Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Halloween draws nearer and nearer! (Insert cackle here!) The owl is abroad, the bat and the toad...and the howl for spooky reads from kids 9-12 grows ever louder! Here are some more picks for reading by moonlight, or flashlight.

THE ROBE OF SKULLS by Vivian French, illustrated by Ross Collins (Candlewick) It is the scream heard round the world (or at least around the high mountain village of Fracture) when Lady Lamorna discovers she does not have the funds for the dress of her dreams. But she puts the resourceful in sorceress when she decided to earn the money by turning princes and princess into frogs and back for ransom. She is surrounded by fairy-tale prototypes that are painted with a original strokes, from a motivationally-speaking bat to a prince without a taste for royalty and to Gracie Gillypot, the brave, under-appreciated stepdaughter who sets out to find Lamorna and put her in her place. This book is a breezy, page-turning read with a surprise ending, and plenty of Halloween motifs. Black-ink spot illustrations are as delicate and devious as a skeleton's bone. I believe this catchy, scratchy little novel is number one on the Transylvania Times bestseller list...if not, it should be. (9 and up)

Also, excuse me for saying so, but I couldn't help thinking that Lady Lamorna would like to go shopping with Auntie Malice from my book DIARY OF A FAIRY GODMOTHER, "stunning in her purple satin dress with the high neck and tortoiseshell cape--tortoises sewn along the hem, clawing helplessless as she dragged them along." Together, they could hit the fashion world like the other famous witches Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie.

Also of interest:
Want some more shivers?
ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion) Grandma's Vermont Inn has a reputation for ghostly goings-on, so visiting grandchildren Travis and Corey oblige with the chain-rattling a la Brady Bunch. The legend of the haunted house brings in business, but the children's mischief manages to awaken the real evil spirits, who scare Travis and Corey, and readers, too. How will they ever right the wrongs done to these restless souls? Sorry, Neil Gaiman of CORALINE fame, Hahn holds her crown as the master of the middle-grade ghost story with a capital G. This latest mixes in both mystery and history, casting the same spell as her classic WAIT TILL HELEN COMES, which has been giving children goosebumps for generations. If your bookloving patron is voicing complaints of "not scary enough," you can offer Hahn's titles with the disclaimer, "don't come crying to me if you think you hear something go bump in the night." OOoooOOOOOOO! (10 and up)

THE MYSTERY OF THE FOOL AND THE VANISHER by David and Ruth Ellwand (Candlewick) An ethereal story-within-a-story about a man who finds the journal and a box of peculiar fragments relating to a doomed mine expedition, in which some fairy folk were disturbed and wrought their vengeance. Told mostly from the point of view of the expedition's accompanying photographer (and advocate of the fairy folk), the gorgeous volume is decorated with sepia images of tangled tree boughs and surprising treasures. Enthusiasts of THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES and older admirers of the work of Joseph Conrad will appreciate the measured, mannered, Victorian tone that takes it's time in achieving the perfect tension of a web, and closes in around the reader like the darkening of a forest. An unusual, mystifying read-aloud that questions the nature of belief. Look at the last photo for yourself, and decide: do you believe in magic? (11 and up)

Need a list of not-too-spooky stories for your younger ones? Grab your trick-or-treat bag and visit here.

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1 comment:

Stacy Dillon said...

Hi Esme: I book teased the arc of Robe of Skulls to my 3rd graders last year. Enough of them went on to read it over the summer that it is one of 4 finalists in our 4th grade book election this year (the winning book will be "representative" of this year's class!). I love the evilness of Foyce!


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