Reviews for On the day I died : stories from the grave

Publishers Weekly
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Dead men may tell no tales, but dead teenagers do. In this clever collection of ghost stories, 16-year-old Mike Kowalski discovers an abandoned cemetery for teenagers where nine 15- to 17-year-old ghosts tell him how they died. The stories span 100-odd years and give a colorful survey of Chicago through the decades and across classes ("Back in those days, Chicago was lousy with funeral homes, what with all them gangsters running around"). Fleming has been rightly praised for her children's nonfiction (Amelia Lost; The Great and Only Barnum), and underneath this group of chill-inducing tales lays a wealth of detail about Chicago's historical immigrant communities, criminal underbelly, the 1893 World's Fair, and more. (Sneaky!) They also span horror subgenres that include campy '50s science fiction, gothic ("Lily," starring a lovelorn high school student in 1999, is a faithful homage to "The Monkey's Paw"), and wry Hitchcockian suspense; Fleming brings plenty of humor, too. The genre-flipping and varied narrative voices prevent any sense of monotony. A welcoming and well-written introduction to many styles of horror. Ages 11-14. Agent: Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal
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Gr 6-9-On a foggy Chicago night, Mike Kowalski finds himself in a forgotten graveyard dedicated to teenagers whose lives were cut short. Thinking he's going to die, he soon learns that the ghostly specters closing in on him only want to tell him how they met their demises. So begins this collection of stories, each ghost stepping up to relay his or her journey from life to death. According to the author's notes, some of the stories are loosely based on old tales, like W. W. Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw," while others are original creations. Some are realistic and tragic, while others are steeped in fantasy and colorful embellishment. Fleming's writing style is effective as she switches from character to character, volleying from the 1800s to the present, giving each ghost its own unique voice in its own historically accurate setting. However, the execution is unsuccessful. As Mike listens to each story, he is utterly uninvolved. Each one ends repetitively with the next ghost stepping up basically saying, "You think that's bad; Just listen to my story!" trying to top the previous tale. This gets monotonous, and since Mike is so passive, readers begin to lose focus about the point of the stories. The book ends with Mike driving home late at night, having supposedly learned a big life lesson. The problem is, knowing virtually nothing about him, who's to say he needed to learn a lesson anyway? This collection feels empty; it's unfortunate that some of the more interesting tales, like Evelyn's story of living in her twin's shadow during the time of the Chicago World's Fair, weren't more fully fleshed out, with some substance and depth.-Lauren Newman, Northern Burlington County Regional Middle School, Columbus, NJ (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 4-7-Mike is driving home on a stormy night on a winding country road when a dripping wet girl suddenly appears in his headlights. He stops the car and offers her a ride. Inside the car, she removes her saddle shoes and places them on the floorboard. After dropping her off, Mike discovers that her shoes are still in the car. When he attempts to return them, he is met at the door by an elderly lady who tells him this happens every year on the anniversary of her daughter's death. If he really wants to return the shoes, she says, he must go to the cemetery just up the road. At the gravesite, he discovers a moldering mound of old saddle shoes and soon is encircled by a group of disparate apparitions, all teenagers intent on describing for him the bizarre circumstances of their deaths. So begins the parade of nine other spooky tales (Schwartz & Wade, 2012) by Candace Fleming, each from a different time period from the 1860s to the present, and all of them set in the Chicago area. Mixed in with the more standard fare for this genre are a few truly scary stories, and one kitschy piece that's a takeoff on The Blob. There is a different narrator for each tale, with mixed results. Still, this will make for frightfully good listening.-Cary Frostick, Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Late one dark night, teenage Mike Kowalski drives to a deserted cemetery to return a pair of old-fashioned saddle shoes to a grave (don't ask). Once there he is horrified to find himself surrounded by the ghosts of the many teenagers buried there, all of them, er, dying to tell him their stories. In one a wise guy uncovers an ancient curse; in another a boy enters a long-abandoned asylum for the insane; in yet another a girl encounters a hoarder's House of Usher. Set in Chicago, each of these nine eerie ghost stories, Fleming explains, contains a kernel of truth about its setting a city that, she notes, is the spookiest place I know. Thus, in one story Al Capone makes a cameo appearance, and both the cemetery featured in the frame story and the terrifying old insane asylum really do exist. It is the combination of reality and imagination that lends a certain grave-itas (!) to these nine spectral stories. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Fleming's books for young readers, be they nonfiction, novels, or picture books, are always met with much anticipation.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Nine creepy tales told by dead teens and positively tailor-made for reading--or reading aloud--by flashlight. Fleming uses a version of "The Vanishing Hitchhiker" as a frame story and draws inspiration from several classic horror shorts, monster movies and actual locales and incidents. Within this frame, she sends a teenager into a remote cemetery where ghostly young people regale him with the ghastly circumstances of their demises. These range from being sucked into a magical mirror to being partially eaten by a mutant rubber ducky, from being brained by a falling stone gargoyle at an abandoned asylum to drowning in a car driven by a demonic hood ornament. Tasty elements include a malign monkey's paw purchased at a flea market, a spider crawling out of a corpse's mouth and a crazed florist who collects the heads of famous gangsters. Amid these, the author tucks in period details, offers one story written in the style of Edgar Allan Poe ("As I pondered the wallpaper, its patterns seemed to crawl deep inside me, revealing dark secrets No!") and caps the collection with perceptive comments on her themes and sources. Light on explicit grue but well endowed with macabre detail and leavening dashes of humor. (Horror/short stories. 10-13)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.