BEWARE THE RAVENS, AUNT MORBELIA
Written by author, Joan Carris, this Guide is targeted for grades 4 to 8. Teachers, media specialists, librarians, and homeschoolers are encouraged to download the Guide. Joan Carris welcomes your comments, and you can send your comments by activating Contact Us on our Homepage.
Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia lists for $14.95, hardcover (ISBN: 0-316-129615). To order the book use the on-line order forn or call Children's Literature at 1-800 469 2070.
Todd Fearing (11) and his friend Jeff know that a trip with Todd's eccentric great-aunt Morbelia is sure to be memorable. As they become acquainted with the Fearing family legends and the Surrey County estate in England, they see just how memorable! First, they encounter horrifying sounds at night in the north wing of Harrowwood House. Soon they discover they're being stalked--from the Natural History museum to Trafalgar Square, from Hyde Park to the Tower of London to Stonehenge--and by at least three different people. How Todd de-duces why they're being followed--all of it somehow linked to his finding "crazy Cousin Albert's" diary--makes a fast-paced mystery with a fine English accent.
Careful, logical thinking solves most problems.
It's our job as thinking human beings to care for the world, its creatures, and all of its people, even the unusual ones.
"Mystery devotees will be hooked from the moment Aunt Morbelia announces an unfortunate omen' and will eagerly follow along through cliff-hanging chapters as the trio is stalked by menacing strangers and puzzles out the riddle of Cousin Albert's journal. Along with a nifty tour of London, Carris provides plenty of nicely-placed clues, enough chills to please middle-grade readers, and a few daffy characters for comic relief. This one will really be easy to booktalk." Booklist
"Combining gothic overtones, a touch of humor, and a pinch of English culture, this novel is a fine contrast to cookie-cutter horror stories and will appeal to readers seeking 'another scary book.'" School Library Journal
"Readers who last met Todd and his great-aunt Morbelia in Aunt Morbelia and the Screaming Skulls (1990) will happily accompany them and Todd's friend Jeff on a trip to England. The accent may be British, but Carris has concocted a solidly American mystery." Kirkus
- Demonstrate "involved reading," which allows the active reader to retain much more information (A mystery is the natural forum for practicing this skill.)
- Make England, the original parent country of the U.S., come to life by offering intriguing glimpses of its past and present
- Show reasoning and deductive skills applied to real-life problems, as opposed to "paper-and-pencil math."
Share what students know about England, and discuss this quote (attrib. to Churchill): "England and America are two countries divided by a common language." e.g., car hood (bonnet); gasoline (petrol); interstate / freeway (motorway); truck (lorry), etc. Watch for more British expressions as you read.
Discuss the skill of involved reading--being absorbed in the material in order to comprehend it and retain it fully.
(Note: Schoolwork depends on reading comprehension about 90% of the time. Students who practice involved reading score significantly higher on standardized tests like SATs or ACTs.)
ACROSS THE CURRICULA:
- Aunt Morbelia's dilemma is an economic one: how to support the costs of Harrowwood House. Research the cost of owning a modest home in America. Compare that to the immense sums required by an enormous house with extensive grounds.
- Compare the dollar to the pound, then to a few other world currencies, learning the names and exchange rates of those currencies as you go.
- Today's U.K. (Britain now prefers to be called the United Kingdom) residents pay a yearly TV license fee (tax) of about 50 pounds (around $75). How would Americans regard that tax?
- The U.K. has free medical care--sometimes termed "socialized medicine." Contrast that concept with ours in America. How is our medical care changing so that it more nearly resembles theirs?
- Contrast Britain's parliamentary government with ours.
- On a map of England, find towns with castr-, caster, or cester in their names. Each was the site of an old Roman camp (castra). Consider Worcest-ershire sauce; it came from Worcester, literally Wor's camp in the shire (county) of that name. Check out U.S. maps to see how many place names contain the roots -shire or -cast? How about surnames, typically derived from place names?
- The Tower of London on the Thames River was one of many castles "improved" by William the Conqueror, who defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The new king built more castles, each a one-day's horseback ride from the other (about 20-30 miles). A thorough Frenchman, William made sure that all legal business from 1066 to about 1400 A.D. was done in French. French words we have adopted include ballet, filet, entree, bouquet, entree, rendezvous, rapport--and how many others?
- Fun with etymology. Find the stories behind these British words (some place names) that have are now favorites in American English: hackneyed, malapropism, Scrooge, bowdlerize, boycott, derrick (a hangman's name!), donnybrook, limerick, Waterloo.
- In the book, Sybilla Fearing says she "tells fortunes." Who (or what) was the original Greek Sibyl?
HOW THIS BOOK CAME TO BE WRITTEN:Authors sometimes get very attached to their characters, and I am fond of Aunt Morbelia, Todd, and Jeff. When I realized I could send them all to England on a spooky, funny mystery trip, I couldn't wait to do it. Writing this story was ALMOST as much fun as a real visit to England!
MORE JOAN CARRIS BOOKS:
Aunt Morbelia And The Screaming Skulls
Howling for Home
Just A Little Ham
A Ghost Of A Chance
Witch-Cat (A CBS Story Hour Special)
The Greatest Idea Ever
Rusty Timmons' First Million
Hedgehogs In The Closet
Pets, Vets, And Marty Howard
The Revolt Of 10-X
When The Boys Ran The House
SAT Success (with CD-ROM)
Success With Words
SAT Word Flash
Panic Plan for SATs---all from Peterson's
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