Review (Plus): “Took: A Ghost Story”

Took_coverThe eerie cover of a doll’s hand with the word TOOK scratched above made my skin crawl and my brain ready to tackle the ghost story found within the covers of this book by Mary Downing Hahn. I had never picked up a book of hers before, but after reading this delicious tale crafted much like an urban myth, I must say I will be seeking her out again.

Took is 272 pages but it felt much less as I could instantly relate to the Anderson family. The father has lost his job due to downsizing in corporate America and moves his family to a little town far from their city life in Connecticut. They purchased a rundown house buried in the back woods of West Virginia where the schools don’t have Internet, the town doesn’t have jobs and a young girl vanished 50 years ago: legend has it she was Took.

Before their arrival at the farmhouse, we encounter Auntie, who lives in the woods with her pet Bloody Bones. She instantly gave me chills–the foreshadowing was enough to keep me reading to see who was going to be Took.

Daniel and his sister, Erica, are instantly harassed for their snobby attitudes and ritzy clothes. One young boy, Brody, goes so far as to warn them about Auntie and Bloody Bones. He warns them to watch their backs or they will be the next ones Took. Daniel doesn’t believe him; he tries his best to remain positive in the midst of his parents financial and emotional ruin. Erica, however, starts talking more and more with her doll, Little Erica, to the point Daniel believes the doll may be talking back….

I was encouraged as I read to see that the language and scare factor were aligned with middle grades where often overheard conversations of Bloody Mary and Ouija boards are the center of amusement. This book gives the correct amount of chills without nightmares. Hahn gives her readers the ability to formulate what the doll becomes without any blood, guts or gore. I appreciated the suspense followed by my own ability to go to sleep that night. Kudos for the wonderful ability to raise goose bumps on the reader’s arms, but allow them to sleep by themselves. It would be awkward to have a thirteen year old needing to sleep with their parents. (Just saying!)

In the classroom: Excellent book to add to the classroom library. The release of this book is mid September, so it allows for you to start reading it ASAP and lead it right into Halloween (most schools across the nation do not recognize All Hallows Eve any longer, but the kids sure do.) Although there is closure in this story, the ability to have your students create an alternative ending is there.

  • First have your students create one word for the theme of the story. Put this at the top of their sheet of paper.
  • Second have your students create a bullet point graphic organizer outlining the plot of the story. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.3: Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.)
  • Third, and only after they have plot points, have your students create an alter ending to the story. Make sure they include the characters, the setting as well as specific conflict that must show a resolution in their new ending. (CCSS. ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3A-D: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.)
  • Fourth and last–the most fun part! Share their stories!

Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion Books | 9780544551534 | September 15, 2015)

America Grelinger

America Grelinger doesn’t mind if you call her Ms. America. It makes her head swell and she loves the title. America is a former English teacher and has a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, now retired to raise two crazy little boys who think the funniest thing on the planet is to burp and toot… which is why she reads. Because it’s cheaper than counseling. Amy and her husband live with those two crazy little boys in Derby, Kansas.