Spells, spills and giggles for Halloween by various authors - book reviews -
As Halloween looms like a deep, dark shadow on the horizon, enjoy a simply wizard selection of new books which are guaranteed to bewitch all young fans of the season of spooks and spectres.
Age 8 plus:
The Warrior In My Wardrobe:More Misadventures of Merdyn the Wild
Simon Farnaby and Claire Powell
If you and your family are down and out with the worries of the pandemic, indulge yourselves in the shared joy of this simply wizard middle grade series from Simon Farnaby, writer of Paddington 2 and star of Horrible Histories. This is the second book in this hilarious series and once again stars the badly behaved, time-travelling Merdyn (the greatest wizard of the Dark Ages) and Rose, his 21st-century descendent. Vanheldon the vandal warrior, meanwhile, is furious. After all, last time they met, Merdyn turned his army to stone. Seeking revenge, Vanheldon comes up with a way to kidnap Rose and transport her back to Dark Ages Transylvania, set on luring Merdyn into a terrible trap. Except (whoops!) his magical minion kidnaps Rose’s teenage brother Kris instead. Rose, Merdyn and Bubbles the guinea pig must team up to save the day. But can they rescue Kris without creating historical mayhem? Will Rose's wizard ancestor even remember her and will Bubbles ever stop pooing? Whether this terrific tale of is read alone or aloud, there are guaranteed gags, giggles and great adventures with a historical twist on every page as Farnaby lets his imagination and storytelling skills run riot, and Claire Powell adds the finishing touches with her super-charged, richly detailed illustrations.
(Hodder Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99
Age 9 plus:
The Shadows 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. In the sequel to his fantastical, thought-provoking and beautifully written The Monsters of Rookhaven – and once again filled with the stunning black-and-white illustrations of Edward Bettison – Irish writer Pádraig Kenny thrills and delights his army of fans. Shadows are gathering over Rookhaven. It’s the time of The Great Configuration, a once in a hundred years event. Family and monsters descend on Rookhaven from all over the country to take part. But amongst the guests there is an interloper, one who is disguised and has an eye on their destruction. Meanwhile, Mirabelle – part-human, part-monster – discovers that to those from outside Rookhaven she is not considered family at all and, forced to search further afield for knowledge of her true history, she risks everything… and everyone. What better season than Halloween to return to the monstrous world of Mirabelle as Kenny’s gothic and gorgeous story of family and forgiveness asks us to contemplate what it is to be an outsider, and to take a second look at how we view our own lives. This is a super-spooky story, chilling and thrilling but with magic, kindness and a haunting beauty at its heart.
(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)
Age 8 plus:
Enjoy a spooky historical adventure with a supernatural twist as Scottish-born author Victoria Williamson finds inspiration in the life of Robert Burns and one of his most famous and best-loved poems, Tam O’Shanter. Twelve-year-old Rab spends all of his time doing backbreaking work on his family’s farm instead of attending school, but when he finds a hag stone in one of the fields, everything changes. Looking through its circular hole, he sees witches gathering in a coming storm, and they have set their sights on his family. Can Rab save his sisters from the clutches of the witches’ coven before their Halloween ceremony in the old kirk? Set against an awe-inspiring backdrop, Hag Storm is a thrilling and atmospheric tale of mystery and magic, and a gloriously imaginative celebration of Scottish history and the country’s fascinating folklore.
(Pokey Hat, paperback, £7.99)
Age 7 plus:
Dream Defenders: Silas and the Marvellous Misfits
Join the Dream Defenders … and turn nightmares into incredible adventures! Children can suffer from anxiety in the best of times but in the current coronavirus crisis, stress levels have the potential to soar. So calm their fears and dry their tears with author and illustrator Tom Percival’s clever, all-action Dream Defenders adventure series (formerly known as The Dream Team) which offers a fun and engaging way to reassure youngsters and help them cope with anxieties. In the third book in the series, Erika has a big secret. She’s a member of the Dream Defenders – a top-secret organisation that banishes your worries while you sleep. And tonight they’re on a mission to rescue Erika’s best friend Silas from the clutches of the evil Glooms – creatures who want everyone in the dream world to look and think exactly the same way. Can the Dream Defenders save Silas and help him to see that being a misfit can be a truly marvellous thing? These superbly creative books are perfect for sharing at home to guide children through periods of anxiety, or for reading in schools as guidance with behavioural problems and anger management. Sweet dreams are made of this!
(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)
Age 6 plus:
Ghost Scouts: Chaos at Camp Croak!
If you’re looking for some wicked Halloween fun, head off to Camp Croak and meet zombies, werewolves and a fierce skeleton! Chaos at Camp Croak! is exciting American author and illustrator Taylor Dolan’s second hair-raising book in her laugh-out-loud, illustrated Ghost Scouts series. Lexie Wilde and her friends (who include an English zombie called Mary, a very quiet ghost called Boo and a fierce skeleton called Bebe) are super excited about Halloween this year. After all, where better to spend it than at Camp Croak, spookiest holiday camp ever? And the arrival of two new Ghost Scouts is the icing on the cake… until Lexie accepts a dare from one of them, and a rogue spell is cast. Does this mean the end of Halloween and could it be the evil Euphemia Vile behind the chaos that ensues? With its cast of ghoulish but gorgeous characters, a feisty feminist heroine, a story steeped in friendship, fun, kindness and daring to be different, and Dolan’s all-action, two-tone illustrations throughout, this is the perfect read for all young mischief-makers.
(Guppy Books, paperback, £6.99)
Age 5 plus:
Midnight Magic: Mirror Mischief
Michelle Harrison and Elissa Elwick
There’s double trouble in the second book of a bewitching early reading series from top team Michelle Harrison, author of A Pinch of Magic, and illustrator Elissa Elwick. These fun-filled stories –featuring Midnight, a magical cat, its talking broomstick Twiggy, and a kind-hearted girl called Trixie who has given them a home – hit the spot perfectly for children moving on from picture books. When Trixie is at school one day, Midnight gets up to some mischief with the bathroom mirror and brings her reflection to life. The mirror’s Midnight causes all sorts of chaos but safely on the other side of the glass… until Twiggy the broomstick accidentally smashes the mirror, setting the destructive double free! As Trixie, Dad and Nan get tangled up in the turmoil, can they work together and send the magical cat back to where it came from before it’s too late? Told in rhyming verse and illustrated in gorgeous two-tone colour throughout, this fun-filled series is guaranteed to cast a spell over your little ones!
(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £5.99)