The Fall season brings many wonderful activities and new beauty to the landscape. But the one thing it brings to kids is fun, school parties, costumes and – candy. This review, and my next review, will be dedicated to bringing to you the best and newest Halloween books for families. The first four books are picture books geared for ages four through eight. The rest are chapter books for ages nine and up unless otherwise noted.
A Werewolf Named Oliver James, by Nicholas John Frith, is a hilariously fun book that begs to be read aloud. Young Oliver is just leaving band practice. It’s becoming dark and he states that it’s getting close to 6:00 p.m. and time for dinner. A close observer will note a full moon in the background. Upon turning the page you discover that Oliver is no longer human but a werewolf! Perhaps this is why his band friends all ran away. He is worried when he goes home for dinner what his parents will think. But there is quite a surprise at the end! The illustrations are perfect with deep purples and splashes of black on every page creating an atmosphere of night and mystery.
The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael, by Bonny Becker, and frightfully presented with humor throughout with pencil and colored digitally by Mark Fearing, is a rhyming tale about a boy waiting at a bus stop to take his Granny a small basket holding her pet. But as he gets on bus number 13, he is immediately suspicious as the driver looks spooky with his “teeth long” and “his nose bent and warted”. As the passengers gradually get off, he is now the last one on the bus and notices the bus is becoming more and more haunted. What he does to get off this frightening bus will have readers surprised. The book is overly-large and the end-pages add to the storyline.
Monster Boogie, by Laurie Beckner, and delightfully illustrated with colored pencil and watercolor and then rendered digitally by Ben Clanton, not only begs to be read aloud but also for one to sing and dance along. And believe me, you will! By the end of this fun rhyming book, your foot will be tapping, and your youngsters will be boogie dancing with giant grins! The music is found on the back of the book and is easily accessible.
Fangsgiving, by Ethan Long, takes the next holiday of Thanksgiving and cleverly mixes it with Halloween. When Vlad’s extended family expectedly arrives for Thanksgiving, things go awry. They all desire to help with the dinner but zap the turkey to a very burnt offering. The pumpkin pie becomes a “lump-kin pie” due to the maggot meatballs placed inside it. And the mashed potatoes have a very strange look due to floating eye balls. However, after a large calamity, it all works out and this large family become grateful for loved-ones gathered together. The wonderful illustrations are done with graphite pencil and rendered digitally.
Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Sea Monsters, by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater, is a winning sequel to their “Magical Creature” Guide. Friends, Pip and Tomas, are headed to Tomas’s sea port where they find all kinds of sea creatures. But when they become embroiled in a mystery involving a notorious sea creature life becomes most exciting! The illustrations of the sea monsters the friends find are ingenious, as well as with detailed descriptions of each creature. This book is perfect for ages eight and up.
Upside Down Magic: Weather or Not, by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins, is actually the fifth book in this wonderful series. If your eight-year-old and older hasn’t discovered this fun and imaginative series, they are missing out. The premise of this series is Willa has magic but when she’s upset, it rains inside or outside. So, dealing with her emotions can be tricky. All of the books are a delight.
Nightbooks, by J. A. White, is a little like the retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Alex loves to write scary stories. However, just as he decides to stop writing them, he is imprisoned by a witch who tells him that he must tell a scary story each night in order to stay alive. Fortunately, the witch lives in an apartment building and so he can rely on other tenants who are also captured to create stories. The core of the story is about friendship and helping each other in times of need. This book is a bit spooky, but not overly so, making it perfect for kids that like to hear chilling tales.
The Boggart Fights Back, by Susan Cooper, was first published in 1993 and is a follow-up to “The Boggart”. However, while it’s not necessary to read that first book, you will desire to do so after reading this riveting ghostly adventure. Two siblings, Jay and Allie, love visiting their grandfather at his old Scottish castle where they are visited by friendly ghosts. But it gets very difficult when a developer wants to have their grandfather sell his castle and turn it into a golf course and resort. Now the kids, along with their ghostly help, need to stop all actions that are about to take place.
The Supernormal Sleuthing Service: The Sphinx’s Secret, by Glenda Bond and Christopher Rowe, is actually the second book in this planned series. The first book, ”The Lost Legacy”, is enormous fun and after reading this you will definitely want to read that book as well! Stephen is living in a hotel that is packed full of monsters. Trouble happens when a mean sorcerer casts a spell on the entire hotel and now Stephen and his friends must figure out how to undo it before his entire home is changed forever. Beware of a warning: once you begin this book, you won’t be able to stop!