As Halloween approaches there’s nothing I enjoy more than turning out the lights and reading spooky books by torchlight. I have a Spooktacular selection of books on the blog today for children (and adults) of all ages, that are perfect for sharing or as an alternative to a bucket full of sweets. From reluctant vampires, to imaginary friends that come true, there’s definitely something for everyone to enjoy here.
Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle are back with another wonderful collaboration which celebrates kindness, bravery and learning to accept who you really are. Dracula’s parents don’t know what to do with their little boy. He’s happy and content, doesn’t like wearing black and would rather befriend humans than scare them. Despite their best efforts, he refuses to be like them but he wants to try and keep them happy, so he tries his best but it makes him really sad. A chance encounter with a little girl makes for an unexpected friendship that shows Dracula boy and his family that they should embrace their differences. Told in Lucy’s trademark bouncy rhymes which are a joy to read aloud, this is such a fun book to share and offers the opportunity for lots of thoughtful conversations with children. Ben’s illustrations capture brilliantly the contrast between the traditional darkness of the Dracula family and the shiny technicolour that the boy desperately craves. A lively story filled with heart, the perfect spooky book for younger readers.
I’m a big fan of Bethan Woollvin’s fairy tale retellings with their humorous and dark unexpected endings. Her version of Hansel and Gretel features Willow a good witch, who lives peacefully all alone in her gingerbread cottage until one day two wicked children come along and create total chaos. Despite their appalling behaviour, Willow does her very best to be kind and patient, trying not to loose her temper and conjuring them up delicious treats. But no matter how hard she tries, they continue to be beastly and boisterous. Brilliantly told, this is a deliciously dark and frightfully funny fairy tale, which is bound to fill children with glee. Beth’s signature vibrant artwork is creepily compelling and perfectly enhances this story filled with magic and mayhem.
I just loved the first book in the ‘Picklewitch and Jack,’ series so I was excited about getting my hands on this proper dandy new adventure. Capturing all the mayhem and charm of the original story, Claire cunningly throws some more mischief into the mix of Jack’s life with the arrival of Pickliwitch’s practically perfect cousin Archie Cuckoo. Jack is completely swayed by his immaculate manners and encyclopedic knowledge and thinks he may have found a true ally at last. But he soon discovers Archie is not all he seems, and a strange darkness descends over their lives threatening everyone they know and love. Can Picklewitch and Jack find a way to outwit this cunning cousin? A fiendishly funny and hilariously heart-warming tale, sprinkled with just enough peril and peculiarity to keep the reader completely engaged and entertained. Claire and Teemu make for a wonderful combination, together they have created something stuffed with so much magic and charm that completely enchanted me. Teemu’s illustrations capture magnificently the transformation of Archie into something really rotten. It just crackles with naughtiness and energy and I just can’t get enough of this brilliant series, another triumph in storytelling.
Ben Bunsen has spent his life being shunted from one seaside town to a next and struggles to settle and make friends. When not one single person turns up to his birthday party, Ben is lost and confused and turns to the one person he can rely on, his imaginary friend Gorblimey. But his desperate desire for a real friend sparks of a chain of events that leads to a whole lot of trouble and mayhem for everyone who knows him when our narrator Skeleton Keys knocks at his door. For Skeleton Keys is convinced that when imaginary friends become unimaginary, his job is to find them and cast them into the far off world of Oblivion but for once his intuition is so far away from the mark, he fails to spot the real danger. Can Ben protect Gorblimey and stop the unimaginary friend who is truly a threat? Packed with thrills, spills and spooky imaginings, this is wildly inventive children’s writing at its’ best. Guy and Pete Williamson have created a truly collaborative and intriguing tale which invites you to suspend everything you believe in and open your mind to a world that just bubbles below the surface. Excellent characterisation meets funny and playful storytelling in this spooky and entertaining tale.
Molly Thompson is the thorn in the side of the residents of Howlfair. Her mind is filled with questions and she is determined to investigate all of the scary legends, even though it causes embarrassment and despair for the townsfolk. Despite her lack of success she’s convinced something strange is afoot and the death of her Dad is somehow linked. But when her meddling causes too much upset, she is banned from the library and her attempts to uncover the truth is thwarted at every corner. Undeterred she needs to find a way, alongside her best friend Lowry and Gabriel the cat to keep Howlfair safe. This is genuinely one of the most entertaining and ghoulish books I have read in a long time. I loved the mix of mystery solving and ghoul busting, Molly is a truly wonderful character whose willingness to carry on when everyone else around her doubts her plans is truly marvellous. I think it’s spooky enough to satisfy those children who want to be scared but not completely terrified and I predict it to be a huge hit at school. Funny, smart and downright compelling this is a joy of a read, Nick is definitely a debut author to watch out for!
Thanks to Faber, Macmillan, Stripes Publishing, Two Hoots, and Walker for sending me gifted copies of these books. You can buy all of these books now online (click on link in title) or from any good bookshop.