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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.
First published in 1977, this cult classic has been reissued for a new generation of ghost-hunters. This book is for anyone who has shivered at shadowy figures in the dark, heard strange sounds in the night or felt the presence of a mysterious `something' from the unknown. Ghost stories are as old as recorded history and exist all over the world; described in this book are haunting spirits, screaming skulls, phantom ships, demon dogs, white ladies, gallows ghosts and many more.
This riveting read-in-one-sitting nail-biter tells the tale of 18-year-old New Yorker Magda, who’s been sent to live with her wealthy grandparents in their summer home on the edge of a forest. Though feeling “frozen on the inside” by the cocktail of medication she must take following a tragic scandal at her elite school, Magda falls head over heels in love (and lust) with “wild boy” Bo, who “has all the self-assurance of an alpha, but none of the swagger” and lives in the woods in which a few young women have been found dead. As Magda gets to know Bo’s wild-living family (even confessing all about her dangerously duplicitous past to his Earth Mother mom), more bodies are found, with some pinning the murders on a man called Dr Goodnight. When Magda turns detective to discover his identity (or, indeed, if he even exists), it becomes impossible for her to know who she can trust ahead of the high-octane climax that will have readers perched on the very edge of their seats.
Norman is not your typical middle grade protagonist. He’s a twenty-three -year-old man who lives suburbia with his cat Morph. Oh, and he’s dead. After accidently blowing the roof off his house, Norman and Morph find themselves in the company of Abathar, The Weigher of Souls who more commonly goes by the name of Sir Poop (short for The Purveyor of Opportunistic Power). Sir Poop gustily informs Norman that he’s “been specially chosen to become a Ghosteleer whose “mission is to protect human beings who are destined to become great inventors or make discoveries that will improve the living world”. Both Norman and Morph undergo schooling in the art of Ghosteleering, which sees Morph excel in the art of telekinesis while Norman’s skills are somewhat less pronounced. Indeed, “Norman’s cat was proving himself more intelligent than him!” It’s not long before their true quest begins and along the way there’s much silliness and humour, such as when Sir Poop likens post-death paradise to Brighton, and through Norman’s general haplessness (despite his age, Norman certainly doesn’t behave like a fully-grown adult!). Short and pacey, this could be a good one to read aloud using amusing in-character voices.
January 2019 Debut of the Month | A group of Bristolian sixth-formers experience a whole lot more than the thrills and chills of the ski-slopes they’re expecting when one of their party discovers a trail of blood in their lodge. For outcast Charlie this trip was supposed to be a break from his troubled homelife, but he and his peers are now up to their necks in a gruesome, gory nightmare. Matters take a monstrous, mythical turn after ski instructor Hanna tells the students a tale “about things that lived in the woods. Things that only came out at night”… The action is jumpy, the writing sparse and direct, with plenty of unexpected twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats alongside the characters’ varied backstories. An accomplished debut for fans of atmospheric horror.
Elika’s story spans countries and legends. Trying so hard to be normal she finds herself diving headlong into a fantastical adventure you only read about in stories. The developing relationship with her Aunt Caroline really shows how kids have a very narrow view of the adults around them, and it is almost touching to see as she embraces the ‘weird’ parts of her aunt, finding she has more in common with her than she thinks as her strange dreams become more and more reality. The harder she tries to push them away the more she cannot escape. I think children would enjoy reading this book, although I found it leapt about a bit, and there was much more of the story that could be explored. Sometimes the chapter ended on a cliff-hanger, then carried on as if nothing had happened in the next. When she finally reaches Iceland the story went too fast for me, it all fell into place far too easily. Elika is very much a teenage girl, moody, resistant, and so sure of herself she dismisses anyone and anything that doesn’t interest her. Her persistence in trying to remain ‘normal’ grated at times as she was so rude and dismissive of those around her, so it was nice when she finally embraced the weird as being part of her own normal. Louse Woods, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Best known for his action-packed Alex Rider series, Anthony Horowitz is also a master of the macabre, as evidenced by these ten terrifying tales. Take the gruesome opener, “Bet Your Life”, that sees 16-year-old Danny participate in the finale of a TV quiz show in which there’s much more at stake than the multimillion pound prize. Other sources of shock include the sinister sat nav in a stolen BMW, a rogue Robo-Nanny, a monumentally messed-up French exchange, and a deeply disturbing incarnation of eBay on which people bid to buy humans. Then there’s the centrepiece of “Are You Sitting Comfortably?”, a monstrous massage chair that serves a generous helping of just desserts to an exploitative stepdad. The stories are sharply crafted, and the writing wryly amusing, with “Note from the Chairman of Walker Books” providing a deliciously dark denouement, and added in-the-know gallows humour to those in the children’s book world. This is a tense, twisted, treat for fans of frightsome fiction, with the bite-sized narrative bursts making it ideal for reluctant readers.
Best-selling Goth Girl is back for an action-packed new adventure in this stunningly produced volume by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell which has the additional delight of a mini-book, Fable of a Faun, tucked into it. Lord Goth is turning Ghastly-Gorm Hall into the venue for Gothstock, a sensational music festival that will match his home. Naturally, Ada Goth is thrilled at the thought but will it all go to plan? In both words and pictures Chris Riddell creates an amazing cast of characters and the most original escapades in which they are all entangled.
“Ghosts are everywhere...Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.” So claims Cass, the awesomely amiable heroine of this atmospheric treat for pre-teen readers. But, in Cass’s case, she actually can see ghosts, and her adorable best friend Jacob just happens to be one. Her gift of supernatural sight comes in very handy for her parents, a pair of bungling ghost-hunters called The Inspectres. While they’re on a TV show assignment in eerily-evoked, phantom-ridden Edinburgh, Cass meets a fellow ghost see-er (an In-betweener) and quickly becomes caught up in a high-stakes mission that forces her to hone her gift while traversing the worlds of the living and the dead. Alongside the smart concept and rollicking action, Cass and Jacob’s friendship (replete with fun Friendship Rules, and cemented by their love of comics), gives this tale a tingly, warm glow. Quirky, cute and creepy, this is middle grade fiction at its most entertaining.
In a nice twist on the Pied Piper story, the children of Whiffington wake up one morning to discover that all the grown-ups have disappeared, stolen away in the night by – what? Amidst the chaos of unmade beds, unbrushed teeth and unwashed dishes, Lucy Dungston is determined to rescue her mum, even when she realises that the revolting Creakers are the kidnappers. There isn’t a child in the land who hasn’t imagined something lurking under the bed, and the idea of the bumbling, muttering, smelly Creakers will give them a delicious thrill. It’s a fun adventure with a great set of lively young characters and some very exciting scenes. One to recommend to fans of Hamish and the World Stoppers by Danny Wallace and The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt.
The three stories in Anne Fine’s new Weird Street collection are guaranteed to send delicious shivers down the spine, even on the hottest summer day. In classic Gothic tradition, the narrative is passed from one storyteller to another: three children, neighbours on Weir (aka Weird) Street share local ghost stories. Laila’s tale has a happy ending, but is just uncanny enough to unsettle us; Asim’s story is both scary and tragic, haunting in every sense; while Tom’s is seriously creepy. Anne Fine is a superb writer and knows just how to turn the psychological screw. Highly readable, the stories will deliver their chills on each re-reading too. Perfect to thrill and chill, and particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+