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The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co.) Paperback – August 26, 2014
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"This story will keep you reading late into the night, but you'll want to leave the lights on. Stroud is a genius at inventing an utterly believable world which is very much like ours, but so creepily different. Put The Screaming Staircase on your 'need to read' list!"―Rick Riordan
"A pleasure from tip to tail, this is the book you hand the advanced readers that claim they'd rather read Paradise Lost than Harry Potter. Smart as a whip, funny, witty, and honestly frightening at times, Stroud lets loose and gives readers exactly what they want. Ghosts, kids on their own without adult supervision, and loads of delicious cookies." ―Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal
About the Author
Jonathan Stroud (www.jonathanstroud.com) is the author of the New York Times best-selling Bartimaeus Trilogy, as well as Heroes of the Valley, The Leap, The Last Siege, and Buried Fire. He lives in England with his family.
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On one hand, there was the fact that it was written by Jonathan Stroud, author of the Bartimaeus series (quite good, BTW). On the other, we have the label in the description telling us this book is intended for readers in grades three through seven. (Elsewhere, it says grades six through nine, but still.) It seems to me that for every Harry Potter, you have about a thousand middle grade books that, though I can easily see why they'd be enticing to kids, simply don't hold up to a discerning adult's eyeballs.
But holy cow, people: we've got a Harry Potter.
Now, before you all start shrieking at me because this book is nothing at all like Harry Potter, let me just say this and hope that I'm being quite clear: this book is really nothing at all like Harry Potter. Except maybe in the most superficial of ways. (Magical Britain, two boys and a girl...) What I meant was that this is a book that was no less delightful just because it was written with a younger reader in mind...and though it's rather darker than the first HP book, it still manages to introduce some of the same sort of literary magic that made me fall in love with Hogwarts.
The Lockwood & Co. series is set in the "real world," with one major divergence: several decades ago, ghosts started appearing. Turns out that ghosts aren't benign, and to make things even worse, the only people who can sense them with any sort of reliability are kids. And those with the most psychic ability? They're on the front lines.
The characters were quite well done, I thought, and so was the plot. Where this book really shines, though, is the setting--Stroud's land of malevolent spirits is rich and well-planned and masterfully painted. The descriptions of the ghosts and the dangers the characters faced were vivid, and though I didn't personally find the book frightening, precisely (though if you really are buying this for a child, you may want to make sure they have a strong constitution...or at least read it first yourself), I was sucked into this baleful world expertly enough that I could almost feel the chill the specters were emitting.
I've already said this book reminds me a bit of Harry Potter, at least in the way it made me feel, but it also reminds me of John Bellairs's The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt). Again, not really in substance, in experience. I read HWACIIW as a kid--maybe 3rd grade?--and it was the book that turned me on to fantasy. I do recall finding that one a bit frightening, but far more important was how it opened me up to a world of magic. I can easily see the Screaming Staircase doing the same for a new generation of readers.
Seriously, folks. If the description makes the book sound like it's up your alley, don't let the reading level scare you off. This grown-up will be reading the whole series, doubtless over and over, until my eyesight finally goes.
In a time when children are the only ones that can see and feel ghosts, and adults can't, come groups of ghost fighters in the heart of London and surrounding areas.
Lucy has just joined Lockwood and George. They form a small group fighting all kinds of ghosts: specters, screamers, and more. Lucy can hear and feel the ghosts, Lockwood can see them and George, well George is a slob but he does a lot of the background history of the ghosts they go after.
After burning down a house and putting their company in jeopardy, Lockwood takes on a case that could finish them for good. Lucy has taken something from the burned house and it may have something to do with the next case. Will Lockwood and Co. finish off the ghosts? Is there something lurking behind the object that someone wants and the ghost that inhabit it?
I started this book while working in a school library and was so caught up in the story, I got my own copy to finish. It kept me on my toes and I had to finish the story when I had time to read. Jonathan Stroud has written an exciting ghost hunting book. I can't wait to get to the next one.
Lots of adventure, the settings will take you to darkened halls and spooky rooms. The characters are fun to enjoy and the main protagonist is conflicted and interesting. All in all, I loved this series so much, that I just went back and re-read them all.
Others have broken down the plot. I won't. What I will say is that I love the way he has drawn these characters, two boys and a girl, tasked with highly dangerous work. As mothers, we so understand them. Chips and drinks everywhere. Clothes on chairs, on the floor, everywhere but in the closet. And, so on. But, Stroud captures the essential bravery of young people and he gives these characters life through their finely described piccadilloes.
If you're a reader and want something light, but oh, so good, get this. If you're a Mom and want something elevating but entertaining for your children, get this. The lessons therein are terrific...sacrifice, bravery, etc.
And, if you're like me...a prolific reader of multiple genres, get this. You'll love it.
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