Tuesday, August 30, 2016
The Most Frightening Story Ever Told
Kerr, Philip. The Most Frightening Story Ever Told
September 6th 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Billy Shivers is recuperating from a bad car accident, and his family doesn't have a lot of money. He loves to read, and spends a fair amount of time in the public library, but there are a limited amount of the ghost books that he loves to read. When he finds The Haunted House of Books, he tries to ingratiate himself to the difficult owner, Mr. Rapscallion, so that he can read books in the store. He manages to come to an agreement with the owner, but business is bad, and the two try to come up with ways to save the store. After attending a convention of booksellers and trying to find a ghost in a hotel with the aid of a young ghost hunter, they meet a descendant of Mary Wollenstonecraft who claims she has a story that is so scary that the first time it was read, it resulted in the deaths of several of the listener. Mr. Rapscallion decides to give a reading, attended only by five lucky children. These children can only enter if they purchase a book from the shop, but the contest is so popular that the entire bookstore is cleaned out. Billy ends up being one of the participants. Will he be able to listen to the entire story? And will the book store be able to continue.
Strengths: I love this author's The Children of the Lamp series as well as his Winter Horses. He has an appealing writing style, and there was a great twist at the end. This would be a good choice for elementary readers who like scary stories.
Weaknesses: This is not scary enough for my readers. There is a very, very specific type of book that they find scary. Think R.L. Stine, with heads rolling, blood, people being killed. Or do we just think they're dead. This reminded me a little of Nance's Daemon Hall, which circulates mainly because the cover is really great. This cover... too elementary. This could have been a good scary book with a couple of changes, but the weird names pulled me out of any fear I might have had. (Fedora Dirtbag? Who lives in a "trailer home... with a cigarette in her lipsticked mouth and curlers in her bottle-blond hair". Ouch. ) There is also a description of someone as "Oriental-looking". This helps my point that people my age were at some point told that this was the polite term, but it IS NOT now, and shouldn't be used.)
What I really think: This is just not quite right for my students, so I will pass.