Sunday 23 October 2022

It's our Spooky Halloween Round-Up 2022...

 Leila The Perfect Witch by Flavia Z. Drago

Link 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 Rose

Link 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 Hartas

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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. 

Anisha, Accidental Detective by Serena Patel, illustrated by Emma McCann

Link to publisher

Published by: Usborne, September 2022


I've loved the Anisha, Accidental Detective series from the start but the sixth book in the series (will it really be the last?) has got to be my favourite. Packed full of delicious Halloween spookiness,  Fright Night is a creepy, funny but still full of the family fun we have come to expect from the Mistrys.

A school Halloween disco isn't Anisha's idea of fun. But when strange and spooky occurrences start happening around the school site and the governors threaten to cancel the event, Anisha realises it means more to her than she first thought. Convinced there is a more logical explanation than a school ghost, Anisha starts investigating. Who would want to ruin a Halloween disco? And how have they managed to fool the whole school?

With brilliant illustrations from Emma McCann all the way through, this is a treat of a read for Halloween. Serena Patel is brilliant at writing Anisha's family dramas with both relatability and humour - watch out for the salsa scene - and yet it has been great to see the family dynamics evolve and develop throughout the six books, making them all slightly different. 

Aimed at the lower end of middle grade,  Fright Night is perfect for Halloween fans who prefer fun rather than fear. There's certainly plenty of spooky action with skeletons, flying books and slime galore but it's all wrapped up in the warm safety of Anisha's world. The well-plotted mystery keeps you guessing and there's also a handful of sub-plots which, not only bring even more drama and tension to the text, but also a heart-warming take-away message centred around family and friendship. If you haven't yet read of the other five Anisha books, I can highly recommend all of them. 

Malice in Wonderland and A Trick Of Time by Jenni Jennings, illustrated by Hannah Peck


Published by: Scholastic, September 2020 & 2021

Last year, I picked up Malice In Underland by Jenni Jennings in a bookshop and LOVED it. A year later, I've also just gobbled down the sequel, A Trick in Time and have the third instalment, Ghost Games, on the way. These short but very unsweet mystery stories - prepare for hilarious gruesomeness - are packed full of cleverly plotted mysteries, fantastic world-building and laugh-out-loud characters. Think Addams Family x Sherlock Holmes.

Malice is not like her Topunder family. Living in Topside, they spend their lives creating mischievous mayhem. But Malice - different as she is - prefers doing good and solving mysteries.

A Trick of Time - Malice's dastardly uncle, Maniacal Malign, has stolen back his long-hidden, time-stopping pocket watch and is now wrecking havoc in both Topside and Underland. But it's not long before Malice discovers that Maniacal has a far more serious plan than just causing chaos - a plan to get REVENGE. And it's up to Malice, Uncle Vex and Seth to stop him...TICK TOCK, TICK, TOCK. 

Energetic and entertaining, these incredibly fast-paced novels burst off the page. The clever play on Alice in Wonderland is a great way to draw readers in, but don't expect too many similarities because this series is sparky and original in its own right. Perfect for Halloween, with a dark, gothic feel, the brilliantly-formed characters are stand-out with everyone bringing either humour or creepiness to the plot. There's puzzles, cryptic messages, LOTS of quirky action and bags of yuckiness too.

Malice is a great character - a focussed, determined girl who loves her family but isn't scared to be different. I particularly love how she earns her family's respect for staying true to herself, despite the fact they don't understand her, and she never shies away from tricky situations or characters. Life in Underland is certainly never dull and you'll have a whale of a time if you decide to give these books a go. 

And watch out for...

The Vanishing of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

Link to publisher

Published by: Usborne, 27th October 2022

Unfortunately, The Vanishing of Aveline Jones isn't due to be published until 27th October. However, if the previous two in the series are anything to go by, it will be well worth a read. Spine-tingling and spooky, these short but very scary novels have a wonderfully classic feel to them. Why not check out our reviews for:

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