________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 18. . . . January 12, 2017


The House Next Door. (Haunted).

Joel A. Sutherland. Illustrated by Norman Lanting.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2017.
154 pp., trade pbk. & html, $7.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-5709-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4431-5710-0 (html).

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Mary Harelkin Bishop.

*** /4



I pulled my phone out of my pocket as I walked back down the stairs. Not to light my way, but to make a call. “Things have gotten out of hand. We should’ve called the police sooner.” I dialed 9 1 1 and stepped off the bottom step onto the dirt floor.

I held the phone to my ear and heard it ring once. That was as far as the call got. My phone crackled and hissed and went dead.

At the same time, I felt an intense pain in my wrist. The sensation was cold, so cold it burned, and the icy feeling spread through my forearm, over my elbow and up to my shoulder. Sophie and Nick both screamed as if someone had plunged a long knife deep into their chests. Maybe someone had – I couldn’t move or turn my head to look. My entire body was rigid, like I’d suddenly turned into a statue.

Suddenly Ernest stepped into my line of sight and I saw that he was holding my wrist. I yelled and tried to pull myself free but his grip didn’t falter. He held me in place tightly. I felt as if my body had been set in concrete.

“You feel that?” Ernest rasped. “You can’t move, can you?”

I tried to shake my head but couldn’t, and barely managed to say, “No,” through my tightly drawn lips. The icy burn spread through my entire body. The pain was quickly becoming unbearable. My skin was cold – so cold – but it also felt like it was being electrocuted. Consciousness was slipping away.


Matt and Sophie are reluctant to leave their home in thriving and hectic Toronto to live in a little suburb outside the metropolis. They are sure it will be boring, and they can’t imagine what they will do for fun. They are moving because their mother has taken a different job. Their father, an artist, can work anywhere, including this new house in Courtice. The area is so rural that there is a farmhouse complete with a horse right next door to Matt and Sophie’s new house.

     Matt notices strange things about the horse right away. It doesn’t seem to eat. Also, when it snows, the horse doesn’t leave hoof prints in the paddock. Matt and Sophie find out from their new friends Chris and Nick, who are brothers, that there really isn’t a horse. They are seeing a ghost. The horse died many years ago in a rather violent manner. Sophie becomes fascinated with the ghost horse, and one night she wanders out of the house and walks over to interact with the horse. This is when the trouble begins. Sophie disappears, and when Matt goes to investigate, he meets two more ghosts – previous owners of the farmhouse – Ernest and Hazel. Two other ghosts appear in the story later on – two brothers who died because of the horse.

     Told in the first person from Matt’s perspective, The House Next Door is a typical ghost/scary story for young readers. The author uses many descriptive words which help the readers visualize, and this helps make the story spooky. The characters are interesting, and they keep the plot moving along, often by the dialogue. The author has done a good job of making readers guess what will happen next by introducing various ghost characters later in the story. Full of twists and turns and scary stuff, The House Next Door is a great read for young readers who love ghost stories.


Mary Harelkin Bishop is the author of the “Tunnels of Moose Jaw Adventure” series published by Coteau. She has also published a biography about Canadian Paralympic Champion Colette Bourgonje, entitled Moving Forward and a picture book version called Gina’s Wheels. Her latest book, Mistasini^y: Buffalo Rubbing Stone (2016) deals with the relationship between a Cree boy and a boy of European descent as they get to know one another and realize the land is important to both of them. Currently she is an Instructional Consultant for Saskatoon Public Schools.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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