…kids who have spent time with Goosebumps will enjoy this sly takeoff of a phenomenon run amok.
Stanley reveals yet another dimension of her talents in her second novel (after A Time Apart), here serving up a witty story that manages to be both light and satisfying. Fifth-grade narrator Franny Sharp, having just entered yet another new school, cements her friendship with the independent Beamer as the two notice how many of the other kids in the cafeteria are playing, riotously and continuously, with Jelly Worm candies. Franny sees the connection between the sudden fad and writer I.M. Fine's latest Chillers book, The Worm Turns (in it the Jelly Worms come to life and destroy Cleveland). The next Chillers release, about a microwave that causes excruciating headaches, coincides with the outbreak of a virus characterized by... headaches. As Franny and Beamer investigate, Stanley cheerfully sends up horror series fiction, unfolds a mystery involving orphan twins separated in childhood and repeatedly testifies to the pleasures of reading classics and fluff. She creates depth with rich but offhand characterizations of family life (Franny's younger twins are named Zo and J.D., a fact delivered without jokiness) and by introducing tough subject matter (the painful effects of McCarthyism play a significant role). Superior entertainment, this work should engage both ambitious readers and diehard fans of the genre it satirizes. Ages 9-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In this smartly plotted mystery, two middle-school kids investigate the strange effect of the "Chillers" horror series on their classmates. Franny, the new kid in town, is convinced that the books are responsible for the headache and seizure epidemics in Park Place Intermediate School. She convinces her new friend, Beamer, to help her figure out how to find the author, I. M. Fine. The stakes rise sharply when the next "Chillers" book causes potentially fatal reactions among young readersbut Franny and Beamer soon find that I. M. Fine's ultimate goal is more horrifying than anything they could imagine. Stanley puts the kids through a lot, but her characters are so resourceful that it's easy to believe every twist and turn of the story line. Every character in the book is well-drawn, even those who appear only briefly, and Stanley has a fine touch with dialogue. If this book isn't nominated for an Edgar Award, that would be the biggest mystery of all. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 9 to 13. Reviewer: Donna Freedman
Gr 4-6-Stanley explores the power of the written word in this lively suspense story. Franny and her family have just relocated to Baltimore, the latest in a long series of moves. Almost immediately, the fifth grader notices that practically everyone in her new school is crazy about Jelly Worms candy, made popular by the latest title in the "Chillers" series of horror novels that is making the rounds. It's an innocent enough fad, but then events take an insidious turn. First, a virus seemingly strikes only those who have read the next book in the series. Then, Sinister Serpent Surprise is published and an epidemic of snakelike behavior sweeps through schools across America. Franny is convinced that, somehow, the books induced these symptoms and determines to track down the reclusive author. Using reference material at the local library and the Internet, she and her friend Beamer find Ida May Fine. They discover that, indeed, Ida is using her books to avenge her father's death many years ago, and that her next book will be the ultimate weapon. Stanley's writing captures the flavor of horror novels, and at the same time brings in themes ranging from the House Un-American Activities Committee to the popularity of horror series and the effect of frequent relocation on children. This book will be enjoyed by fans of R. L. Stine and also by those who love a good mystery.-Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A light-heartedly charming mystery for kids who will read and still enjoy a story with an uncomplicated view of the world. Franny's family moves all the time and her style is to make friends by taking a book to school to see who responds. Right away she meets Beamer and by being observant, they begin to puzzle out a mystery connected to the "Chiller" series of books written by I. M. Fine. Each new book in the series seems to have a different disturbing effect on its readers. When attempting to do some research on the author, Beamer and Franny find even stalwart "Something About the Author "lets them down. However, following a slim clue given in the first book Fine wrote, the two manage to track down the author and the mystery. The rabid reactions of Fine's fans to new titles and the mindless following of the crowd will draw appreciative chuckles from kids who may recognize if not themselves, then their friends. As the mystery unfolds, readers will sometimes be ahead of these detectives rooting for them to figure out some of the obvious aspects. Some pieces of the plot seem overly fortuitous, but all make sense within the framework given. Book aficionados will enjoy the realistic details of the search along with laughing over the exaggerated fantasy aspects of the plot. Unpretentiously fun. "(Fiction. 9-12)"