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For those who enjoy a spooky tale, we have scary stories galore. From cute little ghosts for younger readers to truly terrifying reads for teenagers, you can find a wide selection of books in this section.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | Some girls like ballet; some like football; Aveline Jones likes ghosts. And anyone who enjoys a creepy, well-plotted, atmospheric ghost story will love this book. The setting is a little West Country fishing port, where Aveline is staying with her aunt while her mother is away. Hallowe’en is approaching and Aveline is unsettled by the village’s custom of leaving life-size manikins of children outside the houses – it’s seriously spooky. A visit to the local second-hand bookshop begins an adventure that will reveal the reason for the dolls, and one that sees Aveline herself caught up in an old tragedy that still haunts the villagers. It’s deliciously creepy reading, just the thing to add a frisson of fear as the nights draw out and highly recommended!
If ever there was a picture book to be enjoyed in the long winter nights, when there’s a crackle of frost in the air, it’s this one. Snow Ghost comes shimmering out of the air, she soars over hills and woods, darkening as evening draws in, searching for somewhere to settle. Nowhere seems to offer a welcome and she’s lonely and getting tired when on top of a hill she spots a small farm with two happy children in the garden. They all play together in the snow until night falls completely and as the children go in, Snow Ghost settles on the roof, home at last. Snow Ghost is a magical creation in Diana Mayo’s illustrations, floating across the pages almost not there, yet a tangible presence, and we look down with her on the valleys, fields and quiet little town below. The sense of stillness – then joy and hope – is perfectly captured in Tony Mitton’s text which is as graceful and airy as Snow Ghost herself. A perfect story for this time of year, a celebration of hope and belonging.
Opening the pages of this eerie anthology is akin to creeping through creaky doors to explore a haunted house. To wander corridors and halls, rooms and chambers that have been darkly decorated by a host of hallowed writers. Here readers will encounter the skulking terrors of Joseph Delaney’s timeless, gripping The Castle Ghosts. The clever, contemporary creepiness of Robin Jarvis’s The Beach Hut. Then there’s Philip Reeves’s long-lingering, translucently lyrical The Ghost Wood. There are eleven tales in all, each written by a truly top-class writer, among them Matt Haig, Derek Landy, Susan Cooper, Mal Peet, and Jamila Gavin. Some tingle with menace. Others are outright scary. Some are modern, others infused with the terrors of traditional Gothic tales. And all of them are exquisitely executed. Perfect for reading aloud as the nights draw in, the stories here also make excellent introductions to a fine set of writers.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2020 | Everyone is welcome at Spooky School! Everyone who likes to be scared a bit! Open the pages of this fun board book and join the pupils as they learn how to fly like a witch on a broomstick and to howl like a werewolf. Or join in a dance for skeletons. And, don’t forget, spookiness can be caring too. There’s loads of fun on the Halloween theme. But just watch out for spiders….
This emotive, richly-detailed novel illuminates a dark period of history with grace and lyricism through a perfectly-paced plot. England, 1659 – an era of terror and persecution for women who might be accused of witchcraft. One such woman is Mary’s grandmother, the wise woman who raised her, someone the community once turned to in times of birth, sickness and death. But those times have passed. When her grandmother is hanged for witchcraft after a ludicrous trial, Mary fears for her own life, but she’s swiftly and quietly brought to safety by a woman she doesn’t know, with a passage to America arranged for her. In the New World Mary will adopt a new identity and make a new life among Puritans. Mary’s life in Salem is described in evocative detail - the heat that “does not fade with the setting sun”, the fireflies, the “dour” people whose “faces show a history of work and hardship.” But the Puritans find Salem too soft for them, and so they press further into the wilderness, to the Beulah (‘Bride of God’) settlement. Life is strict, and worsens for Mary when old superstitions re-emerge after she uses her healing wisdom. It’s while searching for herbs in the woods that she befriends Jaybird, a Native American boy, and meets his shaman grandfather. The novel tells of their history and spiritual beliefs with an engaging deftness of touch, but since the Puritans regard Native Americans as “the Devil’s instruments”, as people who live “in sin, and in degradation”, Mary’s association with Jaybird adds to their suspicion of her. Presented as pages from Mary’s journal found centuries later, this is an engaging joy from start to cliff-hanger finish. As Witch Child ends, so Sorceress begins...
This captivating sequel sees contemporary Native American Agnes discover deep connections to her ancestress Mary, whose story enchanted readers in Witch Child. Deftly interweaving narratives of the past and present, and laced with atmosphere, authenticity and insights into Native American culture, this is an exhilarating, emotion-driven feast for fans of historical fiction. Agnes is proud of her Native American heritage, though her fellow anthropology students don’t call her by her tribal name, Karonhisake - Searching Sky. After reading the historic diaries of Mary Newbury and being struck by a vision type experience, Agnes feels compelled to contact the researcher who found Mary’s diaries. She has a hunch that Mary might be the young woman she’s heard stories about on her home reservation. As things turn out, her formidable Aunt M, a medicine woman, is already miles ahead of her in knowing this. Bristling with intrigue and ethical commentary on the acquisition and appropriation of Native American objects (“What right they got to any of that stuff? Bunch of grave robbers!”), this tells the remarkable tales of two remarkable young women connected across time.
This comic picture book cleverly demonstrates the dangers of being swayed by popular opinion. New boy Peter is quickly branded the baddest boy in school and it does indeed seem that he’s given to doing naughty things. So when the school’s pet rat goes missing from his cage, everyone assumes Peter is responsible. Only one person knows the truth, and that Peter’s bad behaviour is not what it seems either. The book explores the dynamics of any classroom while also showing us that strange or different doesn’t equal bad and that categorising people on assumptions is never a good idea. Peter is a very charming little character, with his cape, fangs and lacy collar, and the story is beautifully told by its mystery narrator. Original, memorable, and lots of fun.
There are thrills galore in this stylish lift-the-flap book. Each page features a different creature – fish, bat, spider snake – and each looks pretty innocuous until you pull open the elongated flap then, good heavens, what horrors are revealed! The fish is no guppy, but a piranha with a gaping mouthful of sharp teeth (and a smaller fish about to be eaten)! Pull up the flap for the octopus and discover what’s inside – it’s not a pretty sight! Each flap reveals something more gruesome and revolting than before until the final image of a pumpkin, which turns out to be concealing some very creepy surprises. Young children will revel in these opportunities to be shocked and disgusted, and will shriek with glee at each new ghastliness revealed. The illustrations and bold colours are very striking and add just the right amount of humour to the horror. Nasty but nice!
October 2020 Debut of the Month | A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
This inventive page-turner opens with a superb sense of peril as sixteen-year-old Alfie moves from Bristol to spend summer in a small village in the north of England. There’s menace from the moment he chances upon a stone in a churchyard and local girl Mia explains the superstitions around it - if a person walks around the stone three times uttering the words “I don‘t believe in witches” Meg Shelton will come for you! Keen to show he doesn’t believe such nonsense, Alfie does exactly that - with immediate menacing effects, and it’s not long before he realises that he’s become a conduit for Meg, a woman murdered for being a witch way back in 1705. Defying convention and expectation, not only is this a gripping page-turner, but it’s brilliantly funny too, with comedy springing forth the moment Meg springs into Alfie’s life (and shower…). What’s more, it’s also edge-of-your-seat pacey as Alfie and Mia - with the help of Mia’s witch-expert aunt - race against time to help Meg make peace with her past, with the stakes high, and their feelings running pretty high too.
September 2020 Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | If you like your adventures good and creepy, you’re going to love The Invasion of the Crooked Oak. Crooked Oak is a peaceful kind of place, but it seems something is up with the town’s grown-ups – they’ve stopped eating, are avoiding the light, and generally behaving really strangely. When teenagers Pete, Krish and Nancy try to work out what’s going on, they find the trail leads to the fracking site on the town’s edge. The tension ratchets up nicely as the three realise they’ve got one chance to save their parents and themselves. The environmental theme feels very topical and author Dan Smith knows just how to keep his readers on the edge of their seats. Published by dyslexia specialists Barrington Stoke, this is accessible to readers of all abilities and completely gripping.
Noah loves his new house, he has his own room and he has even made friends at his new school. Noah wants to stay! But that has never happened yet-the supernatural, centuries old curse still follows the Bradley family and every home they have ever lived in is destroyed. He has a duffel bag with his most precious possessions that is never unpacked – just in case. This is an exciting premise that will immediately grip young readers and Noah is a completely believable, modern character with the same issues about fitting in and finding friends, that readers will all recognise and this makes the danger he faces all the more thrilling. When the inevitable disaster strikes, Noah blames himself for ignoring the warning signs and with his father away and his mother in hospital it is up to him to continue his mother’s quest to find the other Bradley’s and the magical objects which together could break the curse. One of the delights of this fast-paced adventure is the characterisation of Noah, his younger brother Billy and of Neena- the neighbour who is a social outcast at school but a brave, resourceful and true friend. Noah’s growing maturity allows him to see her true value as well as recognise his own failings. This highly readable tale really does have the perfect blend of social realism, thrilling adventure and a supernatural mystery to solve.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2020 | March 2020 Book of the Month | With a new baby on the way Amelia’s mother is too busy to do much. So it is up to Amelia and her friends Florence and Grimaldy to look after the sweet little caticorns. What can be hard about taking care of the cute looking Gerrard, Butler and Mo? Amelia is keen to impress all with what a great big sister she will be but looking after the very naughty carticorns turns out to be very hard indeed!
February 2020 Debut of the Month | Set in a world that’s become “a walking graveyard”, this edge-of-your-seat thriller teems with cinematic chills and the tender love between two teenage boys. Indeed, author Darren Charlton has hit the nail on the head in describing his debut as The Walking Dead meets Brokeback Mountain. “Clock it. Kill it. Rid the world of it” - this is how encounters with the zombie Restless Ones must be handled, a mantra soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old Peter struggles to follow. Too trusting, and infinitely better with a darning needle than an axe or gun, he’s something of a liability to the community, especially as another winter sets in, for “winter was the one season every Lake Lander feared. Not because Montana was about to get colder than an eagle’s gaze. But because the Dead could make it across the lake’s frozen waters.” When the community comes under serious threat during their annual First Fall party, Peter winds up as zombie bait with his at-one-with-the-wilds boyfriend Connor responsible for wrangling the Restless Ones like a post-apocalyptic cowboy. On the mainland, the young lovers uncover an earth-shattering secret and it’s not long before Connor’s situation is seriously comprised, leading to Peter stepping-up and standing tall. Gripping and graphically gory, this dynamic debut is dystopian horror with a difference, for it pulsates not only with terror and visceral violence, but also with love, affection and emotional atmosphere.
Delectably whimsical and irrefutably elegant, this fifth volume of Ransom Briggs’s Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series is an intoxicating feat of fantastical fiction. Tasked to undertake a mysterious, meandering mission by his dying grandfather, Jacob Portman must deliver a peculiar named Noor - the focus of an ancient apocalyptic prophecy - to a person known only as “V”. With little to work with and chaos waiting, courageous steps must be taken, which makes Jacob’s story piquant with stakes of the highest order. With a liberal peppering of authentic old photographs adding to the exuberantly eerie atmosphere, this fluttering marvel of the macabre is shot-through with endearing companionships and propelled by an urgent, noble need to save Peculiardom from doom.
Taking inspiration from an inscription on a stone in Written Stone Lane, Lancashire (“RAUFFE RADCLIFFE LAID THIS STONE TO LYE FOREVER: AD 1655”), this sophisticated ghost story – the sequel to Carnegie-nominated Cold Bath Street - sees 15-year-old Preston embroiled in a classic quest to save the world from destruction at the hands of ancient spectres. Preston currently lives in the North of England in 1978, where he and a girl called Tracey bond over “Hong Kong Garden” by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Tracey doesn’t remember the past they’ve shared, “the ghost dogs and the Roman legionaries, the spectre which had emerged from the painting at the Harris Library”, while Preston “could see it all, bright and certain and real as brick and pain and darkness”. When an ancient stone is shifted, lethal ghosts are released and it falls to Preston to fix this desperately dangerous situation, with a prickling sense of suspense and shrewd interweaving of local folkloric beings.The atmosphere is enhanced by Janet Pickering’s haunting illustrations, and the language is always elegant, steady and smooth, belying the perilous situations Preston finds himself up against. Perfect for fans of Joseph Delaney and Jonathan Stroud.
Island of Shadows | Set in post-war Britain, this gripping novel is steeped in atmosphere and adventure - think Enid Blyton for older readers with lashings of creepiness in place of cream buns and ginger beer. Noah and his adoptive mother Millicent, a bestselling children’s author, are finding life hard after losing their beloved Captain in battle. Struggling to write a new novel, Millicent insists they head to the remote Scottish island of Inchtinn to find inspiration. Inchtinn means “Island of the Sick”, on account of it being home to a ramshackle 400-year-old leper hospital and not much else, apart from rumours of ghosts and unpleasant deaths, and a colony of aggressively protective guillemots. When Noah encounters an otherworldly cave-dwelling girl, a sinister real-life mystery unfolds as Millicent struggles with her fictional Adventurers story. To Noah’s huge exasperation and anger, she won’t heed his insistence that they’re in danger. Indeed, tensions between mother and son run high throughout, and are powerfully addressed in the thrilling final sequences when Noah must face his greatest fears. The novel’s rugged natural-world backdrop and classic ghost story motifs set it apart from many books for younger teens. Miranda Harris’s haunting line drawings make it unusual too - it’s a rare joy for novels aimed at this age to be illustrated. With its spirit of adventure and theme of facing deep-rooted fears in a grown-up way, this will satisfy readers on the cusp of their teenage years who don’t yet want to leave behind the mystery and magic of Middle Grade novels.
Interest Age 8+ Reading age 8 | Chris Priestley is a superb teller of ghost stories and knows just how to bring the uncanny into the ordinary, or turn the homely suddenly horrifying. A tour for talented young writers round a haunted house is the backdrop for this collection of linked stories. Each of the seven ghosts we meet is a child, each of their stories is different and each is guaranteed to send shivers up the spine or have you nervously checking over your shoulder in the dark. Written for dyslexia-specialists Barrington Stoke, this will enthrall even the most reluctant or struggling reader and concludes with a fantastically chilling twist. It’s the season for ghost stories, and this is required reading for fans of the genre.
With its tongue firmly in its cheek, this is a book to delight parent and child alike. The opening pages remind us of the credentials of the Goodnight Laboratory whose staff have designed this guide: follow their advice and you’re guaranteed to see off all monsters. This advice includes things parents will thoroughly endorse like keep a clean room because no mess equals nowhere for monsters to hide, as well as things to make children giggle, such as telling silly jokes will send monsters rolling away laughing. And everyone will approve of the final bit of advice which says that closing the book will create a monster-free zone. Monsters have never seemed so silly and this will send everyone to bed happy and laughing.
Paul’s life changes in totally unexpected ways when he discovers a little ghost living in the keyhole of his front door. The two quickly become friends and no wonder, Zippel the ghost is irresistible – funny, mischievous and thoroughly well-meaning, if totally baffled by modern life (he’s particularly fascinated by the flush on the toilet). Together they have some excellent adventures, Zippel getting up to all sorts of tricks in an old castle and taking ingenious revenge on a couple of bullies who’ve been tormenting Paul. Full colour illustrations by Axel Scheffler perfectly capture the droll humour of the stories and this is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. Buy a copy and don’t be surprised if you find readers checking out keyholes in the hope of finding their own Zippel.
If, like actor Reece Shearsmith and author David Nicholls, you were growing up in the late 70s or early 80s, you may well remember this book. All About Ghosts was a huge favourite with young readers then, a thrilling examination of the world of the supernatural, full of terrifying stories of ghosts and ghost hunting. Due to genuine popular demand, publisher Usborne has brought it back, exactly as it appeared in 1977. Will it thrill and engage today’s kids as it did their parents? You betcha! There’s page after illustrated page of spooky myths, legends and true stories as well as theories and debate on the possible existence of ghosts. As spine-tingling today as it ever was, and just as certain to set the imagination racing.
Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | Nothing is what it seems in Alex Bell’s spritely, spooky novella that sees a girl figure out the sinister secrets of a toy factory. An atmosphere of underlying mystery is keenly evoked from the off: “The children of Cherryville all knew the factory was an evil place. Something awful had happened inside five years ago. It was something kids still whispered about in the playground and used to frighten each other at sleepovers.” And in the way of all creepy rumours, “None of the children in the town knew the truth for sure. They just knew that they should stay away from that factory.” Unfortunately for Tess, she and her younger siblings are forced to work in the factory when its reopening ominously coincides with her family’s farm falling on hard times. With its eccentric Willy Wonka-esque owner mysteriously only employing under twelve-year-olds, what else can they do? Inside the factory, it’s not long before all manner of terrifying events unfold, and all creepy fingers point to the teddy bears being behind them. Though short in length, this is big in impact: how’s this for an evocative description: “And the smell of damp gave way to the scent of goblin, which was something like black pepper and toffee apples mixed up together”? The story sprints to tense end, with a final twist in the tale that would give Roald Dahl a run for his money. And, being published by Barrington Stoke, it’s written and designed with reluctant and dyslexic readers in mind. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 8+
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