A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some references to places in London, especially cemeteries and along the Thames. Readers will learn what a "catafalque" is and a bit about catacombs. 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. Competitiveness sometimes gets in the way of safety and reason, putting people at risk; lessons are learned on this score.
Positive Role Models
Lucy, Anthony Lockwood, and George are clearly very brave and resourceful to survive their dangerous profession. They're a good team but also competitive and take too many risks trying to win a bet. Lucy's the most talented ghost catcher and feels more confident in her abilities; she's hot-headed at times but the most level-headed when situations get tense and frightening. Anthony continues to be somewhat overconfident and is the biggest risk-taker.
Violence & Scariness
Action sequences wherein Lockwood & Co. face ghosts in dark and frightening places include the fear of being "ghost-touched," which causes painful swelling and then death if not treated right away. A powerful relic also can cause instant death when looked at; this is how a few minor characters die. Some explosions, fistfights, and rapier fights among the living cause injuries; a man is stabbed in the back with a knife and dies. The slicing up of one "Visitor," or ghost, is gory enough that narrator Lucy warns readers to skip ahead if they're squeamish. A description of a dug-up corpse also is pretty vivid. Plenty of talk of the way Visitors died, and repeated mentions of a man who was eaten by rats. Mentions of a mass death in a cult, experiments performed on cadavers, a woman strangled by a ghost, and a man beating another to death.
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"Damn," "bloody," "hell," and a few variations.
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Products & Purchases
One mention of Coke.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink champagne at a party while teen Lucy drinks orange juice. Mentions of the smell of tobacco smoke.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Whispering Skull is the equally scary sequel to The Screaming Staircase. 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: 11 and up. The book is just shy of 450 pages, and the writing is more descriptive and dense than most middle grade books. Plus, readers must like scary stuff: coffins, descriptions of decaying bodies and deadly curses that kill a few minor characters, serious hauntings wherein ghosts can kill you by touching you, talk of rats eating people alive, and experiments on the dead. A couple of descriptions are gory; Lucy, the narrator gives readers a warning to skip ahead if they don't want to read it. Lucy, Lockwood, and George all are brave and talented ghost hunters. Sometimes their competitive natures trump safety, but they learn their lesson in time.
Is It Any Good?
Lockwood & Co. is the perfect series for kids who live for the scary stuff and for parents who worry that R. L. Stine is going to rot their little zombie-lovers' brains. The writing is fantastic and even builds vocabulary -- and not only by adding creepy words such as "catafalque." There's a great mix of scares, deadpan humor, and fast-paced adventure once the long and many-layered climax gets rolling.
It's the characters who get even the most skittish readers in the haunted house. We know Lucy can hold her own, especially in THE WHISPERING SKULL, where she's more confident about her gifts. And we know that overly optimistic Lockwood will always make the right flashy quip to break the tension before he wields his rapier with ease. After a lot of nail-biting mixed with laughter and a shocking reveal at the end, kids will be lining up to join Lockwood & Co. on their next adventure.
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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.See how we rate