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January 1, 2011

The House of Dies Drear

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The House of Dies Drear


Author: Virginia Hamilton


Page Length: 279


Reading Level: 6


Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: At first Thomas isn’t too thrilled about moving away again. He likes being near his grandmother; but, when his dad begins dropping hints about the mysterious new house he has in mind, Thomas’s interest is piqued. Soon he learns of the legend of Dies Drear. Drear was a landowner known for helping slaves along the route to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Drear and two of the three slaves he had been hiding were found murdered. Thomas learns of the great past of the house, its secret tunnels, and its mysterious secretive caretaker. Thomas’s new home is thought to be haunted. Strange things begin to happen. Vandalism occurs. And, Thomas is caught up in a plot to find the culprits and preserve the legend of Dies Drear and the great history the house represents before it falls into the hands of the wrong people.

REVIEW: This book is an excellent look at slavery issues, the Underground Railroad, and prejudice and hatred among the uneducated. Historically, the author does a great job of giving young adults an understanding of the abolitionist era. The story is action packed and full of mysterious events that will keep the reader guessing and turning the page to find out the resolution to the story.

AREAS FOR TEACHING:  sequence of events, cause and effect, character traits, making predictions, analogies, historical context, context clues

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: issues of prejudice, vandalism, bigotry

RELATED BOOKS: M.C. Higgins, the Great, Second Cousins, Bluish, Zeely, The Planet of Junior Brown

SLAVERY RELATED BOOKS: 47, Dear Austin, The Land, Nightjohn, Kip: His Story, Bull Run, To Be A Slave, Harriet Tubman Conductor of the Underground Railroad

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Gone With the Wind (1939)


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


January 17, 2009

The Boyfriend

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The Boyfriend

Author: R. L. Stine

Page Length: 164

Reading Level: 3

Genre: Fiction-Mystery      

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of Joanna, a spoiled, materialistic teen-ager, whose parents are divorced.  Joanna has been dating Dex for a year.  Her mother never approved of him, probably because he was an orphan who lived with his aunt on “the other side of town.”  Joanna finds that she, also, no longer approves of Dex.  She wants to break up with him and date Shep.  Shep is wealthy and a good “prospect”. 

Joanna stands Dex up for a date at the mall, but later he convinces Joanna to take a ride with him and Pete.  While watching the moon at a lookout point, Dex falls off of a cliff, and Joanna leaves in a panic.  On the way back to town, she is in an accident and has to stay in the hospital for an extended time. She learns that Dex is dead and feels no remorse or loss.  However, she begins getting phone calls from Dex and begins seeing him in town.

Although she is dating Shep, Joanna risks losing him and her friend, Mary, as she continues to exhibit shallow, selfish, and materialistic characteristics.

REVIEW: This was my first book to read by R. L. Stine.  His style is unique, in that he creates suspense and mystery with open-ended questions at the end of each chapter.  He created great visual images in his descriptive writing of Dex as a dead person.  I think both boys and girls who enjoy horror and mystery would like this easy to read book.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Teachers and students should be aware that the majority of R. L. Stine’s writings for the high school reluctant reader are filled with descriptions of some grotesque images that create the horror stories he writes.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Character, Conflict, Supporting Details, and Sequence of Events

RELATED BOOKS: The Girlfriend, Call Waiting, and Beach House


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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