A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Empty Grave is the fifth and final book in the deliciously scary Lockwood & Co. series. The publishers recommend the whole series for middle-grade readers, but we still say these ghost-hunting books are a better fit for kids just getting into young adult literature, at age 11 and up. The book is over 400 pages, and the writing is more descriptive and dense than most middle-grade books. Plus, readers must like scary stuff: ghosts giving chase in tombs and creepy theaters with the fear of getting "ghost-touched," which can lead to madness and death; the discovery of a well-decomposed body; and more. Fights among the living are more amped up in this installment. Two main characters get seriously injured: One is beaten up and the other stabbed, with much blood. Plus, the Lockwood & Co. team gets burns from magnesium flares and a bomb, and is attacked with acid, a gun, and electric shock. All those who subdue ghosts for a living are kids or teens because they have "the sight." Lucy, the narrator, can even hear the ghosts talking to her. All the main characters are extremely brave and selfless, and in the finale work hard to bring those who brought about this epidemic of ghost sightings to justice.
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What's the story?
In THE EMPTY GRAVE, Lucy, Lockwood, George, Quill Kipps, and Holly are following up on a lead from Skull, a ghost residing in a jar that Lucy frequently talks to. Skull is sure that the famous and first ghost hunter, Marissa Fitts, supposedly laid to rest in a fancy tomb, is not there at all. It's dangerous to check it out, but they feel like they must know. The Problem, as they call the overwhelming number of ghosts in England, is getting worse and the agency that Marissa Fitts founded is trying to close down small agencies like Lockwood & Co. by intimidation or worse. Of course, the tomb raiding doesn't go smoothly -- a vengeful spirit, a near-death experience, the whole bit -- and leads to more questions. George seeks answers in a library late one night only to be jumped by some thugs and found in a gutter. It's a move that's meant to silence the small, talented agency, but it just makes them more determined to find out the truth about The Problem, the mysterious goings on at the Fitts Agency, and whether it's all connected.
Is it any good?
Fans of the series' other four books will be thrilled with this action-filled, all-questions-answered, and even kind of sweet and touching finale. It's more action-packed than previous installments, with Lockwood & Co. threatened not just by the usual slew of creepy ghosts (La Belle Dame was a really fun one), but also by the bigwigs in their whole lucrative ghost hunting industry. The henchmen sent to keep the small agency quiet have their hands full when Lockwood comes up with his many schemes to fight back. With this search for the truth and a way to bring powerful people to justice, there's even more to root for in The Empty Grave.
And we're also rooting for the great characters here. Lucy and Lockwood's relationship has always been devoted but distant -- think Mulder and Scully from the X-Files -- and both inch closer toward something new. Everyone rallies around the bumbling but brilliant George when he's injured -- including someone very unexpected. Quill Kipps, the guy everyone used to love to hate, is now a valued member of the team. And even Lucy's sardonic Skull ghost in a jar seems to have a softer side. Each of these little personal moments with the characters, plus a lot of humor, draw a big heart around an already compelling end to a fantastic mystery series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the scares in The Empty Grave. If you've made it this far in the series, you've already seen scary. How do you handle the scarier parts?
The skull Lucy talks to always has a funny take on things, even or maybe especially in very dangerous situations. Does it help ease the tension?
- Author: Jonathan Stroud
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: September 12, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 448
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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