Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Historias De Miedo: 1 by Alvin Schwartz

If you’re looking for scary stories in Spanish you’re in luck!  Historias de Miedo (Scary Stories) is filled with a wide range of short horror stories written in Spanish. No story is longer than three pages, making the book a quick read for those looking to read it cover to cover or those just looking for a quick scare fix.  The book seems a good fit for middle schoolers, because it is unlikely that any of the stories will keep students up at night; a few tales were more funny than scary.   The book is divided by chapters, each one containing a category of stories such as: ghosts, stories that will make you jump, scary stories about everyday dangers and even a funny scary stories section.  Tales are accompanied by black and white pictures that complement the story.  My favorite was a comic strip like tale told through four panels about the sea waves coming in and out of the beach called, “El Slideri-di,” which translates to “the sliding slide” or something along those lines.

At the end of the book is an annotated bibliography with details about the background of the stories and their original source. Students looking for not so serious horror stories should enjoy this book. -- Claudio Leon

Schwartz, Alvin. Historias de Miedo: 1. Editorial Everest, 1981. Print.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl by Carolita Blythe

Faye and her friends break into an old woman’s apartment and rob her as this novel begins.  Disappointed and rattled, Faye returns home to her abusive mother who has anger issues, only to be haunted by the possibility that she may have accidentally caused the death of her victim. Concerned with the concept of karma, Faye revisits the scene of the crime to learn what fate she has wrought herself.  Set in the eighties in Brooklyn, reluctant teen readers will miss some of the nostalgia and humor, but more experienced readers will enjoy the ride nonetheless.  Fans of Sharon Flake and Sharon Draper will enjoy this novel which is a bit longer and relies more heavily on sarcasm and inference. However, Blythe’s writing is tightly plotted and the short chapters are well placed to create a sense of momentum and suspense as Faye’s journey through freshman year unfolds. Strongly recommended for middle school and younger high school independent reading as well as book clubs.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Blythe, Carolita.  Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl.  New York: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rage: True Stories by Teens About Anger edited by Laura Longhine

Very few opening lines have more potential to grab a detainee’s attention than one that places the reader in media res while the narrator is making a guilty plea to a judge. Fred W.’s “Loose Cannon” does just that, taking the reader from the courtroom to a secure detention facility (Goshen),  and on to an outpatient drug treatment program.  Natasha Santos’ “Bum-rushed by the Past” follows with a similarly strong opening: “This is the story of a girl born in the projects, neglected by her parents, and tormented by memories of families she is no longer a part of.  It’s about how I spent six years in foster care and got adopted.”  While the collection’s diversity of perspectives may make it difficult for reluctant and developing readers to consume cover to cover, the topical themes will motivate more sophisticated readers to explore the panoply of voices in these seventeen stories.  Notably, all of the seventeen were written by teens and they are complemented by an end interview with Toni Heineman, therapist, who discusses healthy and unhealthy ways to express anger.  ELA teachers looking for personal essays as well as bridges between short stories and memoirs will want to check this out.  Social workers will want to have a copy of Rage on hand to direct students to piecemeal.  ---Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Longhine, Laura.  Rage:  True Stories by Teens About Anger.  Minneapolis:  Free Spirit Publishing, 2012.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Evil Behind That Door by Barbara Fradkin

Cedric is helping his high school classmate, Barry Mitchell, get his parents decrepit, old farmhouse into shape.  Problem is, Barry’s a violent guy with a history - he was sent away at the age of five because of his fits of rage - and his parents have suddenly gone missing.  Cedric is walking on eggshells around him, trying to get the work done and not set him off.  When he discovers an old locked door in the basement, Cedric is intrigued by Barry’s fear and aversion to it.  Taking a serious risk, he returns alone and pries it open.  What he finds inside calls into question everything he thinks he knows about Barry and his family.  There was a monster in the Mitchell household, but it might not have been young Barry.

Evil behind That Door is a Rapid Reads publication, intended for adult reluctant readers.  The action begins in the first few pages and the quick pace carries through to the end.  While the rural setting may be unfamiliar to urban teen readers, the mystery is compelling and suspenseful and the narrative and language are straightforward.  Readers who are ready to move beyond Goosebumps, may find Evil Behind That Door is a good choice for a creepy independent read.  Reading specialists looking for interesting new material may want to check it out, as well. --Regan Schwartz

Fradkin, Barbara. Evil Behind That Door. Victoria, Canada: Raven Books, 2012. Print.