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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.
Winner of the Klaus Flugge Prize 2021 | The Klaus Flugge judges said: ‘A visual treat and the text and illustrations work very well together; it’s full of detail but never cluttered; pace is cleverly controlled; just the right balance of fun and fright!’. Flavia Z. Drago introduces us to Gustavo, a gorgeous little ghost who is so shy he’s literally invisible. Her folk-art style with its palette of orange and Rosa Mexicana creates a distinctive playground for Gustavo as he suddenly and unexpectedly makes new friends. Flavia Zorrilla Drago joined prize founder, Klaus Flugge, the Chair of Judges, Julia Eccleshare and Judge Posy Simmonds to discuss with the importance of the Klaus Flugge prize at the LoveReading LitFest. The event is free to view and you can find out more here.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | Vibrant world-building, hilarious horror happenings, and splendidly quirky characters - Alex Foulkes’ debut, Rules for Vampires (the first in a series), has plenty for adventure-loving 9+ year-olds to sink their teeth into, a devour-in-one-bloodthirsty-sitting story that’s made even more engaging by Sara Ogilvie’s cleverly comic illustrations. “Slow as creeping nuns, stealthy as a stalking cat, the girl slunk closer to the door.” Thus we’re introduced to Leo on the eve of her one hundred and eleventh birthnight, as she must embark on her first solo mission as a vampire - The Hunt of the Waxing Moon, no less. Trouble is, following Vampiric Laws and negotiating that ghoulish line between the Living and the Undead sure ain’t no stroll in the cemetery, and all this while feeling the pressure to live up to the high and spiky expectations of the Great and Terrible Sieglinde. The writing is slick as blood, with smart turns of phrase that Lemony Snicket aficionados will adore, and cracking whip-smart dialogue that drives the story at bat-out-of-hell pace. Oh, and it’s divinely packed with a cast of top quality, quirky characters readers will want to get under the skin of (though not literally, of course…)
Turn on your torches and join Aveline Jones! Aveline is thrilled when she discovers that the holiday cottage her mum has rented for the summer is beside a stone circle. Thousands of years old, the local villagers refer to the ancient structure as the Witch Stones, and Aveline cannot wait to learn more about them. Then Aveline meets Hazel. Impossibly cool, mysterious yet friendly, Aveline soon falls under Hazel's spell. In fact, Hazel is quite unlike anyone Aveline has ever met before, but she can't work out why. Will Aveline discover the truth about Hazel, before it's too late? Join the world of Aveline Jones, where mysteries are solved, spirits are laid to rest, and everybody gets to bed on time.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2021 | September 2021 Book of the Month | Billy is desperate to make things change at home. Her father disappeared before he was born: he and mum had been ok when they had been alone together but now his mother’s new partner has spoilt everything. Billy is frightened for himself and he is frighted for his mum. To make a point he runs away for a few days hiding in a semi-ruined pill-box in a local graveyard. Cleverly telling the story in two narratives, from Billy’s perspective and his mum’s and interweaving other characters and their experience from whom they can learn, Pam Smy explores a range of complex emotions thrown up by a difficult situation.
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.
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.
Shortlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase Award | 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.
A captivating new picture book with interactive transparent pages, from world-renowned artist Oliver Jeffers. With lots of friendly ghost surprises and incredible mixed media illustrations, this unique and funny book will entertain young readers over and over again!
Ebenezer Tweezer is a youthful 511-year-old. He keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion, who he feeds all manner of things (including performing monkeys, his pet cat and the occasional cactus) and in return the beast vomits out presents for Ebenezer, as well as potions which keep him young and beautiful. But the beast grows ever greedier, and soon only a nice, juicy child will do. So when Ebenezer encounters orphan Bethany, it seems like (everlasting) life will go on as normal. But Bethany is not your average orphan . . .
If you go down to the woods today . . . Two girls go backpacking in the woods. Things go very wrong. And, then, their paths collide with a serial killer . . . The Woods are Always Watching is an edge-of-your-seat, nerve-wrangling thriller. Full of breathtaking action and twists you'll never see coming, Stephanie Perkins has created a masterpiece of the horror genre.
July 2021 Graphic Novel of the Month | Shortlisted for the Excelsior Award White 9+ KS2 | Seaerra Miller’s Mason Mooney Paranormal Investigator sets out its witty, spooky stall in the amusing introduction: “what you are about to read is a tale so twisted, it’ll knock you out of your socks and on to your bum. It’s got a bloody heart, a haunted house, D-list celebs and it all takes place in the terrifying town of Grimbrook.” And what follows is exactly that - a rollercoaster romp of supernatural adventure and struggles to overcome sceptics, witches, ghosts and grumps as Mason Mooney, Paranormal Investigator, attempts to uncover the secrets of Grimbrook’s most haunted house. With a glorious colour palette that put me in mind of Scooby Doo and Hanna Barbera classics, this is at once smart and wacky, spooky and silly - an immersive joy for 7+ year-olds seeking laughs and scares of the quirkier variety.
After his mom dies, PJ reluctantly leaves his New York home and everyone he loves, to live with his Aunt Katie in Edinburgh. A series of strange events begin when his aunt's elderly neighbour and her cat Azrael convince him that his mom, weirdly, is still very much with him. At a bereavement counselling group, PJ makes a new group of friends, all of whom have lost loved ones. Drawn together by their shared experiences, they soon discover they have something else in common, an interest in the supernatural. Freya is the daughter of a white witch, Sunny has a scientific and enquiring mind and Shuggie, a superfan of ghost hunting programmes. Led by PJ, they try to prove that there is life after death and that their loved ones are still with them. But will they succeed in a fight of good against evil?
Prize-winning Patrick Ness displays brilliant new skills of sensitivity in this hauntingly touching story of how a boy deals with the looming threat of his mother’s death from cancer. Haunted by a monster in his dreams, denied much information by his family and treated as a weirdo by his class mates and a ‘special case’ by his teachers, Conor struggles to get to grips with the devastating emotions which threaten to overwhelm him. How he finds the courage and strength to face the end when it happens is both utterly shattering and deeply satisfying. Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself.
While witches might be steeped in gold, Ciannon Smart’s mighty debut is steeped in the majesty of Caribbean magic as it weaves the gripping journey of two vengeful witches. The first in a duology, Witches Steeped in Gold is a stunner for readers who love complex plots driven by strident characters, and comes especially recommended for fans of epic, female-fronted fantasy, such as The Gilded Ones, Children of Blood and Bone, and series by Sarah J Maas. Heir to a conquered, magical dynasty, Iraya was exiled from the island nation of Aiyca as a child. Having spent her life in a cell, she’s a warrior set on securing her freedom - and revenge: “there’s nothing like the potential betrayal of your oldest and best sestren, a friend closer to you than any other, to challenge any doubts about avenging your murdered parents.” And she plans to use Obeah magic to do just that - “the ways of Obeah in matters of vengeance are clear. It is justice to take in equal part that which was stolen from you.” Meanwhile, gold-swathed Jazmyne is a threat to her mother’s power as self-crowned Doyenne, “part of the resistance working against the very structure I serve.” And so the stage is set for two vengeful witches to form an alliance that might see them achieve their respective desires. Smart’s world-building and sense of place is gorgeously sensory - you can hear, smell and taste, for example, the “musical patwah mingling with peppery jerk spice and opiate smoke.” An ambitious concept, delivered in intricate style, Smart’s debut is a satisfyingly complex page-turner.
April 2021 Book of the Month | This exquisitely creepy YA shocker whirls with gritty horror, witty one-liners, Insta-worthy visual conjurations and the menacing mystery of three bewitching sisters who vanished in childhood. “Dark dangerous things happened around the Hollow sisters. We each had black eyes and hair as white as milk...We didn’t have friends, because we didn’t need them.” So explains the youngest sister, Iris. As children, the three sisters vanished one New Year’s Eve on the strike of midnight and reappeared with their hair and eyes a different colour, tiny baby teeth in place of their adult teeth, and no memory. “In possession of an alchemical self-confidence that belonged to much older humans,” Iris’ older sisters have “set off into the world, both bound for the glamorous, exotic futures they’d always known they were destined for”, leaving her alone in North London with her mother. Sinister bells toll when seventeen-year-old Grey, a supermodel and designer of decadent couture “who looked like sex and smelled like a field of wildflowers”, fails to turn up to middle sister Vivi’s punk gig in Camden, and then there’s the mystery of the man wearing a horned skull. There are books with unexpected twists, then there’s House of Hollow - imagine losing your way in a decaying fairy tale forest, where tangled tree roots trip you up, and you have no idea what terrors skulk within its ever-shifting mists. At times grisly and always eerie, this intoxicating cocktail of contemporary horror and mythic menace is a lushly-written feast.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Derek Landy’s riotously inventive Skulduggery Pleasant series first blasted its way onto bookshelves back in 2007, and fresh fantastical thrills keep on coming in Dead or Alive - no mean feat for book fourteen in a series. With the world teetering on the brink of irrevocable, devastating change, this penultimate novel sees Skulduggery, Valkyrie and Omen face their most trying test (yet…). As wildly witty and exhilarating as ever, this doorstopper of a page-turner sizzles with a burning sense of time slipping away, for if Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie can’t rid the world of Damocles Creed, the world’s people will be wiped out. Even Valkyrie is thrown by the imminent prospect of making the ultimate sacrifice: “Valkyrie woke, jumped out of bed and managed to get halfway to the bathroom before she threw up. They were going to kill Creed. They were going to kill Creed and nothing would be the same again.” The dialogue dances, desperation escalates, and fans will be left longing to know how Skulduggery’s awe-inspiring story will end.
June 2021 Book of the Month | Recommended by Stephen L Holland, Guest Editor, June 2021: Eliza Duncan is a direct and diligent, no-nonsense teen with a passion for photography and a focus on ghosts. Marjorie Glatt found her laundromat infested with white-sheeted ghosts: with its washes, tumble-dries and ironing, they thought it the perfect health spa. She adopted one called Wendell as her best friend. But now she has been adopted–by her school’s most popular students who rule the roost by putting everyone else down. Marjorie, once a victim of this, feels awkward about her newfound immunity for she fails to speak up for others, particularly when they start picking on Eliza who’s determined that there are ghosts, that she’ll snap one on celluloid, and soon has her sights set on Wendell. Astonishingly complex, this comes with layers of self-awareness, self-examination yet blind spots and moments of betrayal from even the kindest of corners. Also: is this not the most perfect cover? What a narrative drive! Thummler totally owns her unique colour palette.
April 2021 Book of the Month | Abandoned by their original owners, cats Pasha and Poop (yes, really) find forever homes with the lovely Wilde family. But the cats of their new neighbourhood are terrorised by the pawful Scaredy Cat. With flashing eyes, and an ability to walk through walls, he forces everyone to follow his cruel rules for cat behaviour, and woe betide those that try to resist. Pasha is determined to stand up to the bullying, but can he persuade Poop and the other cats that they have nothing to fear but fear itself? Typically for Patterson, the story races along, the cats taking turns to narrate, and it’s a perfect mix of excitement, adventure and comedy. It comes to a wonderful climax in a pet cemetery of all places, and amongst the fun there are important messages about finding the strength in yourself to do what’s right.
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