Sunday, April 12, 2015

Book Review: Thirteen Chairs

Shelton, Dave. Thirteen Chairs. New York: Scholastic, 2015. Print. Grades 6-12. 
Jack is a curious boy who decides that he has to know what is inside a nearby house which is rumored to be haunted. Upon finally entering the supposedly haunted house he has walked past for several years of his childhood, he encounters a room filled with unusual characters telling ghost stories by candlelight: “The only light comes from the candles on the table, one for each of those seated there, casting shifting, looming shadows onto the crumbling plaster of the walls.” Stories are told from the perspectives of each unique character sitting in the room, bringing readers a very diverse mix of paranormal stories. Jack takes notice of one peculiar man in particular: “[Piotr] is enormous. He looks as if he might have been carved from a mountain. From within his extravagant rust-and-ashes beard there appears a wide and welcoming grin of crooked teeth”. Piotr shares his own tale, The Red Tree, in which a woodcutter is strangled to death by the limbs of a tree. Shelton writes the story as though it is really being told aloud by a non-native speaker: “And woodcutter feel blood is all spilling out, running down his body, running down onto tree…. [blood] is making red tree.” Thirteen Chairs seamlessly intertwines thirteen distinct stories into a single narrative reinforced by the author’s mysterious black and white ink drawings shown at the beginning of each story, giving a glimpse into the terror contained in the consecutive pages. Ultimately, Shelton brings us a creatively organized collection of short tales to chill the bones of middle and high school readers. Fans of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will likely be thrilled by the horror contained in this book and the short story format may delight reluctant readers. Thirteen Chairs will also be the perfect recommendation for those who are constantly pestering the Youth Services Librarian for “something truly spooky."

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