November 23, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

On the Radar Teen: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Ghost Stories for Teenage Readers

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Some genres have year-round appeal. Enter the ghost story. This fall’s ghost stories combine other elements our students enjoy reading. A girl dies too soon. A crime needs to be solved. The Titanic. These books have short, cliff-hanging chapters with no good stopping place. You can almost read them in one sitting―unless your fear factor is released. Like me, you may have to do Pinterest between chapters, and refrain from reading them before bed! Happy haunting!

DOYLE, Roddy. Greyhound of a Girl. Amulet, 2012. ISBN 9781419701689. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5-7)

Greyhound GirlTwelve-year-old Mary meets a new, mysterious woman one day after school. Mary’s head is full of worries at the time, so she doesn’t think much of it. Her best friend has moved away. Her mom ends every sentence in an exclamation point! Her beloved Granny is very ill in the hospital. Oddly enough, no one new has moved into her neighborhood. What’s even odder is that sometimes when she looks at the old woman, it’s as though she can see through her. Then the old woman gives Mary a message to take to her Granny. She seems to know her well, and she should, for she is Granny’s mother. She’s been dead since Granny was a little girl.

In a story that blends the past with the present, four separate Irish voices weave an adventure that is part family story and part ghost story. Like most ghost stories, Tansey has a purpose for remaining with the living. She needs the help of Mary and her mother to complete that task. Their final adventure plays out like a scene from The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Harper, 2004).

FLEMING, Candice. On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012. ISBN 9780375967818. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6-9)

The Day I DiedAuthor of many award winning nonfiction books, Fleming believes that sometimes the scariest stories begin with a bit of the truth. Beginning with a version of the traditional pick-up-the-dead-girl story, readers are treated to ten stories about how these young people died too soon. Mike has picked up a girl who, as it turns out, actually died years ago. When he tries to return the shoes she left, he is directed to the cemetery where teenagers are dying to tell their stories. One by one, the dead reveal the truth―about the day they died.

Using voices from different time periods, Fleming’s new book takes her love of Chicago history and blends it with her fondness of ghost stories. Concluding author notes give source information about the stories. Lovers of history and hauntings alike will shudder.

MCNAMEE, Graham. Beyond: A Ghost Story. Wendy Lamb Books, 2012. ISBN 9780385906876. JLG Level: HI : High-Interest High School (Grades 10 & up)

BeyondIf a person ever needed nine lives, it would be Jane. When the story begins, she has a nail (from a nail gun) in her head. It’s not the first time Jane has encountered near death experiences. She grabbed a live power line. She stood on a rail as a train approached. Folks say she’s suicidal, but Jane has a witness. Her best friend, Lexi, saw the shadow hold her to the tracks. What they don’t understand is what her shadow wants and why it keeps trying to kill her.

Both ghost story and mystery, McNamee’s tale holds the reader in an unrelenting grip. Readers will puzzle over the clues and read faster and faster to come to its thrilling conclusion. What are these dreams that Jane has? What does the skull of the dead boy have to do with her shadow? Who killed these missing boys? How does Jane save herself while fighting her shadow? It’s a ghost story with a frightening secret.

PAULS, Chris and Matt Solomon. Deck Z: The Titanic. Chronicle Books, 2012. IBSN 9781452108032. JLG Level: PBH : Paperbacks High School (Grades 10 & up)

Deck ZIt doesn’t really matter that this is the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, as the subject is always hugely popular. Deck Z, however, is no retelling of the research on the building or sinking of the ocean liner. The brilliant premise is this: take a biological weapon and run away with it on an ocean liner sailing to America. Dr. Weiss is a German scientist who discovers a plague that turns its victims into zombies. Though he wants to use his findings to create a cure for other diseases, the German army has other ideas. Planning to use the Toxic to start a zombie army, they anticipate that Russia will use all its funds to stop them and Germany can win the war.

When Dr. Weiss learns of the plot, he does the only possible thing―run for America. The problem is that he took the vial with him and left a trail for the Germans to follow. Once on board, the Toxic is released and zombies take over the E Deck, turning it into Deck Z.

Using known research and inserting fantastic events from the zombie plague, Pauls and Solomon create a riveting mystery. The band plays on to distract the zombies from boarding the lifeboats. More people die on Deck E than any other. The architect goes down with the ship. Who is after the Toxic? Can the passengers defeat the zombies? What happens to Dr. Weiss? Does he invent a cure? You’ll have to read it for yourself―you’ll never believe it until you do.

POBLOCKI, Dan. The Ghost of Graylock. Scholastic Press, 2012. ISBN 9780545402682. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6-9)

The Ghosts of GraylockNeil and Bree are spending the summer with their aunts. The tale of how Nurse Janet killed three children from the town’s psychiatric hospital sends them to visit Graylock Hospital themselves. After a traumatic visit, Neil and Bree find that something may have followed them home. There is lake weed in the tub and toilet and pools of water by their beds. They begin to have the same horrifying dreams. Determined to solve the mystery, they take their new friends into danger until the ghost world and reality collide.

Did Nurse Janet really kill those children? Why is her son so angry at the teenagers? When dreams begin to feel real, how can they prevent the ghost of Graylock from drowning them? Can they reveal the murderer before they lose their own lives? Poblocki’s ghost mystery that is sure to haunt your readers.

Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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