Friday, 22 February 2013

News: Neil Gaiman talks about his new children's book over at SFX

I love Neil Gaiman's writing, and Neverwhere is one of my top 5 all time favourite books. Naturally, I am rather excited that this year he has not one but two new books scheduled for publication. The first of these, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is due out from Headline in June but I am possibly more excited about his new children's book, Fortunately, The Milk which will be published by Neil in October. I had some more information about this book and a link to a video on the SFX website that I just had to share with you:


You can head over to the SFX website today to see an exclusive video clip of Neil talking about this fab new book. Fortunately, the Milk will be a time-travelling adventure for young readers featuring aliens, dinosaurs, volcano gods and a pint of milk that saves the universe! The book will be illustrated throughout by Chris Riddell, and will be the third Neil Gaiman project that Chris Riddell has worked on. Chris has previously illustrated the tenth anniversary edition of Coraline and the Carnegie Medal winning The Graveyard Book, for which Chris was Kate Greenaway Medal shortlisted.



Thursday, 21 February 2013

Review: The Book of Doom by Barry Hutchison


The second hilarious book in Barry’s AFTERWORLDS sequence – comic fantasy perfect for fans of Pratchett and Douglas Adams.

There’s panic up in Heaven. They have mislaid the BOOK OF DOOM – the most important object in existence. Oopsy.

They think Satan might have stolen it, the sneaky little devil, so to save the world – plus, you know, quite a lot of embarrassment, fifteen year old Zac and his angelic guide Angelo are sent to retrieve it.

Sadly directions aren’t Angelo’s strong point and they soon find themselves just as lost as the book, wandering through Afterworlds such as Valhalla and Hades and encountering some colourful characters along the way…

Can the hapless pair make it to Hell and back?


If I come across as something of a Barry Hutchison fanboy on this blog then I make no apologies for this at all. It's a simple fact that I love everything he has written so far. His Invisible Fiends books are definitely amongst my all time favourite children's series, and I loved The 13th Horseman, the first of his Afterworlds books. I have also loved the Invisible Fiends and Afterworlds short stories that Barry as released through his own website. I therefore look forward to every new release with great anticipation, sort of knowing that Barry will not let me down. Does that makes sense?

The second Afterworlds book is no exception to this. Last year I started using Goodreads, and giving starred reviews to every book I read. I don't use any kind of rating system here as it feels a bit too like I'm doing my day job, but Goodreads has its uses. Needless to say, I've awarded The Book of Doom the full five stars. And I know I'm not the only person who loves these books. In my review of The 13th Horseman I mentioned that the book reminded me of Terry Pratchett's early Discworld novels, and I know that many other reviewers have also drawn similar parallels. Barry's fellow authors are also stepping in with similar quotes: Joe Craig proclaims in The Independent: "call off the search - we've found the new Terry Pratchett" and Philip Ardagh added to Barry's Facebook page: "I'm with Joe Craig on this one. I think I've even said it (somewhere). You're the logical successor to Pratchett." Praise indeed from a pair of very talented writers.

The Book of Doom is set in the same Afterworlds universe as The 13th horseman, but it introduces us to a brand new set of characters (although some favourites from the previous book do make a cameo appearance, but I'm certainly not telling you when and how). Fifteen-year-old Zac lives with his senile grandfather who hears voices, and the only way the two of them can get by is for Zac to steal. And he is blinkin' good at it too. Naturally, he only steals from those who can afford the loss, and invariably nicks stuff that has already been stolen from someone else. Unfortunately, his activities draw him to the attention of a couple of celestial beings - a certain Gabriel and Michael - who arrange for him to be killed so that they can blackmail him into retrieving The Book of Everything, aka The Book of Doom (depending on your heavenly or hellish leanings). Zac, who much prefers to work alone, is reluctantly paired with the annoyingly cheerful and optimistic Angelo, a geeky Jesus (and Incredible Hulk) loving inhabitant of heaven who has the power to take them across the barriers between the realms. 

Unfortunately for Zac, Angelo's powers are more than a little unreliable and instead of hell the pair find themselves in a very different 'afterworld', populated by the kind of men you wouldn't like to take home to meet your mum (unless she was a beer-swilling, foul mouthed Valkyrie, that is). I really do not want to say a great deal more about the plot as I am wary of spoiling things for you. There are a number of twists and turns, some of which you may see coming (although a chat I had with Barry showed that he was deliberately dropping a few hints in places), but if you like your fantasy laced with comedy and great characters then I can almost guarantee that you will love this book as much as I did. As with The 13th Horseman, there were so many gags and comedy moments that had me laughing out loud, and the interplay between between Zac and Angelo is comedy gold.

I'm not sure how well this book will go down in church schools as the brainwashing leaders in these establishments might see some of the story as being mildly blasphemous, and therefore refuse to stock it in their libraries. But then these are probably the same misguided people who declare the Harry Potter books to be evil as they focus on wizards and witches. Please can we let youngsters make up their own minds about these stories? I grew up going to church every week, and my mother is an ordained minster, but I was not even remotely offended by anything I read in this book; in fact, I think I found it all the more funny and rewarding because of this. I'm not sure that the extremist loonies at the Westboro Baptist Chruch in the USA will agree with me though, but ultimately that's their loss.

The Book of Doom is scheduled to be released on the 28th February, but I notice that it is all ready in stock on a certain tax-dodging online superstore, and therefore it will probably be creeping into high street shops a little early as well. I for one would love to read more Afterworlds stories, so I urge you to go out and get your hands on a copy, especially if you are a Pratchett loving adult who wants something similar for your kids to read. 

My thanks go to the lovely people at HarperCollins for sending me a copy to review.





Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Book Zone meets Andrew Beasley (author of The Battles of Ben Kingdom: The Claws of Evil)


A few weeks ago I posted a review of The Claws of Evil, the first book in Andrew Beasley's The Battles of Ben Kingdom series. I loved the book, with its blend of adventure, Victorian history and urban fantasy, and so I was overjoyed to be invited by Usborne to attend a special event they were organising to celebrate the forthcoming publication of the book.

The lovely people at Usborne had decided to do something very special for Andrew - they contacted London Walks who arranged for one of their guides to lead us on a London walk that tied in with Andrew's story. I'm not going to say much about the walk as those lovely people at Usborne have written their own blog post which you can see by clicking on this link:

http://usbornepublishing.tumblr.com/post/43571522539/walking-with-ben-kingdom

What I will say is that I had a thoroughly enjoyable time. As a lover of both London and history I found the walk fascinating; our guide, Kim, enthralled us with stories about the area of London around London Bridge, its buildings and the people who used to live there. My thanks go to Kim for giving us such a great tour, Andrew for treating us to readings of excerpts from The Claws of Evil, and Amy at Usborne for organising the evening and inviting me along. 

The Claws of Evil is scheduled for a 1st March release, although Andrew said it may already be starting to appear in some book stores. It is well worth getting your hands on a copy - not only is it a great story, but it is also a gorgeous looking book, with some lovely illustrations by the brilliant David Wyatt, who also created the wonderful font cover illustrations.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Review: Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz


Colin Fischer cannot stand to be touched. He does not like the colour blue. He needs index cards to recognize facial expressions.

But when a gun is found in the school cafeteria, interrupting a female classmate's birthday celebration, Colin is the only for the investigation. It's up to him to prove that Wayne Connelly, the school bully and Colin's frequent tormenter, didn't bring the gun to school. After all, Wayne didn't have frosting on his hands, and there was white chocolate frosting found on the grip of the smoking gun...

I count myself to be incredibly fortunate to work in a mixed comprehensive school which has a fantastic resource unit. For those of you who are not 'in the know', this means that disabled students are able to experience a mainstream education alongside students without disabilities. One of our ex-students, of whom we are incredibly proud, is a multi-Paralympic gold medal winner. As well as students with physical disabilities we also teach students who are autistic and/or have Asperger Syndrome, and whilst it can occasionally be challenging it is also very rewarding to see these students grow up through the school and leave us with GCSEs and A-Levels before they move on into higher education or jobs. I tell you this because the eponymous main character of Colin Fischer by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz reminds me so much of some of the young people I have had the pleasure of teaching during my career.

Colin has Asperger Syndrome. He hates to be touched, he avoids eye contact with people wherever possible, and he really, really hates loud noises. In fact, he finds it so difficult to cope with loud noises that he starts to bark like a dog. Like many people with Asperger's he also finds it very difficult to 'read' other people, and as such he carries around with him a series of flash cards, each with a small pictogram of a different facial expression drawn on it, which he uses to gauge the emotions shown by his peers and the other people he comes into contact with. 

However, Colin also has some very special talents: he is a genius at maths and he notices things and can make connections. Just like his hero, Sherlock Holmes. Thus, when a gun goes off in the school canteen, and the school bully (who also happens to be a long time tormentor of Colin) is wrongly accused, Colin feels compelled to solve the mystery of who fired the gun, even if it means lying to his parents for the first time in his life, and potentially putting himself into a grave danger.

Colin Fischer is being billed by Puffin as this year's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and whilst there are some similarities, particularly in the medical condition experienced by the main character, this book is not as deep, and is much, much funnier. In fact, this book is laugh out loud funny in many places, and I loved it. In particular, Colin's approach to physical education, and the scenes on the basketball court with the school's coach are to die for. In fact, said coach reminds me of a number of staff I have the pleasure of working with in the way that he approaches Colin and his special needs and abilities.

As the story progresses we are treated to excerpts from Colin's notebook. Colin has a compulsion to write down a lot of what he observes in his day-to-day life, and the conclusions he draws from the behaviour of others. And when put in Colin's very logical and matter-of-fact way, his peers often seem far more strange than he is. After all, what is the definition of normal, and can anyone really be described as such?

For me, as well as the humour, the other stand out element of Colin Fischer is the characters. Colin's long-suffering but very loving parents just don't know how to react when his investigations lead to what most parents would call poor behaviour  Should they be angry, or relieved that he is acting like a 'normal' teenager? His younger brother seems to take delight out of teasing Colin, but also suffers from jealousy as a result of the attention Colin gets from their parents.Wayne Connelly, the aforementioned bully, really does not know what to think when Colin declares his wish to help prove his innocence. This story is really more about Colin and the other characters than it is about the mystery plot itself.

This book would make a superb class reader for young teens, although there are elements of its US High School setting that may need further explaining to students in other countries. However, dealing with issues of bullying, gun culture, disability, etc. it could generate a great deal of class discussion. The book's plot comes to a natural conclusion, but also leaves things open for a sequel. I really hope we get that next instalment, as Colin is one of my favourite book characters of the past few months and I would love to read more stories featuring him.

Colin Fischer was published in paperback in the UK at the beginning of February. My thanks go to the lovely people at Puffin for sending me a copy to review.


Sunday, 17 February 2013

News: Red House Children's Book Award 2013

If you live anywhere near London and love children's books then you will no doubt already be fully aware of the Imagine Children's Festival that is taking place at the Southbank Centre this week. However, you may not know that this year's Red House Children's Book Award ceremony is also part of the Imagine week, and takes place next Saturday, 23rd February.

Hosted by children's comedian James Campbell and with a very special appearance by shortlisted author David Walliams and last year's winner Patrick Ness, this star-studded event is the perfect opportunity to see the nation's literati in one place. And this year things are even more special as the organisers are working with Stagecoach stage school, who will be performing adaptations of the shortlisted books!

You can find out more and buy tickets by clicking on this link.


The full shortlist for the Red House Children’s Book Award 2013 is as follows:

Books for Younger Children

Welcome to Alien School - Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves 
Can You See Sassoon? - Sam Usher
Spooky Spooky House - Andrew Weale and Lee Wildish 
Dog Loves Drawing - Louise Yates

Books for Younger Readers 

Operation Eiffel Tower – Elen Caldecott 
The World of Norm: May Contain Nuts – Jonathan Meres and Donough O’Mally 
Gangsta Granny – David Walliams and Tony Ross 

Books for Older Readers

Eight Keys – Suzanne La Fleur 
The Power of Six – Pittacus Lore 
The Medusa Project: Hit Squad – Sophie McKenzie 

The ten titles on the shortlist for the Books for Younger Children, Books for Younger Readers and Books for Older Readers categories, as well as 40 highly recommended titles, were chosen by children who read and voted for the books at lively events organised nationwide by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.




Review: Tales From Lovecraft Middle School by Charles Gilman


Tales from Lovecraft Middle School is the spine-tingling series about a haunted middle school where monsters roam the halls, mysteries lurk behind every door, and strange transformations take place before your very eyes.

Seventh-grader Robert Arthur just wants to fit in at his new school. But the place is crawling with weird spirits and supernatural creatures. What’s a kid to do? Ask a teacher for help? Some of them are monsters in disguise! Find a classmate he can trust? Many of them are transforming too! If Robert and his friends can uncover the truth about Lovecraft Middle School’s secret history, they might find out who—or what—is behind all the mysteries.


I have mentioned on this blog before that my knowledge of the works of H.P. Lovecraft is pretty limited, and yet he has influenced so many writers of teen and children's horror stories. I think I too would have grown into a fan if I had been given these two books as a child. 

Professor Gargoyle and The Slither Sisters are the first two books in Charles Gilman's Tales From Lovecraft Middle School series, and I loved them. Think Goosebumps, crossed with Lemony Snicket and then throw in a truck load of cthulhu and a plethora of Lovecraftian references and that pretty much sums up these books. Yes, much of the references to Lovecraft's stories will be completely lost on young readers (just as they were probably lost on me), but adult fans will delight in spotting these. I can just imagine legions of Lovecraft fans around the world reading these at bedtime with their children, and this creating a whole new generation of Lovecraft devotees.

The first book opens with protagonist Robert Arthur starting a new school after his neighbourhood has been redistricted. Unfortunately for Robert, not only is he feeling lonely and nervous, he very quickly discovers that his nemesis Glenn Torkells, the boy who has bullied him for so many years, has also started at Lovecraft Middle. It soon becomes apparent though that the attentions of Torkells may be the least of his worries, as a number of strange incidents make Robert realise that there is something sinister lurking in the darker corners of the school. 

Charles Gilman has done a great job with these books, and I can't wait to read the planned future instalments. He has created a story that mixes elements of mystery and horror really well, and Robert Arthur is a great main character. Although a victim of bullying, he still retains a burning curiosity for discovery, which naturally leads him into all kinds of danger. With each book focusing on a different monster/villain, the story flows naturally from one volume to the next, whilst also having plenty of exciting new challenges for Robert to face. I don't want to say too much about these monsters as it will ruin the treats in store for you, but just a glance at the above animated versions of the fantastic lenticular covers will give you a few clues. Professor Gargoyle is particularly nasty, and certainly not the kind of teacher any student would like to find leading their science class.

Both books in the series so far end nicely, not quite with a cliffhanger but certainly with revelations that will have young readers clamouring to read the next in the series. Fortunately we do not have too long to wait for this as the third volume, Teacher's Pest, is due to be published in May. You can find out more about the series and its author at http://lovecraftmiddleschool.com/.

My thanks go to the good people at Quirk Books for sending me copies of these first two books.


Friday, 15 February 2013

Review: The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling


No one performs on the circus trapeze like sixteen-year-old Remy Brunel. But Remy also leads another life, as a cat burglar and jewel thief. Forced by the evil circus owner Gustave to attempt the theft of one of the world's most valuable diamonds, Remy thinks it will be just another heist, but when she meets determined young detective Thaddeus Rec, her life changes forever.

Will Thaddeus manage to rescue the jewel? Or is it really Remy that he needs to save?


A highly skilled cat burglar stealing to order for her circus-owning boss? Cursed diamonds? A plot to take over London and the British Empire? A wonderfully atmospheric Victorian setting? I know I shouldn't pre-judge a book from its press release but this one sounded like it would be right up my street, and I was not proved wrong. It is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure story with a pair of lively and completely likeable protagonists, who you will find yuorself rooting for almost from the very first page.

Remy Brunel is a highly skilled trapeze artist, and takes top billing in the travelling circus that has recently set up in London. People flock to the circus just to watch the amazing 'little bird' fly through the air, risking life and limb for their entertainment. Little do they know, that when the show finishes for the night, she is forced by the circus owner to head off into the city to use her skills for more nefarious activities. For Remy has become one of Europe's most skilled, and therefore most wanted, cat burglars. However, her greatest task to date may also be her last as she is tasked with breaking into the Tower of London itself, the prize being the fabulous Darya-ye Noor diamond.

Naturally things go more than a little wrong, and Remy finds herself on the run from the law, in the shape pf Thaddeus Rec, a young detectove who is himself on the run from his colleagues who suspect him of being the jewel thief. The lives of both of these teenagers suddenly become intertwined, and far more complicated than either of them could have imagined, as they find themselves reluctantly working together to track down the diamond and retrieve it from the would-be master criminal who now possesses it.

Remy and Thaddeus are both fantastic characters, and Sharon Golsing uses them both as main characters, with the focus of the story switching from one to another throughout the book. Remy is the better developed of the two, and we find out more about her past and her motivations, and I would love to have seen the same for Thaddeus, whose past is only hinted out. I hope there is a sequel so we can find out more about him, and how he managed to become a police constable.

There are also a handful of secondary characters, the most notable of which is the 'Professor', a man who seems to be a mentor and father figure for Thaddeus. The professor is an inventor, and the author uses him to inject a soup├žon of steampunk to her story. By this I mean that the inventions he creates for Remy to use have a steampunk feel to them (i.e. they are technologically advanced for the time, but use Victorian materials and styling), but we are not talking about an alternate steampunk Victorian world.

I flew through this book as Sharon Gosling uses her skill with prose and plot to quickly pull in the reader, and I revelled in the multiple plot twists. The villain is a little sterotypical of Victorian criminal masterminds who want to take over the world, but young readers who haven't read many books in this genre will know, or even care about this. In fact, they will probably take great delight in wondering how Remy and her small team of friends will manage to foil his evil machinations.

The Diamond Thief is published by Curious Fox, and is I believe their very first book to hit the stores. It was published yesterday and is a great way of introducing 9+ readers to Victorian-set mystery and adventure stories. My thanks go to the lovely people at Curious Fox for sending me a copy to review.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Review: Ant and Bee by Angela Banner


The much beloved Ant and Bee are back! These delightful and much-loved characters are instantly recognisable to many parents and grandparents today. Ant and Bee teach children to read via word recognition and encourage story sharing with siblings and parents. First published in 1950, Ant and Bee were in print for over 40 years.

Back at the beginning of January 2011 I started what I intended to be a new semi-regular feature called My Life That Books Built, in which I would write about the books that I loved when I was younger. As with many of my blogging plans, this quickly became an occasional feature, and more recently something that I have used as a subject for guest posts from visiting authors.  I do still intend to add to this with my own reading memories, but when it comes to my early years as a reader there are very few books I can remember. 

One of these I used as my first My Life That Books Built post, and was Little Jacko and the Wolf People, with words by Margaret Greaves and pictures by Jill McDonald, and I also remember being very fond of Maurice Sendak's classic Where The Wild Things Are. However, the only other books I can remember reading as a small child are Angela Banner's Ant and Bee books. I have been wanting to write a post about these for some time, but the copies I had as a child have been long lost - as the eldest of five children I would guess that most of my picture books got passed down (but not Little Jacko - I still own and treasure my original copy). However, I did not want to write an Ant and Bee post without copies to refer to, as nostalgia can have a funny effect on memory. Imagine my delight when I recently received a press release from Egmont, announcing that they would be releasing new editions of Angela Banner's books, and thanks to the lovely people there I was soon the owner of the first three re-issued volumes.

On 4th February Egmont published Ant and Bee, More Ant and Bee and More and More Ant and Bee. These books were first published in the 1950s, but new editions came out occasionally, even up to the early 1990s I believe. However, you will be forgiven for not having heard of these, although judging by the excited tweets that appeared following Egmont's announcement, there are a huge number of adults out there who learned to read with the help of Ant and Bee.

As a secondary school teacher I know very little about teaching young children how to read, so I'm not really able to judge these books in that respect. The first book focuses on three-letter words, the idea being that "grown-up read the black words, but the shorter, simpler red words are for the children to call out." Each three-letter word is introduced with its own page and accompanying image, and is then built into the story on the next pages. These words then continue to appear throughout the story, with the expectation that children will start to recognise them. And to add another element - the new words are introduced in alphabetical order, starting with Ant and then Bee, and in this first book finishing off with Zoo. This does lend itself to an occasionally surreal nature to the story, but kids will love it anyway. And with nigh on 100 pages in the book there is also a sense of achievement when reaching the end. The book is also wallet sized, so will fit neatly into an adult's pocket, handbag, etc.

Following on from Ant and Bee, we have More Ant and Bee and More and More Ant and Bee, featuring four- and five-letter words respectively. They also include many of the words learned in the previous volume(s), making them great for linking back to the earlier stories.

Egmont have announced that three more Ant and Bee volumes will be published later in the year: Around the World Ant and Bee; Happy Birthday Ant and Bee; and Ant and Bee and the Rainbow, although I'm hoping that there will be even more to come as my personal favourite from when I was little was Ant and Bee and the Secret.




Sunday, 10 February 2013

News: Live Facebook chat with Jonathan Stroud

Just over a week ago I featured a piece by Jonathan Stroud, in which he told us about Lockwood & Co., his new book that is coming out later in the year. I know there are a lot of people who are as excited as I am about this book, and so I thought I would bring this extra piece of news to your attention.

Tomorrow (Monday 11 February) at 5pm GMT, Jonathan will be taking part in a live chat session over at his Facebook fan page (for US fans, that is 12 noon EST and 9am PST). Unfortunately I will not be able to join in as I will be in a meeting at work, but for those of you who want to ask Jonathan a question about his work then head on over to 



Monday, 4 February 2013

Review: The Hunters by Chris Kuzneski (adult book)


The Hunters: Financed by a billionaire philanthropist, this elite team - an ex-soldier, an historian, a computer whiz, a weapons expert, and a thief - is tasked with finding the world's most legendary treasures.

The mission: Fearing a German victory in WWI, the Romanian government signed a deal with Russia to guarantee the safety of the country's treasures. In 1916, two trains full of gold and the most precious possessions of the Romanian state - paintings, jewellery, and ancient artefacts - were sent to the underground vaults of the Kremlin. But in the turmoil of war, the treasure was scattered - and lost. Almost a century later, the haul is valued at over 3.5 billion dollars. Despite hundreds of attempts to find it, its location has remained a mystery... Until now.

Can the Hunters find the treasure and succeed where all others have failed?


Please click on the link below and head on over to my adult book blog - The Book Zone (For Boys) Big Brother - to read my review of The Hunters by Chris Kuzneski. Although I have reviewed it over on my adult book blog, I think that there are many 15+ boys who would love it. However, it does contain violence and swearing, and thus does not really fit comfortably with the other books I review here.


Friday, 1 February 2013

Coming Up In 2013 #7: Lockwood & Co. by Jonathan Stroud

I have already featured some great looking books in my 'Coming Up In 2013' feature, but this one is right near the top as far as my personal sense of excited anticipation is concerned. I totally love Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus books, and when, at the last Random House Bloggers' Brunch, I was informed that he had written the first book in a new series, due out later in August 2013, I couldn't help but let out a delighted yelp. I am so please to welcome Jonathan to The Book Zone today, to tell us a little more about his new series, Lockwood & Co.:





Want to hear a story? Okay. Here’s how it starts. Two kids, a boy and a girl, walk up to the front door of a large house in London. It’s a late November afternoon. Fog swirls around the dark trees of the garden. The boy is tall, thin, well-dressed. He has a long, sharp sword hanging at his belt. The girl wears one too. They carry heavy bags filled with magnesium flares and iron chains. They make a few jokes as they wait on the doorstep, but they can’t conceal their tension. They’ve come to the house to deal with a dangerous ghost that lurks there, and they know they may not leave the place alive…
             That’s the beginning of The Screaming Staircase, and I wrote it a couple of years ago. Just two or three pages. Then I stopped. Why? Because I didn’t have a clue what happened next. What I DID know for sure was that I loved ghost stories, and I loved adventure stories, and I wanted to combine the two things into something great.
            Books often start like that for me – just a little scene, with lots of possibilities. The thing to do is let the idea take shape. So I let the scene sit in my head for a while until, like a dark figure slowly materialising out of the fog, the rest of the set-up came into focus. We’re in modern Britain and there’s an epidemic of ghosts. No one knows why, but more and more of them are appearing after dark, and they’re causing big trouble. Some are fairly harmless, but others are ravenously hungry for contact with the living – and if they touch you, watch out.
So who’s in the front line of the ongoing battle against the phantoms? Kids are. They’re the only ones who have the ability to clearly see (or hear) the supernatural enemy. Adults are hopeless at it. They get ghost-touched before they can figure out where the danger’s coming from. Only children are sharp-eyed and quick enough to survive.
The Screaming Staircase follows the early history of Lockwood & Co, a small, rather ramshackle Psychic Investigation Agency in London. It’s got three employees, all of them in their early teens: Anthony Lockwood (the leader), George Cubbins (his sidekick) and Lucy Carlyle, their newest recruit. They’re talented, but not so lucky, and when one of their cases ends in disaster, they have a single chance of redemption left. Unfortunately this involves spending a night in the most haunted house in England, and trying to escape alive…
Let’s face it: ghosts, scares, conspiracies, jokes, kids with big swords… Who could ask for anything more? I’ve had a lot of fun developing Lockwood’s world, and I hope you love it too when it comes out late this summer. Meanwhile, I’ve got to start writing the sequel, where things get even deeper, darker and stranger than before. The fog’s drawing in, the shadows are lengthening, and Lockwood & Co are about to step away from the light…  Stay tuned!