ABOUT THIS BOOK
It doesn't occur to Nore to take the dream-warning seriously. Her new stepmother and stepbrother seem nice. But why does Nore feel so uneasy around them?
Maybe she should have listened . . .
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Lois Duncan grew up in Sarasota, Florida and from early childhood she knew she wanted to be a writer. She submitted her first story to a magazine at the age of 10 and made her first sale at 13. Throughout her high-school years, she wrote regularly for young people's publications, particularly Seventeen Magazine.
"My first book was a young adult novel because I wrote it at age 20, and teenage subject matter was all I knew about," Duncan says. "Today, although I write other types of books as well, I still choose to write primarily for teenagers because I love the sensitivity, vulnerability and responsiveness of that age reader."
Lois Duncan, the most popular writer of suspense stories for young adults, presents characters that experience many of the same issues that today's teenagers face: acceptance, peer pressure, revenge, responsibility, and leadership are just a few.
Duncan's books are excellent choices for reading aloud and for engaging the class in meaningful dialogue. They also offer readers the thrill of a good mystery.
Students may wish to read Duncan's other mysteries to allow for more classroom discussion.
Invite a police officer to talk with the students about teenaged crime in their city or town. What are the most frequent crimes committed by teenagers? How do pranks lead to crimes? Many teenaged criminals are good kids who made bad decisions. Engage the class in a discussion about what they should do if they suddenly find themselves in a prank about to turn bad.
Sarah in Gallows Hill, Susan in Killing Mr. Griffin, and April in Don't Look Behind You, are striving to be accepted by the kids at school. Ask students to discuss how each of these characters might be considered an outsider. Each girl, in her effort to be accepted, makes a bad decision and takes part in something that is very wrong. How does the desire to be accepted affect student behavior in most schools? Ask students to discuss news events where poor judgment and the desire to be accepted ended in tragedy. Engage the class in a discussion about ways to make an outsider feel accepted.
Eric in Gallows Hill, Mark in Killing Mr.Griffin, and Barry in I Know What You Did Last Summer are masters at manipulating their peers. Ask the class to discuss how peer pressure is related to the desire to be accepted by others. How are Sarah in Gallows Hill, Susan in Killing Mr. Griffin, and Julie in I Know What You Did Last Summer victims of peer pressure? Divide the class into small groups and ask them to role-play a real-life scene where a student is pressured. Then ask the class to discuss alternative scenarios.
Ask students to define revenge. How is accusation used as a means of revenge in Gallows Hill? Have students discuss why Mark, Betsy, and Jeff are so intent on taking revenge upon their teacher in Killing Mr. Griffin. Discuss how revenge is the driving force behind the witness protection program. How is April the victim of revenge in Don't Look Behind You? How does Bud seek revenge in I Know What You Did Last Summer? What do these books say about the human propensity for vengeance?
In Duncan's books teenagers make very bad decisions that lead them into a life of guilt and lies. What consequences do these teens face for their deceit? At what point do the characters in each of these novels acknowledge that they are responsible for their actions? Ask students to discuss how Karen in The Third Eye and the five teenagers in Ransom appear more responsible than the characters in Duncan's other novels.
In Gallows Hill and Killing Mr. Griffin, there are characters who use their leadership abilities to get others to do what they want. In Killing Mr. Griffin, Mark uses his handsome looks and popularity to get Susan and the others to go along with the plan to abduct Mr. Griffin. Eric, in Gallows Hill, uses his charm to persuade Sarah to continue to tell fortunes. Ask students to list and discuss the qualities one needs to be an effective leader. How might the teenagers in Ransom define a leader? Ask the class to name the students in their school who represent good leadership (e.g., president of the student government).
Most of Lois Duncan's novels are told from the viewpoint of one or two protagonists, but in Ransom, Duncan shifts the point of view among the five kidnapped teenagers. How does this technique enhance the story? Ask students to select a scene from one of Duncan's other novels and rewrite it from the point of view of another character. How does this change the effect of the novel?
Ask students to stage a talk show where Sarah in Gallows Hill and Susan in Killing Mr. Griffin are featured guests. Have the class question each girl about the mistakes they made, their feelings about the boys who led them astray, and what they have learned about their experiences.
Sarah in Gallows Hill and Karen in The Third Eye have psychic abilities. Ask students to write down the reasons each girl has for denying this "third sense." How are Sarah's reasons different from Karen's reasons? Students may wish to read Lois Duncan's Psychic Connections: A Journey into the Mysterious World of Psi to learn more about psychic ability. Have students write a letter that Karen might write to Sarah offering her comfort and advice about how to handle her talent.
People have long been fascinated with fortune-tellers, palm readers, psychics, tarot card readers, and others who claim to have the ability to predict the future. Many people see such things as pure entertainment, as they were intended at the Halloween carnival in Gallows Hill. Ask students to research the various world cultures that still practice some type of witchcraft or supernatural beliefs.
Early in Gallows Hill, Eric says to Kyra, "Gypsies aren't occult. They're a bunch of beggars who look at the lines in people's hands and make up stories about them" (p. 10). Engage the class in a discussion about stereotypes. How do people stereotype Gypsies? Why is it so important to Eric that Sarah has a "Gypsy look"? Ask students to find information in the library or on the Internet about Gypsies. What is their origin? Chart a map that indicates the Gypsy population of the world. Gypsies are sometimes called by other names (e.g., Travelers). Ask students to indicate other names that they find for Gypsies.
In Killing Mr. Griffin, the students who participate in the abduction are motivated by the same kind of mob mentality that drove the villagers of Salem, Massachusetts, to turn upon one another during the witch trials. Using the Internet and/or print resources, ask students to research an instance of mob mentality in recent history (e.g., McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee, the race riots of the 1960s, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots). Ask students to write a newspaper story about their topic.
Criminal justice is considered a social science, but it might also be viewed as a pure science. Send students to the library media center to research the many ways that the criminal justice system uses science to acquire evidence on a criminal.
Ask students to research the various career options in the field of criminal justice. What are the qualifications and training for the different careers? How might social workers be considered partners to those in the field of criminal justice?
Divide the class into small groups and ask them to identify a suspenseful scene in one of Lois Duncan's novels and perform it as a one-act play. Remind them that the scene should have strong dialogue. Instruct each group to write a short narrative to introduce their scene. Ask them to select appropriate music that will add to the suspense.
Teaching ideas by Edward Sullivan, Senior Project Librarian, the New York Public Library Connecting Libraries and Schools Project, New York, New York.
The vocabulary in Lois Duncan's books is not difficult, but students may enjoy exploring words connected to psychic phenomena like karma, reincarnation, and familiar.
Don't Look Behind You
New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
Killing Mr. Griffin
ALA Best of the Best Book for Young Adults
New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
Locked in Time
ALA Quick Pick
IRA-CBC Children's Choice
Nevada Young Readers Award
Stranger with My Face
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Summer of Fear
California Young Reader Medal
New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
They Never Came Home
New Mexico Press Women's Zia Award
The Twisted Window
Junior Literary Guild Selection
New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age
Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan[0-440-91864-2]
Don't Look Behind You by Lois Duncan[0-440-20729-0]
Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan[0-440-91805-7]
Driver's Ed by Caroline B. Cooney[0-385-32087-6]
Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan[0-440-22725-9]
I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson[0-385-32031-0]
I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan[0-440-22844-1]
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan[0-440-94515-1]
Psychic Connections by Lois Duncan[0-385-32072-8]
Ransom by Lois Duncan[0-440-97292-2]
Stranger with My Face by Lois Duncan[0-440-98356-8]
Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan[0-440-98324-X]
They Never Came Home by Lois Duncan[0-440-20780-0]
The Third Eye by Lois Duncan[0-440-98720-2]
The Twisted Window by Lois Duncan[0-440-20184-5]