Horrible house party: The Gathering (Shadow House 1) by Dan Poblocki

Poblocki, Dan. The Gathering. Scholastic, Inc., 2016. 215 pages. Hardcover $11.19, ISBN 978-0-545-92550-1; PLB $16.99, ISBN 978-1-33809-127-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Horror

Part of a series? Yes; this is book one of the Shadow House trilogy

Book Summary:

Several children from different circumstances receive a summons to Larkspur House; each summons is different, but each also succeeds in luring the children to the house. Shifting hallways, disappearing doors, and mysterious figures are found aplenty in the building…any exit or help is not. Will the children make it out alive?

Reader’s Comments:

This book was borderline too scary for me … but I am a big scaredy-cat anyways. 🙂 The creepiness just keeps on coming, and the action is nonstop. This unputdownable horror fix is perfect for your hardcore middle grader who wants a scary read.

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:



Friends for Ever-After: Friends For Life by Andrew Norris

Norriss, Andrew. Friends For Life. David Fickling Books/Scholastic, Inc., 2015. 234 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-545-85186-2

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Fantasy (ghosts)

Part of a series? No.

Plot Summary:

Francis is having a tough time; he sits alone frequently because no one at his school thinks that fashion design is a normal hobby for a boy. When Jessica sits with him at lunch, he is surprised by their pleasant conversation … and more surprised to learn that she is a ghost. Jessica is equally surprised; no one can ever see her. Together, Jessica and Francis bond, and when more people are able to see Jessica, the friends must find out if their ability to see Jessica means that they have something they need to do.

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This was a very sweet book. I had no idea what it was about when I started it, so I was very surprised by some of the twists. Without giving away too much, the book is about bullying and suicide. The topics are handled very thoughtfully, and the idea that life is worth living is upheld throughout the novel. I would be careful about how young of a reader I would hand-sell this too; suicide is a tough topic, and I would want to ensure that a reader was properly emotionally mature to read this one, but for many middle-graders, this will be a powerful read.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a really great reading circle group. I wonder if it would be fun for people to (perhaps anonymously) submit things they are interested in (in the event that they are as shy as Francis is about his hobby). Alternately, we could have a non-anonymous sharing of talents and a kind of “teach your hobby” day in the library for kids to showcase their abilities and help teach friends how to do those things (i.e., fashion design or coding or … anything!). (Ideas from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8 (Titlewave says 3-6, but given the topic >>> suicide , I’m leaning more towards Kirkus Reviews’ age range)

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Library Media Connection starred 2/1/16

Publishers Weekly starred 5/18/15

Reviews · Uncategorized

Bones, Boats, and Books: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Podehl, Nick and Black, Holly. Doll Bones. Digital file. Listening Library/Findaway World, 2013. 5 hours 11 minutes, 23 seconds. $39.00 ISBN 978-0-8041-2293-1

This is a wonderful unabridged audiobook. The book alone would definitely be creepy, but hearing this ghost story aloud is chilling. Poppy, Alice, and Zach are engrossed in a game involving pirates, thieves, and an imprisoned Queen. The Queen, an expensive bone china doll locked in Poppy’s mother’s living room case, is the focal point of their adventures. While they have been barred from ever opening the case (let alone touching the doll), the children use the Queen as the driving force behind all of their characters’ action. When Zach’s father throws away Zach’s action figures in an effort to force him to grow up, Zach is so upset that he can’t bear to tell his friends what happened. Instead, Zach lies and says that he doesn’t want to play anymore. In an attempt to draw Zach back into the game, Poppy opens her mother’s cabinet and takes out the Queen. Immediately, Poppy claims that the ghost of Eleanor Kirtchner appeared to her in the night, telling her story and claiming to be the ghost of the dead girl used to make the Queen. The china that makes up the Queen’s body? According to Poppy, it came from Eleanor’s bones. Poppy claims that the only way to put Eleanor’s spirit to rest is to bury the Queen in Eleanor’s own (empty) grave … all the way in East Liverpool, one state over and a long bus ride away.

Black can transition from game to ghost story in an instant, leaving the exploits of William and Lady J in the dust as she jumps to a frightening description of the Queen and her (perhaps malign) intentions. Poppy, Alice, and Zach have clearly differentiated voices in Podehl’s reading, and Zach is a fun narrator to walk alongside as we try to ensure that the Queen is properly buried. Is the Queen really haunted by Eleanor’s ghost, or did Poppy just make it all up as one last, grand Game? It’s a creepy, delightful, “unputdownable” story, perfect for a student who enjoys ghost stories, Neil Gaiman, or other scary reads.

Tweens who reviewed the book on Common Sense Media were split. Of the three reviews, one tween loved the book, one was very disappointed and wished that it was up to par with Black’s other books, and the third thought that it was too scary. Despite these mixed reviews, if there was interest in my patron base, I would like to use this book with students for a fun read. School Library Journal also selected this audiobook as a “Pick of the Day” in 2013.


Programming Ideas: This would be a fantastic alternate to a library read-aloud for older students. At five hours it’s a bit of a commitment, but perhaps a group of interested students could gather at their lunch breaks to listen. Doing half an hour a day only took me about a week and a half, so it’s definitely a doable listen as a pre-Halloween scary read! (Idea from myself).


Reviews read:

Common Sense Media. (n. d.). All teen and kid member reviews for Doll Bones.    Common Sense Media. Retrieved from   

School Library Journal. (2013, Aug. 2). Pick of the day: Doll bones (audio) (Review of      the audiobook Doll Bones). School Library Journal. Retrieved from

Stewart, D. (n. d.). Doll bones (Review of the book Doll Bones). Common Sense Media.   Retrieved from