How many requests for “scary” books do middle school librarians get in one day? Sure, we have some really good ones–Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Doll Bones, Goosebumps–but do you ever have enough of them? Do some of your students come back and ask for something scarier? Of course they do. I loved scary books as a middle schooler, and while Spirit Hunters doesn’t provide the blood and gore some students are after, it will surely give them that “shivers up the spine” factor we love so much. I thoroughly enjoyed this book look forward to booktalking it with my students this fall.
AUTHOR: Ellen Oh
SERIES: Spirit Hunters, book 1
PUBLICATION DATE: July 25, 2017
SOURCE: Brooklyn Public Library OverDrive
GENRE: horror, ghosts
SETTING: Washington, DC, present day
GIVE IT TO: upper-ES, MS, fans of Goosebumps
SUMMARY: When her family moves to a creepy old house in Washington, DC, twelve-year old Harper’s little brother Michael starts talking to someone named Billy. Before long, Michael begins acting strangely, and accidents and weird events start happening. Harper knows Michael needs her help, but what can she do? Could Michael really be possessed, or is Harper just imagining things again?
REVIEW: I’m going to tell you a story. All of this occurred within the first few pages of Spirit Hunters. The first few pages of this book would make a fabulous read-aloud for middle graders, especially around Halloween. I seriously have the chills writing this:
Twelve-year old Harper has moved from New York to Washington, DC with her parents, teenage sister, and four-year old brother, Michael. As Harper unpacks her new bedroom, her little brother calls her to his room. Michael’s room is unnaturally cold, and Harper shivers as she goes in. Michael introduces Harper to his new best friend, Billy, who Harper cannot see. Michael tells Harper that Billy lived in the house before Harper and her family. Harper tells Michael not to tell their parents about Billy, saying that their mom wouldn’t understand. Michael tells Harper that “Billy said not to go in the attic.” On her way out of the room, Harper calls their new house “stupid,” and Michael says “Billy doesn’t like it when you call his house stupid.”
Of course, Ellen Oh tells it so much better than I just did.
This book scratches an itch for readers between ages 9-12 looking for a scary story. It’s not gross or bloody, and it would be perfect for students looking for a creepy scare that won’t keep them up at night. Harper is a sympathetic narrator who risks her own life to help her brother without a second thought.
BONUS POINTS FOR: Diverse characters. Harper’s Korean grandmother (we have lots of Korean students in my school), and Harper makes a new friend named Dayo, who is Jamaican.
WHAT CONFUSED ME: What was with the 16-year old sister constantly studying for the SAT? What sixteen-year old would study for the SAT that much? What was she really doing in her room all that time? I kept hoping maybe she had a ghost in there, too.
THEMES: ghosts, possession, spiritual mediums, siblings
THE BOTTOM LINE: This creepy ghost story is well-crafted and perfect for young readers looking for something creepy but not bloody. This will be super-easy to booktalk with sixth graders in my library.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don’t have it, but I plan to get it.
- Overall: 5/5
- Creativity: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 5/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to tweens: 5/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: none
- Violence: mild-medium; stories of children who died
- Drugs/Alcohol: none