Deep and Dark and Dangerous and IWishI’dReadItDuringTheDay!

Deep and Dark and Dangerous

Author:  Mary Downing Hahn

Creepy bit:

“One painting leaned against the easel.  In black paint and large clumsy letters, someone had scrawled:  “I’m watching you.  Tell the truth.  Or else.” Emma clutched her mother’s hand and pointed at the painting. ‘Bones,’ she whispered. ‘There’s bones at the bottom.’  I drew in my breath.  She was right.  In the painting’s lower right-hand corner, in the darkest part, was a small, clumsily drawn skeleton.” (p. 80)

I did not want to read Deep and Dark and Dangerous.  I have a few books by this author in my classroom library, all picked up at school book fairs, though I don’t usually enjoy thriller/chiller books, even at the middle grade level.  But one of my students loves Mary Downing Hahn’s books and kept encouraging me to give her a try.

So I did.  At night, which was silly.  Because this book is about as creep-tastic as I’d want a middle grade book to be.  The story centers around a girl who discovers a terrible family secret after going away with her aunt for the summer to a remote cottage in Maine.  I feel like saying much more would be spoiler-ish, because part of the fun of this sort of story is the suspense-building, and Hahn is pretty good at that.  There are just enough clues so that a sharp reader will see where the plot is going, and the twists in the plot made the scary parts acceptable for an upper el or middle school reader as the story progresses.  If I enjoyed being scared, then this book would be a good read.  I just don’t, though!

The good news is that I now know what to do with these scary stories by Mary Downing Hahn.  This story came in around 4.0-ish as far as reading level, and I can see using her books as a bridge out of the American Chillers/Goosebumps books that some of my readers get stuck in.  Don’t get me wrong, these series have an important place, but they are endless and some kids just get, well…stuck there long after they are ready to bridge out to other reading.  Hahn may work for some of them, with lots of suspense that manages to end in a way that won’t give a kid nightmares.  Probably.

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