Eight Keys

Eight Keys

by Suzanne LaFleur


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Elise and Franklin have always been best friends. Elise has always lived in the big house with her loving Uncle and Aunt, because Elise's parents died when she was too young to remember them.  There's always been a barn behind the house with eight locked doors on the second floor.
When Elise and Franklin start middle school, things feel all wrong. Bullying. Not fitting in. Franklin suddenly seems babyish.  Then, soon after her 12th birthday, Elise receives a mysterious key left for her by her father. A key that unlocks one of the eight doors upstairs in the bar . . .


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375872136
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 07/24/2012
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 77,162
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

SUZANNE LAFLEUR received her MFA in writing for children from The New School. This is her second novel.

Read an Excerpt


Why My Life Really Stinks

The trouble all started right before the first day of sixth grade, the last time Franklin and I played Knights.

Knights works like this: we get our swords, we head out to the woods, and we go on chivalrous missions to battle ghost knights.

Uncle Hugh made our wooden swords when we were six, which is when we came up with the game. Franklin’s mom wasn’t happy about him making us weapons, but Uncle Hugh assured her that the worst that could happen was we would get splinters—and that’s only happened a couple times.

We never really battle each other.

Or at least, we never had before.

Franklin met me in the woods with his purple bicycle helmet on. Some days he wears his helmet when we play. It’s weird, but I don’t say anything about it. It’s not like it matters, anyway.

Franklin almost always begins the game. He did that day, too.

“Kneel before me,” he announced in his deepest voice. I knelt and bowed my head. “Your quest shall be to find the missing cast of King Alberto.”

“I think it’s a cask,” I interrupted in a regular voice, looking up. “With a k.”

“I’m not sure,” Franklin admitted, also in his regular voice. Then he whispered, as if it were a secret from the game, “What is that, anyway?”

“I don’t know.”

Franklin shrugged, put his serious face back on, and continued in his deep voice. “You are to find the missing cask‑t of King Alberto. Rise, Sir Knight, and go forth upon your quest.”

He tapped my shoulders lightly with his sword. I stood and knocked his sword with mine, which was his signal to go forth upon the same quest.

We took off, slowly at first, until Franklin yelled, “Ghost knight, behind you!” I stopped to battle the phantom who aimed to ruin our quest. Franklin let out another scream and ran past me to battle a few more ghosts.

My ghost killed by decapitation, I paused for a minute to watch Franklin. He looked funny, swinging his sword and yelling at things that weren’t really there. I had never thought about what we looked like playing. Was it a silly thing to do, really?

An abandoned cardboard box lay close by.

I summoned my deepest voice.

“Halt, human!” I yelled. “Halt!”

Franklin stopped, breathing hard. “Yes . . . Good Knight?”

“Good Lady,” I corrected in my deep voice.

“Huh?” he asked, in his regular voice.

“I am a lady knight,” I said.

“There are no lady knights,” he said.

“Of course there are. I am a lady ghost knight, possessing the body of the knight you thought you knew. And I have found your sacred casket, and it belongs to me.” I set my foot on the cardboard box like an explorer stepping off his ship onto new land. “You have no choice but to fight me.”

Franklin thought for only a second before falling back into the game.

“You shall never have our sacred casket, demon! And I shall free my fellow knight from your possession!”

He dove at me, sword outstretched, and I met his sword with my own. There was no neat clash of metal, just a dull thunk of wood smacking wood. We both hit hard. After a few strong hits, which sent Franklin darting backward, I turned and ran, scooping up the cardboard box—the cast or cask or casket or whatever-it-was now—looking back to swipe at Franklin every few feet. He was putting up a good fight. This was definitely one of the best games of Knights we had ever played.

But when you’re playing Knights in the woods, you have to be careful of these things all at once: where you swing your sword, that you don’t drop your treasure, and that you look where you’re going.

It’s not hard to guess which one I forgot.

We came to a stretch of the woods where the path ran above a steep hill. I twisted to take another hit at Franklin, but my front foot slipped, and I fell.

After the world had stopped tumbling, I heard “Elise, Elise, Elise, Elise!”—Franklin hurrying after me through all the rocks and leaves and vines and shrubs and prickers that lined the hill.

“Next time,” Franklin panted, when he’d caught up with me where I was lying curled up in a ball, “you should wear kneepads. Kneepads and shin guards.”

The front of my legs, from my knees to my ankles, ended up covered in bloody streaks. Aunt Bessie made me sit for her to clean all the cuts, but they dried in yucky scabs all over me for my first day at my new middle school. Aunt Bessie and Uncle Hugh both vetoed the long jeans I was wearing to hide my wounds.

“It’s too darn hot for that sort of silliness! You’ll pass out!” declared Uncle Hugh.

“The material will rub against those cuts and open them right up,” insisted Aunt Bessie.

I sat on the edge of the bathtub in my shorts with a box of Band-Aids—plain ones, thank goodness—and stuck them all over my legs. When I had a crisscross of at least twenty peach bandages over my tan legs, I realized that trying to hide the scabs was even worse that just letting them show. I rested my head on my knees and then let out a huge “Grrr!” of frustration.

“Elise! The bus will be coming.” Aunt Bessie peeked around the door. “Do you want us to walk you?”

“No,” I said. As I walked out the front door, some of the Band-Aids drooped off my legs, not sticking on one side. I grabbed one to yank it off, but the other side was tightly glued to the hairs on my leg. “Ow!” I yelled as it ripped off. I added “Bye!” before leaving Uncle Hugh and Aunt Bessie standing on the porch, looking kind of worried.

When I made it to the bus stop, the usual kids from our grade were there: Franklin plus Sam, Ben, Stewart, and -Diana. I had never really gotten to know the other boys, and what I knew about Diana was that she wore funny cat sweaters. Because it was hot, she was in a cat T‑shirt. Pink, with a black-and-white cat patched on in other materials.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hi,” I answered.

“I went to camp all summer and there was no electricity and no real toilets.”

“Sounds awesome,” I said, not sure if that was awesome. Talking with Diana always made me feel uncomfortable. She was so weird.

The older kids who had gone off to middle school before us were clumped together a few yards away, talking and laughing and ignoring us. No parents had come to the bus stop.

Once we got on the bus, it was totally like usual—just me and Franklin on our own, in our own seat, having our own conversation. That was how the whole school day always used to go. We didn’t really need to get to know the other kids because we had each other.

Franklin, of course, didn’t comment on my yucky legs. It was like he couldn’t see them, even though I couldn’t help but stare at them the whole time, thinking about how messed up they looked. He was suddenly Mr. School Facts, telling me all these things about what can go wrong at middle school. You could be placed in the wrong math class, be picked on by eighth graders, fail to conjugate verbs properly in language class (whatever that means). . . . Then he moved on to all these worries about our middle school, which has three different elementary schools feeding into it. There would be hundreds of kids there we didn’t know. And then he actually calculated how many that would be by taking the average number of kids per grade in our area’s elementary schools and multiplying that by the number of grades in the middle school and multiplying that by the number of feeder schools (minus ours, of course) and by the time he had gotten to the answer I was definitely Not Listening.

It didn’t matter how many new kids there were at school. It took only one to ruin my life.

When I sat down in homeroom, my backpack scraped against my legs.

“Crap,” I muttered, running my hand over my skin, getting blood on my fingers. I hoped no one had noticed and quickly wiped my hand on my shorts. The girl next to me made a disgusted face, rolled her eyes, and shifted away from me.

The teacher handed out sheets of paper with locker -assignments. There are so many middle schoolers at our school that sixth graders have to have partners—which is, apparently, totally okay according to the teachers, because sixth graders’ textbooks aren’t as thick as seventh and eighth graders’ books. So while I can look forward to one day having my own locker, I also get to look forward to having really humongous books and backaches from carrying them around.

The locker assignments seemed to be alphabetical, because across from my name, Elise Bertrand, was Amanda Betterman.

We were given twenty minutes to set up our lockers. In the hall, I followed the numbers until I found 2716, and who should show up at the same time but the girl who’d sat next to me in homeroom. I recognized her long, streaky brown hair, held off her forehead by two clips, and her tiny white skirt.

“Oh, gag. I have to share with the Bloody Queen of Scabs.” Several kids standing around her looked at my legs and laughed. Then Amanda said to me, very seriously, “Please don’t get blood on my things. I don’t want to get any weird diseases.”

“I don’t have any weird diseases.”

To make everything one hundred times better (not), who should show up but Sir Franklin, needing to stick up for me. “It’s no big deal, she just got hurt playing Knights.”

Which was not the right thing to say. At all.

“What’s Knights?”

“It’s a pretend game.”

Amanda smirked. “Playing pretend. That sounds really cool.”

But the way she said it meant the opposite: so not cool.

The other kids started laughing at me and Franklin. Kids we didn’t know but also a couple kids we’d known since kindergarten.

Apparently cool sixth graders don’t play. They definitely don’t play Knights. They have streaky hair and short skirts.

But there I was on the first day of school with scabby knees like a kindergartener, and my best friend got me pegged as a baby.


One Last Visit to Summer

The first day of school is always a Thursday or Friday. I like it because we get a little snatch of summer back over the weekend. This year’s Friday start meant I woke up on Saturday completely relieved to have two days off from school. I was in no hurry to go back there.

And it was like having summer back. I lay in bed until my door creaked open.

“Hi, Franklin,” I said.

The clock said it was nine, but it was still very dark in my room. Having a first-floor bedroom with the porch outside means that sunshine never bothers me in the morning.

“Hi.” Franklin came in and sat on my bed. “What do you want to do today?”

I thought for a minute, and Franklin let me think. He would never interrupt when I am thinking.

“I want to figure out the best things we did all summer, and then do them again.”

“Okay. Here, I’ll make a list.” He got a yellow notepad and pencil from my desk and sat back down on my bed. “I really liked the day we found frogs at the stream. We could do that again.”



“No Knights.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not better from the last time we played Knights,” I said, feeling the smooth sheets against my rough, scabby legs. And I wasn’t better from getting made fun of. This was the weekend; I wanted to push school way out of my mind, to forget that yesterday had ever happened.

“What else, then?” He tapped the pencil’s eraser on the paper.

“I liked helping Uncle Hugh finish the furniture.” Uncle Hugh is a craftsman. He makes things out of wood, like rocking chairs and tables and cabinets.

Franklin added it to the list.

“And I liked when Aunt Bessie let us make ice cream.”

“Lactose-free?” Franklin asked.

“Of course,” I said. A glimmer of excitement lit Franklin’s eyes. His mom limits his sugar at home, but we always have plenty for him at my house. Franklin can’t have any real dairy products because of his allergies, but Aunt Bessie’s pretty much a genius about getting around that. She really can make anything. She does catering out of our house, so we have a special up-to-code kitchen with stainless steel counter-tops and lots of fancy appliances.

“I liked looking at the slides on my microscope.” Franklin finished writing everything. “That’s probably enough for today . . . what do you want to do first?”

“Let me see if we can do the stuff with Uncle Hugh and Aunt Bessie today at all.” Aunt Bessie and I cook together on Saturdays if she doesn’t have a catering job, but if she did she’d be busy all day.

I climbed out of bed and decided that the tank top I’d slept in would do for the day, too, so I found my shorts on the floor and pulled them on. I didn’t mind getting dressed with Franklin around, especially since he was always certain to fix his eyes on a point on the wall and stare straight ahead. Which is sort of silly, because I know he still wears cartoon underwear. How can you be embarrassed around someone who knows about your cartoon underwear?

I picked a T‑shirt up off the floor and threw it at Franklin’s head to signal him that I was done and it was safe to move his eyes around the room again.

“All ready?” he asked.

“Yup.” I slid into some flip-flops as I headed to find Aunt Bessie.

Aunt Bessie was in her chef’s clothes, which are black even though chef’s clothes are usually white. She and I agree that black looks nicer, cleaner, and more slimming for her plump figure than white. She used to be a redhead; now that she’s in her fifties, her hair is dull orange and pepper gray, but she still wears it pulled back in the same long, thick braid. She was carrying trays to load into her catering van.

“When will you be back?” I asked.

“This afternoon.”

“Can we make end-of-the-summer ice cream?”

“I’ll set aside some fresh strawberries for it. Does that sound good?”

“Yum! I mean, yes!”

Aunt Bessie went to set the trays on the racks in the van. That’s a job that Franklin and I are not allowed to help with. She doesn’t consider us strong or steady enough. It would never be worth the time it might save in the event that a tray was dropped.

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Eight Keys 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 157 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is amazing i am usually not a reader but when i read this book it took me in to a whole new different world. This book makes you want to make a movie in your head! This is a fantastic book and i willrecommed this book to anyone who is ready for mysteries and friendship:)
culeur_Myworld More than 1 year ago
An insightful, delightful book about coping with those awful 'tween' years. Suzanne LaFleur made me fall in love with the characters, and personalities in this book. From begining to end, it was a great read for young and old. I can't wait to share this, and will look forward to the next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and will read it again. The characters have strong personalties that make the book have a great moral. GET IT!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur is a great book about a girl named Elise and her best friends Franklin and Caroline. Elise is confused about life and has a hard time in school with teachers and a bully, Amanda. Elise's parents are both gone-- her mother died at birth and her father was taken by cancer-- so she has her aunt and uncle as her guardian. One day she finds a key with her name on it, and wonders if it goes to one of the locked doors in the barn. Elise has a wonderful time learning about friendship and love as she unlocks the biggest mystery of all--herself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was really great. It was a real easy read for any one that likes a little bit of every thing mixed in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought it was depresing at first then it got interesting i could not put it down i tecomend this book to anyone
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i first started reading this i never thought it would be any were close to as good as love aubrey was but i think it is just as good and is now one of my favorite books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best story, and my younger sister didnt get confused! Read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can learn so much from this book. I would read it again. It really teaches you a life lesson about bulling and growing up in life. Well i cant give anything away so i hope you get it!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book so much! It is great for people 9-12. Read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want a second book it was so good if your looking for a book for a frend i wold so recemend this book. I never wanted to put this book down. If i could pick the next movie based on a book i would pick this book. Defently one of the top five capter books i have read. I got this book as a birth day presents i have ever got. This book is a desent sized book if you hate books on love this book is a good book for you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really good book. I am glad read this book.. I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very interesting! I thought it was amazing! One of the best books ive ever read. Could not stop reading
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book in the book store and i loved it so much!!! Its cool because people can relate to it in there everyday lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book plz read it was filled with such emotion I loved if u get it you will to
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much!!!! It was so amazing! I almost started crying at moments because there was so many strong emotions: anger,abandonment ( if that's an emotion ) ,sadness,and etc. I could really relate to the main character too! So please buy this book because i read it in 1 day!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'd say this book is pretty good, but it's SOOOO rushed! But it is good for maybe 4th or 5th graders to 7th graders. If it is for a book club or guided reading, it would be a good choice. Overall, it is a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eight keys was a really good book I would read it again and i absolutely recommend it to anyone
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love how eilse seems like a great girl and i would love to her as a sister any day
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book is so GOOD!!!!!!!!!!! you need to read this book you dont know what is going to happen. I dont really like to read but the first few pages just wanted me to keep reading.I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!"<3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book with compelling characters. I wound recomend this book to anyone who wants a quick read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the book so much
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a book i read for a book club and it was better than i thought! But you should read it because im not your contense
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everyone has diffrent opinions but mine is that this is the best book in the world by suzanne lafluer. She is an awesome righter and when ever she wrights a book, it always grabbes my attention amd makes me want to read more. I give it a ten star
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elise must unlock her past so she knows what she comes from before she decides who she wants to be. Elise is an orphan who lives with her aunt and uncle because her father died of cancer and her mother died when she was born. Her aunt and uncle have a barn that has eight locked doors and she wants to find the keys so that she can see whats on the other side of those doors. Her uncle starts leaving her jeys where he knows she will find them. As her uncle leaves more and more keys Elise learns more and more about her father.