Monday, April 12, 2010

National Library Week--Day One

A Ghost Story for Summer Reading

Truly a ghost story. If you get the shivers when things go bump in the night, you may not want to read this. Your kids will.

ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES by Mary Downing Hahn, Clarion, 2008.

Both boys and girls will enjoy reading this chiller. Antics of a rambunctious brother and sister duo, 13 and 12, earned them such a reputation at the summer camp where their parents usually send them that the camp leaders pulled in the welcome mat. The kids were not allowed to return.

Their parents–who must have been frantic, although we are not given access to their behind the scenes string pulling--manage to get them invited to spend the summer with their grandmother at her inn in Vermont.

Old inns in Vermont have ghosts. Don’t they? Apparently this one did once upon a time, but not since Grandmother bought it. Grandmother likes it that way. She doesn’t believe in ghosts and the undercurrent about them, the looks exchanged by her staff, the rumors in town, barely earn a pooh, pooh, piffle from her. The setting is perfect for two mischievous tweens eager to stir up excitement. Trouble is, they wake the real spirits on the grounds and that’s where the spirited adventures begin. (Sorry about the pun. No, not really).

Mary Downing Hahn is a former children’s librarian whose novel, STEPPING ON THE CRACKS, won the prestigious Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award while Ms. Hahn was still a working librarian. It was my good fortune to hear her speak about this award at a conference. Asked where she was when she learned her novel had been singled out for this high honor, she answered, “In my laundry room.” This should delight every mom. Mary Downing Hahn is a brilliant writer, and she’s one of us. If I remember correctly, it was another ten years of solid publishing success before Ms. Hahn quit her day job to write full time.

Many of author Hahn’s novels have ghosts and scenes that make the heart race while eyes race down the page. She has mastered the art of holding middle grade readers’ attention–and then some. Look up some of her other eerie tales: WAIT TILL HELEN COMES (my favorite), THE DOLL IN THE GARDEN, TIME FOR ANDREW and more.

Getting to know the work of this author could keep your young readers devouring books all summer long.

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