAP.

I am sure there are even more ways I am going to keep thinking about it. I, personally, cannot wait to use this in my classroom. (I also found out there is a facebook page for the book where teachers and the author can share their ideas- https://www.facebook.com/ScaryPlacesMapBook) B.G. Hennessy has also put together a teacher’s guide for the book which includes standards, vocabulary, activities, and more (which is written for elementary, but it can definitely by used for middle school as well!). Check it out on her website: http://bghennessy.com/ What a wonderful resource for teachers!

Discussion Questions: For each map, what are some books that you can connect the map to? How do the map and book connect?; [Writing Prompt] Using one of the maps in the Scary Places Map Book to be the setting of a narrative that you write. Challenge yourself and try to include at least 5 of the events or characters mentioned in the map.

We Flagged: “Land of Mythical Monsters: Who better to lead a tour through the birthplace of the foulest, ugliest, and fiercest monsters of all time than Hercules, a legend himself. This tour is for experts only. Pack your best hiking shoes and sunscreen. Mighty Hercules will meet you at Athena’s Temple. You will trek through snowcapped mountains, sail to the sunny island of Crete, and hike back to the dark door to the Underworld. Test your skills and see if you can make it through the Minotaur’s famous labyrinth.” (p. 7)

Read This If You Loved: Lightning Thief (series) by Rick Riordan, Dracula Doesn’t Drink Lemonade by Debbie Dadey, All the Lovely Bad Ones (and others) by Marry Downing Hahn, The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence, A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, The Coming Storm (series) by Rob Kidd, The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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