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School of Fear


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About the Author

Former Contrafilms Director of Development, Gitty Daneshvari is the author of the adult novel The Makedown. This is Gitty's debut children's book, and it was inspired by her many childhood fears. She hoped that one day they'd help her, and, as it turns out, they have. She lives in New York. Carrie Gifford spent many years teaching and directing children's theater before starting Red Cap Cards with her husband. Her signature pencil-and-ink style is inspired by her childhood memories. She lives in Los Angeles.


Imagine a humorous middle-grade novel by a less self-absorbed Woody Allen to get an idea of this intelligent and witty children's debut. Daneshvari assembles a precocious cast of 12- and 13-year-olds with outsize fears, including Madeleine, whose obsessive fear of insects keeps her drenched in bug repellant; Theo, "the most dramatic, hysterical, and neurotic boy in the borough of Manhattan"; brazen Lulu, with crippling claustrophobia; and hydrophobic Garrison. Desperate families entrust these kids to Mrs. Wellington, the snarky "deranged beauty queen" of a headmistress at the secretive and fairly terrifying School of Fear ("Perhaps when the summer is finished you'll write a letter to the board of camps to complain," Mrs. Wellington tells the children when they learn they are the sole campers. "And please do not let the board's hypothetical status deter you"). What ensues is tautly paced, spine-tingling and quite funny, as the children overcome their fears and learn to work as a team. The ending proves as clever as the premise and shows that while everyone is afraid of something, tremendous achievements can be won by facing fear head-on. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Gr 4-6-"Everyone is afraid of something." So begins each chapter of this unusual book (Little Brown, 2009) by Gitty Daneshvari. Madeline is so obsessively afraid of bugs that she lives in a cloud of repellent and will not venture outdoors. Neurotic Theodore is terrified of death, and outspoken Lulu is claustrophobic. Although he is a good-looking and successful sports figure at school, Garrison is so paralyzed by the mere thought of water that he breaks out in a cold sweat if he even sees a lake in the distance. These youngsters are sent to the School of Fear during the summer to overcome their phobias. The four "contestants," as they are called by the school's headmistress and only teacher Mrs. Wellington, have the scariest summer of their lives. Mrs. Wellington is an outrageous ex-beauty queen who hasn't the vaguest idea of how to teach students. The school is chaotic, secretive, and a terrifying conglomeration of the oddest doors and rooms you could imagine, including a "Fearnasium." Yet, by the end of summer, the four young people discover that they were wrong about Mrs. Wellington, the school, and themselves. Emma Walton Hamilton expressively reads the fast-paced action and witty repartee, giving each character a unique voice. The result is an amusing, intriguing, and slightly terrifying adventure, with a wonderful lesson for anyone who is afraid of something.-MaryAnn Karre, Horace Mann Elementary School, Binghamton, NY Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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