The Dead Boys by Royce Buckingham

The author’s website (doesn’t mention DB except in bio) There is a video trailer on his website for another book, Goblins! which I liked very much, though there are a few curse words in that one.  Here is a fan-made video trailer for Dead Boys.

Summary from Goodreads.com: There’s a dark side to Teddy’s new town…

When Teddy Mathews moves to Richland, his main concern is making new friends. But something is not right about this quiet desert town: All the boys he meets seem to vanish before his eyes, while the imposing shadows of the giant tree outside his house appear to be hiding more than darkness.

With the branches of the massive sycamore scratching at his window, Teddy’s life becomes a waking nightmare that no one else believes. Can Teddy escape the tree’s terrifying grasp and solve the mystery of the missing boys before he becomes the next boy to disappear?

Personal Reaction: Very dark and very twisted story. I get that this is a supernatural thriller, but at the end I kept wondering how a kid would survive being held hostage for years without food/water while being part of the tree’s fertilizer.

Curriculum or discussion topics: Environmentalism?

Connections to other books: (I kept coming back to the movie Poltergeist for the creepy tree imagery.) I can’t think of any other evil tree books! I would definitely recommend House of Dark Shadows by Liparulo for fans of Dead Boys. How about Thirteen Days to Midnight by Carman, Revenge of the Witch by Delaney (movie on the way), and City of the Dead by Abbott for creepy suspense?

Items to display with book: photo of creepy gnarled old tree next to dilapidated house, photo of nuclear power plant, photo of housing development in desert or construction site;  real or fake news articles about missing boys; sand; old yearbooks

Food items connected to story: water, granola bars, milk/cereal

Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen by J.L. McCreedy

Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen
by J.L. McCreedy

The author’s website has a great map of Liberty’s adventures through Germany and links to websites where you can read the Grimm fairy tales for free. I did not find any book trailers online.  **Full disclosure – I received a print copy of this book for free from the author.

Summary from author’s website:

The average ten-year-old girl seldom travels far from home.  She doesn’t worry about being kidnapped by witches or imprisoned in medieval castles where children are ensnared to meet their unspeakable demise.  She rarely gives thought to curses, potions and magic.  She certainly isn’t risking life and limb to decipher ancient rites and lost treasures….

But Liberty Frye is about to discover she is not just an average girl.

When a cryptic note from long-lost relatives arrives, the news it brings flips Libby’s small-town existence upside down.  Soon, she finds herself lured to a foreign land where retired witches, talking bats and geriatric World War II pilots await.  It’s up to Libby to unravel the sinister plot that brought her there in the first place, but in so doing, she’ll uncover a shocking secret that will change her life forever … if she survives the challenge.

Personal Reaction: I liked it!

Any Cautions: Boiled boy imagery

Curriculum or discussion topics: Fairy tales

Connections to other books: Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Complete and Illustrated, The Sisters Grimm series by Buckley, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Gidwitz, Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird by VandeVelde; Germany travel book, cookbooks

Items to display with book: Stuffed animals (goose and raven), recipe cards or family book of recipes, slingshot, letter in yellow envelope, map w/ “future adventure” dots; photo of dilapidated Victorian house, German castle and German cottage; toy robot, walkie-talkies, blue amulet on a silver necklace, map of Germany or Hanau, “Fairy Tale” road map, backpack, photo of P-40 Army Air Corps fighter plane WWII, black cauldron, photo of bright red tree “Baum des Feuers” (here’s a shot of a red maple)

Food items connected to story: Berries (purple – try blueberries or jaboticaba), Herbs and spices (witch’s pantry stuff); tea, any kind of bakery pastry, bread rolls, chocolate cake, fruitcake, strudel, cheesecakes

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Here’s the author’s website (which includes a link about half way down on the right if you’d like to read the first 100 pages of the book) The book video trailer is posted by the publisher and there are several fan-made videos and an author interview online as well.

Summary: (from Goodreads.com) In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Personal Reaction: My 12yo nephew and I had great discussions trying to decide which faction we would want to join and why! These conversations took place after I had finished the book, but it could also have been fun to compare choices made at the same time as the day of choosing in the book and then if you would change your mind when the book is over.

Any Cautions: explicit violence in the Dauntless faction (similar to The Hunger Games by Collins)

Curriculum or discussion topics: utopia/dystopia scenarios; character traits – esp. courage/bravery versus recklessness

Connections to other books: Highly reminiscent of The Giver by Lowry and Matched by Condie, dystopias where a certain day of the year brings such change and things are never what they seem. Have a book on display that would appeal to someone in each faction along with the realia below: (BASIC EXAMPLES) Dauntless – Striking, Grappling, and Ground Fighting, Erudite – How Things Work Encyclopedia, Abnegation – Conflict Resolution Smarts: How to Communicate, Negotiate, Compromise, and More, Candor – The First Honest Book about Lies, Amity – Meditation

Items to display with book: (something to represent each faction) Dauntless – rubber knife, Abnegation – grey robe or mirror with grey cloth over it, Erudite – brain model, Candor – lie detector or test, Amity – pastoral scene (gardening, painting, etc.)

Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

Here’s the author’s website  which includes a professional book trailer.

Here’s an additional link to the “Meet the Author” video on TeachingBooks.net

Summary: Frannie is a worrier. When her teacher presents a poem with the line “Hope is the thing with feathers,” the line sticks with her. Her mom and brother seem to know exactly what it means. As she puzzles out the process of growing up within a community divided by a highway into black neighborhoods & schools and white neighborhoods & schools, a new white boy arrives in her class. His long brown hair sparks the nickname “Jesus Boy” and Frannie and her best friend Samantha discuss what it would mean if he really was Jesus and why Jesus would want to come to their neighborhood anyway. Jesus Boy becomes a bully’s target but Frannie is hesitant to intervene.

Personal Reaction: Audiobook narrator, Sisi Aisha Johnson, was excellent. I just love Woodson, this book doesn’t disappoint.

Curriculum or discussion topics: Music – “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel is featured in the story with discussion of bridging the gap between the black and white worlds on either side of the highway; bullying; poetry – “Hope is the thing with…” have students select an ending to that thought and describe why or write a poem on a theme of hope

Connections to other books: Books on The 1970s era, Black Panthers, music, etc.; books on Sign Language; poetry by Emily Dickinson and a selection of black poets or teen poets would be good too, like Quiet Storm: Voices of Young Black Poets; other books by JWoodson, especially the Maizon series. Go through your library and pull any book with hope in the title and spread them around!

Items to display with book: Large feather, baby diapers or stork delivery figurine, afro pick with black power fist

Food items connected to story: Rice, Hamburgers, Fried chicken, goulash

Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz, but first Raven’s Gate!

Amazing, amazing, amazing conclusion to the Power of Five / Gatekeepers series. There is an author video on his website about his research for the book and this is a video of the author talking about the plot of Oblivion on the publisher’s YouTube channel.

If you haven’t read them all, I do NOT recommend that you jump to the end with this book! Start at the beginning with Raven’s Gate. I read it years ago and knew: AWESOME. You can read the first chapter of book 1 on Horowitz’s website. It’s dark and demonic and delicious.

Summaries from author’s website –

Book 1 – Raven’s Gate:

Matt has always known he has unusual powers. Raised in foster care, he is sent to Yorkshire on a rehabilitation programme, only to find himself in the midst of sinister goings-on. Matt investigates and uncovers a terrible secret – eight guardians are protecting the world from the evil ones, beings banished long ago by five children. But devil worshippers want to let the evil ones back in…

Book 2 – Evil Star:

After his experiences at Raven’s Gate, fourteen-year-old Matt Freeman thinks his days of battling evil are over. But soon he is pulled into another horrifying adventure when he discovers a second gate exists. Matt and his friend Richard travel to Peru and, assisted by a secret organization known as the Nexus, follow a series of clues to the gate’s whereabouts. But there is a traitor in the Nexus…

Book 3 – Nightrise:

Fourteen-year-old twins Scott and Jamie Tyler have never known who they are or where they came from, but they have always known that they possess extraordinary powers. When Scott is kidnapped by the sinister Nightrise Corporation and Jamie is framed for murder, they realise that they must use those powers if they are going to survive…

Book 4 – Necropolis:

The outlook for the future of mankind has never been bleaker. The sinister corporation known as Nightrise is gathering strength and the long suppressed Old Ones are poised to unleash their dark powers on an unsuspecting world. Matt and his fellow Gatekeepers have no choice but to commit themselves to a dangerous path, knowing that their course might save the planet – or spell their doom…

Book 5 – Oblivion:

We find the Five scattered in a hostile and dangerous world and struggling to re-group. The earth has almost been destroyed by the forces of darkness. Those who have survived are barely human, drifting in a world ruled by famine, terrorism and war. Any last hope now rests with five extraordinary teenagers: the Gatekeepers. The Five must find each other and make a final stand against Chaos, King of the Old Ones … but Chaos is everywhere. He calls to them from Antarctica, where he is gathering his forces, preparing for a last battle in the frozen wasteland of Oblivion. And one of the Five has turned traitor. The others know that without him they cannot win…

Personal Reaction: I have waited so long for this finale. You should read them all.

Any Cautions: This series is full of demon-worshipping murderers, monsters and zombies. It can be VERY disturbing. Book 5 tested my faith in humanity and I did cry for Matt. I do not recommend this to sensitive souls. In fact, I might not recommend to any student younger than a mature seventh grader.

Connections to other books: Similar fiction –  Super Human series by Michael Carroll; The Abhorsen Chronicles (Abhorsen Trilogy) by Garth Nix; The Demonata Series by Darren Shan; the Midnighters series from Scott Westerfeld; nonfiction choices about the places where the kids have been in this book or throughout the series – England, Brazil, Peru, Dubai, Italy, Egypt, Hong Kong, Naples, London, Nevada – or choices that investigate telekenesis, mind reading, healing, etc.

Items to display with book: Put the whole series on display. Zombie & demon figurines – or you could have an art contest for those students who have read the series to create or find online what they picture in their heads when they think of the Old Ones and Chaos.