Eerie Elementary Book 1: The School is Alive! by Jack Chabert, illustrations by Sam RIcks, 90 pp, RL: 2

Eerie Elementary by Jack Chabert is yet another fantastic series that's part of Scholastic's much needed Branches line. These books are "specifically designed for newly independent readers who are ready to make the exciting leap from leveled readers, but not quite prepared for a traditional chapter book." In the school where I am a librarian and the majority of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders are reading at a 2nd grade level (or, in some cases, they can read at their grade level but do not have the stamina to finish a book at their grade level) these books are the lifeblood of the collection and constantly checked out. You can find more books at this level, which generally employs a larger font and are heavily illustrated, under the label Bridge Chapter Books.

In Book 1: The School is Alive, we meet Sam Graves, the newly appointed hall monitor at Eerie Elementary. Sam is less than thrilled with this job, especially since there has never even been a hall monitor at Eerie before. To make matters worse, Sam finds himself spied on by crows and trapped in quicksand his first day on the job, and this is just minutes after the start of school bell has rung! Despite the fact that Sam is rescued by Mr. Nekobi, the withered old janitor, things seem to go from bad to worse.

After a few more adventures, including a writhing, deadly fire hose and school wide auditions for Peter Pan, Sam follows Mr. Nekobi through a hidden door where he learns the secret of Eerie Elementary - the school is alive! It's a "living, breathing thing. It is a beast. A monster. And there is only one person who can keep its students safe." Mr. Nekobi tells Sam that he was the original hall monitor and, now that he is old and tired, the school senses he is growing weak and is planning something big - something that Mr. Nekobi needs Sam's help to stop. Fortunately for Sam, his best friend Antonio suspects something strange is going on and he follows Sam into the secret room where he gets the chance to help him train for his new(er) job as hall monitor of a living, breathing, evil school. The climactic scene of  Book 1: The School is Alive comes in the middle of the performance of Peter Pan and involves a trapdoor, a giant drum of peanut butter, lots of action and the help of Antonio and Lucy, Sam's friends who are in on the secret.

Source: Review Copy

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