"Dead Voices" Book Discussion and S'mores Cupcakes Recipe
Best friends Coco, Ollie, and Brian have been given an opportunity to stay at a new ski lodge before it opens, with Coco’s mom and Ollie’s dad. It sounds like a perfect getaway for everyone, with skiing, chess, and time for reading, games, and lots of hot chocolate— until creepy things start to happen. All three kids begin having strange dreams on the way up, and one of them swears she saw a boy in a ski jacket holding his hand up in the road, warning them away. When they arrive, a powerful snow storm knocks out first the electricity, then the phone lines, and finally the generators stop working for no explicable reason. Cramped in the dining hall near the fireplace, and not far from the lobby where a collection of taxidermied animals appears to be watching them, a new visitor appears, eager for ghost hunting. He tells how the building was once an orphanage with a cruel directress, Mother Hemlock.
The three children will play a game against time and evil forces in the haunted lodge, and must use savvy strategies to outwit an even more savvy ancient adversary. is a clever, creepy middle grade novel, perfect for fans of Katherine Arden’s first book, Dead VoicesSmall Spaces, or the Goosebumps series. Its haunted location, inanimate objects coming to life, and restless ghosts make it essentially The Shining for kids with resourceful twists and an empowering ending.
Perfect for fans of
- Katherine Arden
- Goosebumps books
- Older children’s/middle school horror/suspense books
- Ghost stories
- Haunted inns/lodges
- Mind puzzles
- Chess games, especially metaphorical ones
Where were the children told to stay out of and where were they not to look?
Coco was happy the ski lift was broken because she would rather play chess with her friends. With whom did she play an actually game of chess, and How did she sort of get her wish playing a second time, in another metaphorical way?
What was the story of Gretel and Mother Hemlock?
Mr. Voland said what better to do in an old lodge than go looking for ghosts. What did Coco's mom suggest baking that would have. even better? What would you have preferred to do?
Why was Ollie curious about ghosts and what was the connection to her watch?
What were some of the messages and warnings Ollie's watch gave?
What frightening things kept happening with the stuffed bear, coyotes, and even the eagle in the lobby?
In the last book, Ollie, with the help of her mother, in a way, beat the Smiling Man. This time, who had the victory? Do you think he'll be back in another book, and if so, whose turn do you think it will be to defeat him?
Olivia's mom told her that when she was scared, she was thinking if the future, of what might happen. And instead, she told her to focus on when? How did focusing on breathing help her?
What were the consequences if Coco lost the chest game? What if she won?
Who was Gabe Bouvier? Was he trustworthy? Why or why not?
What is a feint in chess? How did Coco use that move in a real situation by crying? How was her crying real?
Rather than risk Seth smothering the lamp, what risky thing did Brian do to keep the fire going? What thoughts or feelings do you think prompted him to do such an extremely dangerous thing?
How did the smiling man react at the end of everything? Why do you think he did that?
When Ollie's dad brought back the news about staying in a winter ski lodge, Ollie and Coco were drinking mugs of hot chocolate. They also drank it often at the lodge to try to get warm.
When they all had to stay in the dining room near the fireplace to keep warm, Ollie's dad brought them "a huge plate piled high with Graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows" to make s'mores.
For this reason, I decided to make:
Chocolate S’Mores Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting, topped with Graham crackers and mini marshmallows
Chocolate S’Mores Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting
For the cupcakes:
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) hot, strong coffee
- 14 large marshmallows
- 1/4 cup crushed graham crackers, some reserved for later
For the frosting:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 tbsp milk or heavy cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp Lorann oil marshmallow flavoring
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 26-38 mini marshmallows for topping, (optional)
Essential Ingredient I used to make the Frosting taste like Marshmallow
- Preheat your oven to 325° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed, use the paddle attachment to combine the granulated sugar and oil for one minute. While those are mixing, in another smaller bowl stir together flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.
- To the oil/sugar mixture, add the sour cream and vanilla extract, and mix for one minute. When those are combined, drop the speed of the mixer to the lowest speed and add one half of the flour mixture. Allow to combine, then add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix just until the yolks disappear. It should look dark and thick. Stop the mixer and pour in all of the hot coffee, very slowly. Scrape down the insides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Turn the mixer back on to medium-low speed, and mix for about 2-3 minutes, until the batter is suddenly glossy with few lumps, and the coffee/cocoa smell is strong.
- Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Fill each cupcake liner about two-thirds full with batter, then place a large marshmallow in the center of each cupcake. Top with about half the graham cracker crumbs (to make crumbs, place graham crackers in a zip top bag and smash or roll out the crackers—this part is lots of fun for kids!). Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick in the chocolate cupcake part (not the marshmallow part) comes out dry or with crumbs, not raw batter. Allow the individual cupcakes to cool completely (minimum of ten minutes, preferably fifteen) on a wire rack or cutting board before frosting them.
- For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip one stick of softened butter on medium-high speed for one minute. Then drop the speed to low and add one cup of powdered sugar, followed by half of the milk or cream, and the vanilla extract and marshmallow flavoring oil. Slowly add the remaining powdered sugar, followed by the rest of the milk, still on low speed. When there is no loose powder left, increase the speed to medium-high for one minute, until frosting looks thick and whipped. Frost onto cooled, filled cupcakes. I used an XL round tip for piping. Top with the rest of the graham cracker crumbs, and 2-3 mini marshmallows per cupcake (or as many as you’d like). Makes 14 frosted cupcakes.
Chocolate S’Mores Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting
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The prequel to this book is Small Spaces, about the same trio first battling the Smiling Man in a corn field filled with terrifying scarecrows who come to life and take human souls to join them forever in an undead, unliving state. Other books by Katherine Arden include the bestselling The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower, and The Winter of the Witch.
Books mentioned within this one are the book Brian was reading, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis and A Christmas Carol and its ghost, Jacob Marley, as well as the Harry Potter series.
Other spooky books about kids and ghosts are City of Ghosts by V. E. Schwab or Shadow School #1: Archimancy, or one about a haunted house, Wolfhowl Mountain by Dian Cronan, or a book about a boy who must tell scary stories to stay alive, Nightbooks by J. A. White.
A haunted hotel also exists in Stephen King's famous terrifying thriller for adults, The Shining, which also has inanimate objects coming to life and the ghosts of trapped children, among others, beckoning its visitors to stay forever trapped.
"She'll never let us leave again. Just like the others. You'll sleep here forever."
"Good little girls don't try to leave. They stay here with Mother. Only bad little girls try to escape."
"We need to stick together...we'll stick together and we'll be fine."
"Silence lay thick in that lodge. But it wasn't an empty silence. It felt heavy now. Aware. Like someone was watching them, just around the corner."
"Perhaps only to frighten us. Weaken us. Ghosts like it when you're afraid. It means you acknowledge them."
"When you're scared, it means you're thinking of the future. You're thinking of what might happen. If you're doing something risky, you can't think of the future. You must only think of now. And if you only think of now, then you won't be scared. Breathe. Breathing is what you're doing right now. So breathe. Think of that and nothing else."
"What's a face? Just another kind of deception."
"In chess, there was a move called a feint. The opposing player makes an aggressive move on one part of the board, to draw your attention. The thing about a feint is it's just a trick. A ploy. A way to mask a much more subtle, simple, and straightforward attack somewhere else."
“More than one thing can open a door between worlds, or hold one open.”
© 2019 Amanda Leitch