Book review: Monstrous fun and silly scariness for a haunting Halloween

Monstrous fun and silly scariness for a haunting Halloween
Monstrous fun and silly scariness for a haunting Halloween
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Halloween is creeping up again so get ready for the witching hour with some spooky, spine-tingling reads from Macmillan children’s books.

Whether it’s a gorgeous Goth Girl, a library that only opens at midnight and the meanest mariner on the high seas or freaky fun in Nighmareland, a school for ghosts and a spider tale to make your skin crawl, now is the time to draw the curtains and enjoy being scared.

Age 4 plus:

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

If it’s atmosphere you’re looking for this Halloween, dip into The Midnight Library and discover the magic of Kazuno Kohara’s brilliantly bold artwork.

This beautiful picture book, about a library which opens its doors to all the night-time animals, is perfect for bedtime, featuring an eye-catching colour combination of yellow, purple and black to reflect the light and shade of night time.

When we are fast asleep in bed, the Midnight Library springs to life. Inside, the little librarian and her three assistant owls help each and every animal to find the perfect book. But with a noisy squirrel band, a distressed wolf and a slow-reading tortoise to help, they could all be in for a very busy night.

A warm-hearted story about the joy of reading and the importance of libraries, stylishly designed and produced, this enchanting book is guaranteed to lull little ones into ‘sleep mode’ and encourage a love of books and reading.

The perfect gift for all young book lovers…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Here Be Monsters by Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene

Shiver me timbers, who goes there! Out of the mist and murk steps the meanest mariner ever to sail the high seas. Meet Captain Cut-Throat, a fearless pirate who is so scary that everyone who meets him goes wobbly at the knees.

In this big, bold picture book, pirates confront monsters in a story that is out of this world. Captain Cut-Throat, who is wanted dead or alive for downright dastardliness and despicable dishonesty, doesn’t believe in monsters. When he and his reluctant crew set sail for a treasure island, they are aware of the legend that tells they must first pass through The Mist and, worse still, ‘there be monsters in the mist’! But as the Captain says, monsters simply don’t exist. So who or what is gobbling up the crew?

This thrilling, swashbuckling pirate adventure from the award-winning creators of The Princess and the Pig and The Santa Trap tells a devilishly good tale in Jonathan Emmett’s wonderfully addictive rhyming verse which will have little ones joining in the fun.

Poly Bernatene’s superbly atmospheric drawings bring to life a rough, tough motley collection of animal pirates with fangs, evil eyes and more deadly knives than a top cook’s kitchen.

An exhilarating story that will be a favourite long after Halloween!

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death by Chris Riddell

Red is the colour this Halloween season… and Ada, everyone’s favourite Goth Girl, is tickled pink to be back on the dark side.

With its glittering leaves and skulls ornamentation, sparkling red page effect and velvety smooth black cover, Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death is a gift in every sense of the word.

This gorgeously packaged book is full of beautiful black and white illustrations from author Chris Riddell and follows the adventures of Ada Goth of Ghastly-Gorm Hall in the sequel to the award-winning Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse.

Preparations for the Ghastly-Gorm Garden Party and bake-off are under way. Celebrity cooks are arriving at the hall for the big event and to show off their baked goods from buns and biscuits to pies and puddings.

But true to form, Maltravers, the indoor gamekeeper, is acting suspiciously and a group of vampires has arrived at the fete with their own ideas about what makes a tasty treat.

Elsewhere at Ghastly-Gorm, Ada’s agoraphobic, wardrobe-dwelling lady’s maid Marylebone has received a marriage proposal. Ada vows to aid the course of true love and find out what Maltravers is up to but, amidst all this activity, everyone, including her father, appears to have forgotten her birthday!

You’d have to be mad or bad to miss this high-flying, hair-raising adventure featuring the Goth girl with a heart of gold and her marvellously madcap house of heroes, villains… and vampires.

And when the last page has turned, there’s a teeny, weeny surprise tucked into the back cover!

(Macmillan, hardback, £9.99)

Scary Tales: Good Night Zombie and Nightmareland by James Preller

On your marks, get set, scream… James Preller is back with his super spooky stories for younger readers and they’re just the job to get the heart pounding and the goosebumps rising!

There are two new books in a terrific series that is scary but not too scary, and ideal for kids who want their thrills to be more frantically funny than fearsomely frightening.

Scary Tales are brought to life by Iacopo Bruno’s superbly atmospheric black and white illustrations, and spine-tingling textual effects add an extra frisson to the ghostly adventures.

In Good Night Zombie, we meet Carter, Esme and Arnold, three students locked together inside a deserted school. Deep in the basement a mysterious night caretaker waits while outside, moving in the mist, dark shapes creep ever closer…

And in Nightmareland, Aaron Wheeler has just got a strange and new video game, one that sucks him right in. All alone, caught in a snowstorm, a howl comes from the nearby woods. This time, Aaron is playing for his life…

Go on, scare yourself silly!

(Macmillan, paperback, £4.99 each)

Mountwood School for Ghosts by Tony Ibbotson

Ghostly goings-on with giggles are guaranteed in this warm, witty and wonderful debut from Tony Ibbotson, son of the award-winning author Eva Ibbotson who died four years ago and whose bestselling novels for both adults and children have been published around the world.

Mountwood School for Ghosts is based on an idea by Eva Ibbotson, including her trademark themes of the sanctity of home and respect for all people everywhere, and was planned in detail by the two of them before she died.

The Great Hagges have spoken. They are Fredegonda, Goneril, and Drusilla, much more important and much rarer than regular old hags, and they have declared that ghosts these days are decidedly lacking.

They are worried that people haven’t been scared of ghosts for years and it’s a problem that needs to be addressed urgently. Their answer is to open up a school where useless ghosts can be fully instructed in the highest levels of haunting.

The new term begins well but events take an unexpected turn when two children arrive at the school asking for help. Now traditionally, Hagges, ghosts and humans don’t work together and their request that some paranormal professionals should scare away a group of greedy town planners is most unusual.

But maybe, just maybe, they can make an exception in this case…

Mountwood School for Ghosts, which is packed with dizzying drama and amazing characters, carries forward Eve Ibbotson’s humour and humanity but adds the excitement and sparkle of her son’s contemporary voice and undoubted storytelling talents.

(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)

Age 12 plus:

Spiders by Tom Hoyle

Tom Hoyle’s brilliant debut Thirteen wowed a new generation of teenagers earlier this year and the sequel dishes up the same addictive mix of action, danger and nail-biting suspense.

In the real world, Tom Hoyle is the pseudonym of a North London boys’ school headmaster whose mission is to write books that that even the most reluctant readers in his English class would want to pick up.

‘I wanted every chapter to be dramatic and engaging, the literary equivalent of a modern action film,’ he says of a thrilling series which eschews flights of fantasy for down-to-earth realism and breathtaking action sequences.

The cast are authentic city-dwelling early teens entrenched in a contemporary dialogue and street culture that will strike a chord with many of today’s youngsters.

Born at midnight in London, on the stroke of the new millennium, Adam is the target of a sinister cult which is kidnapping 13-year-olds. He may have survived their evil schemes once but the cult still has him in its sights and this time he fears he may not escape with his life.

Meanwhile Abbie’s dad is an undercover agent whose job is to expose dangerous cults. He is normally able to maintain his distance but this time Abbie is worried he has got in too deep.

And Adam’s school friend Megan was sure she and Adam were safe but now he’s gone missing on a school ski trip in Scotland and she is the only one who can help him. Slowly but surely, the web is closing in around them.

A big screen thriller packed into the pages of a book…

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)