Updated: Jun 23
Ghost stories are popular around the world, and there are readers of all ages who enjoy spine-tingling adventures from time to time. The “Eerie Tales from the East” series by Mahtab Narsimhan pulls stories from eastern folklore into a modern context, delivering standalone tales that transport readers around the globe. Built in similar formats to one another, these books will appeal to younger middle grade readers due to their structure, but the creepy factor is definitely aimed at those who are not easily spooked by what they read. Compelling and memorable, the books in this series introduce readers to a range of eastern stories and will keep readers coming back for more. Please see my review of books one and two below!
Twelve-year-old Avi is not excited about having to spend a week by himself with his Nana in the small and antiquated town of Tolagunj, especially since they have had little interaction up to this point in his life. Having grown up in the city, Avi has rarely experienced life in a village, and there are many thoughts and traditions that feel foreign to him when he arrives. A mysterious astrologer has attracted the attention of the villagers, providing plentiful and ominous predictions that have an uncomfortable tendency of coming true. But Avi knows deep down that something is wrong, especially when his own prediction threatens his life and he is relegated to the inside of his room for his own safety. With no outside help and ongoing danger from his Nana’s assistant Das, it is up to Avi and his new friend Lalita to get to the bottom of what is really going on before it is too late.
This story takes place in a small Indian village, and the sights, sounds, and beliefs of those living in similar places are woven into this tale. Cows roam the streets, the smells of curry and mangoes fill the air, and the ingrained hierarchy of the caste system demarcates people’s positions in society. Avi has much to learn about the place his Nani calls home; Avi makes many mistakes when he assumes things to be true, especially in his attempts to help when he does not fully understand the situation he is in. Through this, readers from around the world will learn alongside Avi and come to better understand what life can be like for people living in rural Indian communities.
At the heart of this short novel is a mystery that is intensified by the high stakes it involves. With elements of the paranormal interspersed throughout, this story incorporates many layers that are sure to engage middle grade readers. Short chapters and a clear and unobstructed plot line make this book particularly well suited to newly independent readers who are becoming more comfortable with the genre. The first in its series, Warned is an engaging and compelling mystery that will connect with young readers while inviting them to seek answers alongside Avi and Lalita. This is an enjoyable addition to libraries for middle grade readers.
Twelve-year-old Jonah Anders and his mom have moved a lot, especially since the death of his father two years previously, so it has been hard for Jonah to make lasting friendships. They got a great deal when they purchased Camp Sunny Acres, and they have high hopes for success in the years to come. Unfortunately, a tragic event occurred in the lake nearby before Jonah and his mom purchased the camp, and the effects of this occurrence are still felt in several different ways. When Jonah and another camper are literally pulled into the depths of the lake, they realize that what they initially thought was a creepy campfire story might actually be real, and they must work together to find a solution if they want the camp to survive.
This is the second book in the “Eerie Tales from the East” series, and it is markedly more intense than the first installment. Not only is a spooky ghost story told around the campfire at night, but the fact that the story comes to life means that there is an additional layer of fear woven into the narrative. Jonah is in a tough position; he is the son of the camp owner, but he is also the same age as the campers themselves. With few friends and many responsibilities, Jonah must learn to balance his duties with his camaraderie and connection with his peers. He bravely learns to stretch his comfort zone to welcome others into a life that, up until that point, has been relatively independent.
Fans of creepy stories from global literature and tradition will relish the tales in this series as a whole. Though each story takes place in a different locale, the overall structure is similar from one to the next, giving readers a sense of comfort and familiarity in the author’s writing style and each novel’s presentation. This second installment is excellently delivered, the writing having noticeably improved from that found in the first book. Middle grade readers with an interest in both the paranormal and spooky stories from around the world will appreciate the accessibility of this book as well as the other stories in this series. This book is a compelling inclusion to libraries for middle grade readers.
Thirteen-year-old Michiko could not be more excited for her class trip to the Mojave National Preserve. She has packed her Ouija board, and she knows that her two best friends will help her use it to gain the answer to a question that has been plaguing her for weeks. When the girls activate the board and the spirit they conjure refuses to leave, however, the weekend field trip becomes more sinister and dangerous than they could have ever anticipated. With each passing moment, their situation intensifies, and they must find a way to banish the offending spirit before it is too late.
This third in the Eerie Tales from the East series falls right in line with the others as far as its spookiness level and design. Centering around middle grade kids with an interest in the supernatural, this book combines many of the familiar challenges of youth with the darker potential of the Ouija board. An assortment of diverse characters makes up Michiko’s class, which gives the book a pleasantly multifaceted foundation upon which to grow the story. As the mystery unfolds, young readers will puzzle out the clues along with the protagonists and will worry for the characters as they navigate their way out of each frightening situation.
The spookiness factor in this book primarily stems from the vivid descriptions of the supernatural characters who make an appearance in the narrative. Like any good ghost story, this one is left open-ended, the fear lingering because the danger is never really gone. Throughout the course of the book, the protagonists undergo a variety of changes due both to their adolescence and the influence of their frightening visitors. This character-driven approach helps readers better connect to the characters and empathize with them as each circumstance arises. Fans of spooky stories will enjoy this and the other installments in the Eerie Tales series, especially as it is a natural next step for more confident middle grade readers looking for a challenge after completing the Goosebumps series.
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