Spooks, spills and chills for Halloween By various authors - book reviews -
Halloween is looming darkly on the horizon and there is a simply wizard selection of new books which are guaranteed to bewitch all young fans of the season of spooks and spectres.
Age 9 plus:
Dugald Steer, Doug Sirois, Garry Walton and Anne Yvonne Gilbert
Do you believe in ghosts?
What better time than Halloween to dive into this gem of a book… an unearthly tome which explores supernatural mysteries and all the shrouded secrets of a whole world of ghosts and ghouls.
So if you’ve been hearing strange footsteps and knocks, whispers and rattling chains, this fantastic Ghostology – which comes with a blood-red jewel embedded in its cover – contains all you need to know about scary spirits and ghastly ghosts.
Packed full of letters, booklets, sealed pages, flaps, a moving wheel, glow in the dark ink and lots of other inventive novelties, this haunting volume was ghostwritten by Dugald Steer who has authored several books in Templar Publishing’s hugely successful Ology series.
Billed as the complete guide to the study of ghosts, it is the life’s work and study of American ghostologist Lucinda Curtle who mysteriously passed to the Other Side during a séance. In 1975, under a bed in an old house in Tarrytown, New York, Ghostology was discovered, wrapped in a substance, later found to be ectoplasm. It seems that after her death, the book became haunted by the ghost of Lucinda herself, who now wants to keep the secrets of the dead a secret.
Readers who want to plumb the mysteries of the paranormal will find some hands-on challenges to lift their spirits, along with tips on a range of spectral subjects, such as how to distinguish the types of ghosts and the best ways to hunt them.
Within the weathered pages of this amazing book, you will meet a headless French pirate in search of his missing noggin, a vanishing pair of young trickster twins, a ghostly woman who screams for attention, and other communications from the ‘fun side.’
And enjoy learning about different types of ghosts around the world and through history, discover haunted houses, ships and other objects (including books), take a close look at the ghostologist’s field kit, read about psychics and mediums and fakes and frauds, and test your ghostological knowledge on one of Lucinda’s own case studies.
It’s a shame that long dead Lucinda never got to see her guide find its way into the world… although some strange and scratchy asides that appear in odd places throughout the book might tell another story!
Turn the pages if you dare…
(Templar Publishing, hardback, £25)
Age 9 plus:
The Orphans of St Halibut’s
Sophie Wills and David Tazzyman
Halloween books are just for, well, Halloween as prize-winning author Sophie Wills and internationally acclaimed illustrator David Tazzyman launch a brilliant new middle-grade series which delivers the shivers of spookiness with the laughter of silliness.
Brimming with the craziest of characters, stolen cakes and major explosions, The Orphans of St Halibut’s puts the spotlight firmly on friendship and the power of the underdog, and is just the opener for what promises to be a fun and wickedly offbeat series full of wit and warmth.
Life has been perfect ever since the orphans of St Halibut’s buried their matron – (they claim it was an accident!) Tig, Stef, Herc, and Pamela the goat just have to make sure nobody finds out they are on their own now.
Discovering that an Inspector is on his way, they will need to convince him that everything is peachy or they will be sent to the Mending House where badly behaved orphans go, never to return.
But the Inspector is not quite what he seems and things very quickly go from bad to spectacularly out of hand. Can these crafty kids outsmart the adults and save their home?
Middle-graders will be counting down to the next book in this dazzling, high-energy caper which has a stellar cast of the quirkiest, most enterprising characters you could hope to meet in a middle-grade novel, and a story packed with hilarious twists and turns.
Tazzyman’s brilliantly expressive illustrations bring all the madcap action to life and are the icing on the cake of what promises to be a truly tasty and classic series.
(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)
Age 9 plus:
The Ghost of Gosswater
What better backdrop for a shimmering, simmering tale of mystery, intrigue, ghosts and nail-biting suspense than the Lake District in the heart of winter?
A spooky, gothic thriller-chiller, inspired by the wild beauty of Ullswater, The Ghost of Gosswater comes from the pen of master storyteller Lucy Strange, author of the critically acclaimed debut The Secret of Nightingale Wood, and Our Castle by the Sea, shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
This brilliant new novel – perfect for reading in a fireside chair on dark nights – features a spooky old manor house, a gripping mystery, dark secrets, hair-raising hauntings and a fearless heroine determined to seek out the truth about her family.
In the Lake District in 1899, the Earl of Gosswater is dead and cruel Cousin Clarence has inherited not just the title but everything else as well.
The recently departed earl’s daughter, twelve-year-old Lady Agatha ‘Aggie’ Asquith, is told in no uncertain terms by Clarence that she is illegitimate and is being cast out of Gosswater Hall to live in a tiny tumbledown cottage with a stranger, Thomas Walters, a goose-farmer who claims to be her real father.
But Aggie and her new friend Bryn Black, grandson of gravedigger Sexton Black, are determined to discover her real identity, and Aggie is not alone on her quest for the truth. On the last day of the year, when the clock strikes midnight, a mysterious girl of light creeps through the crack in time… she will not rest until the dark, terrible secrets of the past have been revealed.
Strange works her special magic on this gorgeously atmospheric ghost story which stars some memorable heroes, a truly treacherous villain, the warmth of friendship, and a Lake District landscape rendered dark, brooding and utterly irresistible.
(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)
Age 9 plus:
The Midnight Howl
Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder
Expect laughs, madcap mayhem and spine-shivers aplenty as we are plunged into the second shape-shifting adventure in Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder’s magical Midnight Hour debut series.
In this new and epic chapter, Emily, her officer-in-training Tarkus, and pet hedgehog Hoggins must battle the greatest evil that has threatened The Midnight Hour and stop its magic from leaking into the real world.
Now that Emily knows that her blood ties her to The Midnight Hour, she feels more connected to this frozen pocket of time than ever. But not only does she have to come to terms with her new identity as a Pooka, her parents had to go and have another baby. How weird is that? Life is feeling frustrating from all angles.
But when Emily begins to encounter strange happenings within The Midnight Hour, her worst fears are confirmed… there is a hole in the Hour and it is leaking magic. They must have come from under beds, out of mirrors, up from caves, and down from attics, all out of the darkness and into the moonlight. They were the Night Folk, and this was their world.
Whoever is going through it is making the tear worse and worse, posing a threat to the survival of the whole world. With Emily’s parents distracted with the new baby, it’s up to Emily to find the hole and help fix it…
Read and Trinder deliver breathless action, fantasy, guffaws, spooks and plot twists all the way as fearless, feisty Emily battles monsters, and those timeless parental problems that we all know so well.
Wickedly witty and marvellously magical!
(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)
Age 10 plus:
The Witching Stone
One of the Preston area’s most famous pieces of witchcraft history gets a deliciously contemporary twist in a spooky caper from author Philip Caveney, writing under the pseudonym Danny Weston.
The mystery of Meg Shelton’s bizarre gravestone inscription in a churchyard in the quiet rural village of Woodplumpton has long baffled locals, and attracted visitors from all over the world who come to see the strange inscriptions.
In The Witching Stone, Weston harnesses the early 17th century mystery of the bewitching and bewildering Meg for a cracking adventure that blends supernatural and suspense with issues that will be familiar to many youngsters.
After a messy breakup with his girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Alfie Travers needs to get away from his home in Bristol for a while so he decides to spend the summer holidays tagging along with his dad on a dull work trip to Woodplumpton.
Shortly after he arrives, he strolls off to see what the place has to offer and in the local church graveyard, he chances upon a boulder with a strange inscription… ‘Beneath this stone lie the remains of Meg Shelton, alleged witch of Woodplumpton, buried in 1705.’
Seconds later, a girl suddenly pops up from behind a headstone and makes him jump out of his skin. Her name is Mia and she tells him about the local superstition surrounding Meg Shelton’s stone. ‘If you walk three times around the stone and say “I don't believe in witches,” Meg will come after you,’ she says.
In a reckless attempt to show his bravery and prove that it’s all ‘tosh,’ Alfie accepts the old superstition as a challenge. He thinks the story is nonsense but it soon becomes clear that he's just made the biggest mistake of his life... because a vengeful witch has him in her sights and the only way to save himself, and his friends, is to give Meg whatever she desires. But time is running out…
Weston has fun with this real-life, age-old mystery as Alfie and Mia’s friendship blossoms amid all the excitement, laugh-out-loud moments and dangers of their race to help the restless, angry and manipulative witch who wants to right the wrongs of the past.
Well researched and threaded through with the tale of the mischievous witch who was said to have powers to transform herself into animals, and fascinating facts about the 17th century witch hunts, The Witching Stone is the perfect read to make Halloween that little bit spookier!
(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)
Age 9 plus:
The Monsters of Rookhaven
Pádraig Kenny and Edward Bettison
Imagine a chilling, thrilling story full of monsters that can change the way you see the world… and it comes with the most exquisite and eye-catching illustrations.
What better season than Halloween to meet the monstrous Monsters of Rookhaven, a fantastical, thought-provoking and beautifully written story from Irish writer Pádraig Kenny with stunning black-and-white illustrations by Edward Bettison.
Kenny, who was nominated for the Carnegie Medal for his first novel, Tin, brings us a tale steeped in horrors but which also asks us to take a second look at how we view our own lives and to see our own experiences through a completely different and enlightening lens.
‘Humans, as is there wont, have a terrible habit of making a mess of everything.’
In the post-war world of suspicion and hurt, we meet Mirabelle who never ages, lives in a gothic mansion and has always known and accepted that she is a monster.
But when the glamour protecting her unusual, eclectic and seemingly fearsome family from the human world is torn open and orphaned brother and sister Jem and Tom stumble upon Rookhaven, Mirabelle soon discovers that friendship can be found in the outside world.
But as something far more sinister comes to threaten them all, it quickly becomes clear that, in this broken world, the true monsters aren’t necessarily the ones you can see…
With subtle messages about empathy, difference and the healing power of friendship, this is a super-spooky story of danger, screams, shapeshifting and bumps in the night but also a thrilling adventure with fun, magic and kindness at it its warm heart.
Chilling, thrilling and hauntingly beautiful!
(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)
Age 13 plus:
The Cauldron of Life
Steep yourself in the myths, magic and legends of Scotland in the second soaraway fantasy novel from teacher Caroline Logan teacher who lives in the Cairngorms National Park.
The Cauldron of Life is the second book in the The Four Treasures series which began with Logan’s debut The Stone of Destiny and is thrilling teenagers with its fast-paced action, vividly drawn characters and stunning ‘other world’ building.
In the Isles of Ossiana, Harris has been captured by the Faerie Queen and Ailsa must journey once again into the heart of Eilanmòr to rescue him.
But Ailsa is struggling with her new-found magic and the revelations about her real identity as a changeling. If she isn’t human, is the Faerie Queen Ailsa’s mother and is everything she believed about her past a lie? Could her real destiny be tied to the faerie court?
Meanwhile, a war is brewing between much more powerful forces. The lines between good and evil are blurring, and Ailsa must decide where she stands…
Epic is written all over this gripping adventure with its wonderfully unworldly cast of faeries, selkies, changelings and other creatures from Scottish legend, all set against the breathtaking backdrop of perilous quests, courageous heroes, mystery, magic and gorgeous romance.
Logan’s Scottish upbringing and influences really shine through this return trip to the enchanting world of Eilanmor, and with LGBTQ+ characters, as well as themes of self-discovery, loyalty, and love, The Cauldron of Life is a fantastical adventure for everyone to enjoy!
(Gob Stopper, paperback, £8.99)
Age 3 plus:
Room on the Broom Sticker Book
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
There’s room on the broom for everyone so join in the fun in a magical sticker book which lets youngsters gets hands-on with Halloween!
Packed with games, activities, puzzles and over 400 stickers, Room on the Broom Sticker Book –based on the bestselling picture book by Gruffalo creators Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler – is a great gift for any child, and ideal for journeys, rainy days, holidays and Halloween.
Join the witch and her cat as they fly happily over forests, rivers and mountains on their broomstick until a stormy wind blows away the witch’s hat, bow and wand. Luckily, they are retrieved by a dog, a bird and a frog who are all keen for a ride on the broom.
Challenges, jigsaws and sticker fun in a book that has room for all young adventurers!
(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £5.99)
Age 5 plus:
Spook your friends and family with this fangtastic book of spirited jokes and watch them laugh all the way to the witching hour!
What do mummies like listening to on Halloween? Wrap music. Which plant likes Halloween the most? Bam-BOO. What kind of pets do ghosts have? Scaredy-cats! Why are vampires like false teeth? They come out at night!
Packed with over 200 hilarious and spine-tingling jokes, these are the perfect spooky spoofs to get you ready for Halloween… and the ideal (trick or) treat to read every year!
(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £5.99)