The Hollow Boy: Lockwood & Co., Book 3
By Carrie R. Wheadon,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Another exciting, scary installment for ghost-story fans.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some references to historical events and time periods (the Blitz, Victorian Era) and places in London, especially in the Chelsea neighborhood. Also, there's plenty of common and not-so-common ghost lore to compare with other books and movies about haunted places. The author includes a glossary of types of ghosts and tools of the ghost-catcher's trade.
Bravery and not giving in to fear are essential for survival in the ghost-catching business. Jealousy and cattiness can lead to trouble and put people in danger. Lessons are learned on that score.
Positive Role Models
Lucy, Anthony Lockwood, and George are clearly very brave and resourceful to survive their dangerous profession. Lucy, the narrator, is torn about whether to follow her instincts or follow protocol. Following her instincts at the wrong moment puts others in danger and leads to strong feelings of guilt. She’s also jealous of a new recruit, Holly Munro, and lets it get the better of her at times. Her fear only gets the better of her when she thinks her friends are in danger.
Violence & Scariness
Action sequences wherein Lockwood & Co. face ghosts, aka visitors, in dark and frightening places include the fear of being "ghost-touched," which causes painful swelling, madness, and death if not treated right away. Visitors lure victims away -- one visitor crawls on hands and knees in a really creepy fashion -- and cause them to fall, sometimes to death, and create extreme fear and a condition known as "ghost-lock" in even seasoned operatives. One ghost reflects back a person’s worst fears of loss; another hurls sharp objects and feeds off bad emotions. Plenty of stories about how visitors died in horrible ways: getting chased up a staircase with a knife, the plague, the London Blitz bombing, trapped in a prison and left to die. Lockwood & Co. operatives suffer head injuries and bad bruises. A man is run through with a rapier. Mentions that dozens of people die in an outbreak of visitor attacks.
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"Bloody" and "hell" infrequently.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink mulled wine at a celebration. A cigarette butt figures in the plot.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Hollow Boy is the equally scary sequel to The Screaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull. The publishers recommend the whole series for age 8 to 12, but we still say the ghost-hunting series is a better fit for kids just getting into young adult literature, at age 11 and up. The book is just shy of 400 pages, and the writing is more descriptive and dense than most middle-grade books. Plus, readers must like scary stuff: poltergeists that feed off emotions, dark places where a ghost crawling on its hands and knees subdues victims by showing them their worst fears of loss, ghosts running up staircases with bloody knives, and the like. 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 pride themselves on working together as a team -- most of the time. Sometimes cattiness and jealousy get the better of them.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
As usual, the three-person ghost-elimination agency of Lockwood & Co. isn’t getting any respect or good cases. And in a city suddenly exploding with paranormal activity, every available agent in all the large firms is occupied in the cordoned-off Chelsea neighborhood of London, where the work is endless and agents are ghost-touched almost nightly. Lockwood, Lucy, and George feel left out -- but not for long. With the help of a new assistant, Holly Munro, they get a case at a rich, well-connected woman's townhouse. It's a nasty haunting with bloody footprints appearing on the stairs nightly. Subduing the ghost and barely escaping with their lives wins the team favor enough to put them back in the fray. And not a moment too soon. The outbreak is getting worse, and only George's powers of research and deduction, Lucy's ability to listen to ghosts, and Lockwood's combo of charm and grit can oust some truly dangerous spirits.
Is It Any Good?
This third installment maintains the high quality of the Lockwood & Co. series with a high scare factor and great characters. It’s odd and refreshing in a series to not know which book you like the best. Fans of the popular series would probably follow Lockwood, Lucy, and George into any adventure at this point. Even setting up the circle of iron chains and falling asleep with them on the floor while they wait for ghosts to appear is entertaining.
But author Jonathan Stroud (also known for his wonderful Bartimaeus trilogy) ups the ante with a finale in a haunted department store. Those mannequins are creepy all by themselves. Add a ghost crawling around on the floor whispering "Lucy, Lucy" is freaky! Readers will feel as if they've been ghost-touched even before the situation gets really dire. Add to that a "Wait! What? Don't do it!" cliffhanger at the end and you'll be ready to be ghost-touched all over again with Book 4.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the title of the book. How many meanings does The Hollow Boy have?
How do the members of your family handle scary stuff? Do you all love it? Or turn on lights at night after reading something scary? What do you do when you think something is too scary?
What do you think of Lucy's decision? What do you think it means for Book 4? What other mysteries do you think the author will tackle later in the series?
- Author: Jonathan Stroud
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: September 15, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
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