Ghost stories, manky monsters and much more
Halloween may be over, but we have a terrifyingly good selection of children's books which will enthuse and enthral even the most reluctant of readers. And for those that don't like manky monsters and real-life ghost stories, there are some perfect books to curl up with on an autumn evening. STACIA BRIGGS reviews.
1) Haunted: Explore the Unknown from Atlantis to Zombies, �14.99, DK.
If the weekend's ghostly goings-on during Halloween left your child keen to learn more about the paranormal, this lavish book is a brilliant way to encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book. Learn the terrifying truth about all things otherworldly, from aliens to ghosts, werewolves to vampires, monsters to witches. Packed with real case studies, eyewitness accounts, expert reports and physical evidence, the book combines fresh modern graphics with photographs and artwork to keep readers aged eight and above enthralled. Readers are accompanied on their journey by Dubious Dr Doubt, who gives his opinions on the incredible supernatural phenomena. Just beware of reading this book in the dark…
2) The Big Green Book: How you Can Help Save the Planet, �12.99, Eden Project.
Eden Project books are absolutely gorgeous – packed with interactive flaps to lift and wheels to turn, they are works of art. This book, which encourages youngsters to think about the impact our lives have on the planet, is no exception.
There are wonderfully intricate pop-ups, tiny envelopes you can open to find more information and lavish illustrations which brings the topic to life in a way that makes it feel as if children are having fun rather than learning. Find out how big your carbon footprint is, leave Smogsville and race to Greentown with a board game and find out how rainforests help us. This book supports key stages one and two, and is suitable for children aged six and above.
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3) I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett, �18.99.
Another outing for Tiffany Aching, the witch of the Chalk, who we first met as a nine-year-old in The Wee Free Men, this book for younger Pratchett readers is a typically accomplished piece of work from the master of fantasy. Tiffany is a working witch in her village, but there is trouble brewing. The Cunning Man has awakened and his mission is to turn people against witches. Tiffany must fight her foe and save her kind in what feels like a modern day retelling of the Salem witch trails.
There's plenty of Pratchett's trademark humour to enjoy, but this is a weighty tome for teenage readers to get their teeth into. Fantastic fantasy and laugh-out-loud humour make this a real treat.
4) Danger! �16.99, DK.
If your child prefers fact to fiction – and my nine-year-old son falls into this category – this book will be a real treat. Inside, you will encounter animals armed with sharp claws and killer jaws, deep-sea monsters, poisonous plants and frogs falling from the sky, not to mention some of the world's most accident-prone humans. Explore the hottest and highest places on Earth, get lost in Antarctic wastes and consider the end of the world and whether or not it's nigh. Just when you think you've passed the danger, readers will come face-to-face with the most dangerous mathematical formula in history. An easy-to-digest formula makes this book brilliant for children aged eight and above.
5) Morris the Mankiest Monster, Giles Andreae and Sarah McIntyre, �5.99.
Any book that has an embossed green bogey on the cover has already got my vote. This frankly vile book is a complete and utter joy from beginning to end. Morris bathes in sewage and washes his hair in the toilet, eats his own bogies and mould from his toes – he's also partial to a bit of armpit custard and sun-dried nose hair. Wonderful rhyming text from Sarah McIntyre and brilliantly detailed pictures from Purple Ronnie creator Giles Andreae (who redeems himself in this book for the aforementioned abomination) make this book a revoltingly good treat for young children. And adults on the wrong side of 30 who grew up loving Fungus the Bogeyman.
6) The Spook's Nightmare, Joseph Delaney, �9.99.
Fans of the books that follow the adventures of the Spook must thank their lucky stars that Mr Delaney is such a prolific writer – there appears to be a new adventure for the Spook almost every other month. In this latest adventure, the Spook, Tom and Alice return from Greece to find the county under siege and the Spook's house burnt to the ground. With his library of knowledge destroyed, they seek refuge on the nearby island of Mona, which is, unfortunately, in the thrall of a twisted Shaman. With Bony Lizzie on the loose, ably assisted by a tunnel-dwelling buggane, can the Spook and friends defeat evil? Another fast-paced thriller for children aged 10 and above.
7) You Choose, Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart, �5.99.
Nick Sharratt's latest book is as charming as those that preceded it. Imagine you could go anywhere, with anyone and do anything. Where would you live? Where would you sleep? Who would be your friends? What games would you play? In this book, you get to choose. With a simple text and vibrant illustrations, children will enjoy creating their own stories and letting their imagination run riot. There's a sticker frieze where children can add more than 40 stories to make their own wild stories. A great book that young children can really get their teeth into.
8) Wyrmeweald: Returner's Stealth, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, �12.99.
Young pioneer Micah enters Wrymeweald full of hope to return home having made his fortune. But this is a land where wyrmes – fabulous dragon-like beasts – roam wild and reign supreme. In Wyrmeweald, man is both hunter and hunted and 17-year-old Micah will be lucky to return alive, let alone a hero. Follow Micah and his friends as he protects a rare white wyrme egg and its precious hatchling and seeks vengeance for loved ones lost at the hand of Kith bandits. This is a richly-woven fantasy that will enthral readers who love the genre and who are confident readers. For ages 11 and above.
9) Mistress of the Storm, ML Welsh, �10.99.
Verity Gallant lives in the shadow of her pretty and perfect sister, Poppy. But when a mysterious stranger hands her an ancient red book, everything changes. Verity finds herself thrown into a world of dark magic, danger and intrigue where she meets up with old rivals and finds new friends. Together, she, Henry and Martha explore the secrets stirring in the ancient harbour town of Wellow. But do they have what it takes to stop a powerful witch hell-bent on revenge? There's plenty of magic, folklore and the time-honoured theme of good versus evil in this book, which starts slowly before building up to a fast-paced climax. Good for young teen readers who enjoy fantasy and mystery.
10) The Spider Moon: Book 1, Kate Brown, �9.99.
Particularly good for reluctant readers of eight and above, this graphic novel is a gateway to reading. Bekka is a young girl who lives in a world where people have webbed hands and lungs that can accommodate diving for long periods of time. Living nearby are winged people who look down on Bekka's folk, but both are united in one cause: they are frightened of the stars that fall every night. A huge skyship is being built which will carry everyone to safety – or will it? This is the first in a series of books which are beautifully illustrated and borrow some of the techniques from Japanese Manga. Like all good stories, this leaves you wanting to know what will happen to Bekka, her people and the world where they live.
11) Noah Barleywater Runs Away, John Boyne, �10.99.
From the author of the heartbreakingly beautiful The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, this new book tells the story of Noah Barleywater, a boy who decides to run away from home rather than face up to what is happening to his family. He finds himself in an other-worldly village with a toyshop run by a kind puppet maker, who – over the course of the story – tries to persuade Noah to return home after he reveals his reasons for running away. The end of the story is particularly glorious, as the reader finds out why Noah chose to run and just who the puppet maker is. Younger readers will recognise him as a fairytale character who has grown up and who himself finds some peace through Noah. Beautiful, haunting and a book that can be enjoyed by adults as much as it is by confident readers aged nine and above.
12) Trash, Andy Mulligan, �10.99.
Raphael Fernandez is 14 years old and part of the slum that barely makes a living on the mountains of the dumpsite. Facing a lifetime of no education, no prospects and no hope, one day he finds a key. Keys open doors and soon Raphael and his friends are just one step ahead of a desperate and dangerous police force. The boys hold the key to a deadly secret that leads to corruption, unimaginable wealth and one man's mission to put right a terrible wrong. This book will take young readers into the heart of a lifestyle that is a world away from their own – a life where existence is day-to-day and where even smart children fail to prosper. In a rollercoaster ride, Raphael, Gardo and Rat find themselves catapulted from insignificant to highly sought-after, finding themselves the target of police chases, bullets and danger. Thought-provoking, uplifting and hopeful, this is a book that lifts readers into an entirely different world. Great for readers aged 10 and above.