Friday, October 31, 2014

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Spooky Reads by two great middle grade authors!




ABOUT THE BOOK

What if the monsters from your favorite horror books were real?

Eddie Fennicks has always been a loner, content to lose himself in a mystery novel by his favorite author, Nathaniel Olmstead. That’s why moving to the small town of Gatesweed becomes a dream come true when Eddie discovers that Olmstead lived there before mysteriously disappearing thirteen years ago. Even better, Eddie finds a handwritten, never-before-seen Nathaniel Olmstead book printed in code and befriends Harris, who’s as much an Olmsteady as he is. But then the frightening creatures of Olmstead’s books begin to show up in real life, and Eddie’s dream turns into a nightmare. Eddie, Harris, and their new friend, Maggie, must break Olmstead’s code, banish all gremlins and monster lake-dogs from the town of Gatesweed, and solve the mystery of the missing author, all before Eddie’s mom finishes writing her own tale of terror and brings to life the scariest creature of all.

REVIEW

It's always great when I find a new favorite author.  And it's even better when they already have several books out that I can read all at once.  For me Dan Poblocki is one of these authors.  Last week I highlighted two of his newer books, The Ghost of Graylock and The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe, both of which I found to be excellent.  So I was eager to read another one by him.

The Stone Child revolves around a young man named Eddie and his family who have recently arrived in Gatesweed so his mother can hopefully get back to writing.  But from the first minute he hears about the supposed Olmstead curse, Eddie realizes that there is something very wrong with this town. When he discovers an encrypted book that appears to have belonged to Nathaniel Olmstead, his favorite scary book author, he is fascinated and determined to discover what is going on.  With the help of some new found friends he sets out to do just that, but the sudden appearance of some of the monsters from Olmstead's books add new tension to the quest.  Especially when it appears they will have to face off the the scariest monster of all, The Woman in Black who appears to be watching their every move.

One of the things that I have especially enjoyed about Poblocki's books is the rapidly rising tension that he creates as the problem gets bigger and bigger until the climax explodes across the page.  The characters are also appealing and likable.  The only problem I had with the book is that the story revolves around a myth about the Garden of Eden. As I am quite religious I found this a bit uncomfortable as it contradicts my own strongly held beliefs.  But once I set that aside and looked at it as just a myth created for the story, it was okay.

Poblocki is also really good at creating believable plots despite the large number of fantasy elements. I found it remarkably easy to get pulled into this story.


ABOUT THE BOOK

When twelve-year-old Florence boards the crowded horse-drawn coach in London, she looks forward to a new life with her great uncle and aunt at Crutchfield Hall, an old manor house in the English countryside. Anything will be better, she thinks, than the grim London orphanage where she has lived since her parents' death.
          But Florence doesn't expect the ghost of her cousin Sophia, who haunts the cavernous rooms and dimly lit hallways of Crutchfield and concocts a plan to use Florence to help her achieve her murderous goals. Will Florence be able to convince the others in the household of the imminent danger and stop Sophia before it's too late?

REVIEW

Mary Downing Hahn has long been known for her middle grade ghost stories, but until now I've never actually read one.  I discovered that I have truly been missing out.  Not only did I find the story engaging and interesting, I also found that the book reads quite quickly with the plot carrying the story along at a nice clip.  That means her books are good for students who want middle of the road scary and books that aren't too long.  In other words, this book and others like it would be great for reluctant readers.

I found all the characters interesting and full of contrast which for a book that is plot-based is quite well done.  The spooky elements involving Sophia (the ghost) and her powers are different than those I've read before, her ability to control Florence to a shocking extent was especially intriguing.  The contrasting personalities of Florence, her cousins, James and Sophia, as well as her great aunt and uncle made the book especially enjoyable and memorable.

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