Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Dead Boys

The Dead Boys by Royce Buckingham
Penguin Young Readers Group, September 2010
Hardcover, 208 pages
Age Range: 8 to 12
ISBN-13: 9780399252228
highly recommended

In the desert town of Richland, Washington, there stands a giant sycamore tree. Horribly mutated by nuclear waste, it feeds on the life energy of boys that it snags with its living roots. And when Teddy Matthews moves to town, the tree trains its sights on its next victim.
From the start, Teddy knows something is very wrong with Richland-every kid he meets disappears before his eyes. A trip to the cemetery confirms that these boys are actually dead and trying to lure him to the tree. But that knowledge is no help when Teddy is swept into the tree's world, a dark version of Richland from which there is no escape . . .
My Thoughts:

This is a creepy book for readers age 9-12. Teddy has moved with his mother to Richland, Washington where a huge, old sycamore tree is in the yard of the abandoned house next door. Teddy soon realizes that there is something odd about the kids he is meeting - and the tree.

While the story is dark - and creepy - it didn't seem too over the top scary for the intended age group. I thought it had just the right balance of fast paced suspense, mystery, and spooky happenings. Perhaps not for a child with too vivid an imagination, especially if they have large, old trees in their yard.

The Dead Boys would actually be an easy read for this age group. I think kids will appreciate the illustration of the tree changes at the beginning of each chapter. I know I did. This is perhaps, the time of year for a creepy story.
highly recommended for 9-12


In its early years, the sycamore tree stretched its branches up toward the light, reaching for the desert sun and its life giving energy. Beneath the ground, it groped for scarce water and nutrients. opening, prologue

The tree soaked up the new radiation directly into its porous wood. It couldn't know that the energy came from the Hanford nuclear plant upriver. pg. 1, prologue

Years later, however, when the boys energy was almost fully sapped, the tree began to grow hungry again.... pg 2, prologue

"C'mon," his mother prodded playfully. "Once we get there, you just need to find your place. Don't worry. I'm sure there will be lots of kids for you to meet."
Teddy sighed - he couldn't help but worry. He was about to become the new kid in a strange town for the first time in his life. pg. 5

Dead grass and dry weeds crinkled beneath his feet, while the tree hovering over the yard seemed in perfect health. It was as though the giant thing was sucking the life from all the plants below, and the lawn was a graveyard of the dried yellow husks of its victims. pg. 7-8

She nodded at the old house. "Whatcha doing hanging around that nasty place?"
"Nothing?" Teddy replied.
"A kid disappeared there, you know." Without any further explanation, she marched back down the walkway and drove off.
Nope, he thought. I did not know that. pg. 9

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