Blog Tour: House of Secrets

April 27, 2013 Uncategorized 0

I am thrilled to be the next stop on the blog tour for House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini. Check out a guest pist from Ned Vizzini as well as my review for this is highly enjoyable middle grade read! 

About the Book:
The Walker kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games . . . but everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by Denver Kristoff, a troubled writer with a penchant for the occult.

Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Walker family’s secret history and save their parents . . . and maybe even the world.

Guest Post: MG vs. YA: Words You Can Use and Words You Can’t 

“Middle grade” fiction was not a term I remember growing up. I saw the progression of reading as follows:
  1. Picture books
  2. Dr. Seuss
  3. Encyclopedia Brown (which I never got right, not once)
  4. Hardy Boys Books
  5. Chapter Books
  6. ”Books for Teens”
  7. Grown-Up Books

Admittedly this is a male-skewing hierarchy, and one heavily influenced by the publishing trends of the 1980s and 1990s. But I think it accurately reflects the reading trajectory of readers today, and what qualifies as “middle grade” is everything from Encyclopedia Brown to “Chapter Books,” which for me covers great adventure stories like Narnia and Redwall.

I loved these books because

  1. they had great voices (there are few narrators more comforting and avuncular than C.S. Lewis)
  2. they had creepy characters (Cluny the Scourge!)
  3. they had gut-wrenching situations (On My Honor)

But there was one more thing I really loved about middle-grade books: they had words I needed to look up. This was always a thrill for me. I was into words from a young age. When I was 11, I told my mother I wanted to be an etymologist when I grew up. (She told me, “That’s not a real job.”) Whenever I found a word I didn’t know in a book, I always looked it up, starting with the Redwall book Mattimeo where I got the word “corpse” (a dead body) confused with “copse” (a stand of trees) and really messed myself up. (How are they all hiding inside a dead corpse?) Later on I made a name for myself with young-adult fiction, so when Chris Columbus and I sold House Of Secrets to a publisher for the middle-grade market, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. You can’t use the same kind of language in middle-grade. As in, you need to be careful with words like “freaking” and “crap.” Considering all the words I got away with in Be More Chill, this was an adjustment.
  2. You can’t have people get decapitated in middle-grade. Getting killed by a falling bell (Redwall) is okay. Getting sacrificed on a stone table is okay. But the decapitation in House of Secrets got turned into a stabbing.
  3. You can still use big words. This was the part that made me most happy. House of Secrets has words in it like “Himalayan” (for “really big”) and “luminescence” (“light produced by low-temperature emission”). I can only hope that middle-graders like me will look up the words inside it.

    The himalayan “Fat Jagger”

    Ned Vizzini is the bestselling author of the acclaimed young-adult books The Other Normals, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (also a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah…. In television, he has written for ABC’s Last Resort and MTV’s Teen Wolf. His essays and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast, and Salon. He is the co-author, with Chris Columbus, of the fantasy-adventure series House of Secrets. His work has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Los Angeles.

    My Thoughts: What a ride! House of Secrets hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. My middle schoolers are going to love that! I loved that!

    In House of Secrets we meet the Walker siblings. They just move to a new house when everything goes crazy. Magic and mayhem ensue. The Walker’s find themselves separated from their parents in an unfamiliar land. I loved getting to know the siblings and seeing how they interact with each other and the new characters they meet. Actually, it reminded me a bit of the things I loved about Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Each sibling looks at the world their in and the situations they find themselves in a bit differently. 

    And boy do they find themselves in some situations! Danger, action, mystery, adventure… it’s all there. Even a tiny bit of romance! This book is sure to be a hit with readers, especially those who love getting swept up in an adventure! 

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