Sunday, September 27, 2009

School of Fear a Nice Surprise

Recently I saw School of Fear on the new table at Cover to Cover, but I stayed away from it. OK, I'll admit I judged this book by its cover. Not that there is anything wrong with the artwork, after reading it, illustrator Carrie Gifford captured the characters perfectly. My problem was that the title and illustration reminded me too much of the Series of Unfortunate Events. I know, I know, kids LOVE the Series of Unfortunate Events, BUT I DON'T! After reading the first, I was done and didn't read any more of them, too dark for me, didn't find them a bit funny.

Anyway, one of my parent volunteers has a contact with the author of School of Fear, Gitty Daneshvari and brought in an autographed copy. As with any new book I like to read them before putting them on the shelf, so I brought it home and was hooked by the humor from page one! Yes, it's bit dark, but not in the abusive style of the Unfortunate Events.

Each of the four main characters suffers from a fear of something. Madeline is afraid of bugs and spiders and is constantly spraying herself and surrounding area with bug spray. She wears bug netting over her face at all times and won't enter any buildings or cars unless they have been recently fumigated.

Theodore is afraid of death, for himself and anyone close to him. He is constantly quoting statistics about illnesses or disasters and how many fatalities were reported in 2003, the most recent listing in his school library. He makes all of his family members text him every hour to report that they are alive and sometimes, as a joke, his brothers text him the word "dead" just to tease him.

Lulu is suffers from claustrophobia and will not take elevators, only stairs. She wears a pair of handcuffs just in case she needs to lock herself to something to avoid being forced into a closed in space.

Finally, Garrison who is an outstanding athlete with a deathly fear of water, oceans, lakes, pools, large puddles, they all make him freak out. It's especially tough because he lives in Miami and ocean is just down the street.

All four children are sent to the top secret School of Fear run by former beauty queen Mrs. Wellington and her faithful assistant Schmidty. Mrs. Wellington uses some very unorthodox methods to cure her students, and her students question her over and over throughout the book. I don't want to spoil any part of the plot because there are surprises around every corner and behind every door. I laughed and was on the edge of my seat at the same time. I liked it a lot.

I'm not sure what the target audience is, but I will definitely be recommending it to all of my fourth and fifth graders.


  1. Thanks for the review! I had the book in my hand at Borders this afternoon, but just wasn't sure about buying it. It sounds as if my fifth grade son (and fourth grade students) might enjoy it.

  2. I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this and I enjoyed it as well. I found the writing style similar to A Series of Unfortunate Events, but much less dark and without the big vocabulary words. I would agree it's a perfect fit for 4th and 5th graders.

  3. Hey Bill! I agree...I never liked Series of Unfortunate Events, even though my son loved them when he was younger. I'll check this book out. I miss reading books for upper elementary students! Hope your year is going well. Julie

  4. This sounds absolutely hysterical and very interesting! Can't wait to get my hands on it and read it for myself.