School of the Dead
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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.)
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, Houston, School 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)