The Book Reviews – Website

September 28, 2009

Haunted Schools

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Haunted Schools

Author: Allan Zullo

Page Length: 128  

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: This is a collection of nine stories of ghosts and spirits who are haunting schools.  The first begins with two teen-age boys, Troy and Cody, coming in contact with a former teacher of a school.  Next, a new girl on the playground turns out to be a former classmate of the current teacher.  When a boy dies from a heart condition, his football team goes undefeated with a little help from the twelfth man. After two girls break a school rule by bringing an Ouigi board into their room, students start getting mysterious kisses.  An unknown drama student and graduate appear in two of the stories and in almost every story there is an eeriness that the reader cannot fully comprehend.

REVIEW: It is hard to believe that all of these stories are true. The plots of each of the stories would make a good horror movie, because the events are unbelievable. This book could be used as a unit study during October.  Then, on Halloween the students could dress as their favorite “ghost”. I thought the stories were entertaining and would appeal to the reluctant reader because they are short and easy to read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Character, Setting, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: The Haunted Kid Series: The Haunted Graveyard, The Haunted Shortstop, Haunted Kids, More Haunted Kids, Haunted Teachers, Haunted Animal, Haunted Campus, Totally Haunted Kids

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Haunted School (2007- Chinese)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

December 12, 2008

Haunting at Home Plate

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Haunting at Home Plate

Author: David Patneaude

Page Length: 181

Reading Level: 4.5

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Nelson lives for baseball. The team seems play-off bound when their coach is suspended and no one is available to coach the remaining players. Nelson convinces his cousin Mike to take on the team. As the team begins to come together, they realize strengths they never knew they had. The boys learn how to really hit and become contenders for the championship. Yet as they practice, strange things begin to happen. Messages are left in the home plate dirt with the initials A.K. Mike tells the team the stories of Andy Kirk –a kid who died when he fell from the tree behind home plate. Who is really leaving these mysterious messages? Is the ghost of Andy Kirk haunting the field?

REVIEW: Baseball fans will love this book. The pacing is excellent – the added “ghost” story angle is entertaining. History is intertwined with the entry from 1946 and the talk of boys having been off fighting in the war. The author addresses how much Nelson longs for his father’s interaction and attention; the author makes a point of dad getting a job at home so that he can be there for his family. This book would be good read for sons and fathers and even girls who have played or enjoy the game of baseball. There is another story within the book of Gannon and his verbally abusive (trying to live his dreams through his son) father. The reader feels Gannon’s humiliation and pain at his father’s public displays and his struggles to please someone who will never consider his efforts enough.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, cause and effect, internal conflict, external conflict, foreshadowing, elements of plot, author’s purpose

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Gannon’s excessive verbally abusive, angry father

RELATED BOOKS: Thin Wood Walls, Colder Than Ice, Deadly Drive, Framed in Fire, The Last Man’s Reward, A Piece of the Sky


RELATED MOVIES: “Angels in the Outfield,” “The Sandlot,” “A League of Their Own”



REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

June 2, 2008

How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found

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How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found

Author: Sara Nickerson

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Margaret and Sophie are being raised by a single mother who hasn’t been the same since their father died. One day, Margaret’s mother breaks from the ordinary trip to the Laundromat and takes them across the river o the ferry. They arrive at a strange two story house where Margaret’s mother hammers a for sale sign into the ground. Margaret becomes intrigued by the mysterious appearance of the property seemingly in her mother’s possession and the figure she thinks she saw from an upstairs window.

When Margaret finds a sealed package on the property that her mother had returned to sender she sneaks it home. Her discovery inside the package leads Margaret to her destiny (at least according to her new best friend at school). Margaret and Sophie conspire to keep their mother from finding out – that Margaret is going back to the house alone. Margaret’s adventures unfold and so does an unusual and interesting story. Margaret discovers family she nothing about and a shocking secret – her father died by drowning but was a championship swimmer. Mr. Librarian and Boyd (a boy who lives next door to the big house and avidly reads mysterious comic books about the house and the Ratt man who lives there) join in the excitement and Margaret comes face to face with the mystery of the Drowning Ghost and the Rat Man. The Ratt man is closing in… Will she be able to save Sophie in time and solve the mystery of her father’s death?

REVIEW: This story was entertaining in a strange way. The plot has a wonderful element of mystery; yet, the fantasy angle of a man turning into rat seems a little farfetched. Nickerson creates the ideal librarian in the quirky Mr. Librarian who places nothing in the library but the unpublished manuscripts brought to him. The withdrawal of the mother after losing a spouse and becoming a single parent is also handled well. The reader can feel for the children and what they are missing. A great teaching point here is the impact of one life on others. Sibling relationships are explored as Sophie and Margaret both aggravate and ultimately love and support each other.

Students who like reading comic books and graphic novels will enjoy the short comic book type scenes and the relationship of the comic book to the events taking place in the story. In one scene, Boyd and Margaret are chased through the forest by something; after narrowly escaping, a new issue of the comic book turns up on the front porch at Boyd’s house. Margaret and Boyd have become characters in the story. The story is suspenseful and quirky with a good ending a great message.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: theme, setting, cause and effect, sequence, bias, inferences, internal conflict, character motivation, irony

RELATED BOOKS: Harry Potter, The Wind in the Willows

RELATED MOVIES: Television series – The Ghost Whisperer


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

April 29, 2008

Midnight Magic

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Midnight Magic

Author: Avi

Page Length: 247

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY: Mangus, the magician, has been banned by King Claudio from practicing all forms of magic. He now lives quietly with his wife Sophia and his servant boy Fabrizio. One late evening, Mangus is summoned to King Claudio’s castle and escorted there by the king’s trusted advisor, Count Scarazoni. Upon arrival, the king orders Mangus to free his daughter, Princess Teresina, from a haunting ghost in the castle. Mangus tells the king that he no longer practices or believes in magic. In response, the king tells Mangus that he shall either help his daughter or die. (In the king’s mind, a marriage between Princess Teresina and Count Scarazoni must occur soon).

Conspiracy resides all throughout the kingdom. Princess Teresina feels that the ghostly image she encounters at night is her murdered brother (prince and heir to the throne). But we find out that the prince is actually alive and aiding the princess in the downfall of Scarazoni (who think the prince is dead). We also see an eager Count Scarazoni excited about his impending marriage to Princess Teresina. With an official marriage, Scarazoni would eventually claim the throne himself. Perhaps Scarazoni has had something to do with the “death” of the prince! On a larger scale, the citizens of Pergamontio want to see the downfall of Count Scarazoni! They feel he would be an evil leader.

Now Mangus is unaware of most of this initially because people in this story keep many things secret. They hide in secret, they talk in secret, they do things in secret. Mangus believes there has to be a reason for the ghostly images and that magic is not the answer. Rather he uses his skill of reasoning to deduce the answers throughout the book and finally comes to an answer that the “ghost” is Princess Teresina herself and her mother, the Queen (page 197).

However, Mangus does not make this knowledge public yet. During a riveting “magic show” to convince the king and Scarazoni that there is a “ghost”, Count Scarazoni reveals to all that he was the man who orchestrated an assassination on the prince. The count now has been exposed as the murderer and evil man all of Pergamontio has believed.   

REVIEW: This book was an easy-read. I am glad that it was because there were a lot of plot twists and turns. The story line kept me guessing. I did not predict that the Queen was involved in the conspiracy. The author, Avi, is a great story-teller.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: characterization, foreshadowing, theme, conflict, similes (page 17), vocabulary (sentries, parapet, portcullis, etc.), pages 82-83 and 100-101 are helpful in understanding the story

RELATED WEBSITES: (excellent site to teach the TEKS of characterization, theme, foreshadowing, and conflict)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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