The Monsters of Morley Manor: A Madcap Adventure

( 11 )


About the Author

With over 15 million books in print, Bruce Coville (I WAS A SIXTH GRADE ALIEN, THE SKULL OF TRUTH, SONG OF THE WANDERER) is one of America's most popular writers of books for young readers.

Anthony and his younger sister discover that the monster figures he got in an unusual box at an estate sale are alive, but they have no way of knowing that the "monsters" will lead them on ...

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About the Author

With over 15 million books in print, Bruce Coville (I WAS A SIXTH GRADE ALIEN, THE SKULL OF TRUTH, SONG OF THE WANDERER) is one of America's most popular writers of books for young readers.

Anthony and his younger sister discover that the monster figures he got in an unusual box at an estate sale are alive, but they have no way of knowing that the "monsters" will lead them on fantastical adventures to other worlds in an effort to try to save Earth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A humorous hodgepodge of horror elements. . . . A Halloween howler."--Family Life

"This book is a real winner--children won't be able to put it down!"--Boston Herald

"Unquestionably weird, but nevertheless highly addictive."--School Library Journal

Children's Literature
This is a truly odd story. The word "madcap" hardly covers it. Owl's Roost, Nebraska is too small a town to have much to interest eleven-year-old Anthony Walker and his younger sister Sarah. But it does have a mansion with a haunted-house reputation. Morley Manor hasn't been occupied for 50 years, due to some unspeakable, mysterious event. The new owner of the manor has an estate sale where Anthony and Sarah find a small box containing five peculiar little figures¾including a humanoid with a lizard's head, a hunchback, and a woman with snakes for hair. The children buy the box and take it home. When one of the creatures accidentally gets splashed with water, he begins to move. Surprised but not terrified (yet) the kids bathe all five creatures. The other woman figure becomes a vampire and the other man a weredog, specifically, a were-cocker spaniel. Four of these five are siblings and have been put under a spell by aliens who abducted Lizard-head's twin brother. The aliens have an evil plan to take over the world, and it involves the world's dead. Now come the unbelievable coincidences. It's back to the manor in the middle of the night, where all five return to their real sizes. The children's grandfather has recently died, and they still miss him. When their parents go to a convention, their grandmother stays with them, and for reasons essential to the story, everyone ends up in the land of the dead. Does it seem providential that their grandfather, unable to let go of his life, is the only soul who cares enough to help them? Also, a character called Ivanova, an angel being punished, is trying to convince the dead to move on. Wait. It gets stranger. Anthony is able to communicatewith Ivanova, and his descriptions of the physical being, as well as his insights, are suddenly too sophisticated for an eleven-year-old boy. If you can last this long, you are fonder of the "not quite right" in children's stories than I am. For Coville's fans. 2001, Harcourt, $16.00. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer:Judy Silverman
From The Critics
Anthony and his sister Sarah lead an ordinary life in Owl's Roost, Nebraska, until they inadvertently free a family of five monsters who have been imprisoned for decades in a small chest. Demonstrating a keen sense of loyalty to their newfound friends, Anthony and Sarah assist the monsters in reclaiming their home, reconnecting their family, and eventually saving the world from a race of alien warriors. During the course of this fast-paced adventure, they travel through a mystical door to alien worlds, and other magical spots where they meet a cast of unique characters such as frog creatures, lost souls, and a beautiful angel. They even temporarily reunite with their recently deceased grandfather who helps them battle the problems of the universe. Using Anthony as the first person narrator who candidly recounts his fear, awe, and growing respect for the mysteries of the world, Coville creates a humorous and entertaining tale. Coville's descriptions of characters and settings are imaginative and engaging. Although this story is fantastic, the theme of love and support of family and friends resounds realistically throughout the entire work. The plot of this easy-read, happy-ending novel moves quickly, making it a possible favorite for young, reluctant male readers. 2001, Harcourt, 221 pp.,
— Jennifer Good
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Bruce Coville's trademark humor is very much in evidence in this full cast production of his farcical adventure story (Harcourt, 2001). Sixth grader Anthony Walker and precocious little sister, Sarah, purchase a box of miniature figurines from mysterious Morley Manor. After Anthony accidentally gets one of the figurines wet, he notices its tiny hand clenching and unclenching, an eerie indication of life. He soaks all of the figurines and discovers that he has freed the Transylvanian Morleskievich family, which includes a seductive female vampire, a Medusa-like woman, a werehuman, a hunchback, and a lizard man. A myriad of plot twists ensue, featuring a possible alien takeover of Earth, travel to different worlds, ghostly visits from a dead relative, and sorcerous acts. Coville is an extremely visual writer, and sometimes this makes for difficulties in creating entirely successful recordings because human voices can't make some of the very evocative sound effects he describes. The Morleskievich family members seem reminiscent of great old Hollywood monster movie characters, and the actors voice them accordingly, with homage to Bela Lugosi and perhaps Vincent Price. Coville himself is especially effective as Gaspar. The narrator of the story sometimes strains to convincingly portray an 11-year-old boy, but overall, the cast does an excellent job in conveying this zany tale of fantastical adventure that has an underlying theme of the importance of family. Listeners will laugh aloud at this enjoyable recording.-B. Allison Gray, South Country Library, Bellport, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Readers who prefer their monsters lizard-headed or with vampire fangs, snake-haired, hunchbacked or overmuscled, froggish or doggish, need look no further than this over-the-top tale of two human siblings helping a notably motley semi- or non-human cast stave off an alien invasion of Earth. When five small monster figurines bought at a garage sale return to life and original size after being dipped in water, they, along with Anthony and his little sister Sarah, are swept into a whirl of adventure that takes them from a conference inside the mouth of a giant alien frog to a more-than-somewhat Miltonic encounter with a fallen angel in the Land of the Dead. It seems that boulder-hewed (and scenery-chewing) barbarians from Planet Flinduvia plan to strip Earth of its ghosts, using them to reanimate enough dead warriors to conquer the galaxy. Can Anthony and Company hold the baddies off long enough to get a warning through to the powerful Coalition of Civilized Worlds? Do you doubt? Coville offers readers not only a magnificent opening line-"If Sarah hadn't put the monkey in the bathtub, we might never have had to help the monsters get big"-but an all-star cast, a creepy old mansion for an Earthly setting, magic, mad science, other worlds, and much, much, much more. (Fiction. 11-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152047054
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/1/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 363,077
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 770L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Coville

BRUCE COVILLE has more than fourteen million books in print, including the bestselling My Teacher Is an Alien and the Magic Shop books. He lives in Syracuse, New York. Visit his website at
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Read an Excerpt

Morley Manor

IF SARAH HADN'T put the monkey in the bathtub, we might never have had to help the monsters get big. But she did, so we did, which, given the way things worked out, was probably just as well for everyone on the planet-especially the dead people.

I bought the monsters at a garage sale. Actually, it was more like a whole house sale. And not just any house. It was Morley Manor, the huge old place at the end of Willow Street.

Every kid in our town knew Morley Manor. It was the weirdest house in Owl's Roost, Nebraska, so scary we didn't even trick-or-treat there. It had three towers, leaded glass windows, and a big iron fence with spikes on the top-though you couldn't see that much of the fence, because the base was overgrown with enormous weeds. Each tower had a lightning rod, which is probably the only reason the place hadn't burned down. Lightning seemed to strike there a lot. My father used to claim that Morley Manor had its own weather system; not only was it darker and gloomier than anywhere else in town, it seemed to be the focus of every thunderstorm that passed through.

I was in sixth grade the year Old Man Morley died. (I know it's not very polite to call him that, but it was the name everyone in town, including the old people, used.) He didn't leave a will, and as far as anyone knew he didn't have any relatives. So the state claimed the house and put it up for sale. Despite the fact that we all thought the place was weird, we were really upset to find out that the guy who finally bought it planned to tear the old mansion down and build a new house altogether.

"You can't blame him," said my mother, when we were discussing this in the back room of the flower shop that she and Dad own. "I can't imagine anyone wanting to live in that old monstrosity."

She adjusted a chrysanthemum, looked at it critically, then pulled it out of the vase and threw it away.

What she said about Morley Manor was true enough, I suppose. But I knew I was going to miss the house, since it was the most interesting place in town.

Of course, being the most interesting place in Owl's Roost, Nebraska, isn't all that hard.

Anyway, the weekend before the wreckers were supposed to start, my parents went to a florists convention in Los Angeles, leaving Gramma Walker to take care of me and my little sister, Sarah. Gramma had been staying with us a lot since Grampa died three months earlier, so Sarah and I were used to having her around. Gramma's pretty deaf, which can make it hard to talk to her. But we never minded when Mom and Dad left her to take care of us. Why would we, when she tended to bake cookies on a daily basis and was a lot less strict about us eating in the living room?

That same weekend the new owner of Morley Manor had a sale to get rid of all the junk inside. Sarah and I figured he was going to use the money to pay the wreckers.

The sale was on a Sunday afternoon. The demolition was supposed to start the next morning, which was Columbus Day. Since we kids had the day off from school, most of us were planning to be there to watch.

Just about everyone in town went to the sale, even though it was pouring rain. After all, it was the only chance we'd ever have to get a look inside the old place. We asked Gramma if she wanted to come with us, but she said no. She acted kind of weird about it, too. But then, she had been a little odd ever since Grampa died. I could understand. His funeral was the worst day of my life, and I knew Gramma loved him even more than I did, though that was hard to imagine. I hadn't slept very well for the first month after he died, and I had cried a lot. I still have one of his old pipes in my sock drawer. Sometimes I take it out and smell it, just to remember him better.

Anyway, with Mom and Dad out of town, and Gramma Walker deciding to "be a homebody," Sarah and I went to the sale on our own, sheltering ourselves from the pelting rain with the big black umbrella that used to belong to Grampa.

"You sure you don't want to go?" we asked again, just before we left.

Gramma shook her head. "It makes me too sad."

"Why does it make you sad?" asked Sarah. Asking questions is sort of a hobby with her. She's like a hunter-gatherer for information. When she was a baby, and I swear I'm not making this up, her first word wasn't "mommy" or "daddy" or even "no." It was "why."

She's been saying it about three thousand times a day ever since.

Gramma sighed. "I'd just rather remember the house the way it used to be."

"You've been inside Morley Manor?" I asked in astonishment. As far as we kids knew, no one except Mr. Morley had been inside the place for years.

"Oh, I used to go visit there all the time," she said. "Until-"

Her face got all puckered up, and she shook her head. "Oh, it's not something I like to talk about," she said. "Now you children run along and have a good time."

Then she shooed us out the door.

Sarah and I stood on the porch for a minute, just looking at each other.

"Do you suppose she knows what it was?" she asked at last.

By "it" she meant the horrible thing that had happened at Morley Manor fifty years ago. Every kid in town knew that something had happened there. But none of us knew what it was.

"Could be," I said. "We're going to have to work on her."

That would be mostly Sarah's job, of course. As the family's official question machine, she could be counted on to do everything possible to dig out the information.

"OOOH, THIS PLACE is spooky," said Sarah as we walked through the big iron gate at the entrance to Morley Manor. "Really spooky," she added, after we had climbed the porch and stepped inside.

I thought about shouting "boo!" just to see if I could get her to jump, but decided against it. There were too many people around.

Besides, something about Morley Manor made you feel like you ought to be quiet. It had high ceilings, dark woodwork, and doors just as creaky as you would have expected. You could see it must have been beautiful once, but you could also see why no one wanted to live in it now. It looked as if that weather system my father talked about had existed inside as well as outside. The house was damp and moldy, and peeling wallpaper hung down in long strips, leaving bare spots where dark patches of mildew had started to grow. But it wasn't just the look of the place that made it spooky; it was the feeling you got when you were inside. I can't really explain it, since I had never felt anything like it. Let's just say that it was easy to imagine secret passages with weird things lurking in them-things waiting to get you if you were stupid enough to be in there after dark.

I found a lot of stuff I wanted to buy: weird little statues, candleholders shaped like demons, a chess set with stone pieces that looked like they had been carved out of someone's nightmare. But they were all too expensive; way too expensive, given the fact that I had spent almost all my money on a new batch of trading cards a few days earlier.

Then Sarah found something I thought maybe I could afford, though it was hard to tell, since it didn't have a price tag. Herbie Fluke, one of the kids from my class, and I were studying a roped-off stairway that had a sign saying ABSOLUTELY NO ONE PAST THIS POINT and discussing what would happen if we did go past that point, when Sarah grabbed my sleeve and said, "Come here, Anthony. I want to show you something!"

I didn't go right away; I didn't want Herbie getting the idea I'll do something just because my kid sister wants me to. But after a minute I followed her to the library. (Yeah, Morley Manor was so fancy it had its own library. Only, the place smelled pretty bad, because the books had gotten all moldy, which I thought was really sad.)

"Look!" she said proudly.

Sitting on a small round table was something that looked like a wooden cigar box. Carved into its top was a strange design of interlocking circles.

"I didn't see that when I was in here before," I said.

"It was hidden behind the encyclopedia," replied Sarah, nodding toward one of the shelves. "This old guy was looking through stuff in here, and he pointed it out to me. I thought you might want it for your cards."

I snorted. "I couldn't fit all my cards in there!"

"I know that. But when you go to shows and swaps and stuff, it would be good for carrying the best ones."

She was right, but I didn't want to admit it too quickly. I lifted the box and gave it a good looking-over, checking to make sure it was solid and didn't have any rot or anything. Then I sniffed it, because I didn't want to take home something that smelled all mildewy. To my surprise, it had a kind of spicy odor.

"It's locked," I said, wrinkling my brow.

"So? You can take care of that."

Sometimes I get the impression Sarah thinks I can do anything-which is nice, but also a little nerve-racking, since I don't want to do anything that would show I can't. In this case she was probably right; I could find some way to open the box. I flipped it over again to see how much it cost.

"It doesn't have a price tag," I said disapprovingly.

Sarah rolled her eyes. "So go ask how much they want for it. It probably won't be that much. And remember, you don't have to pay what they ask for the first time. People always make deals at this kind of sale."

"I know that!" I said. (Which was true, if you considered that I knew it now that she had said it. I figured she was probably right, since she had been to enough garage sales with my mother to be an expert by now.)

I looked at the box for a minute longer. Then, mostly to put off making a decision, I suggested we go look at some other stuff. I hid the box under the desk before we left the room so no one would buy it while I was making up my mind.

Going off to look at other stuff was fine with Sarah; she loves this kind of old junk. But I couldn't stop thinking about the box, and after a few minutes I went back to examine it again.

Finally I took it to the gray-haired woman sitting at the card table in the front room. I didn't recognize her, and wondered if the new owner had brought in someone from out of town to run the sale, to make sure he didn't get cheated. Or maybe she was the new owner.

" much do you want for this dumb box?" I asked, trying to sound cool.

She took it from my hands, studied it for a moment, then said, "Five dollars."

I could feel my eyes bulge, but I tried not to make a choking sound. "How about a dollar?" I asked.

The woman laughed out loud. I could feel myself start to blush.

"Two dollars?" I asked.

"Four," she replied, without batting an eye.

Well, that was progress. Maybe Sarah was right.

"How about two-fifty?" I suggested. As I did, I realized something weird: Now that I had started to try to buy the box, I really wanted it, so much that it was almost scary.

The woman narrowed her eyes. "Three-fifty," she said in a firm voice.

And that was as low as she would go. Which was a lot better than five, but still a problem, since I only had two dollars and thirty-seven cents in my pocket. (When I realized that, I was actually relieved that she hadn't said yes to my offer of two-fifty, since I would have looked really stupid counting out the change and coming up thirteen cents short.)

I thought about going home and trying to hit up my grandmother for some money. But I was afraid someone would buy the box while I was gone, even if I hid it again.

So I went to see if I could squeeze some money out of Sarah.

I found her in one of the bedrooms, trying on old hats.

"Do you like this?" she asked when I came into the room. She was wearing something blue and fuzzy that didn't look bad on her.

"It looks stupid," I said, just like I always did when she asked if I liked something.

She made a face. "Don't be such a snot, Anthony."

She was right. I shouldn't be a snot, especially if I wanted to borrow money from her. She noticed I was carrying the box. "Did you buy it?" she asked, looking pleased.

I shook my head. "I don't have enough money. How much do you have?"

She looked nervous.

"I'll pay you back," I said, exasperated.

"You still owe me a dollar from last week."

"I've got it at home. You just never asked for it."

"I did, too!"

"Look, all I need is a dollar and thirteen cents."

She frowned. "I want to buy this hat."

The hat was a dollar-fifty. Sarah had two dollars. I felt as if I was trapped in a math problem.

"Let's see if we can make a deal," said Sarah.

The woman didn't look exactly pleased to see me, so I let Sarah do the talking. Having a cute little sister is not always a bad thing. Sarah twinkled and pleaded and pouted, and next thing I knew, the woman had sold us both the hat and the box for four dollars and thirty cents.

We argued all the way home about how much I owed Sarah.

The argument stopped when we walked through the front door and Mr. Perkins bit me.

Copyright © 2001 by Bruce Coville

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

A significantly different version of The Monsters of Morley Manor was originally serialized in 1996. The author has extensively revised and expanded the work for this first publication as a complete novel.

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Table of Contents


Morley Manor
Monkey Business
Just Add Water
The Family Morleskievich
Gaspar's Story
TheFive Little Monsters and How They Grew
A Wentar's Tale
TheStarry Door
The Mother of All Frogs
Where Is the Land of the Dead?
A Family Divided
The Original Package
Past Meets Present
Family Reunion
The Flinduvian Plan
The Collecting Jar
I Become a Flinduvian
The Haunted Body
Martin's Story
The Red Haze
Martin's Choice


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2004


    This was a really engaging book, and I liked it tons. The characters were so realistic, and Albert was one of my favorites. OK, it was kind of weird about how magic, science and aliens were all combined, but it was still interesting and very cool. I'd recommend this book to anyone. For me, the only unsatasfying part was the ending. How can Bruce Coville write such a great story, only to leave the ending in a cliffhanger!? There definately should be a sequel. Wait, let me rephrase that. There definately should be more than one sequel. All in all, though, if you find it in a library or bookstore, GET IT!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2004


    What was this author thinking? He tried WAY too hard to cram science fiction, monsters, mystery, suspense, and adventure in between two covers, which is almost utterly imposssible. I don't know what he was trying to pull off...but whatever it was, he failed, only coming out with a terrible, utterly boring, confusing, strange, weird, Harry-Potter wanna-be book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2004

    THIS IS GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I got this book from the book fair at my school. Once I read the first page I was totaly hooked to the book. This is one of my favorite books in all time. This is not like some of those books that are long a boring this is a book with a great story and plot to it.I would give this book to anybody for a good gift!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2002

    Grand Review

    I found that the beginning of the book was well developed and it drew me into the plot slowly and got me interested. I like the way that a mystery person handed Sarah the box containing the box. I could also picture the statue¿s fleshy hand moving and grasping. I loved the description of the endless hallway in the manor. It seemed like the manor was another world in itself, like a passage between worlds. I could picture the laboratory and the transformation was very vivid and I could see it in my head like I was there. The first world they went to was a scene I really loved. It seemed so different and strange, but at the same time it felt like I could step into the world. Traveling to the afterlife was another well-depicted scene and I saw a new view to the ¿waiting room¿. The ¿caretaker¿ there was described so well. Another highlight of the novel was when Grandpa and Anthony shared the same body, which brought in Grandpa¿s character into play. Those were all things that I enjoyed about the novel but I also have some negative comments on my novel. The end of the novel was disappointing it ended so abruptly. Martin wasn¿t rescued and it left me with a hunger for more. I don¿t think that Anthony controlling the body was enough to scare the flinduvians away. I wanted them to attack and wanted the hero to rebel and fight back, not physically but with a clever strategy. The short chapter following Martin¿s unexpected choice to stay behind started with ¿It¿s been a year now¿¿, and I hate to see a good novel wasted like that. Overall I found the book to have a great beginning/lead/introduction, which lead nicely into the middle/central conflict of the novel. But the ending proved to be quite dissatisfying.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2002


    I loved this book. I didn't stop reading it until it was finished. I can't wait to read something else by this author.

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