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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*Creepy Chicago: A Ghosthunter's Tales of the City's Scariest Sites* by Ursula Bielski, illustrated by Amy Noble - young readers book review



Creepy Chicago: A Ghosthunter's Tales of the City's Scariest Sites
by Ursula Bielski, illustrated by Amy Noble
Ages 8-12 136 pages Lake Claremont Press August 2003 Paperback    

Creepy Chicago is good clean ghostly fun for kids of all ages, covering a wide variety of creepy and/or haunted sites in Chicago - nineteen in all. The brief vignettes include ghostly activities and sightings past and present, such as the ghosts of Fort Dearborn, where Chicago is located now. Some groups of Native Americans sided with the British against American settlers and soldiers holed up in the fort. The latter were ordered to leave the fort in case of an attack. About 150 of them left, heading toward Fort Wayne, Indiana, but a band of Native Americans loyal to the British attacked them, killed most of them, took some prisoner, and sold some into slavery. Then they returned to Fort Dearborn and burned it to the ground, killing the soldiers who had remained behind. The ghosts of these soldiers are sometimes seen by passersby on the Michigan Avenue bridge, dressed in old-fashioned military clothes, though they disappear after only a few moments.

At 136 pages (including two pages for the index) and geared toward children ages nine to twelve, Creepy Chicago manages an effective overview of spooky or haunted places in and around Chicago. Famous stories are touched upon, ranging from Resurrection Mary and John Dillinger’s ghost, which many have seen fleeing from the Biograph theater, to the ghost of Harry Caray haunting of Wrigley Field and the tale of Father Damon’s visitation by the ghosts of two boys who had been, in life, altar boys, leading him to their dying mother so he could administer the Last Rites to her. Ghosts from many cemeteries and the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre are thrown in for good measure, making for a sort of “Taste of Chicago”-type book, where the reader gets to sample many different short accounts of the ghostly sites of Chicago.

This type of “sampling,” however, doesn’t leave much space in such a short book to deal with any of the various topics in very much detail. Yes, this is a book for kids, primarily, and I would guess the author wanted to cover as much ground as possible rather than go in depth regarding any particular tale, but it would be nice if the book had been a bit longer and more details had enhanced each individual tale. Perhaps there’s a sequel in the making?

The book can’t be really labeled as truly “scary” or all that “creepy” because it is not graphic in the least. It is a fairly toned-down, G-rated picture of Chicago’s haunted places, making for a kid/parent-friendly collection of stories somewhat lacking in excitement. Still, I think any child would look forward to receiving it in, say, a Scholastic book order, especially around Halloween.

I asked myself four questions while I was reading Creepy Chicago:
  1. Was it interesting?
  2. Did it hold my attention/would it hold a kid’s attention?
  3. Did I find out anything I didn’t know before?
  4. Is it kid/parent friendly?
I say “Yes” to each of these questions. It is a great choice to buy for anyone interested in haunted places, especially those around Chicago. It won’t scare you like, for example, a Stephen King or Clive Barker book might; but that is not what it was meant to do, either. It’s a fun, light, kid/parent-friendly overview of some of the creepy/haunted areas of Chicago sure to please the audience it’s intended for.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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