Category Archives: Scary


Title:   Thornhill
Author:   Pam Smy
Series:   —
Recommended for:  older tweens and teens who like creepy books
Pages:   533 pages
Call Number/Link:   J FICTION SMY, P.

Rating:   ****






Parallel plotlines set in different times, one told in text and one in art, inform each other as a young girl unravels the mystery of a ghost next door.

1982:  Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute for Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors.  When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary and on Thornhill itself.

2016:  Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one.  From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window.  Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.


Some colleagues were surprised that I chose to read this book since I don’t usually read creepy, scary books.

As it works out, I was less scared than horrified by the book.  I was really troubled by the cruelty of the bullying that the girl from the eighties experienced, and that the orphanage’s primary caregivers truly didn’t care.  The girl obviously needed psychological help, as did the bully.

I did not get a complete picture of the contemporary girl’s situation.  I could see that she and her father had moved to a new place where she didn’t have any friends.  Her mother isn’t with them and the father works so many hours that the girl is, for all intensive purposes, an abandoned child.

There was no way that this book could end well….


But now for the biggest mystery of all:  should we move to book to Teen Fiction or keep it in J Fiction?







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Posted by on September 24, 2017 in Historical, Historical, Horror, Juv, Scary, Teen


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The Wizard

the-wizardTitle: The Wizard
Author: Jack Prelutsky & Illustrated by Brandon Dorman
Series: N/A
Recommended for:  Kindergarten – Grade 5
Pages: 32 pages
Call Number/Link:  E PRELU

Synopsis: In a spooky tower on a cozy suburban cul-de-sac lives a wizard pondering evil deeds. He uses “elemental sorcery” to turn a bullfrog into a flea, which becomes a pair of mice, which emerge as a cockatoo, and so on, until the wizard brings back the frog and banishes it. Contemplating his next trick, the magician peers from his tower window to the street below, where children play: “He may pluck someone off the spot / and turn them into . . . who knows what?” Prelutsky’s rhyming text, adapted from a poem originally published in Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep (1976), combines well with Dorman’s sumptuous, full-page digital art, featuring a grandfatherly wizard “tall and thin with wrinkled skin, a tangled beard hangs from his chin.” Children will particularly like the way the wizard’s spells glow and splash across the pages, and the creepy feeling that evil may lurk even on their own street. Consider this somewhat eerie, but not over-the-top scary.

Comments: I grabbed this book off the shelf because of the beautiful cover and the inside illustrations were even better! Each page is incredibly detailed, colorful and full of action. The poem might be a bit scary for toddlers, but would be another great read around Halloween or for family story time. If you read the book one-on-one there are so many things to find in each picture that you could spend a long time together searching for hidden objects.

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Posted by on March 3, 2017 in Fantasy, Holidays, Picture Books, Scary



Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


Title:   Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Author:   J. K. Rowling
Series:   Harry Potter
Recommended for:  kids in grades 4 and up, teens, adults
Pages:   775 p.
Call Number/Link:  Teen Fiction Rowling, J.

Rating:  ***




In response to his reappearance, Dumbledore reactivates the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society which works to defeat the Dark Lord’s minions and protect his targets?especially Harry Potter. But Harry doesn’t want to be protected. Even as the Ministry of Magic denies his claims, The Daily Prophet discredits him, and even Dumbledore won’t look him in the eye, Harry grows more and more determined to fight his lifelong enemy Voldemort?if only he had the “weapon” the Order is guarding. In the meantime, he visits his godfather at his ghoulish London home, Grimmauld Place, and learns more about Voldemort’s deep reach into Wizarding history and the Wizarding world. Back at Hogwarts, Harry must deal with a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey; a surprising new member of the Gryffindor Quidditch team; the possibility of his first real romance; and the looming nightmare of the Ordinary Wizarding Level exams. He’s haunted by dreams of a heavy door at the end of a silent corridor, and a vision of his father and the young Severus Snape that changes everything he thought he knew about them. Even the joy of working with “Dumbledore’s Army”?a group of Soon Harry will discover the true depth and strength of his friends; their boundless loyalty and unbearable sacrifices. His fate depends on them all.


I can’t say that I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  The kids in my Harry Potter Book Club didn’t like it either.  I really really dislike Delores Umbrage.  Even though she is not a death eater, I think she is more evil than Voldemort.  At least he is honest about his true nature and motivations.  (And doesn’t talk in a fake sweet voice, wear a fluffy pink cardigan and have tons of pictures of cute fluffy kittens.)

Thank goodness for Dumbledore’s Army and Luna Lovegood.  They made things a bit better.

Our group has enjoyed the other books in the series and look forward to Half-Blood Prince.



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Posted by on February 7, 2017 in Adventure, Fantasy, Juv, Scary



The Relic of Perilous Falls

Title: The Relic of Perilous Falls
Author: Raymond Arroyo
Series: Will Wilder
Recommended for: Adventure-loving children who want more Harry Potter, or who have read everything Rick Riordan’s ever written. Grades 4 and up.
Pages: 318
Call Number/Link:  J FICTION ARROYO, R.


Will Wilder seems to be a rather ordinary boy—albeit one clever enough to make his own catapult—until a series of odd events leads to the unleashing of an ancient evil, and the discovery that even the most ordinary of people can hide extraordinary powers.

Will is a believable hero: a typical boy, with common flaws and strengths. He is, to put it mildly, pig-headed and stubborn, and easily swayed by argument; he does, however, have a good heart, and is certainly not lazy or ill-intentioned.

I liked the pace of the adventures, and the cliff-hanger chapters kept my interest. However, the writing did feel a bit clunky at times, as though the author hadn’t yet grown comfortable with this genre. As sequels come, however, I’m sure the lumps and bumps will get smoothed out, and the children clamoring for “SOMETHING ELSE” after Percy Jackson or Harry Potter simply won’t notice or care in this case.

It is a bit dark at times, and might be a bit much for very sensitive readers (crocodile monsters and narrow escapes abound,) but in this battle of Good and Evil, the light always triumphs, and there is nothing a Harry Potter or Percy Jackson fan won’t be able to handle.

We’ll see where this goes; I’d like to see who’s running the show, and leading the good guys, for starters! By the end of the first book, we know who’s in charge of the bad guys, but we’ve only been introduced to individual members of the good, and not much has been revealed about the Brethren.

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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Adventure, Fantasy, Juv, Mysteries, Scary, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized


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Jacket (1)Title:: Resistance
Author: : Carla Jablonski ; illustrated by Leland Purvis ; color by Hilary Sycamore.
Series: Resistance trilogy
Recommended for: Grades 5-9
Pages: Unpaginated
Call Number/Link:  GN J JAB
Synopsis: A couple’s bucolic French town is almost untouched by the ravages of WWII. When their friend goes into hiding and his Jewish parents disappear, they realize they must take a stand.
Review:  This is a tough book, but important. It is about the occupation of France as told from the point of view of children. The authors work hard to make the story gripping without being melodramatic. The excellently capture the fear and uncertainty of war coupled with the power of family. End notes in the book talk a bit more about the war and reasonably discuss the idea that war is filled with shades of grey, explaining some of the ideas as to why people might collaborate with the Nazis.


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The Screaming Staircase

lockwoodTitle: The Screaming Staircase
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood and Co.
Recommended for: 4th grade and up
Pages: 416
Call Number/Link:  J STR

Synopsis:  A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren’t exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?

Review: Lockwood and Co. is a great combination of scary and funny with a steampunk vibe.  Lockwood, Lucy and George are young, talented, and fearless, but their jobs often end in mass destruction.  On one assignment they get rid of the ghost but end up burning down the house.  Agents of the much larger, adult run agencies constantly mock them and try to steal their clients.  The humor is balanced by the dark world Stroud has created.  London has become overrun with ghosts whose touch can kill you and children are sent in to fight the deadly creatures.  (They are the only ones who can see the ghosts.)  In this world Stroud has placed interesting, complex characters.  George seems slovenly and lazy but is an incredible researcher and loyal to the end.  Lucy has seen her share of tragedy and also wrestles to control her talent to communicate with ghosts.  And Lockwood is hiding a dark secret.  What happened to his parents?  How did he manage to inherit their estate and start and agency while still a young teen?  What lies behind the locked bedroom door?  

‘The Screaming Staircase’ is the first book in the Lockwood and Co. series.  There are three books so far and I recommend them all.


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Posted by on October 3, 2015 in Adventure, Juv, Scary


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Serafina and the Black Cloak

51kw82vfVSL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Serafina and the Black Cloak
Author: Robert Beatty
Recommended for: 5th-7th grade horror and fantasy fans
Pages: 293 pp
Call Number/Link:  J Fiction Beatty, R.  

Synopsis: In 1899, a twelve-year-old rat catcher on North Carolina’s Biltmore estate teams up with the estate owner’s young nephew to battle a great evil and, in the process, unlocks the puzzle of her past.

I was lured in by the extensive advertising on facebook, and I watched the book trailer here. It sounded like a great read for a fantasy/historical fan such as myself.  This book has plenty of creepy action, interesting historical context (did you know that Biltmore Estate is a real place?  That a Vanderbilt built?), and mysterious happenings and people.  There is moral ambiguity and unknown origins and a whole lot going on on many levels.  There is a fantasy element that is tough to jive with the historical and horror elements.  What I didn’t expect was the level of intensity in some of the scenes.  This book is solidly juvenile, with a 12 year old protagonist and a juvenile feel to the book–but the scary scenes were truly scary and horrifying.  I always use the book The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein if I want someone to truly be scared, and this book is on level with that book–maybe a bit more horrifying.  There are children pleading for their lives and long action sequences where a bad guy is stalking children.  This is going to be fine for a bunch of kids, but you will want to gauge your audience before recommending it to the tenderhearted–I would not want my sheltered children to be reading it until maybe 5th grade.  A great book that I will recommend.

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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Adventure, Fantasy, Historical, Juv, Scary