Booktalk for WHO KILLED DARIUS DRAKE? by Rodman Philbrick

Arthur Bash makes himself look tough and dangerous because he knows if you show fear, you’re dead meat.

He’s so good at being menacing, kids at school pay him—in candy bars—to scare off anyone they don’t want around, like Darius Drake: tall, skinny orphan kid who always has the answers in class.

One day—not long after Arthur has booted him from a prime lunch table—Darius approaches Arthur, waving three snickers bars in the air. He wants Arthur to go with him, essentially as his bodyguard, out to a creepy old house on Rutgers Road. It’s like a Halloween house, with a high peaked roof, boarded-up windows, and a saggy old porch. Rumors swirl there was a murder there years ago.

When they arrive at the abandoned property, Darius goes up to check for the house number. He comes back and says, “This is the place.” Arthur has no idea what he’s talking about. Darius pulls out an envelope to show him. It’s addressed to Darius Drake, but in the return address, where it should say who it’s from, there’s no name, just a street number: 123 Rutgers Road. The creepy house.

Darius says it’s strange, how nobody lives in the house, but someone used it for their return address. Arthur agrees.

Then Darius hands the letter to Arthur to read. There’s a single sheet of paper, with one line scrawled in rusty-brown ink: Who killed Darius Drake?

Arthur looks at Darius, and says, “Dude, you’re not dead.”

Darius replies: “Not yet.”

 

Genre: Mystery

Grades 4-7.

 

Anna’s take on it: 

This was one of my favorite titles to booktalk last fall. I would save it for the end of my presentation, so I could leave the class with the cliffhanger. The kids got way into the creepiness of the unsigned letter.

This title wasn’t circulating particularly well at our library before it was featured in the booktalk program, but once kids heard the booktalk, they wanted to read it.