Monday 15 October 2012

Ten spine-chillingly fantastic children's books for Halloween

Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski
Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble! It's getting closer and closer to Halloween and the shops are struggling to balance between starting their christmas displays, packing the shelves out with fireworks, or stocking christmas stuff.

It's the same story in the Bookworld as publishers, authors and illustrators have all been busy creating some truly spooky and supernatural books to haunt our children with (all in the best possible taste!) so here's ReadItDaddy's top ten witchy, monstery and downright spine-chilling books to tempt your busy little bees with. Presented in no particular order with links through to our previous reviews (if we've covered them):

1) The Spider and The Fly by Tony DiTerlizzi

Mary Howitt's deliciously dark poem expertly re-spun in silken threads by the master of the macabre, Tony DiTerlizzi. It comes as no surprise that this was a book of the week when we originally reviewed it. The stark greyscale images are beautifully done, and Spider is such a cad, a bounder and a scoundrel that it's impossible not to like him. It's not a particularly scary book but it's that rare thing, a children's book that doesn't let you down at the end with a sugary sweet saccharine conclusion.

Perfectly dark storytelling for halloween.

2) Tamara Small and the Monster's Ball by Giles Paley-Phillips (link to preview)

Top storytelling chap Giles Paley-Phillips seems to be one of the busiest and most sought after children's authors at the moment, and he's a chap after our own hearts who loves monsters nearly as much as we do. We loved his first book "The Fearsome Beastie" (which is also a great halloween read) when we reviewed it and Giles kindly let us take an early look at Tamara Small and the Monsters Ball back in August.

It's subsequently been released and has been a massive hit, kids love the mix of monsters, mayhem and funky dancing. We can't wait to see Giles' next book!

3) Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski

Helen Nicoll's recent untimely death robbed children's literature of one of its brightest talents. I loved the Meg and Mog books when I was a kid, but I personally think the very first book "Meg and Mog" was the very best. Meg came along a very long time before Winnie the Witch and introduced children to the notion that not all witches are evil old hags who eat eyeballs and monkey fuzz for dinner.

Along with her trusty sidekick Mog, Meg soared the skies on her broomstick with her other friend Owl along for the ride. I had no idea that this was turned into a TV series back in the early noughties, time to hunt out some episodes and re-read the books too for halloween.

4) Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

She's a hugely successful figure, she's drawn by one of the most talented chaps in the business so it's no surprise to see Winnie the Witch in our top ten. Like Meg and Mog, Winnie and Wilbur delight children with their slightly madcap and crazy antics, and spells that don't always go according to plan. For us though, the joy of a new Winnie book is always seeing just how much tiny little detail goes into one of Korky Paul's illustrations (and we also giggle at his various references to Apple computers that seem to work their way into the books regularly).

Charlotte secretly loves Wilbur more that Winnie but still always likes to dress up as Winnie herself every Halloween.

5) Fragoline and the Midnight Dream by Clemency Pearce and Rebecca Elliott

Fragoline and the Midnight Dream is a dark and gothic tale of a young girl who errs on the side of 'slightly creepy' as she stalks the neighbourhood at night, in search of mischief and misadventure. She claims to be as bold as brass and afraid of nothing, but Fragoline (like most little girls) might just be scared of...'ll have to read the book to find out what her achilles heel is but it's such a beautiful and darkly woven tale, it's perfect for those torch-lit story sessions as you huddle under the duvet on All Hallows Eve.

6) The Monster Machine by Nicola L. Robinson

Uber-talented artist and author Nicola L. Robinson also happens to be one of the nicest people to converse with on Twitter. We were lucky enough to be sent 'The Monster Machine' for review and we completely fell in love with its cavalcade of different monster characters, as well as the young lad and his dad who end up inventing the machine that creates them. We're massive fans of detailed art, and Nicola's steampunk-esque machines, wild and whacky monsters and a rather neat little nod to 'Titanic' won us over (and from what we read elsewhere, won a lot of you over too! Hooray!) Definitely a worthy addition to our list and a former book of the week too! Yay!

7) La Visite De Petite Morte by Kitty Crowther

We haven't reviewed "La Visite De Petite Mort" yet on ReadItDaddy but it's not for the want of trying. I originally read this in a bookstore in Paris and fell completely in love with it, despite it being one of the darkest children's books I've ever read. Every time Amazon get this in stock it seems to be ridiculously expensive, and goes out of stock fairly quickly but if you're lucky enough to visit some of the really brilliant bookstores over in France, and spot this, grab it with both hands.

French children's books have a knack of dealing with really difficult and surreal subjects and this is no exception. I won't spoil the surprise for you but seek this one out, it'll chill you to the bone at halloween!

8) Little Dragon and the Haunted House by Anni Axworthy

What do you give a little dragon who cries tears of pure gold? No not an onion you rotters, you give them a lovely house to live in all of their own. Only Little Dragon's house seems to already have a few chain-rattling incumbents so what can Little Dragon and his friends do about their ghostly infestation?

This delightful little book scored such a big hit with Charlotte that I didn't think we'd ever be allowed to give it back to the library (Hooray that children don't get fined!!) Monsters, ghosts, and a classic haunted house are all wrapped up in this book's seemingly innocuous covers. Perfect to go along with those halloween sweeties!

9) Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

I know you're probably getting a bit bored with us telling you how great "Black Dog" by Levi Pinfold is. But we won't stop, until you've all bought it and devoured the delicious artwork, the dark tale and the sheer and utter brilliance of one of the best children's books of the year.

"Black Dog" is a tale about confronting your fears when a problem seems bigger than it actually is, but it's told in such a way that it doesn't feel preachy or shouty - but celebratory.

Levi Pinfold is, without a doubt, a heck of a talent and someone to keep a very close eye on in future as we've got a feeling it won't be the last of his books to feature as one of our "Book of the Week" choices.

10) Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot

Oh my, we were really in two minds whether to feature this one as one of our Halloween Book choices. It's dark, and it's actually fairly disturbing if you've a youngster who hasn't quite progressed beyond needing the landing light or a night light on. A little girl switches off the light at night to find that Darkness is actually a playful and slightly mischievous 'thing' that likes to play tricks, likes to grab, likes to dance and above all likes to wrap himself around your most cherished objects until you can't see them. I spotted the potential danger in this book as a bedtime read straight away but in time-honoured fashion, Charlotte was having none of it - and absolutely devoured this dark little tale. Something about his shadowy appearance, his expressions and his spiky hair just made the darkness in this book stick in the mind (and if it works on me, it'll definitely work on your young impressionables!) Nevertheless it's a definite shoe-in for inclusion in our halloween list.

So there you have it, that little lot should keep your collywobbles wobbling. Don't have nightmares!