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 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.
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What's the story?
Called into a cemetery one night to help with the removal of a particularly mysterious coffin and its malevolent spirit, the talented ghost catchers of Lockwood & Co. -- Lucy, Anthony Lockwood, and George -- realize too late that they're in over their heads. The coffin made of iron holds a mummy-like corpse and a mirror causing some serious psychic disturbances. Lucy hears a constant buzzing when she gets near it, and, after a quick accidental peek, George can't stop thinking about it and is desperate to study it further. Luckily, he doesn't get the chance. Two relicmen run off with the mirror in the night, and one dies before he even makes it out of the graveyard. Hearing of the incident, DEPRAC (the Department of Psychic Research and Control) sends Lockwood & Co. and a rival group from the Fittes Agency after the mirror before there are more casualties. Lockwood is determined to beat the Fittes team to the mirror, but easier said than done. Researching its power leads them to murderous relic dealers, one very haunted house, and the awful secrets it holds -- secrets one glowing-skull ghost is more than happy to whisper in Lucy's ear.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whispering skulls, haunted houses, cursed artifacts, and other scary stuff in this book. What frightened you the most? What do you do when you think something is too scary for you? How does Lucy calm herself when she gets too scared?
Lucy is the narrator of the story. How do you think the story would be different if it were told from Lockwood's perspective? How about George's?
What do you think of the series so far? Will you keep reading it?
- Author: Jonathan Stroud
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: September 16, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 448
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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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.