CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 17. . . .January 9, 2015
David is the 15-year-old protagonist of this interesting ghost story anthology readers first meet while David’s going through the death of his grandmother. As his parents go to the hospital for the last time, David chooses to stay at home because he just can’t bear to see her again. Before his parent’s return, David is visited by his grandmother on the cold and snowy night. She warns him about giving in to a dare and crossing a railway bridge where he would fall to his death. David’s parents return home before he and his grandmother end their conversation, and, as David rushes to the door to let his parents know that his grandmother’s in the kitchen, his father tells him that his grandmother died about an hour ago. David doesn’t know what to make of the situation and thinks that he might have been dreaming, but deep down, he knows he wasn’t. Minutes later, David receives a phone call from a boy at school who tells David that he better not chicken out on the dare they made for the next day – to walk across the railway bridge. This eerie opening sets the scene for other ghostly events that take David to places he’s never been before and cause him to do things he’s never imagined.
Jennings' The Warning is a compilation of seven scary ghost stories that can stand alone, but also work well together as they share plot threads, and each section builds on the previous section. The first section is told in third person POV, but the rest of the sections are in first person. The switch in POV brings the reader closer to David’s experience. In sections two to seven, David is replaced by a ghost who, at first, is his friend, but then changes himself to be so much like David that David becomes invisible to his family and the world while his doppelganger takes over and becomes alive once again as David. Later, David is reacquainted with a boy from school who, years before, was dared by bullies to enter the local graveyard on Halloween and was never seen again. Now the boy, aged and ravaged by ghouls, must remain forever in the graveyard. Among the successive stories, the plot comes full circle as David tries to warn another boy who is dared to cross the same railway bridge as David was, but in David’s attempt to do something good, he distracts the boy and he falls to his death. Finally, David realizes that the only way to live again and rid himself of this ghostly existence is to do the one thing that took his own life away, become the doppelganger of another boy.
Though the writing is somewhat juvenile in this anthology, the action contained in the stories is enough to keep the pages turning. The first person POV gives insight into the 15-year-old boy’s thinking though, at times, David could be a much younger character. The events of the story fade in and out of believability, but that is the fun of an ongoing ghost story One point that is surprising, and I think strengthens this anthology, is that David ends up being the “bad guy” by the close of the story. However, as the reader, we understand what he’s done and empathize with his choice, even though we agree with David that what he did is wrong.
The accompanying teacher’s guide opens with a full explanation of how “HIP Mainstreet Novels” are designed and their intention. This is a great starting point, especially when trying to find a manageable piece of writing for those struggling readers. The Warning is designed with nicely spaced type as well as black and white illustrations to help readers visualize the story, while making them feel like they’re “turning pages” and progressing through the book at a fair pace. The teacher’s guide looks to pre-, during, and after reading to help students make links between what is going on in the novel and their prior knowledge. For example, one of the first activities, reading about real life “Ghost Busters”, sets the stage for the major plot points of the novel. Other activities ask students to conduct close readings of the anthology and draw out evidence to support their opinion. Also included are graphic organizers, story maps and a discussion about whether or not bullies deserve “pay back”. The culminating activities offered at the end of the teacher’s guide offer students a variety of ways in which to demonstrate their learning.
I would recommend this book and its teaching guide to support students in high school who are not strong readers. Specifically, I would offer it to boys who normally “don’t read”. In fact, I did offer this anthology to an 18-year-old student to read during our 20min silent reading time, and, when he returned the book to me, he admitted that he usually doesn’t read anything during that time and just holds a book. But this time, he actually was reading and really enjoyed the story. That was the best news I had all day.
Penta Ledger is the teacher-librarian at Gravenhust High School in Gravenhurst, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.