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Book reviews: Spooky

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It’s ghosts and ghouls galore with this selection of spooky books suitable for children aged 7-11.

Feather and Bone by Lazlo Strangolov (Walker, £6.99 HB)

Feather and Bone

Here’s a book with a difference. This is a cold, hungry, fearful world of dark woods and dark doings centred around an abandoned industrial poultry farm. Why does the schoolteacher have missing fingers? Why does Cosmina Barbescu get extra rations in the food parcels? What is spooking the chickens? Why are the rabbits exploding? Kamil and Flori find out.

Wow! What a story! And such powerful illustrations. Lazlo’s random pencil doodles are scribbled over the text – an inspired touch. It’s absolutely wonderful.

Take a look at Lazlo’s top tips for children wishing to write their own spooky stories.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; more able readers; reading aloud.


Barnaby Grimes: Phantom of Blood Alley by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (Doubleday, £9.99 HB)

Barnaby Grimes

I love books set in made-up worlds. This one is gothicky Victorianish. It’s the fourth book in the action packed Barnaby Grimes series, set in a world of tick-tock boys (a cross between a messenger and a delivery boy), duelling governesses, early photographic experiments, savage dogs, ghostly faces at windows, a stolen inheritance, double dealing and lashings of horror and macabre death. An intriguing plot, a lot of running over rooftops, an early prototype skateboard and a likeable hero in Barnaby, the high-speed delivery boy (the best in the business!)

Fabulous illustrations by Chris Riddell, of course. I found it a real page turner. Well done, lads. Great stuff.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; more able readers; reading aloud.


Flood and Fang: The Raven Mysteries by Marcus Sedgwick (Orion, £7.99 HB)

Flood and Fang

The first in a new series introducing the oddball Otherhand family: Lord Valevine (inventor), Minty (his cake-obsessed wife), ten-year-old Cudweed (who has a pet monkey) and lovely goth Solstice (Cudweed’s sister). The story is told by Edgar the raven, the grumpy castle guardian. It involves mysterious black tails under the rhubarb patch, missing maids and a great big flood.

I liked the fact that each chapter begins with amusing bits of factual information about the castle and its inhabitants. It has a nice big print that’s easy to read. The illustrations are few, but just right. Good fun.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; more able readers; reading aloud.


Jack Slater and the Whisper Of Doom by John Dougherty (Young Corgi, £4.99 PB)

Jack Slater and the Whisper of Doom

The second book about Jack Slater, Monster Investigator. Together with his cheery friend, Cherry, and a friendly monster called Bernard, Jack conducts another monster-busting investigation, armed with only a torch, teddy and cool head.

The story is told in the first person. There is lots of action and a scary moment or two, but there are also plenty of jokes to keep the atmosphere light. The two protagonists are feisty, plucky and likeable. I liked the idea that monsters are made up from children’s fears and that Jack has to confront his own – the creepily named Mr Whisper. Oo-er.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.


Krankenstein’s Crazy House of Horror by Jeremy Strong (Puffin, £4.99 PB)

Krankenstein's House of Horror

The title says it all. A rollicking tale of small boys, cosmic pyjamas and meany mix ‘n’ match monsters, with characters called Grumpfart and Stitcher. The bouncy text is peppered with lots of shhhhploop!s and phwoooooosh!s and capital letters. Who could resist? Not me.

There are loads of rude, child-friendly jokes and plenty of ‘tuneless trumpeting’ from an ‘orchestral bottom’, no less. Some kids are rescued from slavery. I suppose it teaches you to stand up to your fears, but who cares? It’s fun. Vintage Jeremy Strong.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reluctant readers; reading aloud.


Portable Ghosts by Margaret Mahy (Faber&Faber, £5.99 PB)

Portable Ghosts

Plenty of ghostly goings-on in this book. There’s a haunted book, haunted floorboards and haunted computer. A cracking opening, but it has to be said, not very scary.

Suitable for: girls; younger readers.


Damian Drooth Supersleuth: Gruesome Ghosts by Barbara Mitchelhill (Anderson, £3.99 PB)

Damian Drooth Supersleuth: Gruesome Ghosts

Armed with only ghost-battering vegetables, a wooden cross and his mum’s cracked mirror, the famous boy detective spends a night in a haunted house. Plenty of giggles.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reluctant readers.


Oli and Skipjack’s Tales of Trouble!: The Spookoscope by Ceci Jenkinson (Faber&Faber, £4.99 PB)

Oli and Skipjack?s Tales of Trouble!: The Spookoscope

Lord and Lady Spiffing are keen to conjure up castle ghosts to bring in the tourists. But, things become complicated when Oli and Skipjack turn up with a Spookoscope.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reading aloud.


Darkside: Timecurse by Tom Becker (Scholastic, £6.99 PB)

Darkside: Timecurse

Werewolves, vampires and hobgoblins – here we come! Jonathan crosses again from modern London to the rotten borough of Darkside. An enjoyably, rip-roaring fantasy.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; more able readers; reading aloud.


Mariah Mundi and the Ghost Diamonds by G.P. Taylor (Faber&Faber, £6.99 PB)

Mariah Mundi and the Ghost Diamonds

Spontaneous combustion, a monster octopus, underground tunnels, divining spectacles, kidnapping – so much plot, so little time! Rather exhausting, but rich in imaginative detail and well-named baddies.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; more able readers.

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