Leila The Perfect Witch by Flavia Z. DragoLink to publisher
Published by: Walker Books, September 2022
Last year, Flavia Z. Drago brought us Gustavo The Shy Ghost where, throughout the illustrations, a little witch kept appearing. Well, now the witch is back in her very own story, Leila The Perfect Witch.
Leila is good at everything. But when she enters the 'Magnificent Witchy Cake-Off' for the first time, her success becomes unstuck. Worried about letting down her family, who boast a long line of master bakers, Leila practises and practises in the hope of achieving perfection. But, even with the help of her sisters, can she claim first prize?
Leila is an adorable and determined main character who will delight readers right from the front cover. Her witchy baking is perfect for young readers who love having fun in the kitchen around Halloween, or for those who just want to snuggle up with a fun, feel-good story. If they're not even in the mood for that then maybe they'd just enjoy spending time looking at Flavia Z. Drago's stunning artwork, which has so much detail, they'll be noticing new things for hours. By the way, has anyone seen a gingerbread person wearing an eye-patch?
The theme of not feeling good at something will no doubt feel relatable to little ones. However, this story has a hugely positive message of determination, perseverance and sibling support rather than rivalry. Mix in a final twist and you have a recipe for a surprising but satisfying ending that strengthens the takeaway message even further...but I'm not going to spoil it. All that's left to say is that if you're ever going to judge a book by its cover, then this story is genuinely as gorgeous on the inside as it is on the outside.
No Home for a Ghost by Jess RoseLink to Waterstones
Published by: Owlet Press, 4th October 2022
No Home For A Ghost is a gorgeously sweet picture book with a heart-warming message that is perfect for all the family this Halloween. With a strong focus on kindness, inclusion and belonging, it encourages readers to think about their decisions and not be too hasty to make judgements.
Dylan's family are shocked to discover their new home comes complete with a ghost. But while everyone else in the family wants to evict it, pronto, Dylan thinks differently. When his family get their way and the ghost is ousted, can Dylan make them see the error of their ways?
This is a gentle story that will tug strongly on the heartstrings. Turfed out onto the street, what will become of the ghost if Dylan doesn't intervene? Ironically, however, it seems that Dylan's family are losing out as much as the ghost is. What would life be like if they opened their eyes and gave their spooky resident a chance?
Creeping Beauty by Joseph Coelho and Freya HartasLink to publisher
Published by: Walker Books, September 2022
Truely edging on the grotesque, Creeping Beauty - the third in the Fairy Tales Gone Bad series - is for strong-stomached young readers who don't mind their fairy tales being curdled with fear...
Eshe and her sisters are Fairy Godmothers but Eshe has a different kind of gift to her siblings - she can see into the future. Ridiculed for being useless, Eshe becomes alienated from her family. But when she glimpses a terrifying future for one young girl, which will change the world as they know it, Eshe becomes determined to change her destiny.
Written by Children's Laureate, Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Freya Hartas, this short but gorgeously presented verse novel is deliciously dark, gruesomely grisly and terrifically thought-provoking. Not only does it deliver a brilliantly entertaining story that will make your toe nails curl, it also challenges fairy tale tropes, explores what makes 'baddies' bad and encourages readers to care about the world around them and the future in front of them.
The verse is rich in language and imagery with some challenging vocabulary. However, the length and amount of white space on the page balances this out, making it accessible for younger readers (6/7+) and gorgeous to read aloud. It is definitely aimed at readers who like the gorier angle of Halloween and I'd err caution with more sensitive readers, especially before bedtime. However, this has been a brilliant series (the physical copies are stunning) and I'm extremely sad to see it come to an end so soon.
Link to publisher