Book of the Month
Silent Night
A collection of ghost stories for English Language Learners

Publisher: Hippo Books
Author: C. Baltis, P. Kennedy, A. Kravtsova



Now that the summer is here, this is the prefect time to relax in the hammock or by the beach with a book. Reading fiction is a good way to practice English vocabulary and to learn dialogue structures, so as usual we have picked some summer reading for you. Again, this is a Kindle book - these have the advantage of being instantly available and you can back as many as you want without filling your suitcase. Just don't drop the reader in the swimming pool! Hippo books are written with EFL students in mind, and use vocabulary and grammar suitable for intermediate to upper-intermediate readers. There are a number of Hippo books available, but we chose this collection of ghost stories, as in North America it is traditional to tell these around the campfire. So if you do not have any ghost stories of your own, here are a few you can use. The stories are marketed at the age range 8-18 years, but they are good reading for adults as well.

The first thing to note is that this is not a long book - if there were a print version it would be only 86 pages long. Since there are nevertheless around a dozen stories in the book, some quick calculations will show that these are each four or five pages long. In fact a good reader can easily get through a complete story in ten minutes. This is a challenge for the writers since they have to create the necessary spooky atmosphere and get a complete story into very few words. With some stories this works well, but with others the ending ('oh, it was a ghost') is rather predictable. One story is definitely based on a recent horror movie, but it is still good fun. Perhaps the best of the stories is the first, which immediately starts with a sense of unease. The author cleverly uses a conversation to give the reader the feeling that something is very wrong, yet the ending is still a surprise.
The book works well for EFL students because the stories are in a variety of settings, and describe a number of different people so there is plenty of new vocabulary. However the words are always given in context, so the reader should be able to understand the meaning without having to constantly look in a dictionary. (Another reason why EFL readers work well in digital format is because most readers have a built-in dictionary available at the touch of a finger.) Oddly, enough one of the weakest stories is the title story 'Silent Night' - as if the internet was not already full of books with this title, which makes it harder to search for.

Who is this book for? A sensitive or easily frightened person might prefer to look elsewhere for summer reading material. Everyone else will find the stories well-written, yet still approachable for a student without advanced English. It is a short book, but this is reflected in the low price, and short stories are easier for a student to follow. There are also good dialogues and uses of tenses that would help a student to learn English without being aware of doing so.

Verdict: Good short, short stories
Assessment 7/10

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