Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spooooky Books!

MacHale, D. J. Black Moon Rising (The Library #2)
October 3rd 2017 by Random House Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the publisher

Marcus, along with his friends Lu and Theo, are struggling to make it through middle school. Lu gets a bad grade and Marcus' parents want him to be involved in extracurricular activities. At least things aren't as bad as they are at Coppell Middle School in Massachusetts, where disasters like the bleachers collapsing at the pep rally are starting to occur almost daily. When Marcus' key gets very warm, he visits Everett in the library and checks out the story of CMS. When he gets there, he manages to meet the evil Nate Christmas (who is busy trying to flood the boys' bathroom) as well as Ainsley, the preppy and peppy class president, and the painfully shy Kayla. . All three are frequently in the middle of the latest disturbance, but Marcus starts to realize that Ainsley is the most likely instigator of events. With the help of Lu and Theo, who also come to the school, Marcus is able to connect Ainsley and the school librarian to a coven that is trying to resurrect a witch with connections to Salem.

When things go wrong around the time of a Halloween school dance, you know there are going to be lots of deliciously creepy factors. The power goes out, white ravens appear, and seemingly benign libraries shape shift out of their plaid skirts into the skin of a wolf-beast! Add a sacrificial circle in the middle of the woods with a dash of Salem witchcraft, and there won't be an unchewed fingernail in the library!

Aside from the creepy mystery, there are some really interesting middle school dynamics going on. While Nate is easily blamed for mischief because he's always in the middle of one scheme or another, it's far creepier to realize that Ainsley, the go-to girl for all events in the middle school, might be the one mysteriously creating trouble! No one will suspect the good girl, who will be given unprecedented access to the school, and unwarranted trust by her classmates! So much more havoc can be wreaked by such a person!

The Library itself is an intriguing space, and there is a lot left undiscovered about its secrets, although we do find out that they still use paper circulation cards. It's nice that Marcus is able to go to Everett for help; as scary as this series is, it's a good idea to have some adult back up just in case. I was very amused by Marcus' choice of extra curricular activity at the end of the book as well.

While there isn't as much about Marcus' biological parents in this book, the ending hints that the trio will investigate the disappearance of Lu's cousin next, and I'm hoping that we find out a little more backstory about both Marcus' family as well as the stories held by the library. We'll certainly have the idea reinforced that having a mechanical fortune teller tell you future is never a good idea! Readers who like MacHale's Morpheus Road series, as well as books by Hahn, Kehret, Poblocki and Barbara Brooks Wallace will scare themselves silly reading The Library with a flashlight under the covers.

Terry, Laura. Graveyard Shakes
September 26th 2017 by Graphix
Copy provided Letter Better Publishing Services

Victoria and her younger sister Katia have been homeschooled, but their parents decide to send them to Bexley Academy. Victoria, despite her love for her odd hat, tries to fit in after girls make fun of her, but Katia is a free spirit who wants to do her own thing no matter what opinion classmates have. Near the school, there is a graveyard where many ghosts hang out, including Little Ghost, who is scared of the other phantoms. He is, however, friends with Modie. Modie is an unusual case. He was injured in an accident that killed his mother, and his father is keeping him alive by killing a tween every 13 years and feeding the spirit to Modie! Modie doesn't like this idea, although he enjoys hanging out with Little Ghost. When Katia runs away from the school during a storm, it looks like she will be the next victim to keep Modie alive. Katia tries to prevent this, with help from Little Ghost.
Strengths: This is a mildly scary and definitely creepy tale that is a great choice for Halloween. The formatting is perfect for middle grade readers-- the text is not too small, the pictures are clear and support the text, and the characters are distinct enough that the story moves along quickly. It's hard to tell from the ARC how much of this will be in color. The color is nicely done, but students would pick this up even if the final copy does have some black and white pages. Modie's moral struggle adds an unexpected depth to this. I will definitely purchase a copy, since my students have become inordinately fond of graphic novels.
Weaknesses: Younger readers might have problems with the idea of the father killing children in order to save Modie, but middle school students will be fine with the idea.
What I really think: I personally am not a fan of the "do your own thing even if it's weird" philosophy when it comes to middle school students, so I wasn't very fond of Victoria and was even less fond of Katia. Middle school is tough no matter how much one follows the social mores, so encouraging students to remain steadfast in behaviors that will bring them under the censure of their classmates seems unwise.
Ms. Yingling

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