Welcome to 2017 Rebecca Caudill Roundup, my new Thursday feature which will introduce you to the 20 books on the 2017 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award nominees list, Illinois’ children’s choice award for grades 4-8. Just as I did in 2015, I will introduce and/or celebrate a new Caudill nominee each week, in random order.
Up first is Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase, the first book in the Lockwood & Co. series. First of all, I always love seeing creepy books make the list, as well-written horror books for middle grade students can be hard to come by. Secondly, regardless of how you might feel about the upcoming Ghostbusters movie re-boot, it is a perfect tie-in to this novel because Lockwood & Co. is a paranormal investigative and eradication agency.
There is a lot of call for the services of these agencies because over the years The Problem (what Londoners call hauntings and the like) has become steadily worse. Young people have more of an affinity for seeing, hearing, and/or communicating with ghosts than adults do, and after working for grownups for a number of years, teen Anthony Lockwood starts his own business. Readers meet Lucy Carlyle when she interviews at the agency and first encounters Lockwood and George Cubbins, the agency’s only other employee. She is hardly hired when the trio are called upon to rid one of the most haunted mansions in England of its unwanted visitors. In addition to a red room that drips blood and the titular staircase, the group takes on an unsolved murder of a young woman.
There’s lots to love about The Screaming Staircase. It’s creepy, adventurous, and full of great characters who bring a bit of snark to their partnership–all things I thoroughly enjoy in a book! I love how Stroud builds a world where people take the presence of ghosts for granted and only try to eliminate the worst of the worst paranormal beings. The mystery of the young woman’s murder is intriguing and not easily figured out. However, the best thing about starting this series now is that books two and three, The Whispering Skull and The Hollow Boy have already been published. Almost all my students who have read The Screaming Staircase are eager to get to the next books.
After showing students three trailers for The Screaming Staircase at my Rebecca Caudill 2016 pizza party in February, they voted the publisher’s teaser trailer as the best one.