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Top 5 Most Spooky, Creepy, Scary, Frightening and Spine-Chilling Kids Books

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

Wow!

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:

– adventure
– magic
– vampires
– 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?)

Top 5 Dragon Books for Kids Who Crave Adventure

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

Immediately after reading this book, I wanted to live on the wild and windy isle of Berk.

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 Paolni

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 didnt even get to the dragon bit. Sorry, mum!

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 🙂

Top 5 Most Disgusting, Revolting, Gross and Hilarious Kids Books

Let’s be honest . . . kids LOVE gross stuff, and they also love reading about gross stuff. Purple gunge, fish guts, gooey boogies, stinky socks, monkey poop, and, let us not forget the cornerstone of all kid humour, fart jokes. Every now and then you may come across a child reading Jane Austin who eats all their vegetables and doesn’t pick their nose. But I’m guessing most of the kids you know would laugh-out-loud when reading about someone eating a plate of worms (and I’m sure you did too when you first read The Twits).

I’ve had the pleasure of reading in this sticky sub-genre, having written a grotty kids book myself about a disgusting restaurant owner and his haphazard adventures, so I know what makes a good gross-out kids book. In my opinion, there is a line between gross for funny and gross which is off-putting. So I’ve painstakingly plucked my favourite 5 books from the hairy armpit of children’s literature.

Go on, give them what they want. Feed your little munchkins with some of these gross reads.

5. The Butt Trilogy by Andy Griffiths

These wonderfully gross books are written by Australian funny man – Andy Griffiths. Please don’t judge the first book in the trilogy by its title. You’d be forgiven for assuming the story to be one-dimensional and jam-packed with overused cliches. What you find inside is actually refreshingly original and full of imagination.

It all starts when Zackary wakes up to find his bottom is escaping out his bedroom window (I should explain that last sentence. In Zackary’s world your bottom has its own consciousness, it can walk and talk and cause all sorts of trouble for its owner). The boy must journey high and low with a team of butt-fighters in order to recapture his runaway butt. The foreshadowing is expertly executed, the laughs are too numerous to count, and the plot-twist at the end is wonderfully unexpected.

And when you read a quote like this, it’s hard not to smile.

“You might be unreliable, rude, smelly, non-self-wiping, and completely psycho, but you’re my butt and I love you.”

4. Ratburger by David Walliams

Yep, this one’s not just gross, it’s gruesome too. But don’t be squeamish adults – kids love gruesome!

David Walliams needs no introductions. The protagonist of this book does – she’s called Zoe. Much like all his other books, the main character is down-trodden from the start. She hates her nasty, benefit-stealing, prawn cocktail munching step-mum. She loves her broken-hearted, out-of-luck dad. Zoe also lost her hamster but finds a rat. Cue the villain – Burt, the very odd man who sells ‘special’ burgers outside the school gates, who is after Zoe’s rat for, well, the clues in the title.

Walliams has a talent for taking a stereotype, turning it upside, and picking it apart to reveal the beauty underneath. It’s why so many parents love his books – they are teaching kids to walk in other people’s shoes. Emotional intelligence is a valuable skill to learn.

This book hits all the icky notes. With constant gooey references throughout and a highly entertaining ‘Shawshank Redemption’ style escape at the end, it’s absolutely worth putting this in front of your kids.

(And don’t be fooled into thinking this book is for boys. It’s definitely not!

3. The Twits by Roald Dahl

If you need reminding, or for some reason have never read any Roald Dahl books as a kid, this book is amazeballs!

Everybody loves a good villain, and Mr and Mrs Twit are as good as they come. The couple do nasty things to each other (we’ve already mentioned the worms) and nasty things to the local birds and monkeys (who can forget the infamous glue on the tree and the bird pie). They are all round awful human beans who absolutely deserve what the monkeys and birds have planned for them.

Admittedly, this is one of his shorter books. However, flip that last statement and got a great bedtime read-together story. With 29 short chapter’s you could either read 3 chapters a night over 10 days or 5 chapters a night over 6 days. That way you get to watch your kids as they discover the very same book you enjoyed at their age.

And, let’s not forget, that these wonderful words came from this book. An important message as the world wakes up to the importance of mental health:

“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

2. Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs

It’s hard to believe that the author of The Snowman, a beloved book that has become a national treasure in the UK, also wrote a disgustingly brilliant book about a place called ‘Bogeydom’.

Raymond Briggs is long overdue a knighthood for his services to children’s literature. However, his true passion was for illustrating, and you’ll see why in this comic-style book. Deep down underground lives Fungus and the Bogeys – a vile collection of slimy, smelly creatures who revel in everything revolting. As you follow the bogey business of Fungus, kids will discover the many gross horrors of Bogeydom, each one more delightfully grotesque than the next. It’s a surreal but very funny field trip into a world full of snot, smells, slime, scum and many other unspeakable things.

The book is essentially a comic for reluctant readers, just like me when I was young. At only 48 pages long I’d say any 6 – 9 year old’s can handle it. But saying that, the number of parents who have reviewed this book and enjoyed it while their kids were in bed would suggest I change the age range to 6 – 9+.

1. Monster and Chips by David O’Connell

I can guarantee that you’ll never find a fish and chip shop as good as the one that David O’Connell has dreamed up. This book serves up a great, big dollop of imagination mixed in with some wonderful illustrations that no child could resist.

Joe accidentally stumbles into a strange alley. All he wants is to buy some chips. Instead, he get a part-time job. Now Joe finds himself serving all sorts of monsters all sorts of wild and wacky dishes – zombie-cupcakes to exploding milkshakes. The book is full of gastronomic laughs, however, the core of the story will certainly leave you with a warm fuzzy glow.

It’s bright, easy to read with fantastic illustrations and hilarious names for monsters and their culinary delights. Kids will especially love the head chef, Fuzzyby (who is the monster equvilalent of Jamie Oliver).

Warning: if you read this book to your kids you’ll have this inappropriate word stuck in your head for weeks… bum-toots!

… and, last but not least, here’s my GROSS kids book

There is no restaurant quite like ‘The Grotty Spoon’, and to be clear, that’s not meant to be a compliment.

The food is revolting, the service is slow, the chairs are uncomfortable, the toilets are infested, the dishwasher is a Yak called Fee Fee and every night something goes disastrously wrong in the kitchen… oh, and it’s also a holiday hotspot for jet-setting bacteria. But Mr Sprout, the head chef and all-around disgusting human being, thinks it deserves the top award in the restaurant business and will do anything to get it.

“Even though this book makes you go yuk my 8yr old loved it and as a parent I did get hooked and needed to keep reading with her.”

– 5 star review.

Thanks for reading:)

The Big Summer Holiday Children’s Book Giveaway

I’m excited to announce that two of my books are available for FREE, alongside another 19 free children’s books, in the . . .

Big Summer Holiday Children’s Book Giveaway

49 Excuses for Not Tidying Your Bedroom and my latest children’s humourous fiction The Boy Who Stole One Million Socks are in this amazing giveaway aimed at keeping kids across the globe entertained throughout the summer holiday. The giveaway runs all through Summer 2018 and will end 31st August. In the giveaway you’ll find a boy who uncovers alien powers (Ben Archer and the Cosmic Fall), a chicken who thinks she is a goat (The Adventures of MerryLyn) and a story told by Thomas Jefferson’s pet dog (Buzzy and Thomas move into the president’s house).

I’ve started reading Noah Drake And The Dragon Killer, another book in the promo by Ben Russell, which cleverly mixes Adventures in Odyssey with Jurassic Park. DINOSAURS = EXCITING READ! I love the cover and will be sure to post a book review on Goodsreads and Amazon when finished.

Follow this link and download all these free children’s books while you can.

Book Review: Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett

Dragons-Pack-ShotI recently discovered ‘Dragons at Crumbling Castle’ by Terry Pratchett and decided I had to read it, straight away. So I ditched whatever it was I reading at the time and read this instead.

Back in the 60’s, when the Discworld was nothing but a distant thought, Terry worked as a Junior Reporter for the Bucks Free Press in Buckinghamshire. Every week he would write a short story for children that were then published in the local newspaper… stories about polite dragons and wizards with pointy hats and tiny tribesman who live in your carpet (which would eventually become his first novel, ‘The Carpet People’).

The 14 imaginative stories are all illustrated, with plenty of inventive words and even the beginnings of the Pratchett style humourous footnote. My particular favourite was ‘The Giant Speck’. Two communities living on either side of a tiny piece of dust dream of making the journey to the Giant Speck in the sky. I loved this imaginative parallel of the Space Race but with rowing boats inside of space shuttles and a nice little moral at the end.

If you’re a Discworld/Pratchett fan (like myself) and you have children then this book is a wonderful opportunity to start them young. Each story would make a magical bedtime story lasting 15-20 minutes. As long as your child is old enough to sit still and young enough use their God-given talent to imagine they’ll love ‘Dragons at Crumbling Castle’… and so will you!

The Opening Line: “In the days of King Arthur there were no newspapers, only town criers, who went around shouting the news at the top of their voices.” – from the story Dragons at Crumbling Castle.

Highlight: Like a back stage pass in the beginnings of this bestselling author. These stories were the first, and I really enjoyed reading the young Terry Pratchett experimenting with humour and the imagination that would later on become his trademark.

Lowlight: Erm… well there are only 14 stories. Who knows, there could be more stories lurking in the shadows waiting for the second volume!

Favourite Quote: “Poor old Dok! Nothing ever quite went right, ever since he had invented language when he accidently dropped a very heavy stone on his foot.” – from the story Dok the Cavemen, about a caveman inventor.

Top Tip: If you buy the eBook version, the Prachett style footnotes are clever little links. Simply click on the tiny number which transports you to the end of the chapter, read the footnote, then click the tiny number again which transports you back to the same place in the story.

Final Verdict: Loved it! If you’re a Pratchett fan you should read this (simply because). If you’re interested in seeing what a young Pratchett would have written then you should definitely read this. If you are a Pratchett fan and you have young children you should definitely, definitely read this with them (I believe it would be called a win-win situation).