The Children's Literature Web Guide

Sample Book Ideas for Literature-Based Reading Enthusiasts

From the 1998 edition of:
The Handbook for the Young Reader's Choice Award
sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association.

for more information contact
Gale Sherman:
Bette Ammon:

More Sample Book Ideas
A 1998 Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee (Grade 4-8):
Danger at the Fair
Peg Kehret

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Cloth136p. 1995 $14.99 (ISBN 0-525-65182-9). Cobblehill. Paper: $4.99 (ISBN 0-140-37932-0). Penguin.
GENRES: Mystery
THEMES: Brothers and sisters, families, courage, fairs, amusement parks, fortune telling, extrasensory perception, psychic powers, criminals, pickpockets, 4-H, death, danger, paranormal activities, automatic writing, superstitions
READABILITY: Fifth grade
INTEREST LEVEL: Fourth through seventh grade


"...a thrill-a-minute adventure set at a county fair....Kehret draws the fairground backdrop with an almost visual precision, and her fast-paced, suspenseful plot includes several scary setups in which kids fight grown-ups for their lives. These components, plus a pair of enthusiastic, heroic, quite likable young protagonists, add up to a contemporary kid's nightmare/heroic dream-come-true that won't stay on the shelf for long." Booklist 91(7):664 December 1, 1994. Stephanie Zvirin.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 48(6):202-03 February 1995. Roger Sutton.

"A gripping sequel to Terror at the Zoo and Horror at the Haunted House (both Cobblehill, 1992)... The tension mounts deliciously as readers follow Ellen and Corey through their day. They are likable characters for whom youngsters will feel great sympathy. Lovers of suspense and ESP themes will be satisfied with this novel." School Library Journal 41(2):98 February 1995. Anne Connor.

"Love and concern for her little brother bring out courage and bravery in Ellen. She is able to rescue Corey from very bad circumstances that develop at the fair. The reader will want to keep turning pages to get to the very end of the story. Young boys and girls who like mysteries will enjoy this one." Voice of Youth Advocates 18(5):220 October 1995. Alice M. Johns. (#3-quality, #4-popularity)



An award-winning playwright and author of three drama books for students, Peg Kehret lives with her husband and animal friends in an old farmhouse in Washington. Surrounded by apple, pear, and plum trees, Kehret's house provides a tranquil spot for her writing, as well as her husband's hobby of repairing nickelodeons, antique player pianos, and circus calliopes. As a child, she combined her two interests (animals and writing), and published a Dog Newspaper.

When she was twelve, Kehret got polio and although she made a nearly complete recovery, she can still remember the experience of being paralyzed and how it felt to be twelve years old. Her autobiography, Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio (Whitman, 1996), tells how this affected the rest of her life. Writing books for Kehret is "too much fun" and she plans to never retire.


When Ellen visits a fortune teller at the county fair, she doesn't expect to have a frightening psychic experience. But it all begins to make sense when she realizes her younger brother, Corey, is missing. Meanwhile Corey, who fancies himself a detective, is hot on the trail of some pickpockets. He finds himself in more trouble than he ever dreamed and it's up to Ellen to rescue him.


This would be an exciting read-aloud but the suspense is intense and even reluctant readers will have trouble putting it down. The book contains seventeen chapters plus a prologue and epilogue. Danger at the Fair is Kehret's third book featuring Ellen and Corey, the sister and brother first introduced in Terror at the Zoo (Cobblehill, 1992).


(Props: Make two props (1) a facsimile of the sign noted on page 10 (hardback edition) and (2) the note on page 16 - written with slanted handwriting.)

Intrigued by the sign, Ellen ventures into the trailer of the Great Sybil to have her fortune told. Imagine her surprise when the pencil she is holding begins to write on its own.

The Great Sybil's eyes glowed; her excitement filled the room. "Let us read the message the spirits sent you."...Ellen read aloud: It is for you to know that the smaller one faces great danger. He will pay for his mistake. It is for you to know that the paths of destiny can be changed and the smaller one will need your help to change his. You will know when it is time. Do not ignore this warning. (page 16, hardback edition)

What can this warning mean? Who is the smaller one and what kind of great danger exists? The only thing clear is Danger at the Fair.


When it becomes obvious that Corey knows too much about them, the thieves force him into a boat on the scariest ride at the fair.

When the boat was inches from the serpent's open mouth, the boat stopped. The dim light went out; the serpent's eyes ceased to glow. Corey was surrounded by total blackness. All sound effects ended when the boat quit moving. Corey trembled in the bottom of the boat, waiting to see what would happen next. Silence. Blackness. For a few moments, he thought this was just part of the ride and that, after a moment of stillness, something loud and ferocious and terrible would jump out at him. He gritted his teeth and braced himself but when the minutes stretched on and nothing happened, Corey realized that the ride had stopped....Corey was stuck in the middle of the Tunnel of Terror. (pages 79-80, hardback edition)


History/Ferris Wheels/Current Events/Internet:

Corey has been excited for weeks about the fair and all its thrilling rides. It s from the Ferris Wheel that Corey notices the pickpockets in action. Students can explore a number of Internet sites which include information about Ferris Wheels such as the invention, the first Wheel, the physics of periodic motion, and "the Wheel as Stage". Visit: In celebration of the year 2000, both Paris and London have plans to build the largest Ferris Wheel ever. Explore current periodical literature to learn about this inter-city competition and its status.

Psychic Phenomena:

Reading about extrasensory perception and other psychic events will be fascinating to many students. Assemble a classroom collection of books about this topic including: How to Read Your Mother's Mind by James M. Deem (Bantam Books, 1996), How to Be a Fake Kreskin by Kreskin (St. Martin's, 1996), Psychic Sleuths: How Psychic Information is Used to Help Solve Crimes by Anita Larsen (New Discovery, 1994), Psychic Connections: A Journey into the Mysterious of PSI by Lois Duncan and William George Roll (Delacorte, 1995), Spooky Kids: Strange but True Tales by Bruce M. Nash and Allan Zullo (Troll, 1994), and Who Killed My Daughter by Lois Duncan (Delacorte, 1992).


The first thing Sybil the fortune teller tells Ellen is the meaning and derivation of her name. How important are names anyway? And, how can they affect lives? Provide students with books that answer these questions such as The Language of Names: What We Call Ourselves and Why It Matters by Justin Kaplan and Anne Bernay (Simon & Schuster, 1997), The Everything Baby Names Book: Everything You Need to Know to Pick the Perfect Name for Your Baby by Lisa Angowski Rogak Shaw (Adams, 1996), and From Anne to Zach by Mary Jane Martin (Boyds Mills, 1996).


The group of thieves and pickpockets featured in this book are none too clever. The world of the criminal mind makes for interesting reading for people of all ages. Provide some of the following books for fun and enlightenment: Wanted! Dumb or Alive : 100 New Stories from the Files of America's Dumbest Criminals by Daniel Butler and Alan Ray (Rutledge Hill Press, 1996), America's Dumbest Criminals : Based on True Stories from Law Enforcement Officials Across the Country by Daniel R. Butler et al. (Rutledge Hill Press, 1995), America's Least Competent Criminals: True Tales of Would-Be Outlaws Who Have Botched, Bungled, and Otherwise Haplessly but Hilariously Fumbled Their Crimes by Chuck Shepherd (HarperPerennial, 1993), and Big Book of Little Criminals (Factoid Books, 1996) by George Hagenauer.



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