The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions. Lucy Carlyle, a talented yo51ap7b3fZGL__AC_UL320_SR210,320_ung agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
I must admit, I don’t like reading scary stories (especially those about ghosts) and I’ve never read anything by Jonathan Stroud before. BUT that’s all changed.

In this alternate world, supernatural spirits (aka “visitors”) are so widespread that private agencies made up of children operatives (they have better senses than adults) are formed to battle “the Problem”.   One such agency, Lockwood & Co. struggles to remain afloat after a destructive accident involving the team members, Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins and Lucy Carlyle. All three of these characters bring their own skill set and personalities, so the group dynamics (especially the banter!) was a highlight for me.

I was surprised how dark, scary and violent some scenes were, but I suppose that’s exactly what some readers are looking for. Although I think all ghosts are scary, in this world, there are two types to look out for: type 1 (harmless) and type 2 (dangerous). To solve these spine tingling murder mysteries, the group arms themselves with magnesium flares, iron rapiers, salt and chain nets- but will it be enough? Don’t worry, if you forget any of these important details, they are all listed in the glossary in the back.

I’m not a fan of reading series, but I’ve already placed Book #2: The Whispering Skull on hold and have recommended it to several colleagues. I’m looking forward to reading more about Lockwood & Co.’s adventures!

Book Review: Box of Shocks by Chris McMahen

From Goodreads:

Oliver has helicopter parents—they love him, but they seriously cramp his style. He decides to fill an old wooden box with souvenirs from some of his outrageous and daring exploits. That way, he’ll never forget the zombies, the killer dogs and the crazy cows, and his parents will never know that he once jumped from a bridge with the police in hot pursuit. But the biggest shock comes when Oliver realizes that the most terrifying things of all can’t be controlled or contained.

I received this book as an advanced reading copy (released October 2011) from a library supplier (thanks Helen!) and was surprised to find that not many reviews exist on this great book for juveniles! Time to get the word out!

In short, Box of Shocks is a quick, memorable read that would definitely capture the attention of young readers. Hooked right from the first chapter, readers are curious to learn what amazing things the rebellious Oliver will collect to shock his parents. Although the majority of the book is adventurous and fun, it does include some serious subject matter, including poverty. However, like Oliver, I’m not sure young readers will quite understand the seriousness of the situation, as it is never fully explained.  That being said, the book is best suited for readers aged 8-12, so I’m not sure how in depth it could have went without losing the fun, lightness of the storyline.

TEACHERS- Want a free Box of Shocks study guide? Just email the author and he will send you the attachment!http://www.chrismcmahen.blogspot.com/

 

Other reviews:
“The settings where daring young Oliver carries out his secret adventures and collects his shocks (souvenirs to remember the experience) are vivid…A memorable story, full of age-appropriate jokes and sayings, and a plot that moves along quickly enough to hook even the most reluctant reader. Highly Recommended.” (CM Magazine )

“Oliver’s effective first-person narration shifts from accounts of his adventures to a growing understanding about the complicated lives of others—lives that are, often times, more shocking than anything that can be contained in a box.” (Booklist )

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