Curse of the Boggin: The Library Book 1

Surrender the Key (The Library Book 1)

Surrender the Key (The Library Book 1) By D. J. MacHale

Marcus O’Mara is not crazy. He just sees things that aren’t there. And hears sounds no one else hears. Something weird is going on, and he’s determined to find out what that something is. Luckily, he’s got the key—literally, an ornate old key. It unlocks a bizarre library full of unfinished stories. The stories are written by spirits and involve unexplained phenomena. Mysteries that have never been solved. Spirits that have never been laid to rest. Stranger still, it looks like it’s up to Marcus and his friends to finish the terrifying stories . . . before they finish them.

Everyone loves a scary story. Whether you’re huddled around a campfire with friends sharing stories, or you’re curled up in your favorite chair reading about a haunted theme park, scary tales excite, frighten, and remind us to keep the lights on. But ghost stories aren’t just for giving us goose bumps; classrooms are a great place to study literature in the horror and suspense genre.

Listed below are a few examples to help focus units of study by looking at character development, themes, and literary elements in Curse of the Boggin.

  • Character Development: MacHale introduces a variety of strong and diverse characters in this first book: an extremely likable protagonist, a couple of strict parents, a mean teacher, and two really cool best friends. Have students track the development of these characters and explore how the spooky adventures shape their personalities and relationships. Questions to consider: Who succumbs to fear? Who becomes the leader? What are the characters’ motivations?
  • Thematic Investigation: There are many relatable themes found in ghost stories, including revenge, darkness versus light, good versus evil, quest for discovery, self-awareness, optimism, and the will to survive. Have students choose two or three themes in the book, and record supporting details while reading. Questions to consider: What is the main message of the story? Is there a moral? What other books have a similar message?
  • Literary Elements: There are also great examples of literary elements in ghost stories, used to enhance the descriptions and make the characters and setting come alive: mood, setting, mystery, humor, suspense, figurative language, plot twists, and foreshadowing. Have students indicate where in the book they find these literary elements, and have them discuss the purpose and effect. Questions to consider: How do certain descriptions help us visualize the text? Why is it important to understand the setting? How do we know what the characters are feeling?

For more inventive ideas on incorporating scary stories into lesson plans, head over to READWRITETHINK.ORG and search for scary, ghost, or horror stories.

Random House Teachers and Librarians