Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Haunted Houses by Robert D. San Souci

Haunted Houses by Robert D. San Souci; Illustrated by Kelly Murphy & Antoine Revoy

Setting is a crucial element to any successful story in the horror genre. In, Haunted Houses, by Robert D. San Souci, the author wraps his work of short stories around a typical setting, the haunted house. Haunted houses can be more diverse than one might think. Maybe thoughts of a haunted house at an amusement park or carnival come to mind. Perhaps a scary mansion does too. But, have you ever thought a dog house could be scary? You might if you learned that it was the origin of what you were hearing at night and the howl issuing forth was from a dog that died almost a year ago. What might even be scarier would be the nightmare that followed, one in which the playful dog you once knew now appears with glowing eyes along with a disturbing split personality. Haunted houses, even haunted dog houses, have a way of enveloping the main character like invisible hands suffocating any way of escape. I suppose that is what makes haunted houses as the setting in horror stories so fascinating. The author successfully pulls the reader into his collection of scary stories just like a house with a mind of its own might: with its victims realizing too late what is about to happen. Reader, heed this warning well.

I think it would be fascinating to use Haunted Houses by Robert D. San Souci to study different protagonists in horror stories. This comparison study would include such things as what point in the story does the main character realize he/she is in trouble. I’m also fascinated by the process of the haunted setting enveloping the protagonist. There seems to be a gradual process in which the outside world is closed off from the protagonist almost to the point of no return.

Also, I would include a study of foreshadowing using the stories from this book. San Souci does a nice job of giving little clues as to what is about to happen in most of them. As students read these stories, I would have them list all the foreshadowing clues they could find. In a few of his stories the clues made the ending somewhat predictable but still satisfying. In the short story, Webs, we might know what’s coming because the words “wriggled and jiggled” get repeated often, but the reader is still satisfied with a creepy payoff in the way this phrase is used in the last line. I might have students indicate when they knew what was going to happen and why. I might have them discuss if the foreshadowing made the story more/less effective.

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