As the night’s draw in and the weather turns chillier, my thoughts always turn to snuggling up under a blanket with a good book. Halloween is a great time to find a new favourite read – whether magical or spooky so I’m bringing you some of the newest choices around.
‘Mirabelle Gets Up to Mischief,’ by Harriet Muncaster (OUP)
Mirabelle is half-fairy, half-witch and all mischief. Fans of Muncaster’s Isadora Moon series may already recognise Mirabelle as being Isadora’s cousin.
It’s almost time for the fairy Midsummer Ball, and although Mirabelle is forbidden from taking her wand and cauldron to a fairy event, she just can’t help herself. Surely taking just a tiny bit of witchy magic won’t do any harm….
A great first chapter book for newly confident readers who sometimes find themselves pulled in two directions. 5+
‘Leo’s Map of Monsters: The Armoured Goretusk,’ by Kris Humphrey, illustrated by Pete Williamson (OUP)
Unlike most of the children in his village, Leo isn’t afraid of opening his ninth birthday letter which will tell him what assignment he’ll be working on for the next two years. He’s hoping for a nice, quiet indoors-type job. What he gets, is an entirely different matter…
A ‘top secret’ assignment, a visit from the village chief and a trip beyond the wall built to protect his village from the monsters who lurk in the woods beyond is not exactly what he’d expected. He is to become the Guardian’s apprentice and helped protect his village, armed only with a slingshot, magical stones and a strange map. 6+
‘A Super Weird Mystery: Attack of the Haunted Lunchbox,’ by Jim Smith (Egmont)
Book Loves this spooky, silly series from the creator of Barry Loser. It’s packed full of cartoon-style illustrations which makes them all the more fun to read.
Rhubarb is the editor of the school newspaper and love a good mystery. She has to find a good story if The Daily Donut is going to win the Newshound Award for being the best newspaper on Donut Island but they’re proving difficult to sniff out.
Luckily for Rhubarb, there’s more hiding in her dad’s old lunchbox than the chocolate bar she’s packed for her mid-morning snack. The last thing she and the gang are expecting to see is the ghost of Rubes’ father floating out of the box! Cue a mystery just begging to be investigated and win The Daily Donut that prize! 7+
‘Super Happy Magic Forest and the Portals of Panic,’ by Matty Long (OUP)
I am such a huge fan of these brilliantly anarchic and hugely funny first chapter books. In this instalment, the magnificent five are off on an epic quest to Wizard City to save the Super Happy Magic Forest once again.
A mysterious portal has appeared and a hungry monster has eaten Gandalf’s breakfast waffles – this is surely the darkest of dark magic. And with more portals opening up across the land, someone needs to find out what’s going on. 7+
‘The Monster in the Lake,’ by Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu (Nosy Crow)
Kit is the youngest wizard in the WORLD and she’s back in a second adventure!
After preventing an evil businessman from waking the dragon beneath their local library (and therefore saving the library), something’s gone awry with Kit’s magic. All her attempts at magic keep going wrong and some very strange things have started happening – talking animals, rogue fireballs and the like!
I love this series full of magic, friendship and lots of brilliant illustrations. 8+
‘A Most Peculiar Toy Factory,’ by Alex Bell, illustrated by Nan Lawson (Barrington Stoke)
In the town of Cherryville, there was a toy factory. A toy factory which the local children used to love peering in at through the gates but which they now ran past. They had done ever since something terrible happened there five years ago…
When Tess Pipps and her siblings get jobs at the reopening Hoggle’s Happy Toys, they try their best to ignore the rumours of teddies on the rampage and whispering dolls. But soon the evidence is insurmountable. There’s something very odd indeed going on in that place.
Full of deliciously dark humour and hints of Dhal – a creepy, zippy read, not for the faint-hearted! 8+
‘The Thing at Black Hole Lake,’ by Dashe Roberts, cover by Bill Bragg (Nosy Crow)
Hooray! We’re heading back to Sticky Pines – the weird and wonderful town where strange things happen all the time! Following the seismic impact of The Bigwoof Conspiracy, super sleuth Lucy and her ex-friend Milo are no longer on speaking terms.
When Milo makes a frankly monstrous discovery in Black Hole Lake, they’re both catapulted into the path of terrible danger.
Love these books – they’re full of x-files/ Scooby Doo-esque mysteries, hilarious catchphrases and incredible beasts! 8+
‘Victoria Stitch Bad and Glittering,’ by Harriet Muncaster (OUP)
Victoria Stitch and Celestine are twins, but as opposite as opposite can be. When they’re denied their royal birthright, Celestine accepts it with good grace whereas Victoria Stitch becomes consumed with the need for power.
Celestine dreams of become an apprentice jewellery maker whilst her twin tries to plot and scheme her way to power. But at what cost? How can the sister possibly remain friends and allies whilst they’re on two such separate paths?
What follows is a gripping tale of magic, power and re-writing your history. 8+
‘A Most Improper Magick,’ by Stephanie Burgis, cover by Hannah Peck (Piccadilly Press)
It is not considered proper for a young lady of twelve to attempt to run away to London to save her family from financial ruin. Nor is it considered proper to to display a talent for witchcraft.
Kat Stephenson should be at home practising her embroidery but instead she’s trying to learn to control the magical powers she seems to have inherited from her late mother – a notorious witch. But with her eldest sister’s intended fiancé sniffing around and her other sister wreaking havoc with her love spells, Kat’s heroism is going to be sorely tested.
The first in a great new series which reminded me a lot of Pride and Prejudice – if everyone were able to do magic. A spellbinding read for those aged 9+
‘The House of Hidden Wonders,’ by Sharon Gosling, illustrated by Hannah Peck (Little Tiger Group)
Set in the gloomy tunnels beneath the streets of Victorian Edinburgh where Zinnie and her sisters live, this is a tale of ghosts, intrigue and adventure.
When a ghostly figure is spotted in the tunnel, lots of unwanted visitors descend including the rather suspicious owner of new museum: ‘The House of Wonders.’ Zinnie sets about investigating the secrets of this house and quickly finds herself in danger. Can she uncover the real story of the ghost before the forces acting against her prove too strong?
A gripping, atmospheric read with a heroine to aspire to. 9+
‘Zombierella,’ by Joseph Coehlo, illustrated by Freya Hartas (Walker Books)
As the moon hangs in the sky, Cinderella slips on warm squelchy treat left by one of her fake sister’s dogs at the top of a flight of stairs and meets an untimely end. But not for long. She is visited by the Fairy of Death who breathes life back into her for just long enough to enable the newly formed Zombierella to seek out her fake sisters and have her terrible revenge.
Wildly imaginative, creepy and downright disgusting! This ghoulish reimagining of Cinderella (told in poetic form) will capture the imaginations of readers living or undead. 8+
This is the first in a three-part series of tangled and twisted fairy tales as you’ve never seen them before. Book two of the Fairytales Gone Bad series, Frankenstiltskin, is coming in 2021!
‘Malice in Underland,’ by Jenni Jennings, illustrated by Hannah Peck (Scholastic)
Malice Malign has never felt like she fits in with her family – they love nothing better than causing mischief for Topsiders. It’s a VERY serious responsibility as Undersiders to maintain a certainly level of disreputability amongst those who live Topside. There’s chaos to cause and mayhem to make, but Malice’s heart just isn’t in it. She likes books and school and making friends – three things that her family are vehemently against!
When grandad ghosts start disappearing from the Underside (including her very own Grandad and kindred spirit), Malice knows that she needs to team up with her outcast Uncle Vexatious to solve the mystery.
I loved Malice as a character – torn between pleasing her family and causing her own much merrier brand of mischief, she has to believe in herself and her special talent (moth whispering, if you’re interested) if she’s to save the day. A deliciously gothic new world for readers aged 9+ to enjoy.
‘The Wizard in my Shed,’ by Simon Farnaby, illustrated by Claire Powell (Hodder Children’s Books)
After an excruciatingly embarrassing performance in her school’s talent show, and out of a desire to help her family, Rose decides to cut her losses and head to London. However, before she even gets as far as the next town, she bumps into Merdyn the Wild – a very confused Warlock who had been banished from him village during the Dark Ages.
A quick assessment of the situations leads Rose to believe that the help of a wizard could be just what her family needs. She agrees to help Merdyn navigate the modern world in exchange for a spell to fix her family. There’s just the small matter of hiding him the garden shed without Mum noticing. Or trying to avoid epic wizard battles in the back garden.
A really funny, magical read for anyone aged 9+
‘The Beast and the Bethany,’ by Jack Meggitt-Phillips, illustrated by Isabelle Follath (Egmont)
I have heard nothing but brilliant things about this book so was looking forward to taking my life in my hands and diving in!
Ebenezer Tweezer was approaching his 512th birthday but you wouldn’t think it from his rather handsome outer appearance. But looks can be deceiving Ebenezer was a very bad man. The type of man who kept a monster in his attic. A monster who vomits out gifts in return for being fed. A monster who fancies a child-sized meal…
After much pondering, Ebenezer visits the local orphanage where he meets Bethany. She seems just horrid enough for him not to feel too guilty about feeding her to the monster. But neither Bethany nor the monster are going to make doing that easy…
Dark, funny and unlike anything I’ve ever read before! 9+
‘Mason Mooney Paranormal Investigator,’ by Seaerra Miller (Flying Eye Books)
Book Boy is currently obsessed by this dark, spooky and hilarious graphic novel adventure featuring Mason Mooney (who happens to think he’s the world’s greatest paranormal investigator!)
It’s Mason’s mission to beat the local Paranormal Society in solving all the local mysteries, but he’s a bit of a mystery himself – it’s not every day you meet a boy who carries his heart in a jar! When he receives a request for help at the local haunted house, Tanglewood Mansion, he sets straight off to start investigating. But with an evil curse looming over him and some very strange inhabitants, is Mason a little out of his depth?
Phew! What a round up! Whether you like your books magical, mysterious or downright creepy, there’s something here for everyone to enjoy this Halloween.
*Many thanks to the publishers who sent me these titles to review*