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Enjoy Some Haunting Tales: October 2015 Middle School Titles

September 24th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in October | 2015-2016 | Middle School

swallowThe Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter. Tundra Books for Middle School AgeBooks, 2014.

Polly often feels lost in the chaos of her big family. But she’s fiery and feisty and doesn’t have trouble speaking her mind. Quiet only child Rose feels invisible. Her parents think about work even when they’re home in the house to which they recently moved, which once belonged to Rose’s grandmother. Polly, who loves ghost stories, wonders if Rose, who can see ghosts, might not be a ghost herself: Rose is pale and wild-looking. Rose’s attempts to convince Polly she’s a real girl recovering from meningitis are temporarily set back when they discover a grave stone with Rose’s name. The girl, the same age as Rose, died years before. Rose realizes this Winifred Rose must be her aunt, and soon encounters the ghost of Winifred at home. Winifred is not only an unhappy ghost, she’s a dangerous one and seems intent on hurting Polly in particular. The two girls are determined to figure out what happened to Winifred and form a deepening friendship as they dig into the past, each finding the companionship and validation they need, each understanding themselves and their families better for knowing one another. Charis Cotter’s satisfyingly scary ghost story, set in 1963 Toronto, is also, and at its most essential, a moving tale of friendship that ends with a revelation.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources for The Swallow at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Fear is a recurring theme in this story. What are the different kinds of fears that the characters experience? How does this affect the pace and tension in the story?
  1. Explain the way that different characters in the story feel invisible.
  1. The swallow is a symbol throughout the book. What does the swallow represent? What is the significance of the swallow? Why do you think the author used the title, The Swallow?

The Screaming Staircase. (Lockwood & Co.: Book One) by screaming staircseJonathan Stroud. Disney / Hyperion, 2013.

In this parallel universe, London residents are at risk from hostile “Visitors”—aka ghosts. Adults lack the ability to see ghosts, so it’s left to young people to put up a fight. Several agencies (think private eye meets Ghostbusters ) serve Britain in this capacity. Lockwood and Company, run by charismatic Anthony Lockwood along with studious George Cubbins and risk-taking Lucy Carlyle, is the only agency without an adult supervisor and as such is viewed as unreliable and rebellious. Lucy narrates her early career with Lockwood and Co. as their clever and brave attempts at ghost removal often end in botched results, lending credence to their detractors’ claims. Eventually they are driven to accept a high-risk, high-reward job in order to repay debts and save their company’s reputation after one of their investigations goes horribly wrong. This smart middle-grade adventure, alternately funny and scary with fallible characters that grow emotionally and intellectually, sets the stage for the continuing escapades of Lockwood and Company.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find lesson plans, a book trailer and more at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. In what time period do you think this story is set? What evidence can you cite?
  1. Secrecy is a theme in this book. How do the secrets affect the plot? How do the secrets affect the development of the characters?
  1. This book’s setting mixes fantasy and realism by imagining that ghosts are real. How do the fantasy aspects of this book affect the realistic parts of the world?

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