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The Phantom Tower
Keir Graff
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Get excited! Today I have a short review of The Phantom Tower by Keir Graff followed by a guest post by Keir Graff!!

Identical twins Colm and Mal are moving to Chicago for their mom’s new job. After the death of their father, moving will give them the new start they have been looking for. While it’s hard to tell Colm and Mal apart, they are totally different. Colm is more of a free spirit while Mal is more of a rule follower. The family moves into Brunhild Tower in the heart of Chicago. It’s an old building with huge apartments. It was just their luck their mom was able to find this place, and it was affordable too! While Colm and Mal are learning more about their new building, they come across a portal into a phantom tower that’s full of former residents who have died.

Colm, Mal, and their new friend Tamika find out that there is more to the phantom tower than meets the eye. First, the portal only stays open for an hour day. Second, time passes differently while in the phantom tower. While the three friends like to visit the phantom tower and return to their home, someone has other plans for them. The three friends are in a race to break an old curse before it’s too late. With a spellbinding plot and a fantastic cast, The Phantom Tower is a fabulous middle grade novel for those who love a little spook and adventure. I think young readers will love the main characters, the setting, and the page-turning plot. I would highly recommend this book to students who like a little adventure and intrigue when they read. The Phantom Tower comes out August 21st.

I want welcome Keir Graff to blog for a short guest post!

You have two twins in your story. They have different personalities. Do you relate more to one than the other one?

The answer is—absolutely, one hundred percent—Colm. Although I am not a twin (unlike my editor, Kate Meltzer, who is!), I am a younger brother. And even though Colm’s brother Mal is only 90 seconds older, and my real-life big brother is 2 years and 4 months older, I decided to write the twins with some of the same sibling dynamics I experienced while growing up.

Mal is smarter, more logical, and better at school—all true of my big brother, Sean, who was also more athletic and better at sports. (Sadly, still true.) Since I consider Colm the protagonist, and didn’t want him to be worse at EVERYTHING, I made him braver, more adventurous, and more physically sure of himself. The twins battle just as much as me and my brother did, but because they’re the same age and size, they both have equal chances to win.

Still, I remember feeling like I could just never catch up: couldn’t win a fight or a footrace, couldn’t out-argue my brainy big brother, and my grades were never as good. I poured those childhood frustrations into Colm, and I’m sure lots of kids will be able to relate, even if they’re not younger siblings. After all, we all have friends and classmates that are better than us, and that can be frustrating, too.

In the end, Colm learns that he’s smarter than he thinks he is, and in a way, his underdog self-image is exactly the kind of personality he needs to help his brother and their friend, Tamika, save the day. As an adult, I finally found myself on more equal footing with my big brother and we became very good friends—even if he can still cream me in ping-pong!

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