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 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.
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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, Misfits and Underdogs, 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: June 19, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.