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A Spooky Tale And Icy Heroics
By: RSS/News FeedsHungZai Team

You can celebrate summer with a steamy read — a sun-drenched romance or a bright, shiny fantasy. But when all that light and heat get to be too much, it’s refreshing to find a truly chilling book to savor. Two new books for middle-grade readers, one fiction and one nonfiction, offer chapter after chapter of goosebumps for overheated readers.

In “The Midnight Hour,” authors Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder offer a pleasantly spooky adventure that begins with garden-variety family heartache when Emily’s big mouth gets her in trouble with her parents, yet again. (Ages 8 to 12, Chicken House, $17.99.) But very soon, the trouble becomes far darker and deeper, as Emily’s parents disappear on a mysterious errand and strange mail and threatening visitors show up at her door.

When Emily investigates, what she discovers is the Midnight Hour — another world, frozen in time, filled with magical creatures and served by the Night Post, where her less-boring-than-she’d-thought father seems to work. And then an adventure is afoot: perpetual night, the hungry dead, ghouls, trolls and monsters, and a mirror London, where Emily’s parents are embroiled in a terrible plot that threatens both worlds. Emily is amazed by her plight (“How strange did something need to be over here, before people would actually mention it?”) — but tough and practical, too, as she makes supernatural friends, battles to rescue her parents, and even discovers surprising truths about her “embarrassing, boring, little life.”

Tod Olson’s “Into the Clouds: The Race to Climb the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain” is chilling in a different way — a freezing cold tale of endurance, close calls, teamwork and tragedy.

Olson’s story throws readers a few curves: This is not the story of the expedition that made it to the summit of K2, but of one in 1953 that turned back near the top of the famously severe mountain in an attempt to rescue an ailing teammate. As Olson writes, “It was an impossible bind. They knew they would be risking seven lives in a probably useless attempt to save one.” The most famous moment is not adventurers perching on top of the mountain in victory, but a single climber’s last-ditch effort to hold on to the rope as his teammates hurtle toward the abyss.

Olson’s description of the grueling climb and extreme conditions will have readers shivering in sympathy, and his empathetic approach to the climbers and careful detailing of the mountaineering techniques makes the danger of the expedition, and its human cost, clear even to novices.

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