Author Archives: Morgan B.

October 20, 2016

Secret Passageways

Posted by at 1:53 am in Reads | Permalink

I grew up in an old house, full of history and antiques and tiny staircases. And, I was convinced, full of secrets, too. I just knew that if I searched hard enough, I’d uncover a hidden passageway to the shed out back — or, cooler yet, a secret underground path to the beach a few blocks away.

I long ago gave up my search, but luckily, hidden passageways and secret rooms feature in a lot of amazing books, so I can live vicariously through the characters who disappear, find treasure, or even step into different realms. Plus, reading all those books has taught me the best lessons I’ll need, should I ever discover a secret passageway of my own.

For example, I know what to listen for when I start knocking on walls in my search for a hidden trapdoor, and how to carefully run my fingers up and down any cracks in the wall, looking for the latch. That’s because I’ve read The Ghost at Dawn’s House (The Baby-sitters Club #9). I also know not to give my trust too freely to anyone I should meet if and when I finally find that secret passageway – because I’ve read Coraline.

Secret passages and hidden doors are everywhere in literature, including places like Hogsmeade (where a trapdoor in the cellar of Honeydukes lets Harry Potter and friends connect to a secret passage that leads them to Hogwarts), the city of Venice (which Amy and Dan Cahill discover in The 39 Clues Book 2: One False Note), and even hidden in plain sight behind a fireplace (like in The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless by Ahmet Zappa). You just have to know how to find them!

So do any of you have hidden passageways or secret rooms in your houses? Would you want to find them if you did? Leave a Comment and let me know!

— Morgan, Scholastic Staffer

October 12, 2016

Best Scary Books for Kids

Posted by at 1:16 am in Reads | Permalink

I’m the type of girl who’s usually first in line at the movie theater for the latest scary flick. I like to be spooked — ghosts are a particular favorite of mine, but I’ll make do with aliens, or even monsters.

Naturally, it’s no surprise that my bookshelves are lined with some super scary titles that I’ve read again and again — because the best scary stories are the ones that get scarier each time you read them!

So here are my top five favorite scary books for kids:

Thedollhousemurders5. The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright
Prepare yourselves, readers, for the scariest dollhouse you’ve ever encountered. After reading this tale about a girl whose dollhouse holds terrifying secrets, I spent many a dark night consumed with dread over whether my dolls would start whispering confessions to me. Sadly, or luckily, they never did.

Allthelovelybadones4. All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn
I myself wasn’t a troublemaker as a kid, which I suppose is why I found it fascinating to read about characters like Travis and Corey, siblings who have been kicked out of summer camp for being pranksters. They spend the summer at their grandmother’s inn, and what starts off as just another prank — staging fake ghost sightings and charging tourists for them — quickly turns all-too-real when they realize the inn actually is haunted! Some truly frightening moments make this book suitable for slightly older readers.

Skeletonman3. Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac (ages 12 and up)
Not to be confused with the new book Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman (another scary tale that combines video with reading!), Skeleton Man is tense, creepy, and unexpected. It weaves together some Native American history with modern-day references (it was written in 2001), and even though it’s seriously scary, it’s refreshing to read about a gutsy young girl who sets out to solve the mystery of her missing parents.

Waittillhellencomes2. Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
What can I say — Mary Downing Hahn is a master at telling scary stories! I actually hadn’t read this title until a friend of mine recently reminisced about it, sealing the deal for me when she mentioned it was truly, seriously scary. And it is — all graveyards and hauntings, converted churches and legends . . . and I couldn’t put it down. This one is not for the faint of heart!


1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (ages 12 and up)
Sometimes the best reason to read a scary book is to learn that not all “scary” things are dangerous — or all that frightening. This 2009 Newbery Medal winner starts off with a terrifying scene, but ultimately, the ghosts of the graveyard prove themselves more humane than some of the actual humans in the book. Scary, sure, but also funny, captivating, and tender.

What are some of YOUR favorite scary reads?

— Morgan, Scholastic Staffer

September 21, 2010

Answers! The Baby-sitters Club Trivia

Posted by at 4:30 am in Trivia | Permalink

A great effort from all you BSC fans out there, and a big congratulations to Hope, who was the first person to correctly guess the answers to The Baby-sitters Club trivia post! (I think I tricked some of you with that last question. Sorry!)

Still wondering what the correct answers are? Here you go:

In The Summer Before, Claudia throws a birthday party for herself. Why is she so nervous about this party?

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August 31, 2010

Trivia, Baby-sitters Club Style!

Posted by at 9:30 am in Trivia | Permalink

We all know The Baby-sitters Club is a favorite ’round these parts! As we get ready for the re-issue of book #4, Mary Anne Saves the Day, coming in October, I thought I’d get you all in the mood for some BSC action with a trivia quiz!

I took one question from each of the first three books plus the prequel, The Summer Before. Want to test your BSC knowledge? Leave a comment with your answers!

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August 23, 2010

Writing Prompt: My Summer Vacation

Posted by at 5:13 am in Writing Prompt | Permalink

Writingprompt_generic Back-to School Writing Prompt: My Summer Vacation

There’s a point every summer when I notice how the sun looks in the sky, how it’s positioned differently than it was in June, how it filters through the trees like a painting, how everything around me, even the beaches and lakes, feels muted, a bit heavier, than they did when summer first began. And that’s when I realize that summer is (gulp!) almost over.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have great stories to tell about this summer. And now that you all are gearing up for school, organizing binders and laptop folders, and trying to remember locker combinations, it’s the perfect time to take a few moments and remember how you spent your summer.

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July 26, 2010

Writing Prompt: Dog Days of Summer

Posted by at 3:03 am in Writing Prompt | Permalink


Practically everyone has heard the expression “the dog days of summer,” but what exactly does it mean? And where did it come from?

I will tell you.

Thousands of years ago, there was a small country called Petville that was ruled by a kind, fluffy, beautiful cocker spaniel named Augusta. She ruled over the dogs of Petville for three long months – three hot, sticky, humid months where rain never fell and all the dog-citizens stopped barking because they were too busy panting. But she instituted new leash laws that all the dog-citizens loved, and called for mandatory daily swims and hour-long fetch sessions. The dogs of Petville were very happy! One day, though, the weather turned cooler, and Augusta realized she had accomplished all she wanted to in Petville. She retired and a tabby cat named Snowflake became the new ruler of Petville, but those days of her successful tenure went on to become known as the dog days of summer.

OK, so none of this is true. But I had you going for a while there, right? That’s the beauty of writing: you set words onto paper, and the world you create becomes a little bit more real.

So for today's writing prompt, pick out a common saying that you or someone you know always uses – maybe something like “It’s raining cats and dogs!” or “He has ants in his pants” or “Caught between a rock and a hard place” or “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Then, write a short story about where that expression came from. The best part? You get to make it up! Think of a silly, clever way that those clichés could have originated.

Leave your thoughts in the Comments!

– Morgan, Scholastic staffer

May 26, 2010

Dystopian Summer Beach Read: Dark Life

Posted by at 10:32 am in Reads | Permalink

Darklife Phew! I barely managed to pull myself away from Dark Life in order to write this review. Yes, it is that enthralling!

Dark Life is the debut book from Kat Falls. It's set in a disturbing version of the future in which the oceans have risen so much that people are crammed onto the small pieces of land that remain — except for small populations of pioneers who’ve decided to live below land. As in, underwater.

Teen boy Ty, the narrator, launches readers into the action immediately in the first chapter. You see, he's one of those pioneers who lives underwater — full-time! And while there's space and freedom below the sea (unlike on land), there's also danger, especially now that a roving band of criminals threatens Ty and his family's way of life.

And if that's not enough, Ty also has to worry about Gemma, the Topsider (that's the term for people who live on land) who's searching for her missing brother. Not only does Gemma not know anything about life underwater, but she also seems a little too interested in the rumored “Dark Gifts” that Ty and the other underwater kids have.

If you like fast-paced, action-packed books, Dark Life is the perfect summer read for you! Just be careful if you're reading it at the beach. . . you might get distracted looking at the ocean floor and trying to imagine what it would be like to live there!

— Morgan, Scholastic Staffer

May 24, 2010

Writing Prompt! These shoes are made for. . .

Posted by at 8:02 am in Writing Prompt | Permalink

Writingprompt_shoes One of my all-time favorite books is Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. In fact, Streatfeild wrote a whole swath of books involving shoes: Ballet Shoes, Tennis Shoes, Circus Shoes, Party Shoes. . . you get the picture.

Dancing Shoes was my favorite of the "shoe" books because it took place in a dancing school, where the characters compete for roles and auditions, not to mention for the attention of the school's headmaster. There's drama! Humor! Intrigue! But all of the "shoe" books are great, and each is aptly named based on subject matter.

So I got to thinking: if I were to write my own "shoe" book, what would it be called? For today's writing prompt, think about your own feet, and the types of shoes that usually encase them. Do you wear cleats most of the time? Hiking boots? Pointe shoes? Snow boots?

What would your "shoe" book be called, and why? Leave a Comment and tell us!

Morgan, Scholastic Staffer

April 19, 2010

Writing Prompt! If the Walls Could Talk

Posted by at 5:12 am in Writing Prompt | Permalink


I’ve been thinking a lot about space lately. Not outer space (though, truth be told, I do think about outer space a lot. . . like how much I love the stars, and what it would be like to live on the moon!), but space in general: the four walls around me at any given time, and how different rooms can inspire different feelings, depending on their color or alignment or what’s nailed to them, or how many windows there are.

For today’s writing prompt, think about the space you’re sitting in right now. What’s hanging on the walls? How are the chairs, desks or couches set up? Are you near a window? Is there sunlight streaming in, or are raindrops knocking on the windowpane?

Now here’s the twist, Splotters! Write a paragraph from the perspective of something in the space around you, addressed to YOU. If you choose the pillow you’re leaning against, for example, write about how the pillow must feel when someone (ie, you!) is all squished up on it. Is it honored that you chose to use it? Is it grateful that it’s offering you some comfort? Or is it secretly laughing at you because your breath smells?

I’m sitting in my office at Scholastic right now, and I’m choosing to write from the perspective of the carpet under my boots. I spill so much on this carpet, I’m sure I can imagine some pretty choice words it would say to me if it could talk. . .

Leave your writing prompt in the Comments!

Morgan, Scholastic Staffer