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School of the Dead

School of the Dead

Harper­Collins, 2016

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audio book nar­rat­ed by 
Michael Crouch

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What’s this book about?

In this spine-tin­gling sto­ry, a boy must solve the mys­tery of the ghost haunt­ing him.

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?

Full of twists and turns that get spook­i­er by the chap­ter, School of the Dead is a fast-paced mys­tery that Avi’s fans will devour!

Story 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.)

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Awards and Recognition

  • Ama­zon Best Books of the Month, June 2016
  • Ama­zon’s Best Books of the Year So Far 2016


The first time Uncle Char­lie came to live with us, he was alive. The sec­ond time, he was dead.” So begins Tony’s sto­ry, one filled with mys­tery and dan­ger, and one where the dead come to prey on the liv­ing. His great-uncle Char­lie is old, infirm, and a bit odd, so Charlie’s par­ents decide that he’ll move in with them. Though at first cau­tious, Tony and Uncle Char­lie become fast friends, bond­ing over junk food and a shared appre­ci­a­tion for scary sto­ries and the para­nor­mal. When Uncle Char­lie dies, Tony is devastated—and he soon starts see­ing his uncle’s ghost every­where. While he finds the pres­ence com­fort­ing, his par­ents are con­cerned and con­tin­u­al­ly pres­sure Tony to move on and let go of the past. Soon, the moody sev­enth grad­er learns that he’s been accept­ed at his great uncle’s alma mater, the Pen­da School in San Fran­cis­co. On his first day in the posh new school, he sees anoth­er ghost. As Tony learns more about the school and its check­ered past, he fears that there is nobody whom he can trust. Things come to a head on Hal­loween, when Tony dis­cov­ers some of the dark secrets har­bored by the school and his con­nec­tion to a miss­ing stu­dent. Avi takes read­ers on a wild ride where the dead do far more than haunt the liv­ing. VERDICT Hand this spine-tin­gling and occa­sion­al­ly grotesque work to read­ers who have embraced Ran­som Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Pecu­liar Chil­dren and Cor­nelia Funke’s Ghost Knight. (Wayne R. Cher­ry Jr., First Bap­tist Acad­e­my Library, Hous­tonSchool Library Jour­nal)

“Sev­enth-grad­er Tony Gilbert isn’t thrilled when his weirdo uncle Char­lie moves in with them, but Char­lie turns out to be a fun old guy, and when he dies, Tony feels like he has lost his best friend. Short­ly after, in accor­dance with Charlie’s wish­es, the fam­i­ly moves to San Fran­cis­co so Tony can attend his uncle’s alma mater, the Pen­da School—which turns out to be weird­er than Char­lie. There’s a strange boy, seem­ing­ly unno­ticed by any­one but Tony; a mag­net­ic but mys­te­ri­ous girl who wants him in her cir­cle; and almost every oth­er per­son Tony meets, adult or child, seems odd, scared, or both. Though the secret of Pen­da School is pre­dictable, when it comes to who is ene­my and who is friend, read­ers will feel as off-bal­ance as Tony. His tight, inter­nal nar­ra­tive adds to the neat­ly claus­tro­pho­bic feel­ing of the sto­ry. The demon­ic plans unrav­el to a drawn-out end­ing that nev­er­the­less will leave more than a few hearts pound­ing. Give this to read­ers who like an old-fash­ioned ghost sto­ry with a con­tem­po­rary twist.” (Ilene Coop­er, Booklist)

In order to ful­fill his dead great-uncle’s wish, sev­enth-grad­er Tony begins attend­ing the spooky, ram­bling, and pos­si­bly haunt­ed Pen­da School. Class­mate Jes­si­ca reach­es out to him, per­haps offer­ing friend­ship, but he’s aware that she’s a strange, unpop­u­lar girl (and seems to look a lot like Mor­ti­cia from her descrip­tion). The more peo­ple warn him to avoid her, how­ev­er, the more deter­mined he becomes to remain her friend. He keeps see­ing the ghosts of both his uncle and a boy who died over 100 years ago, the son of the school’s founder, even though he’s pret­ty sure he does­n’t believe in ghosts. Worse yet, the boy seems des­per­ate to make real con­tact with him, but Jes­si­ca warns him that the ghost wants to cap­ture his soul. Although Tony’s nar­ra­tion can sound more autho­r­i­al than like the voice of a 12-year-old, this atmos­pher­ic tale has plen­ty of creepi­ness to pro­pel it, some­times at a breath­tak­ing pace. As it becomes clear that Jes­si­ca can­not be trust­ed, Tony also real­izes that she might be just one of mul­ti­ple threats, mak­ing him—and readers—doubt every­one. Hair-rais­ing chas­es through dark, men­ac­ing secret pas­sage­ways with the not-quite-dead at Tony’s heels com­bine with an effec­tive min­gling of gen­uine school angst and the more spec­tral vari­ety to cre­ate a scary, sus­pense­ful, and chill­ing­ly immer­sive expe­ri­ence. The jack­et illus­tra­tion paints Tony as white. Don’t read this one in a dark and haunt­ed school.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Holy gua­camole, I don’t care how old you are, School of the Dead will have you hooked. I was not pre­pared for how intense this book was. I thought I knew what to expect from Avi, but I was wrong, I did not expect this. To me, the best part of the book is that, like the main char­ac­ter Tony, you don’t real­ly know who is telling the truth. In this case, trust­ing the wrong peo­ple could prove dead­ly.” (Jen, blog­ging at A Bookworm’s Jour­ney)

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