Spells, reversals and giggles for Halloween by various authors – book reviews –
The Warrior in My Wardrobe: More Merdyn the Wild Misadventures
Simon Farnaby and Claire Powell
If you and your family are depressed by the worries of the pandemic, treat yourself to the shared joy of this simply wizarding mid-level series from Simon Farnaby, writer of Paddington 2 and star of Horrible Histories. This is the second book in this hilarious series and once again features Merdyn (the Dark Ages’ greatest wizard) and Rose, his 21st century descendant. Vanheldon the Vandal Warrior, meanwhile, is furious. After all, the last time they met, Merdyn turned his army to stone. Seeking revenge, Vanheldon finds a way to kidnap Rose and return her to Dark Age Transylvania, determined to lure Merdyn into a terrible trap. Except (oops!) her magical minion kidnaps Rose’s teenage brother Kris instead. Rose, Merdyn and Bubbles the guinea pig must team up to save the day. But can they save Kris without creating historical chaos? Will Rose’s wizarding ancestor remember her and will Bubbles ever stop pooping? Whether this terrific tale is read alone or aloud, there are guaranteed gags, giggles and great adventures with a historical twist on every page as Farnaby lets his imagination and storytelling skills run wild, and Claire Powell adds the finishing touch with her super-charged, richly detailed illustrations.
(Hodder Children’s Books, hardcover, £12.99
Padraig Kenny and Edward Bettison
Imagine a spooky and thrilling story full of monsters that can change the way you see the world…and it comes with the most exquisite and eye-catching illustrations. In the sequel to his fantastically thought-provoking and beautifully written The Monsters of Rookhaven – and again replete with Edward Bettison’s superb black and white illustrations – Irish writer Pádraig Kenny thrills and delights his army of fans. Shadows gather on Rookhaven. This is the time of The Great Configuration, an event that takes place once every hundred years. Family and monsters descend on Rookhaven from all over the country to participate. But among the guests there is an intruder, someone who is in disguise and has an eye on their destruction. Meanwhile, Mirabelle – half-human, half-monster – discovers that to those outside of Rookhaven she is not considered family at all and, forced to look further afield to learn her true story, she risk everything… and everyone. What better season than Halloween to return to the monstrous world of Mirabelle as Kenny’s gothic and beautiful story of family and forgiveness asks us to contemplate what it is to be an outsider and take a second look at the way we see our own lives. It’s a super scary, spooky and thrilling story but with magic, kindness and haunting beauty at its heart.
(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardcover, £12.99)
Experience a spooky historical adventure with a supernatural twist as Scottish-born author Victoria Williamson finds inspiration in the life of Robert Burns and one of his most famous and beloved poems, Tam O’Shanter. Twelve-year-old Rab spends all his time doing backbreaking work on the family farm instead of going to school, but when he finds a witch stone in one of the fields, everything changes. Looking through his circular hole, he sees witches gathering in a coming storm and they have set their sights on his family. Can Rab save his sisters from the clutches of the witch clan before their Halloween ceremony in the old kirk? Set against an awe-inspiring backdrop, Hag Storm is a gripping, atmospheric tale of mystery and magic, and a gloriously imaginative celebration of Scottish history and the country’s fascinating folklore.
(Pokey Hat, paperback, £7.99)
Dream Defenders: Silas and the Marvelous Misfits
Join the Dream Defenders… and turn your nightmares into incredible adventures! Children can suffer from anxiety at the best of times, but in the current coronavirus crisis, stress levels have the potential to skyrocket. So calm their fears and dry their tears with author and illustrator Tom Percival’s clever and action-packed adventure series Dream Defenders (formerly known as The Dream Team) which offers a fun and engaging way to reassure young people and help them deal with their anxieties. In the third book of the series, Erika has a big secret. She is a member of the Dream Defenders – a top secret organization that banishes your worries while you sleep. And tonight, they’re on a mission to save Erika’s best friend Silas from the clutches of the evil Glooms – creatures who want everyone in the dream world to look and think exactly the same. Can the Dream Defenders save Silas and help him see that being a misfit can be a truly wonderful thing? These beautifully creative books are perfect for sharing at home to guide children through times of anxiety, or for reading at school as advice for behavioral issues and anger management. Sweet dreams are made of this!
(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)
Ghost Scouts: Mayhem at Camp Croak!
If you’re looking for some devilish Halloween fun, head to Camp Croak and encounter zombies, werewolves, and a ferocious skeleton! Mayhem at Camp Croak! is the stunning second book by American author and illustrator Taylor Dolan in her illustrated Ghost Scouts series. Lexie Wilde and her friends (which include an English zombie called Mary, a very calm ghost called Boo and a fierce skeleton called Bebe) are super excited about Halloween this year. After all, where better to spend it than at Camp Croak, the scariest summer camp ever? And the arrival of two new Ghost Scouts is the icing on the cake…until Lexie accepts a challenge from one of them and a thief spell is cast. Does this mean the end of Halloween and could it be the evil Euphemia Vile behind the ensuing mayhem? With its cast of macabre but beautiful characters, a feisty feminist heroine, a story steeped in friendship, fun, kindness and the daring to be different, and Dolan’s two-tone illustrations, it’s the perfect read for anyone. young mischief. -manufacturers.
(Guppy Books, paperback, £6.99)
Midnight Magic: Mirror Mischief
Michelle Harrison and Elissa Elwick
There’s double trouble in the second book in a series of spellbinding early reads from top team Michelle Harrison, author of A Pinch of Magic, and illustrator Elissa Elwick. These fun stories — featuring Midnight, a magical cat, her talking broom Twiggy, and a kind-hearted girl called Trixie who gave them a home — are great for kids ditching picture books. When Trixie is at school one day, Midnight makes a mess of the bathroom mirror and brings her reflection to life. The Midnight of the Mirror causes all sorts of mayhem, but safely on the other side of the glass…until Twiggy the Broom accidentally shatters the mirror, releasing the Double Destroyer! As Trixie, Dad and Gran get tangled up in the turmoil, can they work together and get the magic cat back where it came from before it’s too late? Told in rhyming verse and illustrated in beautiful two-tone colors, this fun series is guaranteed to wow your little ones!
(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £5.99)