Author You Should Know: Jonathan Stroud

Amulet StroudJonathan Stroud is one of those frequently found ‘under the radar’ authors. In his case, I think it is mostly a case that while his books are highly popular in UK, where he’s from, they’ve never caught on as much in the states. Although he has written a handful of standalone titles, his Bartimaeus series (The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, Ptolemy’s Gate, and the prequel (written last) The Ring of Solomon) is what brought him to the attention of the states.

This first series is a fantasy with the best sense of humor. Told primarily from the point of view of Bartimaeus, a snarky, long lived djinni (before jinn were cool!), the series about the adventures and misadventures of a group of humans in an alternate universe England. One of the things that makes it unique is the use of footnotes whenever from Bartimaeus’ POV, with his comments on history and humans in general. Not only does it subtly teach everyone how footnotes work, but they are universally hilarious! They would appeal to a wide variety of tweens and teens. Although the covers might not be the most appealing (it does appear they’ve gotten an upgrade), they’re a fairly easy sell when it gets down to it. What teens and tweens don’t like snarky characters? Plus, Bartimaeus, in many ways, plays the part of the teen to the actual teenager in the book. He second guesses everything, rebels, grumbles and works his way around many of the instructions that, through magic, he’s supposed to follow. The prequel, Ring of Solomon, is all about Bartimaeus and his time working with the Egyptians during the building the pyramids and such, which is alluded to multiple times during the trilogy.

Screaming Staircase StroudHis new, in progress series, Lockwood & Co., retrains the same sense of humor but has a much spookier concept, great for teens who want a thrill, especially with an action bent, without being honestly scared. Just the occasional goosebumps. The two books currently out are: The Screaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull. There’s no news yet on the third but the last two came out in mid-September of the previous two years. In this series, set in yet another alternate England, there was, at some point, a moment were ghosts became real and deadly. People can only see ghosts until their mid to late teens and everyone can see them differently and some not at all or just in the vaguest sense. Therefore, the protection of all people have fallen to kids, but the adults are still in charge, running companies that send these kids out into danger, sometimes with not enough training or supplies.

Teenager Anthony Lockwood runs his own small company, of him and George Cubbins. At the start of the first book, Lucy, our POV character, becomes the third member of their company. Through a series of misadventures and screw-ups that only barely turn out okay, they’re not exactly the finest company out there, but it becomes slowly apparent there is something more to this group and their abilities, although even they aren’t fully aware of it. All three main characters have a very devil-may-care approach to life, but also know a thing or two. Either way, Stroud’s created a very thorough and well fleshed out world. It was one of my most anticipated ARCs last year at BEA.

Neither book should be hard to sell to the right teen, although sometimes one or more of his books might be found in a children’s section of the library. In my library, for example, the Bartimaeus trilogy is in our YA section, but Lockwood and Co. is in children’s. We libraries are funny places like that. Either way, I’ve found the sense of humor to be a big draw and, with Lockwood & Co, the spookiness. He’s not winning awards, at least not in the states, but he spins a darn good yarn!

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