May 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Searching for Shivers? | SLJ Spotlight

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Middle graders looking to raise a few goosebumps are in luck; recent titles in the horror genre combine elements of folklore, urban legend, and just enough humor to lighten the mood when things get a bit too scary. Tracey Baptiste offers a deliciously atmospheric witch tale set in the Caribbean in The Jumbies. In I Text Dead People by Rose Cooper, friendship drama combines with beyond-the-grave communication in a mash-up that is as funny as it is spooky. And in Robert Lettrick’s The Murk, readers venture deep into a swamp that may hold a cure as well as something truly sinister.

thejumbiesBaptiste, Tracey. The Jumbies. 240p. Algonquin. Apr. 2015. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781616204143.

Gr 3-5 –A middle grade twist on a traditional Haitian folktale. Corinne and her father don’t believe in jumbies, malevolent creatures that come out of the island’s dark woods to prey on people. Then one day a strangely beautiful lady named Severine walks into Corinne’s house and takes over, her Papa begins acting weird, and evil creatures attack the village. Corinne and her friends approach the white witch for help but she can’t assist because it would affect the ancient balance between creatures and humans. However, the white witch does tell Corinne that she has a special power that can help. Readers will find Corinne engaging and her determination authentic. Corinne’s friends, Dru, Bouki, and Malik are also fully formed and believable characters whose loyalty and bravery help save the day. Even the evil Severine is drawn well enough to evoke empathy in readers. The story builds nicely to the inevitable confrontation between Corinne and Severine. Though the denouement seems a little too good to be true, the themes of fairness, justice, and retribution meld into a better than average evil witch story. VERDICT This is a well written tale full of action with enough scary elements to satisfy fans of Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm (Penguin, 2010) or Laura Amy Schlitz’s Splendors and Glooms (Candlewick, 2012).–Gretchen Crowley, Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

ItextdeadpeopleCooper, Rose. I Text Dead People. 256p. Delacorte. Jun. 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780385743914; lib. ed. $15.99. ISBN 9780375991387; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780385373210. LC 2014020235.

Gr 5-8 –When Anna moves to a new town, she hopes that the mansion her mom inherited from an uncle will make life in her snooty new school a bit easier. The hardest part, being phoneless, seems to be solved when she finds a phone on her way to school. Soon life gets a bit crazy with cliques causing trouble at school, a creepy guy following her around, the boy she likes dating someone else, and the dead people texting her to ask for help. With a fast-paced, plot-heavy style, this book careens between high school drama and ghostly intrigue. Cooper attempts to weave in suspense, horror, and quirky humor while creating relatable characters resulting in a fun but slightly scattered novel for tweens. Younger readers will appreciate a sanitized peek into high school relationships that focuses more on predictable relationship conflicts with unpredictable horror lines thrown in to keep the story interesting and fresh. VERDICT None of the novel’s content would prevent it from sitting comfortably in an elementary school library where it is sure to attract fans looking for something scary—but not too scary.–Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

themurkLettrick, Robert. The Murk. 320p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423186953; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781484719398.

Gr 4-7 –Fans of “Goosebumps” looking for something with a little bit more substance will enjoy this action-packed adventure filled with plenty of fun and a few scares. Fourteen-year-old Piper is very close with her baby sister Grace until something horrible happens during an RV camping trip. One year later, Grace is terribly sick and Piper is desperate to find the cure. Her best friend Tad tells her about a legendary flower that can cure any illness. The flower grows in the middle of the Okefenokee swamp. Piper, her brother Creeper, Tad, and two tour guides set out to find the flower that might save Grace’s life. But there is something mysterious in the swamp which has kept people out for the past few centuries. The Murk is an excellent action adventure that will have readers burning the midnight oil to finish. Piper is a believable character dealing with guilt and trying to save her sister. Tad is immensely likable; he will do anything to help Piper. The Okefenokee swamp setting is so well written that it becomes an additional character—a dangerous character with something up its sleeve at all times. The plot moves fast enough to keep pages turning while leaving just enough room to develop character. VERDICT A good choice for readers who like action, adventure, and horror.–Patrick Tierney, Dr. Martin Luther King Elementary School RI



  1. I shared The Jumbies with the librarians at the Reno, Nevada Reading Week Conference and with my husband who said he grew up afraid of Jubbies in Idabel, OK. It’s interesting how cultures crisscross.