Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Spotlight: The Demon Notebook by Erika McGann

by Erica McGann

Age Range: 9 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 6
Series: Demon Notebook (Book 1)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; Reprint edition (June 3, 2014)

About the book:

For Grace and her four best friends, magic is just harmless fun—until it's not...

Things have gone wrong for Grace, Jenny, Rachel, Adie, and Una. Very wrong. A freak snowstorm stranded the whole school, the history teacher's gone bonkers, and their notebook has taken on a diabolical life of its own, bringing all of their previously failed spells to life. At first the girls are thrilled to see their magic finally working.

But the spells are botched and people might get hurt and Una's not acting quite right...

Can the girls stop the madness before the demon notebook works through their list of spells, slowly creeping towards the last, truly awful spell that they didn't really want to happen?

Sample Chapters

to pee or not to pee

‘Two minutes!’ whispered Grace Brennan, cradling her watch in her hand. 

‘Quiet, Grace!’ said Ms Lemon, whipping around to point at her with a marker.

‘Sorry, Miss.’ 

Grace kept her eyes down until she was sure the teacher had returned to the whiteboard.

When the coast was clear she quickly mouthed ‘one minute’ to her friends and they all turned their attention to the boy sitting third from the left in the front row. Grace kept her eyes on his back, trying to picture him leaping out of his chair and bounding out of the room. Glancing back at her watch, she held out her fingers to count down from five, four, three, two, one...


The girls held their concentration for a few more moments. 

Still nothing. 

Andrew Wallace hadn’t budged. Grace flipped open her notebook, ran her finger down the list to spell number eight, ‘Make Andrew Wallace pee his pants in double French’, and marked it with a big X. She sighed, flipped the notebook closed as she exchanged looks with the others, and turned her attention back to the irregular verbs scrawled across the board at the top of the room. 

When the bell finally rang, signaling the end of class, Jenny tightened the laces on her purple doc boots and carelessly pulled a loose thread out of one woolly sock.

‘I’m gutted,’ she said, shaking the thread from her fingers. ‘That would’ve been worth seeing.’

‘And he totally deserved it as well,’ said Adie. ‘That time he pulled your chair out from under you, and you sprained your elbow. And that ‘rat-tail hair’ thing he said to Grace in front of everybody. What does that even mean anyway?’

‘It means,’ answered Grace, ‘that my hair’s horrible and greasy and looks like rats’ tails.’

‘That’s so stupid,’ said Adie, pushing her own tightly curled locks out of her brown eyes. ‘I’d kill for your hair. You don’t even have to use straighteners. It’s poker-straight all the time.’

‘I don’t care what he says, anyway,’ said Grace. ‘Just thought he needed a short, sharp shock. How cool would it have been if it had actually worked?’

‘How many spells is that now?’ Jenny asked. 

‘Eight,’ said Grace.

‘Well,’ sighed Adie, ‘ninth one’s a charm. Wait and see.’

‘I won’t hold my breath,’ Grace said, fixing her tie so it sat neatly into her pressed collar. She slipped her schoolbag onto her shoulder and followed the other two out into the hallway. 

Halfway down the corridor, she felt the heavy weight of a body landing on her from behind.

‘Ow! Knock it off, Una! You’ve caught my hair!’

‘Which is not rat-taily,’ Adie said quickly, catching Grace’s bag as it dropped to the ground.
Grace shrugged her friend off her back and sighed as Una threw her arms around the other two.

‘So, did it work?’ she said. ‘Did Andrew Wallace get his just reward?’ Her grey eyes were lit up with excitement.

‘Nope,’ said Jenny. 

‘Aw, fudge,’ said Una, slumping between them and sliding her arms from their shoulders. She shook her short, black hair and gave a very loud and exaggerated sigh. ‘Had my fingers and toes crossed all the way through Spanish and everything. Why didn’t it work?!’

‘Maybe you have to use a more personal object,’ offered Jenny. ‘I mean something that the person really cares about. I’m pretty sure Andrew’s not missing his maths copybook right now.’

‘Come to think of it,’ said Grace, ‘I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him open that copybook.’

‘Oh God! Don’t look now!’ hissed Adie. ‘The Beast.’

The Beast was Tracy Murphy. Five foot ten inches of pure evil. Tracy wasn’t overweight, but her solid mass was at least triple the width of any other girl at St John’s. It was as if a champion Rugby League player had been packed into a schoolgirl’s body, bulging with rippling muscle that threatened to burst at the seams. The intimidating look was topped off with dark red curls slicked back into a high pony-tail, and a thick layer of blue eye-liner beneath each dark, soulless eye. Tracy was the stuff of nightmares – and Una was her victim of choice. 

‘Hey, Freak,’ Tracy snapped, giving Una’s elbow a sharp dig, ‘I told you you’re not allowed in this block.’

Una’s mouth opened and closed like a goldfish – but no sound came out.

‘Leave her alone,’ said Jenny. With occult symbols and names of heavy metal bands tippexed all over her schoolbag, Jenny looked that bit tougher than the other girls. But when it came to sheer size, she couldn’t compete with the Beast.

‘You’ll be left alone,’ said Tracy, not taking her eyes off Una, ‘when you get out of my block. The D block’s mine, and I don’t like looking at your ugly face. So take it somewhere else.’

‘Yeah,’ a voice behind them snickered, ‘we don’t like looking at your ugly face.’ 

Grace glanced back at Bev, the larger of Tracy’s devoted henchmen, and fought the urge to comment on the girl’s ridiculously over-sprayed hairdo. But Bev was never without Trish, who stood nearby, sporting an equally comical hairstyle, and if she dared insult either of them, their boss would surely intervene.

‘Our lunchroom’s in this block,’ Adie squeaked, ‘so she has to come through here.’

‘Then you’d better get into your lunchroom,’ Tracy sneered, leaning menacingly towards Adie, ‘before I lose my temper.’

‘Come on,’ Una whispered, grabbing Adie’s hand. The four girls hurried to the safety of the room, trying not to run as Trish and Bev’s wicked laughter filled the hallway. They piled into the room, slamming the door, and pressing themselves against it. 

‘So,’ said a musical voice. ‘You ran into her then?’

Startled, they turned together to see Rachel sitting on a table, with her feet on a chair. She was gazing into a small compact mirror as she swept some powder across her porcelain cheeks. Her eyes were already perfectly lined with black pencil, and her lips glistened with pink gloss. Glancing up, she snapped the compact shut and swung her legs onto the floor. 

‘Yeah,’ said Grace, relaxing and pulling her bag off her shoulders. 

‘She’s there every day now. It’s getting worse.’

‘You okay?’ Rachel asked, tipping her head towards Una.

‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ Una mumbled, still blushing from the encounter. 

‘I don’t get why she picks on you,’ said Rachel. ‘It’s like she just picks people at random.’

‘Just forget about it,’ said Una. ‘Let’s talk about something else.’

‘Like a certain not-very-nice person peeing his pants in class?’ said Rachel, with a hopeful smile.

‘Didn’t work,’ said Grace, wiping the smile off her friend’s face. ‘We think we’re not picking personal enough items, or something. Maybe we need his watch, or his pen.’

‘Or his old gym shorts!’ squealed Una.

‘Ugh, gross!’

‘Speaking of gross, are you really putting m&m’s on that sandwich?’ Rachel looked in horror at Jenny, who was perched with her lunchbox and a bag of sweets on her knees.

‘Honestly,’ said Jenny, ‘it’s gorgeous.’

‘But there’s coleslaw in there!’

‘Trust me,’ Jenny said, gently sprinkling more m&m’s into her open sandwich, ‘my Mum used to eat this all the time when she was pregnant with my little sister, and I thought it was the grossest thing ever. But then I tried it, and I swear I couldn’t eat a sandwich without them now. Yum, yummedy-yum!’

The girls groaned in unison as Jenny took a great big bite and crunched loudly on the salad and sugar-coated chocolate mix.

‘That’ll do rotten things to your skin,’ said Rachel. She turned to Grace. ‘So more personal personal items then?’

‘Maybe,’ said Grace, ‘but I’m just not sure we’re going about this the right way. We’ve tried a bunch of spells and not one of them has even slightly worked.’

‘What about that time we tried to get Mr McQuaid to talk gobbledy-gook in History,’ said Adie, ‘and the next day he said “French Relovution”?’ 

Grace raised an unconvinced eyebrow.

‘I don’t think that was us.’

‘It might have been us,’ Adie reasoned.

‘If that was us,’ said Rachel, ‘it was pretty lame.’

‘Yeah,’ said Jenny, with her mouth full. ‘What’s the point of trying if that’s all we can manage?’

‘I think we should try a love spell,’ said Una firmly.

‘On whom?’ asked Grace.

‘What about James O’Connor?’ said Rachel. ‘You fancy him.’

‘No I don’t!’ cried Grace.

‘Yes you do. You blushed when he sat beside you in Geography the other day.’

‘How would you know?’ said Grace. ‘You were sitting behind me.’

‘Your ears went pink,’ Rachel grinned.

‘Whatever,’ said Grace, her cheeks colouring. ‘I don’t fancy him.’

‘Well, let’s try it anyway,’ said Una, eyeing her friend with a smile. ‘It probably won’t work, so it doesn’t really matter, does it?’

They all looked towards Grace.

‘We can do it if you want,’ she said at last, sweeping her hair out of her eyes and feigning a lack of interest. ‘I don’t care.’

‘Cool!’ said Una. ‘I’m in his English class after lunch, so I’ll nick something out of his pencil case.’

‘Anyone else worried that people might start to notice we’re stealing their stuff?’ asked Adie.
‘Borrowing,’ corrected Una. ‘Borrowing their stuff. And we’ll give it back. You know, unless we can’t or we forget.’


That Saturday night, at Rachel’s house, the girls gathered together and watched eagerly as Jenny opened the huge leather-bound book on the floor. She flicked through the pages to the one marked ‘Love Spell.’

‘The Great Book of the Occult,’ she said grandly, as the others giggled and settled themselves in a circle on the carpet, ‘suggests the following procedure for “awakening love in a reluctant other”.’ 

Jenny looked around and started to read.

‘First, light one red candle and one white candle.’

The candles were lit.

‘Second, write the name of your intended love on a piece of parchment and repeat the following words:

Oh Spirits, grant me love divine,
I wish his soul and heart be mine,
Though love, at first, may not be true,
Please make it so, I ask of you!

‘Then there’s an asterix and this little note at the bottom of the page,’ Jenny said, turning the book so the others could read.

* Spells are performed at one’s own risk. Neither the publisher nor the author is responsible for any injury/damage caused during the application of any procedures described in this publication.

The girls shrugged, then carried on chorusing the verse. 

‘Third and last,’ said Jenny, ‘dip the edge of the parchment into both flames, and place in fireproof container.’

Grace watched the smouldering paper shrink in the small bucket of sand until only a few charred pieces remained under a wisp of smoke.

‘Well, that’s that,’ said Jenny, closing the book with a snap. 

‘This one’s going to work!’ Adie’s pretty olive complexion was glowing with excitement. ‘Grace, you’ll probably have a love letter tucked into your locker door on Monday!’

‘It’s not going to work,’ said Grace. To hide her blushes, she picked up the bucket and tipped the sand into the wastepaper basket Rachel had taken from the bathroom. ‘And I don’t care if it doesn’t. Who wants to have someone sticking love letters in their locker? So embarrassing.’

She was aware of all eyes on her as she left the room with the wastepaper basket’s sandy remains. She hoped the fire in her cheeks would calm down by the time she returned to Rachel’s room, but Adie’s sympathetic smile told her it hadn’t. She pretended to scratch her nose and flicked her hair over to hide her face.

‘So what’ll we do now?’ said Una.

‘I’m hungry,’ said Jenny. ‘Where did the munchies go?’

‘We’re saving them for a midnight feast,’ replied Rachel.

‘And when will that be?’ 

‘At midnight.’

‘And what time is it now?’

‘Only half ten,’ Adie cut in.

‘Are you joking?’ Jenny said. ‘I’m not waiting ’til midnight.’

She dove under a small pile of duvets, with Rachel right behind her. They struggled for a few giggling moments until Jenny emerged, victorious, with a packet of crisps.

‘And that’s all you’re getting!’ Rachel said, swatting her with a pillow. ‘The rest is for later.’

‘Hey,’ said Una, ‘why don’t we play Truth or Dare?’

‘Ugh,’ replied Grace. ‘I hate that game.’

‘Ah, go on,’ said Una. ‘We’ll each have a veto if there’s a dare you really don’t want to do.’
‘Does that work for truths as well?’ asked Grace. 

‘We already know who you fancy,’ said Rachel, smiling, ‘so you won’t need a veto on telling the truth.’

Grace grabbed Jenny’s bag of crisps and fired it at Rachel. It bounced off her head.
‘Ouch,’ Rachel said drily.

‘I’ll play,’ said Adie, ‘but no scary dares.’

‘Then what’s the point?’ cried Una.

‘I’m with Adie there,’ said Rachel. ‘You always dare someone to go out to the Stone House, and there’s no way I’m going out there in the dark.’

The Stone House was a crumbling, ruined cottage at the end of the field next to Rachel’s house. During the day it looked lonely and broken, but at night, from the window of Rachel’s bedroom, it became something sinister. The gaping roof revealed an emptiness so thick, it didn’t look empty at all, and the jagged walls were like teeth, filling a dark mouth that was ready to suck in anyone who came too close...

‘I don’t always dare someone to go out there,’ argued Una. ‘But if I do it’s ’cos no-one will do it.’

‘Alright then,’ said Grace. ‘I dare you to walk out and touch the Stone House right now.’

‘We haven’t started playing yet,’ Una said.

‘Go on!’ said Rachel. ‘If you do it we all promise to play with no vetoes at all.’

‘Swear?’ said Una.

‘Yeah, swear,’ said Grace. ‘But you can’t just walk near it and then run back. You have to stand right outside the door for at least a minute.’

Una’s brow furrowed, and Rachel smiled at her.


‘No,’ Una said. Getting to her feet she pulled on her trainers and grabbed her jacket. 

‘Don’t let my parents see you go out!’ Rachel whispered loudly as Una slipped downstairs. 

The girls ran to the window and watched the bright pink jacket slowly make its way down the garden to the fence that surrounded the neighbouring field. At the very end of the field, they could just make out the silhouette of the Stone House. They saw Una pause at the fence then, in one quick decisive motion, grab it with both hands and flip her legs over to the other side.

Everyone was silent, watching the pink jacket gradually darken as Una left the comforting light of Rachel’s house behind. Grace began to feel a little queasy and wondered if it had been a good idea to goad Una into this. One by one, the girls held their breath as the pale figure, barely visible in the dark, got closer and closer to the Stone House. 

Suddenly, pale arms pumped though the dark, as Una came charging back towards the garden. 

‘I knew it!’ said Rachel. ‘No-one’s ever done it.’

Within moments Una was back in the bedroom, peeling off her jacket and panting. 

‘You got close!’ laughed Jenny.

‘But not close enough,’ said Grace. ‘We keep our vetoes.’

‘I heard something!’ said Una breathily. The girls laughed in reply.

‘No, seriously,’ she said. ‘Like voices. There was someone there, I swear!’ 

Everyone laughed again.

‘The only things out there making noise are the sheep,’ said Rachel. 

‘Whatever,’ said Una, sulking. ‘I know I heard something.’ 

The others exchanged smiles, but knew better than to tease her any further. 

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