Ghoulish goodies abound for picture-book fans this Halloween, includingÂ I Want to Be in aÂ Scary Story by SeanÂ Taylor and JeanÂ Jullien (Walker). Asked what sort of story heÃ¢Â€Â™d like to be in, Little Monster demands a scary one. But a spooky forest and haunted house prove too perturbing Ã¢Â€Â“ and he wants toÂ be the one doing the scaring Ã¢Â€Â¦ This is beautifully structured for reading aloud; a vibrant, viewpoint-flipping picture book that should lessen small readersÃ¢Â€Â™ fairytale fears.
Also from Walker, The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is a subversive delight.Â When a wolf meets and instantly devours a mouse, a happy ending seems unlikely; but the wolf already contains another resident: a duck, who enjoys the cosiest of creature comforts in his windowless abode. Ã¢Â€ÂœI may have been swallowed,Ã¢Â€Â declares the defiant bird, Ã¢Â€Âœbut I have no intention of being eaten.Ã¢Â€Â The earthy darkness of the wolfÃ¢Â€Â™s interiorÂ contrasts with soft shades of moonlit forest in this unexpected, hilarious collaboration.
Benji DaviesÃ¢Â€Â™s The Grotlyn (HarperCollins) also examines the terrors of the unknown, via rhyming text and aÂ dark Victorian landscape fullÂ of aproned maids and silhouetted chimney pots. Rubi is afraid of the Grotlyn after she hears a noise on her way up to bed; when she discovers theÂ soundÃ¢Â€Â™s true source, though, her anxiety is allayed. An unusual, thought-provoking story of unfounded fears and a joyous flight to freedom.
Addressing courage in a very different way, MalalaÃ¢Â€Â™s Magic Pencil (Puffin) tells the beguiling tale of Malala YousafzaiÃ¢Â€Â™s dream of a magic pencil and her discovery of educationÃ¢Â€Â™s transformative power, in a beautiful paean to children and their potential for heroic change. Husband-and-wife duo KerascoÃƒÂ«tÃ¢Â€Â™s watercolour illustrations, with their golden flourishes and bursts of pink, perfectly complement the text Ã¢Â€Â“ the black page detailing the TalibanÃ¢Â€Â™s attack on Malala (Ã¢Â€ÂœMy voice became so powerful that dangerous men tried to silence me. But they failedÃ¢Â€Â) is a clear and resonant call to arms.
Sleuths aged five and above will rejoice in Hiro KamigakiÃ¢Â€Â™s Pierre the Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower (Laurence King), aÂ follow-up to the bestselling original story about Pierre. Seductively intricate, with the narrative guiding the reader via ballrooms, sweetshops and fairgrounds to the pinnacle of the titular tower, this gorgeous combination of search-and-find and maze is seeded with exciting hidden extras Ã¢Â€Â“ mini-mazes, trophies and stars to spot. Too fascinating for bedtime, itÃ¢Â€Â™s the perfect rainy-day companion.
Alex T Smith provides more mysterious high-jinks in Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure (Hodder), featuring a seabird-turned-private detective, his silent spider sidekick Colin and missing treasure concealed in a museum. Full of fish-finger sandwiches, secret jungles, nefarious plots and cryptic codes, itÃ¢Â€Â™s addictive slapstick, with SmithÃ¢Â€Â™s appealingly arch black, white and orange illustrations.
Tom FletcherÃ¢Â€Â™s The Creakers (Puffin), meanwhile, is a stonkingly good novel for the over sevens. One morning, Lucy Dungston wakes to discover that the townÃ¢Â€Â™s adults have vanished. How will the children Ã¢Â€Â“ glamourpuss Ella, geeky Norman, and conscientious Lucy herself Ã¢Â€Â“ manage without them, and can they be brought back? Laced with direct addresses to the reader and gleeful descriptions of malodorous underworld creatures, itÃ¢Â€Â™sÂ both a compelling adventure and aÂ nuanced celebration of friendship and family love, to which Shane DevriesÃ¢Â€Â™s vigorous illustrations add inclusive richness.
Readers aged eight and over are inÂ for a treat in Kate SaundersÃ¢Â€Â™s new fantasy The Land of Neverendings (Faber). Emily isÂ mourning her sister, Holly, with whom she once shared stories of Smockeroon, an imaginary idyll; her motherÃ¢Â€Â™s friend Ruth is mourning her lost son Danny. When DannyÃ¢Â€Â™s old toysÂ begin to appear, bickering and picnicking, in the Ã¢Â€Âœhard worldÃ¢Â€Â of reality, Emily realises that SmockeroonÂ may not be so imaginary after all. ButÂ the door between worlds is not supposed to open Ã¢Â€Â¦ A delicate, funny, poignant exploration of grief, love and memory that has the welcoming warmth of an instant classic.
In The Midnight Peacock (Egmont) Katherine Woodfine brings her tautly plotted Edwardian series The SinclairÃ¢Â€Â™s Mysteries to a stylish conclusion, in aÂ book filled with deft characterisation and delectable period detail. Sophie and Lil, now transformed from shop-girls to detectives, must first join aÂ fashionable house party at snowy Winter Hall, then foil a fiendish plot at the Midnight Peacock New YearÃ¢Â€Â™s Ball ifÂ they are to discover the truth about the Baron and, at last, defeat him.
Fantasy fans will devour Jessica TownsendÃ¢Â€Â™s striking debut Nevermoor:Â The Trials of Morrigan Crowe (Orion). Morrigan has always known that, as aÂ cursed child, she willÂ not live past herÂ 11th birthday. When she is saved byÂ magical traveller Jupiter North, however, she does not expect the impossible challenges that await her inÂ the fascinating world ofÂ Nevermoor. Detailed, inventive world-building, aÂ strong heroine and aÂ rousing refrain (Ã¢Â€ÂœStep boldly!Ã¢Â€Â) all make for a splendidly involving read.
For teenagers, Juno DawsonÃ¢Â€Â™s Grave Matter (Barrington Stoke) is aÂ super-readable illustrated novella ofÂ lost love and dangerous yearning. When Eliza isÂ killed in a car accident, Samuel is willing to do anything to get her back Ã¢Â€Â“ even to enter the world of hoodoo and accept the Milk ManÃ¢Â€Â™s dangerous assistance. A deliciously succinct, creepy chiller, interspersed with Alex T SmithÃ¢Â€Â™s shadowy, atmospheric images.
Amy ReedÃ¢Â€Â™s The Nowhere Girls (Atom) follows Grace, Erin and Rosina, outsiders in a small-town community in Oregon, as they take up arms on behalf of a girl raped by three members of the high-school football team, challenging the apathetic complicity of the powers that be. Told from multiple perspectives, at once harrowing and heart-lifting, itÃ¢Â€Â™s both an indictment of entrenched victim-blaming and a demonstration of what can happen when girls lay aside their differences toÂ demand better treatment.
There is more clear-sighted feminist analysis (and many more belly laughs) in Holly BourneÃ¢Â€Â™s latest young adult novel, It Only Happens in the Movies (Usborne). Audrey, weathering the aftermath of a big break-up, declares war on the cliches of romantic comedy while simultaneously trying to hold notorious charmer Harry at armÃ¢Â€Â™s length. It doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t help, however, that they are co-workers at an indie cinema, or that film-mad Harry is attempting to shoot his first zombie feature. Boasting emotional depth and believable heartbreak alongside such memorable lines as Ã¢Â€Âœfrostbite of the bumholeÃ¢Â€Â, thisÂ is Bourne at her outrageous, courageous, necessary best.
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