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?
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.) That Dickens wrote this fine novel for business reasons—i.e., money—while thoroughly unromantic, says something about the writing business. One is reminded of that remark by Samuel Johnson, that, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” read more
An interview with Karen Cushman, “On Fantasy: Avi.”
“Writing Advice from Avi,” George M. Eberhart, American Libraries, 25 June 2016
A smattering of ghost stories written by others: The Haunting of Henry Davis by Kathryn Siebel, The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs, The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier, A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander, Trace by Pat Cummings, Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab. If you enjoy this genre, make a list of your favorite titles and share them online.
Questions to discuss in your classroom or book group:
What are some of the best opening lines in your favorite books? Ask this question a couple of days before you share your answers so readers have time to look up the opening lines in a number of books on their shelves.
In the following quote from the book, memories are described as real. Do you think they are?
Tony has trouble fitting in at his new school. Have you been the “new kid” at a school? What do you wish had happened to help you be a part of the new school community? What would you do for a new kid at your school?
Do you believe in ghosts? Do ghosts need you to believe in them?
Tony is hit hard by his Uncle Charlie’s death. Are there other books about grief that you could recommend? Here are a few: All Three Stooges by Erica S. Perl, Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas, Clayton Bird Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia, and Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen.