October is the perfect month for getting cosy and maybe...a little bit spooky. With a whole host of magical and creepy new releases on offer across all the age-groups, we have been completely spoilt for choice this year and we still have plenty to sink our teeth into before Halloween itself.
Below are a round-up of our favourites so far. These stories range from being pure magic to deliciously funny and 'gross' to totally terrifying. Which ones will you go for?
Midnight Magic by Michelle Harrison and Elissa ElwickLink to author site
Published by: Little Tiger Press, October 2020
Perfect for children whose reading is just taking off, Midnight Magic is a short, magical chapter book written in verse by author Michelle Harrison, who is well-known for her magical middle grade books.
Midnight is a kitten unlike others in her family. Born at the stroke of midnight, she has the power to cause all sorts of magical mayhem. But when she is abandoned by her mum and siblings for being different, Midnight sets out to find where she really belongs, with lots of fun adventures on the way.
My seven year old daughter loved Midnight's antics. She insisted on reading the story herself and felt a huge sense of achievement when she reached the end. With beautiful full-colour illustrations by Elissa Elwick, this is the perfect read for cat-lovers and wannabe witches alike. Trixie and her family are an adorable match for midnight and the broom is simply hilarious. Pure, pure magic in a kitten sized package.
Zombierella: Fairytales Gone Bad by Joseph Coelho and Freya HartasLink to Waterstones
Published: Walker Books, September 2020
Also written in verse, this chapter book is short but for those with stronger stomachs. It is a fairy tale gone bad indeed; gruesomely gross, hilariously funny but with a surprising amount of heart too, especially at the end.
Cinderella is as miserable as miserable can be, thanks to her awful, fake stepmother and sisters. But, when she slips on the stairs and dies as the result of a cruel prank, the Shadow of Death revives her. Now, undead Zombierella has three days to go forth and seek revenge on those who took her life. But will she win her prince too?
This is a hugely imaginative retelling, perfect for this time of year. It's dark, gothic tone is peppered with humour and there are some fab accompanying characters. Lumpkin the horse, the mushroom carriage and the autumnal ball-gown add to the fantastic twist in this well-known tale but be prepared if you are squeamish! - Garish and gory things lurk, especially poo at the top of the stairs!
Again, this chapter book is accompanied by magnificent full-colour illustrations which pop with a vivid vibrancy. As a result, the expert touch of Freya Hartas makes this tale as alive as Cinderella is dead...or undead.
Fingers crossed there will be more in the Fairytales Gone Bad series. If you're looking for a darkly funny and icky read, this is the one for you!
The Haunting of Avaline Jones by Phil HickesLink to The Book Depository
Published: Usbourne Publishing, September 2020
Moving into middle grade territory, this novel by Phil Hickes has the fear factor. What begins as creepy soon turns into full on terror! But, wow, if you can handle it, this is a mightily good debut.
When ghost-lover Aveline Jones goes to stay with her Aunt in Cornwall during October half-term, she stumbles upon a book with a mysterious history. The book of ghost stories previously belonged to a girl who disappeared in inexplicable circumstances. Can Aveline get to the bottom of what happened to her? Or, with the book in her possession, is something...or someone... coming for her too?
This spooky story is packed with atmosphere and intrigue right from the get go. Book loving Aveline, with her fixation on the supernatural, makes a great protagonist but I loved the supporting characters too, especially awkward Aunt Lilian. There were parts of the story that I felt could have been explored a little more, especially Aveline's burgeoning friendship with Harold, but this was balanced by the effectiveness of keeping the word count low, making for a short, snappy, spine-tingling read, perfect for a wild stormy evening.
I adored Phil Hickes' wild-weather, deserted seaside town setting which was instantly made creepy by the presence of the child scarecrows. The plot centres around a traditional, terrifying ghost story but with the added potency of an unexplained disappearance. However, when strange things start happening to Aveline, events escalate quickly towards a heart-stopping conclusion.
This really isn't for the faint hearted. It's a mini horror movie in book form - vivid, terrifying but hugely refreshing. Phil Hickes has created a tale that feels both traditional and contemporary and very eclectic. This is superb story-telling.
Sticky Pines: The Bigwoof Conspiracy and The Thing at Blackhole Lake by Dashe RobertsLink to publisher
Published by: Nosy Crow, Feb 2020 and Sep 2020
If you're a middle grade reader looking a fun, spine-tingling but slightly more bonkers tale than the one above, then look no further than this brilliant, sci-fi series by Dashe Roberts. Set in the isolated, American town of Sticky Pines, this is a place where very strange things happen indeed.
Bigwoof Conspiracy: When people in Sticky Pines begin to go missing, Lucy Sladan is determined to proof that BigWoof creatures are involved. After all, she and her new friend Milo have seen them with their own eyes! But things get stranger when her precious evidence is destroyed and Milo's dad, the new owner of the local sweet company, throws a carnival. Soon inexplicable, supernatural things are happening all over town. Can Lucy get to the bottom of what's happening or is she completely out of her depth?