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One for Sorrow: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hah

Mary Downing Hahn knows how to write a creepy story, and my students and I love her for it. After we read her novel, Took, last year, we were hooked. So when we saw her new novel, One for Sorrow, we had to jump right in. Naturally, I jumped in first, and I read the book before I passed in on to my eager fourth graders.

One for Sorrow is a historical fiction novel set during the 1918 epidemic of Spanish influenza. The fear of the epidemic sets the tone and drives the dark mood of the story. Told from the perspective of sheltered, Annie, a young girl who made some serious mistakes trying to fit into her new school adds the innocence of a child during this horrifying time.

Annie has just moved to a new town. She longs to have a friend. However, when loner Elise, claims Annie as her new best friend. Annie yearns for anyone else to befriend her. Elise is an odd one. You start off not liking her, just like Annie doesn’t like her. Yet, something lies beneath Elise, a darkness that is sure to come out. And it does come out, in the form of a haunting.

Elise becomes sick with influenza, likely after Annie and a group of mean girls steal her mask. Elise ends up dying and decides to come back and torture those who tortured her. Her first victim for revenge is Annie.

The dark ghost of Elise destroys Annie and her innocence. After Annie loses all control of herself and her inhibitions, Annie’s desperate parents reach out for the help of the local asylum. This just makes Elise’s playing field for Annie’s torture even larger.

If you love a great ghost story, then One for Sorrow is a great option for you. It is also a great option for upper elementary and middle school students. One for Sorrow provides the creepy ghost story, but it refrains from gore and violence. It is a book that I have felt absolutely comfortable handing to my students because I know it provides just the right age-appropriate spookiness.

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