Happy Halloween

It’s that time of year when some of our thoughts may turn to the spooky or the magical. This blog features some of the latest titles I’ve been sent which reflect these themes. Take a look but don’t get scared…!

Board Books

‘Five Spooky Friends,’ by Danielle McLean, illustrated by Rosalind Maroney (Little Tiger Press)

Count to five with these Halloween friends. 

Slide the sliders and flip the flaps to bring the spooky friends to life. Perfect for little ones learning to count. 

I love the slider element in each spread to encourage interaction with the text and to develop fine motor skills.

‘Halloween,’ by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Fhiona Galloway (Little Tiger Press)

Discover a world of ghosts and ghouls in this playful Halloween counting book! With bright artwork, lots of finger-holes, and a fun rhyming story, learning is brought to life.

The peep-through windows and bold illustrations are sure to make this a hit!

Picture Books

‘The Witchling’s Wish,’ by Lu Fraser, illustrated by Sarah Massini (Bloomsbury)

The Little Witchling lives alone in her mountain top and more than anything else, she wishes for a friend. So, when her spell-book tells her that the secret ingredient is the fur from a little girl’s favourite teddy, she knows what she must do.

But the teddy belongs to Lily, who can’t bear to part with him. Will the Little Witchling give up her dream of a real friend? Or just maybe, is there a way for her and Lily to make the wish come true, together?

I was so excited when I saw this title was about to be released. I absolutely love Lu’s writing, and Sarah’s illustrations are so gorgeous and dreamy. This story has such a beautiful message about what it means to be a good friend, and such bouncy rhyming text that it’s bound to be one which will be re-read and re-read at bedtime.

‘Marney’s Pumpkin Mix-Up,’ by Jane Rushmore, illustrated by Sally Darby. (Owlet Press)

As Marney starts to find food for the coming winter, he spots the most enormous pumpkin in a bush on the far side of the park. Not wanting to waste any time gathering nuts with the other squirrels, or listening to warnings from Riley the hedgehog, Marney’s plan for a pumpkin-seed-feast soon falls apart when the stripy orange pumpkin isn’t exactly what it appears to be.

I think we could all learn something from the adventures of Marney. This time he learns the hard way that sometimes it’s best to listen to your friends rather than plow ahead with your plan regardless. Told with such wit and good humour that little ones will want to hear about Marney’s misfortune time and time again.

‘The Good, the Bad, and the Spooky,’ by Jory John and Pete Oswald (Harper Collins)

Halloween is the Bad Seed’s favorite holiday of the year. But what’s a seed to do when he can’t find a show-stopping costume for the big night? Postpone trick-or-treating for everyone, of course!

Can he get a costume together in time? Or will this seed return to his baaaaaaaaad ways?

So funny! I loved this one – I think the humour will appeal as much to adults as to children. I can certainly empathise with Bad Seed’s frustration at how difficult it is to find an original Halloween costume. Bad Seed’s decision that he is going to worry less about things that don’t really matter is something we should all get on board with.

Book for Developing Readers

‘Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Haunted House,’ by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa (Little Tiger Press)

When a new family moves to the village, Zaiba is intrigued to hear about the strange happenings in their home. Things go missing, objects are smashed and unfriendly messages are painted on the walls. There have always been rumours that the house is haunted, but is a ghost really causing all this trouble? Zaiba and her team are convinced that the culprit is very much alive – and won’t stop until they get what they want…

I’m so pleased Agent Zaiba is back in her third adventure. This series is fantastic for readers aged 7+ as it’s fast-paced, funny, and full of illustrations. I am constantly recommending this series for mystery lovers who are not quite old enough for the Murder Most Unladylike series.

‘Magnificent Mabel and the Very Important Witch,’ by Ruth Quayle, illustrated by Julia Christians (Nosy Crow)

Sometimes life isn’t fair for Mabel Chase. Like for instance she isn’t allowed to go Trick or Treating on HALLOWEEN because she has to visit a relative instead. And even though there’s a monster living under her bed, her parents STILL won’t let her have a brand-new high-up bunk bed which wouldn’t have ANY hiding spots for monsters. And NO-ONE at school believes her when she spots aliens in the playground. But none of that matters in the end … because Mabel is still MAGNIFICENT.

But none of that matters in the end … because Mabel is still MAGNIFICENT.

This is the fifth Magnificent Mabel for newly confident readers aged 5+ to enjoy. This volume contains three spooky mini adventures packed with humour and illustrations which I know little witches and wizards will adore.

‘Grace-Ella: Pixie Pandemonium,’ by Sharon Marie Jones, illustrated by Adriana J Puglisi (Firefly Press)

When pixie Buddy smuggles himself into her back pack after Witchcamp, Grace-Ella lets him stay, even though her cat, Mr Whiskins tells her pixies are trouble. She can’t leave him at home so she takes him to school, where he causes all kinds of trouble!

This is the third instalment in the Grace-Ella series and would be great for readers aged 6+. A really engaging read with a focus on friendship and the importance of protecting trees. There are even instructions on how to make your own pine cone pixie!

‘Leo’s Map of Monsters: The Frightmare,’ by Kris Humphrey, illustrated by Pete Williamson (OUP)

It’s Leo’s job as the Guardian’s apprentice to protect the village from the monsters that lurk in the surrounding forest. Whenever a monster gets too close to the village walls Leo must venture out, using his magical map to first find the monster and then do battle with it. 

In this book, Leo must track down the ghostly Frightmare-a powerful monster that haunts the abandoned ruins, breathing deadly blue fire at any intruder.

This series proved very popular with my son when he was staring out on his journey towards becoming a more independent reader; the large font and generous helping of illustrations were perfect, and they were just the right amount of scary. 6+

‘Diary of an Accidental Witch,’ by Perdita and Honor Cargill, illustrated by Katie Saunders (Little Tiger Press)

Bea Black has just moved to Little Spellshire, a town with a magical secret. When her dad accidentally enrols her at the local witch school, she has to get to grips with some interesting new classes, like, NOW! Also on her to do list? Make friends, look after the grumpy class frog AND do everything humanly magically possible to stay on a broom…

But with the Halloween Ball on the horizon, will she be able to master her wand skills in time to WOW? And more importantly can she keep her newfound magical abilities a secret from dad?

It became quite clear after reading the first few pages of Bea Black’s top secret diary that I immediately needed to move to Little Spellshire and set myself up with a teaching gig at the School of Extraordinary Arts. I loved the cosy but quirky feel of the village, the abundance of cats, and as for that school uniform – mwah! The bubbly humour laced with magical mishaps and a sprinkle of mischief will make this book a huge hit with readers aged 7+ and anyone who has ever loved Mildred Hubble!

Middle Grade Titles

‘The Beast and the Bethany: Revenge of the Beast,’ by Jack Meggitt-Phillips, illustrated by Isabelle Follath (Farshore)

Once upon a very badly behaved time, 511-year-old Ebenezer kept a beast in his attic. He would feed the beast all manner of objects and creatures and in return the beast would vomit him up expensive presents. But then The Bethany arrived …

Now notorious prankster Bethany, along with her new feathery friend Claudette, is determined that she and Ebenezer are going to DE-BEAST their lives and Do Good. But Bethany finds that being a notorious prankster makes it hard to get taken on for voluntary work. And Ebenezer is secretly missing the beast’s vomity gifts. And neither of them are all that sure what ‘good people’ do anyway …

Then there’s Claudette, who’s not been feeling herself recently. Has she eaten something that has DISAGREED with her?

‘The Beast and the Bethany’ was so dark and villainous that I wasn’t sure if the sequel would live up to its predecessor, but I needn’t have worried! I thoroughly enjoyed revisting Bethany and the newly empathetic Ebeneezer – the writing was just as sharp and funny as the first. I particularly liked learning more of Ebeneezer’s back-story. Perfect for readers aged 8+

‘Bunnicula,’ by James and Deborah Howe (Scholastic.)

Celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the fluffy and fearsome classic Bunnicula with this pocket-sized edition, perfect for accompanying readers on all their mischievous adventures. This edition features books 1 & 2.

Beware the hare! Harold the dog and Chester the cat must find out the truth about the newest pet in the Monroe household–a suspicious-looking bunny with unusual habits…and fangs! Could this innocent-seeming rabbit actually be a vampire?

I hadn’t read this before but I can see it being a big hit with a whole new generation of readers. A great balance of humour and scares. 8+

‘The Beast of Harwood Forest,’ by Dan Smith, illustrated by Chris King (Barrington Stoke)

What’s hiding in Harwood Forest?

When Pete, Nancy and Krish arrive at Heathland Camp for a school trip, they’re in for an adventure – just not the kind they were expecting.

Nearby sits the abandoned Harwood Institute. The crumbling buildings are out of bounds but strange screams come from the surrounding forest at night. Mystery shrouds the events that took place at the institute during the war, so Pete and his friends make it their mission to find out the truth. But the forest is hiding a sinister secret, and the trio could be in real danger …

Are some mysteries best left undisturbed?

Having thoroughly enjoyed Dan Smith’s first installment of this title in collaboration with Barrington Stoke, The Invasion of Crooked Oak, I was very keen to read his next title. I wasn’t disappointed – this was just as fast-paced and spooky as its predecessor. With a reading age of 8+ and a specially-designed dyselxia friendly format, this will appeal slightly older readers as well as it’s intended 9+ bracket.

A Trick of Time,’ by Jenni Jennings, illustrated by Hannah Peck. (Scholastic)

Malice Morbid Malign isn’t like the rest of her family. 

But when her younger sister Antipathy-Rose finds a sphere of solid Amber in one of the forbidden swag rooms at Malignant House, and bites right through it, she unwittingly unleashes a world of trouble. Trapped within the Amber sphere is Maniacal Malign’s time-stopping pocket watch. 

Maniacal Malign had been in exile for several centuries but the moment Antipathy-Rose’s gnashers crack the Amber, he is summoned back to monstrous action. Malice, Uncle Vex and Seth find themselves on a time-sensitive mission, as they race to retrieve the pocket watch, whilst unravelling Maniacal’s malevolent mischief along the way. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip back to Underland to visit Malice and her rather unusual (and unpleasant) family. Just as funny and as gloriously gothic as the first installment. I would recommend this title for fans of Amelia Fang or Nevermoor. The swathes of illustrations by Hannah Peck add to the fun of this book and make it suitable for readers aged 8+.

‘The Red Gloves and Other Stories,’ by Catherine Fisher (Firefly Press)

Have you ever been in a changing room and wondered about the other people you cross paths with there? Do they have secrets that no one else knows about? And if one of them asked you to swap lives, just for a while, would you do it?

And have you ever stopped to think about dreams? Really think about them. Most of us have had dreams that seem so real that we think we’re awake or dreams we are desperate to leave if only we could wake up. But what if you couldn’t wake up?

Fear often has its roots in familiarity and this great collection of nine creepy short stories exploits that fact by having just enough relatable, real-life content to make them almost believable.

This collection of nine stories draw inspiration from myths, legends and Old English tales, readers can expect hauntings, otherworldly visions and inexplicable happenings. These stories are definitely creepy and unsettling – the kind of thing I would need to read with all the lights on and when there was someone else in the house! 9+

‘Following Frankenstein,’ by Catherine Bruton (Nosy Crow)

Sometimes I was jealous of the monster of Frankenstein. I grew up believing my father cared more for him than he did for me. And was I wrong?

Maggie Walton’s father has dedicated his life to a single pursuit: hunting down the monster created by Victor Frankenstein. It has cost Maggie and her family everything – and now her father is staking everything on one last voyage to the Arctic, with Maggie secretly in tow, where he hopes to find the monster at last.

But there they make a shocking discovery: Frankenstein’s monster has a son…

The prologue planted the seeds for what was to follow – a story of obsession, mental illness, family and ‘otherness.’ This cracking adventure had me hooked on from the get go. I was just as desperate to see Maggie rebuild her troubled relationship with her father as I was to see Frankenstein’s son, Kata, find peace and acceptance at last.

As well as being a thrilling read, Following Frankenstein touches on some big themes, such as mental illness and obsession. It also mentions the Underground Railway created to aid escaped slaves find freedom which could generated some important discussions. 10+

Frankenstiltskin,’ by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Freya Hartas (Walker Books)

Joining the family business, animal-lover Bryony proves to be an extraordinary taxidermist, whose tender fingers create displays which comfort, educate and astound. But when Byrony’s proud father boasts of her skill, who should come calling but the secretive King of all Mythica. Locking her away, he gives her three horrible tasks … three impossible tasks! It’s only then that a strange, sinister creature emerges from the shadows of the castle, offering Bryony a helping hand… But at what cost?

Frankenstein meets Rumpelstiltkin in this expertly-stitched story about a powerful king, a girl unafraid to stand up for her beliefs, and a monstrous little creature with magic – and greed – in his bones.

Zombierella was just fantastic so I knew that Frankenstiltskin would be just as good. Coehlo is a true wizard with words. With enough references to the original to make its origins recognisable, but with. enough twists to create something new and spine-tingling, this sinister tale has had new life breathed into it – featuring a host of gloriously gothic illustrations.

‘Mason Mooney: Doppelgänger Detective,’ by Seaerra Miller (Flying Eye Books)

Your favourite paranormal investigator is back, with yet another adventure that is sure to have you glued to your seat. No, it’s not dreamboat Trent Reilly and his Paranormal Society, it’s Mason Mooney! What do you mean you’ve never heard of him? He’s the world’s greatest paranormal investigator.

It’s Hallowe’en in Grimbrook, and that really means something here. It’s when the veil between our world and the world of the paranormal is at its thinnest. It’s the perfect time for Mason to go hunting for ghouls and phantoms, break a witch’s curse and don his best fancy dress for the school dance. When Mason spots something sinister in the gym, he knows he has to follow it and find out what’s going on. With parallel dimensions, evil clones and sudden showers of frogs, Mason Mooney: Doppelgänger Detective is another hilarious and spooky adventure for kids that love twists, turns and mysteries.

This graphic novel style test proved highly popular with readers as there is so much to explore in both the illustrations and the text. Just the right amount of spooky, funny, and mysterious for readers aged 8+ to enjoy.

Well there you go folks – plenty of spooky, magical, or terrifying Halloween fun depending on what takes your fancy. Whatever you decide to read, have a spooktacular Halloween!

Library Girl.

*Many thanks to all the publishers who sent me these titles to review*

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