word craft


Everything about School of the Dead

School of the DeadIn School of the Dead, for most of Tony Gilbert’s life, he has thought of his uncle as “Weird Uncle Char­lie.” That is, until Uncle Char­lie moves in with Tony and his fam­i­ly. Uncle Char­lie is still odd, of course—talking about spir­its and oth­er super­nat­ur­al stuff—but he and Tony become fast friends, and Tony ends up hav­ing a lot of fun with Uncle Char­lie. When Uncle Char­lie dies sud­den­ly, Tony is dev­as­tat­ed. Then he starts see­ing Uncle Char­lie every­where! It does­n’t help that Tony switched schools—it was Uncle Char­lie’s dying wish that Tony attend the Pen­da School, where Uncle Char­lie him­self went as a kid. The Pen­da School is eerie enough with­out his uncle’s ghost mak­ing it worse. On top of that, rumors have been cir­cu­lat­ing about a stu­dent who went miss­ing short­ly before Tony arrived. Could that some­how be relat­ed to Uncle Char­lie’s ghost?

Behind the story

There is a sto­ry about the great Eng­lish writer Charles Dick­ens that I’ve always cher­ished. At the time, he was edit­ing his lit­er­ary mag­a­zine, House­hold Words, which had as a sta­ple a seri­al­ized nov­el. It appears that the cur­rent nov­el was not work­ing, and the mag­a­zine was los­ing read­er­ship. In haste, Dick­ens stepped in, and wrote Great Expec­ta­tions, one of his best books. (It’s also a favorite of mine—so I came to know how it was writ­ten.) That Dick­ens wrote this fine nov­el for busi­ness reasons—i.e., money—while thor­ough­ly unro­man­tic, says some­thing about the writ­ing busi­ness. One is remind­ed of that remark by Samuel John­son, that, “No man but a block­head ever wrote except for mon­ey.” read more


An inter­view with Karen Cush­man, “On Fan­ta­sy: Avi.”

Writ­ing Advice from Avi,” George M. Eber­hart, Amer­i­can Libraries, 25 June 2016

Oth­er ghost sto­ries I’ve writ­ten: Seer of Shad­ows, Some­thing UpstairsDev­il’s Race, and Mur­der at Mid­night

A smat­ter­ing of ghost sto­ries writ­ten by oth­ers: The Haunt­ing of Hen­ry Davis by Kathryn Siebel, The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bel­lairs, The Night Gar­den­er by Jonathan Aux­i­er, A Prop­er­ly Unhaunt­ed Place by William Alexan­der, Trace by Pat Cum­mings, Tun­nel of Bones by Vic­to­ria Schwab. If you enjoy this genre, make a list of your favorite titles and share them online.

Ques­tions to dis­cuss in your class­room or book group:

What are some of the best open­ing lines in your favorite books? Ask this ques­tion a cou­ple of days before you share your answers so read­ers have time to look up the open­ing lines in a num­ber of books on their shelves.

In the fol­low­ing quote from the book, mem­o­ries are described as real. Do you think they are?

Tony has trou­ble fit­ting in at his new school. Have you been the “new kid” at a school? What do you wish had hap­pened to help you be a part of the new school com­mu­ni­ty? What would you do for a new kid at your school?

Do you believe in ghosts? Do ghosts need you to believe in them?

Tony is hit hard by his Uncle Char­lie’s death. Are there oth­er books about grief that you could rec­om­mend? Here are a few: All Three Stooges by Eri­ca S. Perl, Care and Feed­ing of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas, Clay­ton Bird Goes Under­ground by Rita Williams-Gar­cia, and Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen.

2 thoughts on “Everything about School of the Dead”

  1. I love your posts, Avi. They’re so infor­ma­tive and encour­ag­ing like your books. A lov­ing heart is required to write books for chil­dren. You have pos­i­tive­ly affect­ed many lives. You’re a great role mod­el for new writers.
    Thank you for all of it!
    Gillian Foster


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