Book review: A monster load of beastly books for Halloween

Halloween is creeping up again so get ready for some spooky, spine-tingling reads to transport your youngsters into the magical witching hour.
A monster load of beastly books for HalloweenA monster load of beastly books for Halloween
A monster load of beastly books for Halloween

They can ‘troll’ through some mega-monster activity books, scare themselves silly with the madcap adventures of Winnie the Witch, set sail with callous pirate Captain Cut-Throat or bring back the dead with a fabled Ghost Machine.

There are ghouls, ghosts and all things grisly in this hair-raising, haunting selection for horror fans young… and not-so-young.

Age 3 plus:

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Monsters: Make a Picture Sticker Book by Felicity Brooks and Orial Vidal

Usborne’s ever-expanding range of sticker books is proving to be one of their biggest success stories so how about this new version with its monstrous mix-and-match stickers?

There are over 250 bright, colourful stickers here – specially made with little hands in mind – to create a myriad of quirky beasts in a fun activity book. Early years children can let their imaginations take flight with mega-monsters to invent, a ‘fangtastic’ family of funny faces to frame and a scary sleepover and creepy cookery lesson.

The stickers include googly eyes, fuzzy fur, garish grins and much more – perfect for keeping your own little monsters out of mischief! The big, bright, colourful, interchangeable stickers can be mixed and matched to make silly monsters who go to monster school, eat a midnight feast and play in the snow.

A fiendish feast of freaky fun…

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Here Be Monsters by Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene

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Shiver me timbers, who goes there! Out of the mist and murk steps the meanest mariner ever to sail the high seas. Meet Captain Cut-Throat, a fearless pirate who is so scary that everyone who meets him goes wobbly at the knees.

In this big, bold picture book, pirates meet monsters in a story that is out of this world. Captain Cut-Throat, who is wanted dead or alive for downright dastardliness and despicable dishonesty, doesn’t believe in monsters. When he and his reluctant crew set sail for a treasure island, they are aware of the legend that tells they must first pass through The Mist and, worse still, ‘there be monsters in the mist’! But as the Captain says, monsters simply don’t exist. So who or what is gobbling up the crew?

This thrilling, swashbuckling pirate adventure from the award-winning creators of The Princess and the Pig and The Santa Trap tells a devilishly good tale in Jonathan Emmett’s wonderfully addictive rhyming verse which will have little ones joining in the fun.

Poly Bernatene’s superbly atmospheric drawings bring to life a rough, tough motley collection of animal pirates with fangs, evil eyes and more deadly knives than a top cook’s kitchen.

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An exhilarating story that will be a favourite long after Halloween!

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Age 5 plus:

Winnie’s Halloween Gift Pack by Laura Owen and Korky Paul

What better way to spend Halloween than in the company of everyone’s favourite witch? This pumpkin-orange gift pack includes two favourite Winnie books – Nitty Winnie and Winnie Goes Batty – brimming with exciting adventures and just made for reading on dark, spooky nights. And if you’d rather be out trick-or-treating, there’s a free Halloween-themed goody bag just waiting to be filled with sweets and treats.

The adventures of Winnie the Witch and her black cat provide spell-binding, bite-size stories for young readers and, lucky for us, there is a Winnie book for every occasion. Brilliantly illustrated in Korky Paul’s distinctive and charismatic style, Winnie and Wilbur’s escapades are always mad, bad and dangerously hilarious.

In Nitty Winnie, we find out what happens when Winnie’s head is invaded by some tiny uninvited guests and in Winnie Goes Batty the wonderfully wacky witch is about to rustle up some batburgers in the kitchen when she discovers that bats are actually sweet little creatures and should certainly never be on the menu.

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Winnie books have sold over five million worldwide and are a firm favourite with children. Scatter-brained Winnie is not as simple as she seems and always conjures up some important life lessons amidst all that magic and mayhem.

A super Halloween treat for your tricky little customers…

(Oxford University Press, £9.99)

Spooky Winnie by Laura Owen and Korky Paul

And Winnie the Witch makes a welcome return in Spooky Winnie which includes four especially spine-tingling surprises as she turns back time, tells ghost stories, tames wayward wands and puts some side-splitting fun into Halloween.

In these four laugh-out-loud stories, everyone’s favourite witch is feeling a little bit spooky as she gets ready for a night of trick-or-treating.

Winnie brings her very own brand of muddled-up magic to everything she does. Fans who have grown up with Winnie, or those new to her charms, can enjoy her chaotic capers while Korky Paul’s exuberant illustrations complement the humour, slapstick and moments of high drama that run through each story.

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Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Winnie and Wilbur!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £4.99)

Aliens Sticker Book Edited by Kirsteen Robson and illustrated by Seb Burnett

There’s another world out there just waiting to be discovered in Aliens Sticker Book, a chunky activity book with over 400 bold and colourful stickers for children who love making their own adventures.

Little ones will delight in climbing aboard a sensational ‘spacecraft’ for a light-hearted, light-speed tour to meet some of the universe’s most amazing aliens. Inside this wacky book are hundreds of stickers to record the strange sights witnessed on the way. From flaming suns on Planet Scorchum to the curious citizens of Yooneeka, children will be entertained for hours on an ever-spinning tour of imaginary planets.

A transport of Halloween delight…

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Arthur and the Witch by Johanne Mercier

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And a witch is on the hunt in French Canadian Johanne Mercier’s latest outing with Arthur, her irresistible story book hero who meets more than he bargained for on a trip to the lake.

Mercier’s warm and reassuring series about a boy who’s brilliant at, well, being a little boy of seven who loves his family and sharing his adventures is proving a popular choice for early readers.

Here Arthur reveals that on a trip to Picket Lake, he discovered the best thing ever… a secret hoard of blueberries! He picked millions of them as a surprise for his Grandma and, naturally, ate quite a few of them too. If only he had known how angry this would make the Witch of Picket Lake. And to make matters worse, his hapless Cousin Eugene had a plan...

Full of understated humour which is so appealing to growing boys, Arthur narrates his own stories and brings the straightforward, rational world view that comes from being only seven.

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With bold, lovable characters and stories to enchant and entertain, all brought to life by Clare Elsom’s quirky illustrations, the witty, wonderful adventures of Arthur and his merry ménage are set to run a lot longer than Arthur’s mad dash from the wild Witch of Picket Lake!

(Phoenix Yard Books, paperback, £4.99)

Age 7 plus:

Monsters Colouring and Activity Book by Kirsteen Robson and Candice Whatmore

Think big but not necessarily beautiful with this magnificent monster-size activity book positively brimming with beastly beasts. All you need is colour to bring to life an amazing medley of modern and mythical monsters, from the micro to the mighty.

There won’t be a dull moment this Halloween time with pages of drawing and doodling activities, including designing and naming monsters, writing a mini-monster tale and escaping the Minotaur’s amazing maze.

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Enjoy thrilling stories featuring munchy monsters tucking into a midnight feast, bogey monsters under the bed, terrible trolls, howling werewolves and monsters of myth and legend.

This robust colouring and activity book is made from good quality drawing paper for budding young artists and offers excellent, brain-developing exercises like writing your own story and solving puzzles.

Hours of spooky fun to beat the holiday boredom blues…

(Usborne, paperback, £4.99)


Haunted by William Hussey

William Hussey’s devilish brand of dark fiction has made him one of the most popular authors of young adult thrillers.

His brilliantly atmospheric and terrifying Witchfinder trilogy was the nearest thing to horror heaven and now he’s back in time for Halloween with a chiller-thriller based on the US inventor Thomas Edison’s claim that he had built a ghost machine to communicate with the dead.

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And if you like your horror stories creepy, fast-paced, compulsive and excitingly scary, Haunted is going to leave you satisfyingly spooked.

Milton Lake is a seemingly ordinary town where tales of hauntings and strange goings-on ripple beneath the surface. When mysterious boy Nick Redway comes to town and moves into the Sparrow House, a large, derelict building, all alone, his arrival changes everything.

Shrouded in secrecy, he senses a kindred spirit in Emma Rhode, who is haunted by the death of her brother, and reveals to her a shocking truth. Someone in Milton Lake is using the fabled Ghost Machine to call the spirits of the dead back into the world.

The two lost souls form a bond and set out on a mission to discover just who is behind the increasingly horrific events that are unfolding in Milton Lake. The Ghost Machine is in evil hands and the town is in danger of becoming a gateway for the dead to return. If they don’t find the machine soon, the dead will be unleashed one by one...

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Prepare for sleepless nights as Hussey takes us down some terrifying ‘dead ends’ in this thrilling and surprisingly emotional trip to hell and back.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Atmosphere is what Maggie Stiefvater does best and the second book in her lush, neo-Gothic Raven Boys Quartet is a blistering blend of adventure, mystery and dark, dark romance.

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Blue and Gansey will be the same.

Blue didn’t mean to fall for the Raven Boys, but she has – and the more her life entwines with theirs, the more dangerous it becomes.

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Ronan is the most dangerous of all. He’s the haunted one, the darkest, the most raven. His dreams invade reality and confuse what is true. ‘No one but Ronan knew the terrors that lived in his mind. Plagues and devils, conquerors and beasts.’

Gansey, meanwhile, has struggles at home. And Adam? He’s made some new friends… friends who are looking for some of the same pieces of the puzzle which Gansey, Blue, and Ronan are after.

With magic growing stronger around them, now is the time to be wary… before everything unravels. Friendships will be tested, someone will get hurt and a kiss will be shared.

Stiefvater writes with a startling intensity about a world that hovers between dream and reality, peopled by a group of boys for whom violence is only a heartbeat away. Raw in its emotional landscape and powerful in its youthful energy, The Dream Thieves is a mind-blowing confusion of the modern and the mystic.

Daring, visionary and voluptuous, this is a story best consumed during the darkness of Halloween!

(Scholastic, paperback, £7.99)