Spooktacular Reading for Kids with Seasonally Spooky Books

Spooktacular Reading for Kids with Seasonally Spooky Books
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October is such a great month – the leaves are falling off the trees, the weather is crisp and the nights are drawing in, which means it is the perfect time to snuggle up with your children and read some seasonally spooky books.  I’ve reviewed some of the best around for you ….

Board Books

Peekaboo Pumpkin – Camilla Reid (author), Ingela P Arrhenius (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

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Every child (and, let’s face it, adult!) loves a game of peekaboo and this Halloween-inspired first board book is a gorgeous gift for this time of year.  From pumpkins to bats, through potions and spiders, to witches and cats, this board book has the most adorable illustrations for your little one to enjoy in the most wonderfully autumnal colour tones. In addition, each sturdy page has a brilliantly interactive and engaging element to it so you can see why this book is such a winner: there are finger sliders to push and pull and other sliders to pull out to reveal a different cute illustration for your little one to enjoy and these all help to develop and enhance those all-important fine motor skills.  The gentle rhyming words complement the adorable illustrations and make for one of the sweetest (and most surprising) endings for this interactive board book.  It’s a brilliant size to pop into a changing bag or under a pushchair so you can take it with you to keep your little one entertained.

Peekaboo Pumpkin

Picture Books

Ready, Steady, Ghost! Elizabeth Baguley (author), Marion Lindsay (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

Awww, we love Bertie in this house! Bertie is just a little ghost.  He really wants to be good at haunting and frightening people but he is just so afraid.  He doesn’t like the big dark woods because they are scary.  He doesn’t like the animals that he comes across in the dark because they frighten him. He doesn’t like the look of spooky castles because they seem so, well, big and spooky!  Even the dog terrifies him.  If only he could find a nice little cosy house with bright lights and no dark corners to spook in!!  Shiver-me, shake-me, surely that will never happen?!  Luckily for Bertie, this book is the perfect example to show how everyone finds their place.  Not giving too much away, Bertie finds a home that is just right for him and I am sure that his “Boos” and “Wooos” will sound all the more confident because of it.  This adorable spooky read balances just the right amount of spine-tingly scare and gentle imagery for its target audience.  The illustrations used are gorgeous: Bertie is so sweet and gentle and the other animals and things he finds scary are so well drawn against the dark background of the spooky wood.  My eldest daughter was scared of Halloween when she was little (she really didn’t like witches) and I can see that this would be a sweet book for any children who are a little bit frightened by the ghosts and ghouls of the season because Bertie is such a gentle, whiffly (I love that word!) ghost.  In fact, we love Bertie so much in our house, we made a Bertie ghost garland to string up for Halloween.

Ready Steady Ghost

There was a Young Zombie who Swallowed a Worm – Kaye Baillie (author), Diane Ewen (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

Well, you’ve all heard about the old lady who swallowed a fly, right?!  But I bet you haven’t come across a young zombie with a penchant for wriggly, wiggly worms?!  Oh, and bats, toads, witches, ghosts, beasts, trolls and swamps?!  No wonder this poor little zombie is starting to feel sick with all of those spooky creatures squished up inside his tummy!  Just what will happen to poor little zombie?!  I couldn’t possibly tell you but I will say it is a laugh out loud ending that my twins absolutely adore.  In fact, they have asked for this book on repeat for the last few nights because they love it so much at the moment. And it is easy to see why. Filled with adorable and laugh out loud funny illustrations of creepy creatures and ghastly ghouls, this rhyming book is an absolutely perfect seasonal read for Halloween.  The pictures are bright, bold, full of fun (and not at all scary) and complement the rhyme superbly.  It’s an absolute must-read with your little ones this Halloween.

There was a Young Zombie who Swallowed a Worm

Red and the City – Marie Voigt (author and illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

This book is the most exquisite and thought-provoking retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood story that we have read.  My son absolutely loves the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.  Why?  Because he loves the wolf.  This book captures the darkness often associated with that particular fairytale but in a completely different way.  The wolf in the story is the city, with all its temptations and bright lights. I don’t want to give too much away in relation to the storyline but the Red in this story gets dazzled by the shiny lifestyle of the city and becomes swallowed up by it.  On one level, this book has a very simple plot and storyline and yet, on another level, it is so deep and meaningful and can be used to prompt so many in-depth discussions with children, from anything to do with feeling lost and not being able to find your way, to deeper discussions about greed and materialism, depending on the age of the child.  I think it is a picture book to be enjoyed by all ages.  It is visually stunning and perfect for these Halloween dark nights with its striking black, white and red colour tones and exquisite artistry.  We love searching for the wolf which appears in every page of the book in various guises.  Dark, brooding and clever, it’s a masterpiece of a retelling of a classic fairytale.

Red and the City

Chapter Books

Kitty and the Vanishing Act – Paula Harrison (author), Jenny Lovlie (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

I have said it before, and I will say it again: if you haven’t read any of this fantastic series of books previously, they are perfect for those children starting out on their independent reading journey, or those children wanting a longer story than a picture book.  This is the latest in the fabulous series all about Kitty (a superhero in training with cat-like superpowers) and her Cat Crew. The perfect seasonal read for this time of year, this is a magical adventure set by the light of the moon and filled with Pumpkins (of the kitten variety) and magic.  The whole of Hallam City is talking about the daring stage-duo, the Great Marella and Crystal the Poodle, who perform jaw-dropping magical feats to large audiences.  But when Crystal vanishes on opening night during the middle of a trick, Kitty and her Cat Crew must leap to the rescue.  Can Kitty, Figaro and Pumpkin (the cutest ginger kitten you ever did see) solve the mystery of the missing Crystal?  They might just make an extra friend or two on the way while they are at it! With its beautifully adorable illustrations, characteristic black, white, grey and orange colour palette and larger sized font, this is a superb book to keep your young reader engaged and interested.  The chapters are short, the pictures are plentiful (and adorable in the extreme) and the storyline is full of adventure.  We loved the messages surrounding making mistakes and forgiveness, courage and, most of all, friendship.   We also love the super facts about cats at the back of the book.

Kitty and the Vanishing Act

Magic Keepers- Crystal Chaos – Linda Chapman (author), Hoang Giang (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

Ava, her mother, and her cheeky Tibetan terrier Pepper, have recently moved into Curio House.  Gifted to Ava’s mother by Ava’s Great-Aunt Enid, the curious collection of artefacts that she collected must remain in the house and not sold.  Ava is instinctively drawn to the curios and specifically to a box of magic crystals which seem to have a very strange effect on her.  But when the mischievous Pepper tries to steal one of the ancient artefacts to play with, a whole host of magical and strange events begin to evolve and it is not just Ava that the crystals seem to be affecting.  Ava makes friends at her new school but can she find the courage to tell them about the strange noises and goings on in her house?  Will the girls, Ava, Sarah and Lily, learn to be able to control the crystal magic and protect the neighbourhood around them from danger?  My eldest daughter and I really enjoyed this first book in the Magic Keeper series (and we also loved the sneak peek read into the second book!).  The storyline is full of magic and mystery and friendship and fun and has a lovely pace, so your reader wants to keep turning the pages to find out what will happen.  The black and white illustrations are just gorgeous, adorable in parts and full of intrigue and mystery in others, and they are plentifully interspersed throughout the storyline making this a great book for chapter book readers.  We’ll certainly be following the Magic Keeper friends on their next magical adventure…

Magic Keepers- Crystal Chaos

Leo’s Map of Monsters -The Frightmare – Kris Humphrey (author), Pete Williamson (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

This book is the latest in this series but we read it as a standalone book and enjoyed it so much that we will certainly be going to find the other books.  Leo’s world is full of monsters but his family, friends and other villagers know nothing about them.  Leo’s job as the Guardian’s apprentice, is to make sure the secret of the monsters never gets out and to protect the village and his loved ones from these creepy creatures.  When his best friend Jacob discovers his secret, Leo has to protect his world and there begins a dark and gripping adventure in the surrounding scary terrain. Armed with just his slingshot, a couple of magical stones and his monster map, and with his trusty companion Starla the Leatherwing by his side (well, above him in the air!), Leo sets off to encounter the ghostly and terrifying Frightmare monster.  Powerful and haunting all at once, will Leo be able to get what he needs from the monster, or will he be burnt to a crisp by its deadly blue fire?!  My lips are sealed!  As well as being such a super chapter book with a gripping storyline, we absolutely loved the look of this book.  The tone is set by each page of the book being eerily edged in a dark smudge of grey/black colour and all of the fabulous illustrations being dark and gothic and yet cute at the same time!  The text is written in a larger font, with plenty of breaks in the page and superbly spooky illustrations and these make this a brilliant book for those just starting out on their independent reading journey, or for those readers who struggle with large blocks of compact text.  Full of atmosphere and tense adventure, this the perfect kind of book to read under your duvet cover by torchlight!

Leo’s Map of Monsters -The Frightmare

Midnight Magic – Witch Trap  – Michelle Harrison (author), Elissa Elwick (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

This is such a unique chapter book because the entire story is written in a lovely, lilting rhyme so it is a superb transition from picture books for young readers who are starting out on their independent reading journey. Beautifully bewitching, this book follows the mischievous Trixie and her enchanted black cat Midnight and the fun and games they get up to playing outside in the October sunshine.  When they conjure up a leaf dragon to join them in their autumnal capers, their magical mayhem attracts the attention of a witch who takes a shine to Midnight and her magical abilities.  When Trixie wakes up the next morning, she finds her beloved cat is nowhere to be seen!   Poor Midnight has been catnapped!  Trixie, Nan and Dad set off to the rescue.  Meanwhile, Midnight has her own plans to try and escape the witch and her potions.  Will Trixie and Midnight become reunited?  Will it be hubble, bubble toil and trouble for the witch?  This is a bewitching early chapter book, perfect for this time of year, with its cauldrons and bubbling brews, witches and spells.  The rhyming story is brilliant for independent readers, whizzing them along on a witchy adventure.  There are lots of pictures interspersed throughout the story which are adorable and really engaging for independent readers.  The colour tones used throughout the book (orange, black, white and grey) complement the spooky season perfectly.  A wonderful witchy adventure!

Midnight Magic – Witch Trap 

Rudy and the Wolf Cub – Paul Westmoreland (author), George Ermos (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

This was the first book we have read in this superb early chapter book series and we have definitely been missing out!  Following the story of Rudy, young werewolf and adventure seeker, and his skateboarding friends Femi Mummy and Edie Ghost, this is the perfect short chapter book for a spooky Halloween read with your little independent reader.  Rudy finds a lost wolf cub in the skatepark and he’s so cute that Rudy knows he just has to help him.  Rudy’s parents are less than impressed at him for bringing home the little cub and he knows he needs to do everything he can to help him try and find his pack.  All kinds of ghostly and monstrous adventures await Rudy and his new little friend as they venture out into the night to try and find his pack.  And yet there is also a lot of fun, love and laughter to be had along the way too.   Will Rudy be able to find the little lost cub a home? Or will the pair be trapped in the creepy forest forever?  This book is packed full of adorable illustrations in the most perfect of Hallloween-style colour tones (red, black and white) and the larger style of font makes it the perfect book to transition from picture books to chapter books with.  My son adores wolves and werewolves so we have just started reading this one together and he is loving it. How-How-Haarrooooowww!!!  We will certainly be looking out for the other book in the series.

Rudy and the Wolf Cub

Anisha Accidental Detective – Fright Night (recommended reading age – 7 plus) – Serena Patel (author), Emma McCann (illustrator), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

It’s almost Halloween and everyone at Anisha’s school is getting into the spooky mood and getting very excited about the first school Halloween disco in ten years!  Anisha would rather be snuggled up at home with a good book but her friends Milo, Manny and Mindy have done a good job at trying to get her into the spirit (ha ha, see what I did there!) of things and she is planning to get her groove on with her friends.  Until, that is, some strange things start going on at school and spooking everyone out.  Skeletons moving by themselves, books flying across the library, mysterious messages appearing on the whiteboard … it’s no wonder everyone starts to think the school is haunted and that the party will have to be cancelled!  It’s definitely a case then for Anisha, accidental ghost detective!  Can she find out what ghostly ghoul is causing all these spooky spectacles or will the school have to be closed down forever?  The latest in the series, this is a brilliantly fun book full of magical mayhem, ghastly goings-on and family warmth and fun.  There are plenty of hilarious black and white illustrations to go with the laugh-out-loud story of mystery and mayhem and these drawings serve to complement the story as well as to provide a brilliant visual representation of the crazy goings on in the book.  It’s a must-read of chapter book for wannabe little detectives over the spooky season and we loved it!

Anisha Accidental Detective - Fright Night

Solve Your Own Mystery – The Missing Magic (recommended reading age 7 plus) – Gareth P. Jones (author), Louise Forshaw (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

My daughter (who is now 7) and I just love these choose your own adventure books.  This is the first in the series that we have read (and it can totally be read as a standalone book) and we will certainly be finding the others now!  This is the premise: one puzzling mystery.  Several slippy suspects.  Endless possibilities.  Such fun!  So, do you think you would like to try and solve the mystery of the missing magic?  Go on, you will love it!!  It’s the first day of Magicon, the world’s biggest magic convention, but then “pop”, the magic stops working!  It’s gone missing so it is up to you and Klaus Solstaag, your ever-hungry detective boss, to try and find out who took it and get it back in time for the opening ceremony.   But beware the twists and turns!  Will you choose to follow Enid the Enchantress, or will you take a closer look at a meditating unicorn?  With witches and elves and mayhem caused by missing magic galore, this is a page-turner of a whodunnit story.  My daughter has absolutely loved being master of her own destiny in this book and has re-read the story in lots of different ways to come up with different outcomes (which has, quite frankly, blown her mind!).  The black and white illustrations are plentiful and extremely funny, making this a brilliant chapter book both visually and conceptually.  I hope your little one enjoys playing detective!

Solve Your Own Mystery

Middle Grade

The Whisperling – Hayley Hoskins (author), Puffin Books (publisher)

Whooooooooooooooooooo! (That’s my best ghost impression but also the happy sound I am making because I just LOVED this book!)  Everyone knows, there is no such thing as ghosts.  Or is there?!  It’s 1897 and Peggy Devona has to hide her gift.  Why, I hear you cry?!  Because Peggy has a gift like no other.  Peggy can talk to dead people.  She has to keep her talent hidden from those who are terrified of such power.  But when Peggy’s best friend, Sally, is accused of murdering her mistress, Peggy knows that she is the only one that can save her.  Pursued by the Reverend Silas Tate, and driven out of her own village because of her ‘whisperling’ abilities, Peggy ventures to her uncle’s psychic emporium in the big city, Bristol.  The ghosts are clamouring for her attention in the big city but Peggy must learn to understand her abilities and realise who she can trust.  She’s desperate to uncover the truth about Sally’s mistress but it seems that someone is working against her and the noose is tightening around Sally’s neck.  Will Peggy learn who to trust?  Can she save her friend from the gallows?  Well, you will just have to read every nail-biting page to find out.  And I highly recommend that you do!  I loved every ghostly twist and turn of this book and I certainly didn’t see the ending coming in relation to Peggy’s father!  It’s a gripping read, with the perfect amount of spine-tingling drama and lots of ghostly goings-on.  It also contains one of my favourite lines I have ever read in a book: “worriting changes nothing and the sky will fall in on a person whether they’ve a smile on their fizzgog or a grizzle in their guts, so you may as well be happy while you’re able.”  Never a truer word was spoken!  This is the perfect book to read, snuggled up by the light of your carved pumpkin with a hot chocolate in your hand.

The Whisperling

Witchstorm – Tim Tilley (author and illustrator), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

What better book to read on these long, October wet and blustery nights than this epic tale of witches and weather, storms and spells!  Will has always believed in magic and witches.  He’s grown up hearing all the legends and singing Agatha Crow’s song; he’s immersed himself in a world of mythical storm-lions disappearing villages and magical treasure hidden in the Fenlands where he lives.  But when Will’s Ma goes missing, Will begins to realise that maybe these aren’t just tales after all…… and then, when a witch crashes into the floor of Will’s Aunt Hera’s back-room,  he knows that the fate of his mother and the Fenlands themselves are wrapped up in this witchy world.  Will and his new witch friend Magda must search to find the fabled lost treasure, the Stormstone, before the wicked Hildreth finds it and uses it to destroy the Fenlands and turn everyone, human and witch, into his desensitised crows, only there to do his bidding.  Will, Magda and Hera face a quest of epic proportions as they race against the clock to find the Stormstone.  Will they manage to save the witching world as well as the fate of the grounders (humans) below?  This is a book which is packed full of storms and spells, riddles and ruins, magic and mayhem and I loved every broom-boat twist and turn it took.  I also loved the strong ecological message which runs throughout the story about keeping the environment in as natural and as wild a state as possible, without building on every spare piece of land which I think resonates with young readers.  Although I read a proof of the book (so some of the artwork was ‘to follow’), the black and white illustrations that I saw are stunning and serve to enhance the dark and spooky feel of the book.  Fizzing with friendship and foreboding, this is wonderful seasonal spookfest of a book.

Witchstorm

Wren – Lucy Hope (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

I could not put this book down! I absolutely loved Fledging, the superb fantasy debut from Lucy Hope and so I could not wait to see what this book would have in store.  And I was truly enthralled from the first page!  Wren’s family have lived in a ramshackle old castle in Wales for years.  It creaks and groans and is starting to fall apart at the seams.  Like all old houses, so Wren believes.  But is she correct?  Wren’s mother has died and she feels constricted by her family life and longs to be outside of the four gloomy walls of her house.  To be on the sea, watching the birds she so loves.  But when her father threatens to send her away to an institution for unruly girls, she knows she needs to do more than just dream of flying away.  She knows she needs to act.  Set against the backdrop of a moaning, groaning house, with the help of her friend Medwyn, Wren sets out to build herself a flying machine to escape from the shackles of duty and the constraints of narrow-minded thinking.  But when she does take flight, she learns some things about her life, her house and her family that she could never have imagined in her wildest dreams!  This is an exquisite adventure which takes flight in your imagination from the very beginning.  With its cast of brilliantly constructed characters, the story weaves its magic around you making you desperate to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.  It’s a spellbinding tale about longing and escape but also about love and friendship and doing the right thing.  It might be a book with the title of a small bird, but it will have a profound and powerful effect on you, having let your imagination soar.  Superb.

Wren – Lucy Hope

The Girl, the Ghost and the Lost Name – Reece Carter (author), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

This was another marvellous piece of magical middle grade writing that I just.could.not.put.down!!  I read this in only a few hours, so in love was I with the style of writing and so desperate was I to find out what happened to poor little Corpse.  This book is superbly written from the point of view of a young ghost child called Corpse.  She’s fashioned herself a body made of max, seaweed for hair and polished abalone shells for eyes.  She has no memory of who she used to be, how she died, or why she has ended up on the rock-that-doesn’t-exist, and more specifically, in the Witches’ sea shack.  In fact, Corpse is all alone apart from her friend Simon, the huntsman spider.  That is until the ghost of an old man visits her and leaves her with an enigmatic message before he fades off into Death Proper.  The message hints at treasure which just might reunite Corpse with her family and her name.  She sets off on a quest to find the answers to all the questions that have been swimming round her head for years.  But complicated thoughts are not the only thing Corpse will have to contend with.  She must battle the evil witches themselves in an epic showdown of magic and mayhem as Corpse tries to figure out who is friend and who is foe.  Brimming with magic and monsters of all varieties (and some of them are very cute!), this book weaves a spellbinding huntsman sized spider web of fast-paced enchantment and adventure around your hands so you cannot put it down.  It’s compelling in the extreme and written with such emotion.  I loved the themes of love and friendship overpowering unkindness and evil and I adored that the strength of family (whatever that might look like (and it differs in so many ways)) gives off the most powerful magic of all: love.  The ending is both sublime and poignant, with a final twist of a chapter that I did not see coming (and which brought a lump to my throat).  The copy of the book I read was a proof copy so it did not have any artwork in it but I can only assume that any illustrations would be the icing on the cake.  I made do with the pictures in my head but I really do hope you go out and get yourself a copy of this book for the young magician in your life: you won’t regret it.

The Girl, the Ghost and the Lost Name

Victoria Stitch Bad and Glittering – Harriet Muncaster (author and illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

Twins, Victoria Stitch and Celestine, are born of a diamond but the diamond has a dark streak running through it and so it is declared impure.  From that moment on, the twins are denied their royal birth-right and instead of being brought up in the royal palace, they are brought up in a small tree trunk and provided for by the authorities.  It seems as though the twins could not be more different – sunshine and moonlight – with Victoria Stitch never wanting to give up her claim to the throne and becoming bitter and introverted because of it and Celestine accepting the decision with good grace.  Victoria Stitch becomes consumes by her obsession for power and falls into a friendship with a secretive and manipulative wiskling called Ursuline.  As Victoria Stitch falls further into a dark and dangerous world, Celestine seems to shine as she accepts her place in life with a happy spirit.  But the fates of the twins are intertwined and it is not easy to step away from who you are and the siblings you have. Will it be possible for the twins to break free of the roles that they have been given and to change their own destiny?  I loved this story.  It’s bad and yet it’s glittering.  It’s dark and yet it’s light.  I loved how the characters in this magical world have such a complex depth to them: how the story acknowledges that no one is wholly ‘good’ or ‘bad’; we are made up of complex feelings and emotions which can be shaped by situations and events in our lives.  The story itself is full of sparkling magic set in the unique world of the wisklings and I loved every twist and turn of the bloom-ride (that’s not a typo!) it takes you on.  I, for one, did not see the ending coming.  The perfect read for this magical time of the year!

Victoria Stitch Bad and Glittering

The October Witches  – Jennifer Claessen (author), Uclan Publishing Ltd (publisher)

What a wonderful witching world this debut novel by Jennifer Claessen conjures up.  The clue is in the title: it’s literally the perfect October read, full of pumpkins and potions, stars and magic.  For young witch Clemmie Merlyn, this October just might be the first time that magic descends on her.  If that happens, she will join the rest of her family of witches (or coven) and enjoy a magical mayhem of an October, full of chaos and newly found star-power before the magic runs out again in November.  When Clemmie does finally receive her magic, she just can’t quite make it work but, regardless of that, some of Clemmie’s family want to harness their coven’s magical star-power and make it last beyond October.  Cue:  a gigantic 13 year old lovingly grown pumpkin for the witches to channel their power into! It’s a bold experiment and one which sees the Merlyn side of the family captured by the more cruel branch of the witch family tree, the Morgans, who also want to steal this power for themselves.  Is there any price that is too high for having magic that never ends?  What will happen to Clemmie and her family? Can the two branches of the family ever be re-united?  I loved every twist and turn of this magical middle grade read.  Exploring dark family secrets, this is a unique action-packed story of sparkling stardust magic, power and pumpkins, and true love and family bonds. I adore the witching world that the author conjures up because it is nothing like the pre-conceptions that you have of witches.  The story is bewitching: literally fizzing with excitement and energy and I couldn’t put it down.  I hope you manage to pick up a copy to read, snuggled up under a blanket!

he October Witches

The Vanishing of Aveline Jones – Phil Hickes (author), Keith Robinson (illustrator), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

Out on 27th October, this is the first book that I have read in this spooky series (although it is actually the third book) and so I read it as a standalone story, which can easily be done.  I had heard great things about the series and how spooky it was so I was a little apprehensive (I am such a scaredy-cat!) but as it focuses on fairies rather than ghosts, I wasn’t too terrified!!  Aveline is determined to find out the truth behind her uncle’s strange disappearance when she travels to his home with her Mum and Aunt Lilian after they decide to sell his house having become convinced that he is not going to return home.  After snooping around in his study, Aveline discovers that he had been researching possible supernatural activity around an ancient burial mound and that he had linked this with other unexplained disappearances of local villagers.  Aveline and Harold investigate and discover that dark and mysterious magical forces are at work and that they will do anything to remain hidden.  Will Aveline and Harold solve the mystery of her Uncle Rowan’s disappearance?  Thrilling in the extreme, I was on the edge of my seat and peering round my pillow at times during this book.  It certainly wrapped its spooky spirit tendrils around me and didn’t let go and I was heart-in-mouth desperate to know what was going to happen next.  If you have a brave middle grader, this is THE perfect spooktacular Halloween read for them this year.

The Vanishing of Aveline Jones

Young Adult

Unraveller – Frances Hardinge (author), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

Weaving a magical web of fantasy and dark and dangerous adventure, this book is the perfect seasonal read to snuggle down under a blanket with.  The story weaves a web of intrigue and adventure around Kellen, a unique unraveller of life-destroying curses, and his constant companion, the once-cursed Nettle.  Kellen can unravel the curses of those who have been hate-cursed by others but he is quick to move on and does not understand his unique gift fully.  When Kellen’s own world starts to literally unravel around him, he realises that he, too, has been cursed.  He and Nettle and her still cursed brother, Yannick the gull, have to try and remove his curse before everything starts to come loose in the world around them. But who can they trust?  Is it the dark and sullen marsh-horseman, Gall, or is it those who they already consider friends?  Set in an intricately woven and fantastical landscape, the twist and turns in this book make it an edge-of-your-seat, gripping read.  I honestly didn’t see what was round each dark and magical corner!   The world that Frances Hardinge builds is complex, fantastical, full of terror and bucket-loads of imagination and yet it is ultimately also a story of hope, and love, and friendship.  I found the characterisations of the protagonists so compelling: I loved how fascinatingly flawed and relate-able they were in some ways but how you were absolutely still rooting for them until the imaginative ending.  Interesting, immersive and wholly original, this is a superb spider’s web of a story which will ensnare you within it (unless you are an arachnophobe of course (and then you might find it a little disconcerting!)).

Unraveller

Non-fiction

The Big Book of Mysteries  – Tom Adams (author), Yas Imamura (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Do you believe in tales about demons and devils? Or ghost ships and vanishing villages?  How about alien encounters or haunted houses?  You might not think you do but you haven’t read this book yet! Or maybe these things can be explained in a rational way?  Get ready to send shivers down your spine and have your jaw hang open in awe and wonder as you read all about some of the world’s most unfathomable mysteries.  Have you heard the legend of Bigfoot, or the story about the vanishing of Amelia Earhart?  What do you know about tales of alien abductions, or stories of mind-boggling natural phenomena?  This book provides bite sized text blocks of information all about such spine-tingling mysteries and tries to explain the extraordinary….. unless, of course, the extraordinary cannot be explained!!  You will just have to make up your own minds!  I, for one, am still convinced of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster!!  With its neon- coloured, laser-cut hardback cover, this book is a stunning visual representation of some of the paranormal and staggering stories it contains.  I literally start singing the tune to the “X-Files” as soon as I see it (but, perhaps I am just showing my age there!). The illustrations are superb: impressively showcasing the gob-smacking events and stories that they are depicting.  This is a fascinating book on so many levels and would be the perfect book for any young science-fiction enthusiast.   The most riveting of reads at this time of year, we love it (and are slightly freaked out by it too -ha ha!).

The Big Book of Mysteries 
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Fiona lives in Yorkshire with her husband and little girl who is 6 months

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