Something Upstairs

( 61 )

Overview

The mystery deepends

The room was shabby and dirty, heavy with heat. None of the things which Kenny called his own remained. Even the painted walls and skylight were gone.

Baffled, he wondered if other things — even outside — had changed. Kenny went to one of the windows and looked down. On a stoop across the dark street a man was standing, gazing straight at Kenny's window. He was wearing what appeared to be ...

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Overview

The mystery deepends

The room was shabby and dirty, heavy with heat. None of the things which Kenny called his own remained. Even the painted walls and skylight were gone.

Baffled, he wondered if other things — even outside — had changed. Kenny went to one of the windows and looked down. On a stoop across the dark street a man was standing, gazing straight at Kenny's window. He was wearing what appeared to be a long black cape which reached his knees, and a hat, triangular in shape. Its brim obscured his face.

As if suddenly realizing he was being observed, the man moved quickly into the shadows. Keeping his face averted, he fled up the street.

When he moves from Los Angeles to Providence, Rhode Island, Kenny discovers that his new house is haunted by the spirit of a black slave boy who asks Kenny to return with him to the early nineteenth century and prevent his murder by slave traders.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 5-7 A ghost story of redeeming social value: when 12-year-old Kenny Huldorf moves with his family to Providence, Rhode Island, he finds himself embroiled in the century-old murder of a teenage slave named Caleb. Not only is Kenny haunted by the injustice of the murder, but also by the ghost of Caleb himself, who summons Kenny back in time to the early 19th Century, where the boy must solve Caleb's murder to return to his own century. How Kenny does this is the stuff of a somber and ambiguous conclusion upon which Avi intrudes himself as a character as he has earlier done at the book's beginning. Why Avi has chosen to do this is debatableperhaps to reinforce the reality of the social issue, slavery, which drives the narrative. In any event, as a literary device it compromises an otherwise carefully constructed tale, just as the too obvious employment of Caleb as both character and symbol tends to compromise his viability as a character. Nevertheless Something Upstairs is an intelligent and well-intentioned effort. It can provoke discussion of the issues articulated above as well as how, finally, violence visits the lives of both Caleb and Kenny and how Kenny, through choice and circumstance, may have become a slave himself. Michael Cart, Beverly Hills Public Library
Children's Literature - Denise Daley
The mysterious dark spot on the floor of the old house gives Kenny a sense of foreboding. His suspicions prove accurate when the next night a shadow emerges from the spot. The shadow takes a human form and it begins to grasp at the walls of the small room, as if searching for something. The fear dissipates and Kenny's education begins as he communicates with the ghost that has emerged from the stain on the floor. Kenny learns that he is Caleb, a sixteen-year-old slave who lived in the house in the 1700s, was murdered in his sleep in that very room. Kenny offers to help change the memory of Caleb and his past, but it puts Kenny in great danger. Kenny travels into the past and finds himself confronting dangerous men who threaten to keep his memory in the 1700s and prevent him from returning to the present. Kenny is torn between keeping his promise to help Caleb and his fear for his own safety. This suspenseful and well-written novel by renowned author Avi will keep readers on the edge of their seats. In addition to learning a little about American history, readers will learn the value of friendship and the importance of keeping their word. Reviewer: Denise Daley
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380708536
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1990
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 580L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 13.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Avi

Avi is the author of more than sixty books, including Crispin: The Cross of Lead, a Newbery Medal winner, and Crispin: At the Edge of the World. His other acclaimed titles include The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth, both Newbery Honor Books, and most recently The Seer of Shadows. He lives with his family in Colorado.

Biography

Born in Manhattan in 1937, Avi Wortis grew up in Brooklyn in a family of artists and writers. Despite his bright and inquisitive nature, he did poorly in school. After several academic failures, he was diagnosed with a writing impairment called dysgraphia which caused him to reverse letters and misspell words. The few writing and spelling skills he possessed he had gleaned from his favorite hobby, reading -- a pursuit enthusiastically encouraged in his household.

Following junior high school, Avi was assigned to a wonderful tutor whose taught him basic skills and encouraged in him a real desire to write. "Perhaps it was stubbornness," he recalled in an essay appearing on the Educational Paperback Association's website, "but from that time forward I wanted to write in some way, some form. It was the one thing everybody said I could not do."

Avi finally learned to write, and well! He attended Antioch University, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and received a master's degree in library science from Columbia in 1964. He worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library's theater collection and for Trenton State College, and taught college courses in children's literature, while continuing to write -- mostly plays -- on the side. In the 1970s, with two sons of his own, he began to craft stories for children. "[My] two boys loved to hear stories," he recalled. "We played a game in which they would give me a subject ('a glass of water') and I would have to make up the story right then. Out of that game came my first children's book, Things That Sometimes Happen." A collection of "Very Short Stories for Little Listeners," Avi's winning debut received very positive reviews. "Sounding very much like the stories that children would make up themselves," raved Kirkus Reviews, "these are daffy and nonsensical, starting and ending in odd places and going sort of nowhere in the middle. The result, however, is inevitably a sly grin."

Avi has gone on to write dozens of books for kids of all ages. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing but the Truth (1992) were named Newbery Honor Books, and in 2003, he won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his 14th-century adventure tale, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. His books range from mysteries and adventure stories to historical novels and coming-of-age tales; and although there is often a strong moral core to his work, he leavens his message with appealing warmth and humor. Perhaps his philosophy is summed up best in this quote from his author profile on Scholastic's website: "I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read."

Good To Know

In a Q&A with his publisher, Avi named Robert Louis Stevenson as one of his greatest inspirations, noting that "he epitomizes a kind of storytelling that I dearly love and still read because it is true, it has validity, and beyond all, it is an adventure."

When he's not writing, Avi enjoys photography as one of his favorite hobbies.

Avi got his unique nickname from his twin sister, Emily..

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    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

AUTHOR'S EXPLANATION

This is the strangest story I've ever heard.

SINCE I WRITE BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE I OFTEN visit schools. It's good to get out of my writing room and into the world where my readers live. Besides, I like kids.

During these visits it's not unusual for grown-ups as well as kids to tell me stories about their lives, stories they think will make good books. Even if I don't get ideas to write about, at least I have a chance to meet some interesting people.

One day, on just such an occasion, in Providence, Rhode Island, a teacher took me aside.

"I have a boy who's very anxious to meet you," she said. She acted as if it were a secret.

"I hope you can fit him into the schedule," I said politely. Inwardly, I groaned. The day was already too full.

"He insists on a private meeting."

"I'm really not sure . . ."

"He's read all your books."

"All?" I said doubtfully.

"All," she insisted. "He's got it into his head that you're the only one who can understand him."

I have to admit I was flattered. And curious. I murmured a "Well, maybe . . ."

The teacher gave my arm a squeeze. "Wonderful," she said. "You could take part of your lunchtime . . ." Off she ran before I could tell her I'd rather have all my lunch.

It was not to be. Halfway through my meal I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Avi?" It was the teacher, with a boy in tow. "This is Kenny Huldorf," she said. "Kenny, this is Avi."

There was nothing unusual about Kenny Huldorf, not at first sight. He was on the small side perhaps, butthere was every indication that he was about to double his size any moment. His hair was short and light. A few childlike freckles splashed his cheeks. And he must have been pulled from gym, because his face was red and his shirt untucked.

"Hello, Kenny," I said and held out my hand. He took it and gave it a tentative shake. There was a stare too. It's a look I've seen many times, and I can never tell if it's awe or disappointment.

"I've got a quiet room for your talk," the teacher informed us.

Reluctantly, I got up. In moments we were closeted in a small room, and before I could say a word she was gone, the door firmly closed.

Feeling trapped, but knowing there was nothing I could do about it, I motioned Kenny to one of the two chairs.

He sat down. I sat down. We looked at each other. The truth is, I think neither of us felt the other was very promising, though he was the nervous one. From his pocket he drew out a key chain and started to fiddle with it. I decided it was up to me to begin. "I understand you wanted to speak to me," I offered.

"I've read all your books," he got out, still playing with the chain.

"Hope you enjoyed them."

He nodded, then said, "Did you do all that stuff in your books?"

"Hardly any," I told him. "Writing is mostly imagination, emotion, things you've noticed or heard about rather than things you've done.... Why don't you put that chain away? It's distracting."

A frightened look came into his eyes. But it passed quickly and he seemed to take hold of himself. Then he said, "What about memory?"

"Memory?"

"You know, in your books, was any of that stuff. . . things that happened before?"

"I just said, almost none of it._

He looked at me searchingly. _No, what I mean is, is any of it part of someone else's memory?_

I gazed at him, baffled and more and more uncomfortable. All I could manage was a change of subject. _What was it about my books that caught your interest?"

"They made me feel you'd understand some thing that happened to me."

"Oh?"

He shrugged, indicating frustration. "I've tried to tell people. But they don't want to hear."

"Why not?"

"Too weird."

I sat there, wishing I had never offered to listen. But I could see no way out without hurting his feelings. _Okay,_ I said, settling back into the hard wood chair, "try me."

"Really?"

"That's what you wanted, isn't it?"

"Yeah . . ."

I glanced at my watch. "Kenny," I said, _if you don't start, we're going to run out of time. Now put your chain away and tell me what's on your mind."

With that he took a deep breath, shoved the key chain into his pocket, and began.

IT WAS, AS I SAID, THE STRANGEST STORY I_VE EVER, heard. Not only did I listen then, but I spent the afternoon after school listening. And the evening. What's more, I stayed over at a local hotel a second day to check out what he'd told me at least those aspects that were possible to check.

When I was done I offered to write it all down as a book. With what I took to be great relief, Kenny Huldorf agreed.

This is it. His story. My writing. I think it's true.

Copyright ) 1988 by Avi

Something Upstairs . Copyright © by John Avi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 61 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(30)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 61 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    AWESOME!

    "Something Upstairs", is an awesome book. Kenny Huldorf is a boy who moved form L.A. to Rhode Island. Kenny met a ghost slave, named Caleb, in the attic of his new house. Caleb asked Kenny to find his murderer from the past. Kenny went to the past and present to help Caleb. You will be absorbed into the book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    AWESOME!

    "Something Upstairs", by Avi is a good story. Kenny is a young boy who moved from L.A. to R.I. Kenny met a slave ghost named Caleb in the attic of his house. Caleb asked Kenny to help him find his murderer from 200 years ago. Kenny traveled back and forth between the past and present to help Caleb. You will get sucked into this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    MAGNIFICENT!

    Kenny is a young boy who moved from L.A. to Rhode Island. He discovered many scary things about his new house. Kenny met a slave named Caleb, in the attic of his house. Caleb lived in the time of the 1800's. Caleb wanted Kenny to find his murderer from 200 years ago. Kenny traveled back and forth in time to help Caleb. You will love this book, it is magnificent!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2001

    Something Upstairs, Avi

    I thought that Something Upstairs was an EXCELLENT book! I rate it 5 stars, because it keeps you in suspense, and it is the type of book you can't put down. It's no too long, and it's not too short. It is an enjoyable book to read, and I reccomend it to to all readers my age, and older!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2001

    the book whas great

    i loved the book cause it mde me what to read more and more i think that avi gave a lot of detail and in the book at the end it said on the tombstone willinghast is for bidden and if you you what to no why read the book you will love it if you love sopence books well im at school and im going to stqart reading the book called brighet showeds i hope that is as good as the book called something upstaries

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2011

    This is the best book written by Avi so far! READ!

    Something Upstairs is a very good story about a young boy named Kenny who moves to Providence Rhode Island and discovers a strange stain in one of his bedroom closets. He brings a sample to the Pharmacy and they prove that it`s human blood....with that being said Kenny gets really scared especially when he starts hearing strange scratching noises coming from the door. He goes and investigates and stares in horror as a manifestation of a young boy starts crawling out of the stain! Then the boy starts searching the walls as if looking for a way to get out. Finally he comes face to face with Kenny and when Kenny gets the courage to say something the ghost disppears. This keeps hapening every night as if he is trying to wake Kenny up....okay now that I think I have the suspention at its highest level you have to read the book to find out more. Hope you enjoy it!

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  • Posted January 24, 2011

    check the book out!!!!=)

    In the story something upstairs the main characters are Caleb and Kenny. Caleb is a ghost that is haunting Kenny's new house. Kenny Huldorf is the new kid in town. He moved from Los Angeles, where he thought everything was perfect, he now lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where his house is haunted by a ghost. Kenny is a young, caring, and smart. Caleb is a old bitter ghost, who just wants to know who murdered him. Kenny is having an internal conflict trying to find out the mystery. What I didn't like about the book was that, a little slave boy was murdered. He had to spend a long time as a ghost. What I did like was that, there is time travel and mystery. I would recommend this book to anybody who likes mystery. This book will keep you reading and reading until you get to the end. You will want to read this book to find out what happens in the end.

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  • Posted September 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Kira M for TeensReadToo.com

    Twelve-year-old Kenny Huldorf tells the story of how when he moved to Providence, Rhode Island, he discovered his old house was haunted by the ghost of a slave named Caleb. After doing some research, he discovers that someone murdered Caleb. Taken back in time by the ghost to solve the murder, Kenny becomes entangled in a mystery that will test his wits, his life, and the life of his newfound friend. Will Kenny manage to right the wrong and save Caleb by uncovering his murderer? Will Kenny be trapped in history or, even worse, be killed? A chilling ghost story that will unnerve its readers like a good story should. With a surprise ending, memorable characters, and a well-developed plot, this book is by far one of Avi's best. Readers who like ghost stories, Avi books, and paranormal fiction will all enjoy reading SOMETHING UPSTAIRS.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2010

    Kept waiting for it to get interesting...

    I love time travel books, but this was pretty bad. I know it is made for children, but usually I enjoy and appreciate children's novels. Not this time. The slave boy, Caleb is totally unlikeable. Why anyone would want to help him, I haven't figured out. Kenny goes back in time to help change the murder of Caleb. Caleb whines until Kenny risks his life to help him. We never know anything about Caleb and maybe if we did we would have more empathy for him. The ending is bad and totally predictable. Don't buy it.

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  • Posted December 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    it's really cool

    i read this book when i was in 5th grade...i am a freshman in high school now...but i still remeber this book...i liked it alot it was really good.....if i could be able to purchase this book i would so i could read it again....like i would my fathers book..which is also on here.. called 'whispering to lilly'

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Mediocre book at best

    This book was pretty average. It has an interesting premise, but doesn't really pull it off well. The slave boy whines too much with out any real reason to, and the kid from the current century winds up helping him in the end. A rather short book so if you are curious, you can give it a shot, but there are much better books out there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2009

    Classic

    This is an amzazing story. At first I did not want to read "Something Upstairs". I decided to give it a chance and I found this story very interesting. I think Avi is an amazing writer. I am looking forward to reading more of Avi's books in the future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    HORRIBLE!

    "Something Upstairs", by Avi was awful. Kenny is a young boy who moved from California to Rhode Island. Kenny met a 14 year old ghost slave named Caleb. Caleb wanted Kenny to find his murderer and set him free. Kenny traveled back and forth from century to century to find Caleb's murderer. You will be disappointed with this book!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    Interesting!

    The story, "Something Upstairs", was as absorbing as a sponge! It is about a young boy named Kenny Huldorf, who moved from L.A. to Providence, Rhode Island. Kenny met a ghost slave in the attic of his room one hot night. Kenny found out that Caleb wants Kenny to come back to the past to find his murderer. Kenny has to go back and forth from the past to the present to help Caleb find his murderer. You will get absorbed and want to know what will happen next. I think you should read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2008

    ABSORBING

    Something Upstairs is a great story. Kenny Huldorf is a young boy who moved from L.A. California to Providence R.I. Kenny meets a slave ghost, named Caleb, in the attic of his house. Caleb asks Kenny to help him find his murderer from 200 years ago! Kenny travels back and forth between the past and the present to help Caleb. You will be absorbed into this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2008

    O.K.

    Something Upstairs was an O.K. book about Kenny Huldorf, a boy who moves from L.A. to R.I. Caleb, a ghost slave, lives in the attic of Kenny's house. Caleb asks Kenny to help him find his murderer from 200 years ago! Kenny travels back and forth between the present and the past to find Caleb's murderer. You will wonder what is going to happen, right up until the very end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2008

    O.K.

    Something Upstairs, by Avi was an alright story. It's about Kenny Holdorf, who moved from L.A. to Rhode Island. Kenny meets a slave ghost, named Caleb, in the attic of his house. Caleb asks Kenny to help him find his murderer from 200 years ago. Kenny travels back and forth between the present and the past to help Caleb. I'm not sure, but you might like this story.

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  • Posted October 23, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great teen mystery/suspense

    I read this book in the fifth grade, then again in the sixth. Let me tell ya this book is great. I know that if i went back to read it now (im a freshman) it probably wouldn't sound as good. But when i read it ealier it was awesome. I love how avi uses the whole time travel theme. It was just an excellent book. I think this book is great to read for an english class in like the sixth grade. OMG i just really liked how suspensefull and drawn out it was. I read this book in one setting. It just mesmerizes you from the start. Just love the plpot. This is a great book for 10-13 year olds

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2008

    good book

    This book was Good! I can actually picture each chapter in my head. This book is i finished it in a couple of hours.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2007

    A reviewer

    I actually did a book report on this book. It was the funnest homework assignment ive ever done! I got an A+ on it! If you haven't read this book you should its soo good and interesting!!

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