[Excuse for encouraging kids to read more]
[Excuse for scaring the living daylights out of your neighbours at Halloween]
If Christmas is a time for ‘sharing with your kids’, then Halloween is a time for ‘scarying the living daylights out of your kids’.
But let’s not forget, kids love being scared just as much as adults. Ghost trains, haunted houses, Goosebumps books, the Hotel Transylvania films, zombie slime and the Granny App (oh man, it’s a really freaky online game for kids where an old lady tries to find you and stab you in the head. The internet has a lot to answer for).
If you think it’s time to add a sprinkling of vampire dust and a dollop of witches brew to storytime with your munchkins then here are my top five suggestions.
5. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
It’s a slow burner, but wooow this is a fantastically spooky middle-grade book (I’d say 10+).
The Night Gardener is a perfectly recreated Victorian Gothic Ghost Story. Molly and Kip are Irish orphans who have fled to England. They become servants of the Windsor Estate which, as legend has it, is cursed. They hear heavy footsteps at night, find a mysterious locked room and must uncover the dark forces at work before they too succumb to them.
It also covers a long list of subjects – growing up without parents, the power of storytelling, the hardships of Victorian poverty, survivor’s guilt, the consequences of greed, xenophobia and the Irish Potato Famine.
Creepy, atmospheric, full of adventure and magic and some really spooky stuff. This book is the ideal autumnal read.
4. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
This book is a strange mixture of an adventure detective and a gory horror story . . . and I loved it! As you can see, it ticks a lot of boxes:
– a Bentley
– a skeleton wearing a hat
– even the kitchen sink (and by that I actually mean some genuinely wonderful throwaway lines that stitch the story together).
I would compare Skulduggery (the skeleton who wears the hat and drives the Bentley and is the main source of the kitchen sink factor) to James Bond with a history degree. He is highly entertaining and has enough mystery about him to keep young readers hungry for the next book. And the ending is very satisfying indeed… but you’ll need to read it to find out just how satisfying it is.
Five stars. I’ll certainly be reading the next one soon.
3. The Witches by Roald Dahl
If you are looking for a fairytale, look away now!
As you probably already know, witches are REAL (according to Roald Dahl). This is the story of a grandma and her grandson and how witches turn him into a little mouse. Inside you’ll learn all about witches, how to evade their capture and, most importantly, how to recognise them.
“She might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of her cleverness. I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one. It is most unlikely. But—here comes the big “but”—not impossible.”
This is a clever and courageous tale of a young boy and her spirited grandmother who decide to fight back! Thank goodness for Roald Dahl, who cunningly combines scariness with funny stuff making this a wonderful Halloween book for ages 7-9.
2. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
From scary witches to a friendly witch (for much littler readers).
Room on the Broom is about a witch with “long ginger hair in a braid down her back” and a cat who ride through the night on a . . . you guessed it, a broomstick. It soon gets breezy up there and things start to blow away. Fortunately, several different animals come to her rescue in exchange for a spot on her broom until a dragon tries to make her its dinner!
You can instantly recognise her books from the whimsy and friendly illustrations. They’re truly fantastic! (From a marketing perspective, it’s 100% intentional and helps us parents with cash in our pockets make an instant connection). If you’re looking for a light-hearted Halloween book you can read to your little witches (I’d say aged 1 to 6) then look no further.
P.S. Please, please, please, when reading this book to your kids, read it in your best British accent and I guarantee it’ll make the experience even better.
1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This is an extremely imaginative book . . . and it won the Newbery Medal so that proves it!
Bod is the only living resident in the local graveyard. A childless ghost couple adopts the parentless toddler and a vampire becomes his guardian and teacher. The book follows the boy’s childhood with a new chapter for each year of his unusual and spooky upbringing. Can a boy raised by werewolves and vampires and ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? (So, in summary, it’s The Jungle Book but for Halloween.
“It takes a graveyard to raise a child”
Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller. The Graveyard Book is a delightful blend of the macabre and the grave. It’s a haunting and mesmerizing allegorical tale about the joys of childhood, the gradual transition to adulthood, and the philosophical ponderings of life and death.
Be sure to put this in the hands of 10+ aged kids and do yourself a favour by keeping one eye on where the book ends up so you can add it to your reading pile afterwards).
… and, last but not least, here’s my HALLOWEEN kids book
Was your candy bag only half full on Halloween last year? . . . Does your sweet vampire tooth come out on a full moon? . . . Need some inspiration for a spooky costume that’ll put a smile on everyone’s face (and your belly too)? . . . Then here’s 49 (extremely silly) excuses for bagging more candy at Halloween!
Join the comical adventure of these mischevious kids who will try absolutely anything to trick their neighbours into more treats, dress up in the most devious and devilish costumes, and swag the most candy humanly possible on 31st October. With an illustration for each haphazard attempt, you’re guaranteed to laugh, smirk, and chuckle for hours.
Disclaimer: reading this eBook will definitely get you into trouble! (So if your parents ask where you heard these excuses you didn’t hear them from me. Do we have a deal?)
[Excuse for bagging more candy at Halloween]
So then, what can I tell you about the twelfth book in my cartoon series:
- There’s a zombie hamster inside
- It’s been super fun to draw loads of scary, spooky stuff in this Halloween themed book
- Make sure you’ve got
candy / / chocolate close by when reading this one, as it’ll make your belly grumble sweets
- Kids are gonna love it! I hope.
- The skeleton boy on the front cover is a self-portate (so this book better sell really really well because I’m clearly malnourished!!!)
- As always, there’s a good message at the end (and lots of not-so-nice messages at the beginning and middle)
The release date will be just in time for the big day – Friday 25th October 2019. Plenty of time to gain some much-needed tips and tricks to bag more candy at Halloween. As always it’s available pretty much everywhere you can buy an eBook. Here are the links:
Now, then . . . have fun dressing up and wandering around your neighbourhoods trick or treating (and say BOO for me).
[Excuse for not going back to school . . . ever]
[Excuse for never going back to school EVER again]
One of my favourite films, when I was growing up, was Dragonheart. (It’s the one with Sean Connolly playing a dragon with a Scottish accent). It introduced me to a fantasy world where you could become friends with a mythical beast that can fly and breathe fire. I desperately wanted to live in that world and be the hero. To ride a dragon, have an epic sword fight with the bad guy and save the kingdom. I must have watched it over a hundred times.
In recent year dragons have made an impressive come-back. Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Pokemon, even Godzilla seems to make a come-back every five or so years (and let’s not forget the big Lego dragon at Legoland). They’re all over the place.
Dragons are back on the kids reading list too . . . and here are my suggestions.
5. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
I had my reasons. a) dragons. b) sea dragons. c) pet dragons. d) fiery dragons. e) I’ve always thought I would suit those Viking helmets with the pointy horns. f) MORE DRAGONS.
This is the tale of how Hiccup, a small and scrawny Viking boy, becomes the hero of the tribe. It’s a fantastic adventure full of excitement and danger and some brilliant bits in between. I could have read this in one go! Did I mention the dragons? They’re great, partly because they talk and get sarcasm, but mainly because the Viking children train them (so jealous).
Highly recommend this read. Well written and great storytelling. Now you’ll have to excuse me while I go and fill in my immigration papers.
4. Eragon by Christopher
So, here’s a book that was written by a fifteen-year-old. That’s right, what did you achieve when you were fifteen? (Don’t ask me, you really don’t want to know!)
To start with there is a real cool-looking dragon on the front cover! And it’s not just epic on the outside, it’s epic on the inside too. There are battles, miracles, elves, high emotions, secrets, dwarves and magic inside this book waiting to hook you in and keep you turning the pages. There’s even an amazing map on the inside cover that you could stare at for hours.
If you are hoping your kids will one day become a fantasy reader, who will actually read every single word of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, then make sure they read this. Seriously, it’s a gateway drug into the world of fantasy.
3. Dragonology by a bunch of interesting people
Time to take a side-step into non-fiction.
This book contains the long-lost research of renowned nineteenth-century dragonologist Dr. Ernest Drake. Inside curious readers will discover why dragons are able to speak, how they can fly and breathe fire, and even maps that will show you where to find them. Written like a mixture of a field manual and a scrapbook, it really is packed full of fun and interactive information.
The elaborate illustrations, pullouts, letters, spells, maps, flaps and popups make this book irresistible to even the most stubborn little anti-readers. Put simply, this book is a work of art. It’s is so magical it was probably stolen from the library at Hogwarts.
I’d say this ancient-looking tome would be perfect for ages 8-12 (but be warned, they may end up believing that dragons are real).
2. The Hobbit (or There and Back Again) by J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ll admit it, when I was ten years old my mum gave me The Hobbit to read. Being the nice son I was (and still am) I gave it my best shot.
Now, it’s important to remember that at this point I had barely touched chapter books. I was a PlayStation kid who loved cartoons and riding my bike and was a major disappointment to my Librarian mother. I managed to get to the part where Bilbo escapes [someone] by hiding in a barrel, at which point something else caught my attention. I didn
I’ve obviously come to my senses about reading and finished the book. Tolkien’s children book is a joy to read, full of magic and adventure and, as the reader, you find yourself identifying as the young hobbit experiencing this new, amazing world.
If your kids are anything like me, I’d recommend reading this one to them the first time around. What a shame, right!
1. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
Now here’s a book that seems to have been co-written by Tolkein and Willy Wonka!
It was actually written by a delightful children’s author from the USA who now lives in Wales. The first of three books, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart cleverly combines high adventure and high morals. Aventurine must prove herself as a young dragon, but that might be difficult having been transformed into a puny human girl with a sweet tooth. She must navigate the human world and pursue her dream of becoming a chocolatier. (And if you’ve ever wondered if chocolate can save your life, this is a must-read).
This book oozes girl-power, playful humour and real heart. It’s a chocolate-filled, girl-powered fantasy that teaches us about finding your passion, dealing with disapproving parents and trusting yourself to achieve greatness.
… and, last but not least, here’s my DRAGON kids book
Well, it’s still in the oven and no quite done yet (the timer should go off around March 2020).
But you can read the first three chapters here.
Happy reading 🙂
[Excuse for extending your summer holiday]