Feature of the Week #8 The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feature Book of the Week
The Screaming Staircase
Jonathan Stroud

A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren't exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall's legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day? 

Reading Makes You Fly

Two snapshots of my childhood. In the first, a small boy, six years old, is curled in an armchair on a Sunday afternoon. Sunshine drifts through the window, along with the sounds of neighbours mowing their lawns. Occasionally the boy’s dangling foot moves, twitching like the tail of a cat. Otherwise he is motionless. He’s reading a book – a proper full-length one, without pictures. It’s the first time he’s ever achieved this feat, and he’s mesmerised by his own new skill. He won’t get up until the story is done.

                  The second snapshot. The same small boy, a couple of years down the line. He’s in hospital now, has been for a month. Pneumonia, which the doctors are finding hard to shift. He can’t walk far, so he mostly stays in bed. But he’s a great traveller nonetheless. Piles of books and comics lie around him – tales of adventure, magic and exotic lands. He sits and he reads, and leaves his illness far behind. Books save him. They carry him away.

                  Reading is power. It allows you to escape your limitations – physical (as in my case), or social, or whatever they may be. It gives you the ability to master the world. Without reading, you’re stuck in the here and now. With it, possibilities are everywhere around you: each newspaper, novel, comic or magazine becomes a door to be walked through, a new universe to explore.

                  There’s no greater gift to give a child.

                  But reading for pleasure’s a weird thing. It’s not exactly work, but you do need discipline to master it. It’s not play either, though it gives you endless delight. It’s an occupation that can’t really be taught or enforced: kids have to discover the magic for themselves. Still, adults can – and must – encourage them. The best thing is to lead by example. Be seen reading. Read to the kid. Visit libraries. Above all, leave lots of books and comics lying around – and allow them time and space to take advantage. No one forced me to sit in that armchair and read my first novel (it was Enid Blyton’s Five on a Treasure Island, by the way). I just thought I’d give it a go. And the impulse changed my life. I’ve never forgotten it.

                  So how do you sum up the joy of reading for those who don’t know? There’s an old photograph by the French artist, Yves Klein. It’s called ‘Leap into the Void’. (Google it – it’s great.) A man in a suit jumps from the roof of a building, over a quiet street. Is he going to fall? Or is he – maybe, just maybe – about to defy gravity and soar off into the heavens? The next split second will tell. Meanwhile a bloke on a bike is passing below, entirely unaware that something miraculous is happening above.

Reading is like that. It’s a glorious leap into the void. It’s a feat of extraordinary agility, which goes unnoticed by everyone around you. When you open any book for the first time, you’re preparing to jump. When you begin to read, you’re stepping off the edge. At that moment everything’s possible. You can go anywhere, learn anything, become anyone…

                  Reading makes you fly.


I was born in Bedford, England, on 27th October 1970. When I was six my family moved to St Albans, near London, which is where I grew up. From very early on I enjoyed scribbling stories and drawing, and for a long time the two sides were equally balanced: pictures interested me as much as words. Between the ages of seven and nine I was often ill, and spent long periods in hospital and at home in bed. During this time I escaped from boredom and frustration by reading furiously: books littered my bedroom floor like bones in a lion's cave. I tended to enjoy stories of magical adventure more than ones about real life – I think this was because they provided a more complete escape. Around this time I fell in love with fantasy.

Throughout my school years I experimented with different kinds of writing, often illustrated.  I tried comics, gamebooks, board games, and later poems and plays. Without being entirely aware of it, I was searching for the kind of writing that suited me best. Meanwhile, I was getting more and more interested in other people's writing. Finally I went to York University, to read English Literature.

Like many English graduates, I left university without a clue what to do. But I got an editorial job at Walker Books, in London, and began to learn about children's books. For several years I worked as an editor: helping authors with their ideas and their texts, consulting with designers and artists about the visual side, helping to create books of many kinds. I worked on encyclopaedias, history books, game books and even a children's Bible. This taught me a lot of things about structure, pace and style; meanwhile, in my free time, I was busy writing also. I did several puzzle books for Walker, and began working on a novel too. When Buried Fire was published in 1999, I knew that I had found what I truly wanted to do, but it took until 2001 before I finally took the plunge, gave up being an editor and tried to write full time.

The same year I married Gina, and we have a daughter called Isabelle and a son called Arthur. Most days I go up to my study, and shut myself away from the world while I write. But I also enjoy doing as many events and author visits as possible: it's essential that a writer reminds himself of who he's writing for . . .

For more information about Jonathan Stroud and his book check out his website.

9 Delicious Comments:

Anonymous said...

Lockwood in co is an amazing adventure by an amazing author. Jonathan Stroud weaves an incredibly interesting tale.

Parkway Northeast Middle School

Tylea W. said...

The Screaming Staircase seems like a book I would be interested in reading. It has a good idea, and I like how it has a horror theme and a surprising purpose.--Tylea, 8th grader at Lift for Life Academy

Sierra M. said...

This book seems interesting because it is about kids going to check out the place for ghosts.The author is from England, and I’d really like to visit England some day.--Sierra, 8th grader at Lift for Life Academy

Kaitlyn L. said...

I think the book sounds pretty cool. Even though its not what I expected, I like how the author described how a book can take you places. In the book, you can picture yourself going to the scariest haunted house in England.--Kaitlyn, 7th grader at Lift for Life Academy

Tyrianne T. said...

I think this is a great book. It is definitely a book that I would read. I think your ideas and wording of the story really interests me. I like things like how the two people team up and leads to some type of trouble, and how it’s a mysterious story. --Tyrianne, 7th grader at Lift for Life Academy

Jordan N. said...

I guess reading is amazing if you read that much. You were addicted to it in your childhood and I see why. Reading does wake up your imagination. I think after reading the guest post, I want to read a whole lot more. --Jordan, 7th grader at Lift for Life Academy

Stacy V. said...

I would like to read this book because it talks about ghosts. I like to read ghost books and mystery books. This book reminds me of a book I once read called The Ghost on Top of the Staircase. I really enjoyed reading The Ghost on top of the Staircase, so I might enjoy this book. --Stacy, 8th grader at Lift for Life Academy

Camielle C. said...

I would read this book because it sounds like a scary story and I like scary stories.I liked how they were going to the haunted house because it reminded me of old memories.--Camielle 8th grader at Lift for Life Academy

Shannon Steimel said...

A lot of my students have been checking out this book. We love a good scary story here at Lift for Life Academy! And, I love when my students read a series book they love because then they know what to read next....the next book in that series! --Shannon Parker, Librarian, Lift for Life Academy

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