Monday, October 29, 2012

Scary books for struggling readers (ages 9 - 12)

Do you know a kid who bounces from book to book, never really settling into a story? Several of my students struggle with picking books. They can't find ones that interest them that are at their reading level. One of my 5th graders, Carl, has tried out a new series and loves it: Return to the Library of Doom. He's sharing it with his friends, and it's spreading through his class.

Return to the Library of Doom, by Michael Dahl, is a series designed for older students who still struggle with reading. The sentences are short, direct and clear. The action moves at a fast pace, with little distracting descriptions. There is plenty of spacing between lines, so kids can track the words easily. Best of all, from their point of view, the stories are creepy and exciting, filled with bold illustrations that remind them of the comic books they love.
Killer App
Return to the Library of Doom
by Michael Dahl
illustrated by Bradford Kendall
Capstone / Stone Arch, 2012
ages 9 - 12
available on Amazon and your local library
Google Book preview
My favorite in the series is Killer App. When Carl first read this, he said to his teacher that it's the best book he's ever read. That's saying a whole lot from Carl, a whole lot.
Four teens are driving along a desert highway when one shows his girlfriend an app that sends him "really FREAKY horror stories." When they start to download one, they notice a black cloud of ravens headed toward them.
"The dark cloud grows larger and larger. Savage screams pierce the air."
This type of direct writing pulls in students who want a suspenseful story, but who cannot wade through long descriptions. The design of the book also draws in my 5th graders. They love the illustrations, the drawings on the words, the whole look and feel of the books is "cool." And that coolness factor counts a lot, especially for kids who don't think reading is very cool. Take a look at one of the pages from the Google Preview:

In the next chapter, a group of motorcyclists find the phone next to the abandoned car covered with scratches. The mystery builds as these kids try to escape the ravens and hide in an deserted gas station. I enjoyed its inventive twist of modern technology, the frightening gore of attacking birds, and the references to classic movies and books. I laughed when the Librarian saved the day, saying, "Only horror can defeat horror."

This series will hook readers, it will keep them glued to the pages. Dahl's writing does not provide much character development, but his stories can provide the structure for students to practice active reading skills. Watching my 5th graders pass them from friend to friend makes this Librarian smile.

Carl and I nominated Killer App for the Cybils Early Chapter Book Award. The Lexile level of this book is 380, and the Guided Reading Level is an L. While the reading level is appropriate for students reading at a 2nd grade level, it is designed for 4th through 8th graders.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Capstone / Stone Arch Books. We so appreciate their supporting our readers as they seek out new, exciting series to share with their friends. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 comment:

  1. My students love this series too! They are interesting and short enough for my reluctant readers. I was very happy when the new titles were added to the originals and bought most of them for our Library.