Thematic Reading List- Spooky Reads


This week we are sharing reviews of some spooky reads you might want to share with those who love scary stories, and a few not-as-scary Halloween reads.







9780762444274 Steampunk: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
By: Mary Shelley
Illustrated by: Zdenko Basic and Manuel Sumberac

This original horror story begins and ends with the tale of Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s determination to recreate life through scientific means. This account relates how he ventures into slaughter houses and dissecting places to find body parts that when put together presents a ghastly representative of human life. Now Frankenstein must penetrate deep into his soul to find his conscience as he discovers the truth about his creation and determine what gives life has the right to recede it. Each intricate detail and beautifully written prose bestows the pages with rich and satisfying sentences that builds suspense as bile emerges from their stomach. The author’s note at the beginning explains the origins of this story while the illustrations confirm the pictures drawn by the author’s words. The old English writing represents how some stories survive the test of time with vigor and how profits can still be made from reprints when scientific logic and imagination collide.

2012, Running Press Classics, Ages 14 up, $18.95.
Reviewer: Julia Beiker (Children’s Literature).

Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask
By: R.L. Stine

Everyone wishes they were someone else from time to time. William inadvertently finds a way to do this when he puts on a cursed mask. The only problem is that once the mask is on, it can’t be taken off and it fills the wearer with a rage so powerful that they destroy everything and everyone in their path. The only way to get the mask off is to destroy the wearer along with it. As his dying act, William attempts to hide the mask in a place where no one will ever find it to protect everyone in his beloved town. For many years, the mask lays undiscovered at the bottom of a locked trunk, and William’s spirit wards off potential intruders. Then, in a stroke of bad luck, Lu-Ann and her friends stumble across the chest and its contents. Will the group of friends survive this night of horrors, or will they share William’s fate? The short chapters and larger font will appeal to reluctant readers. There are some graphic references of blood and death that may not be appropriate for younger readers, but for older readers, this may add to the intrigue.

2012, Scholastic Press, Ages 8 to 12, $15.99.
Reviewer: Heather Welsh (Children’s Literature).

By: Neil Gaiman

Coraline and her family have moved to a new flat and life continues as normal. Mom and Dad are always busy and she is always bored. When her father offhandedly suggests that she count the doors and windows in their new home to keep her busy, Coraline finds one mysterious door that is locked. Intrigued, Coraline finds the key, opens the door, and finds herself in a very different world. Here, her parents are at the ready to entertain her and keep her happy. This “Other Mother” even cooks everything she likes. At first, she thinks this is wonderful, but when she realizes that this Other Mother does not want her to return home, Coraline becomes determined to resist. Coraline makes one trip back home only to find that her real parents have disappeared. Knowing that the Other Mother is behind all this, Coraline returns to find out what has become of her real parents. With the help of a black cat, Coraline manages not only to resist the Other Mother but finds other children who have fallen under her spell. Ultimately, Coraline frees the children and makes sure that the Other Mother can harm no one else. Coraline ends up returning home to her real Mom and Dad and appreciates them in a way she never did before. This story provides a good edge-of-your-seat read without being terribly frightening. For those children who like to be scared, Gaiman’s novel is a well-written alternative to Goosebumps.

2002, HarperCollins, $15.99. Ages 8 up.
Reviewer: Joan Kindig, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature)

Skeleton Creek
By: Patrick Carman

Ryan has returned to his house in Skeleton Creek from an accident that left him with a broken leg. Ryan is writing a journal of what has happened to him, including strange occurrences and his friendship with Sarah. He fears his small town is haunted. He and his friend Sarah had been researching the history of their town and discovered a connection with the New York Gold and Silver Company. The town s librarian believes the abandoned dredge where Ryan has his accident was left by the company. Sarah wants to record her experience on video and sends e-mails to Ryan with passwords. Ryan and Sarah end up back at the dredge trying to solve the mystery. The ending leaves middle school or early high school readers in suspense until the mystery s next installment.

2009, Scholastic Press, $14.99. Ages 12 to 15.
Reviewer: Elizabeth Fronk (Children’s Literature)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Retold by: Robert D. San Souci

A retelling of the Washington Irving classic. This is an excellent rendition of the famous ghost story about the hapless schoolteacher and the headless horseman. Washington Irving’s lengthy descriptions and erudite vocabulary have been condensed to a comfortable reading level for upper elementary or middle school readers. The realistic and colorful illustrations really suit the mood of the tale.

1995 (orig. 1986), Dell, $11.95 and $5.99. Ages 9 up.
Reviewer: Elizabeth Bagg (Children’s Literature)

9780312553661 Frankenstein
Ludworst Bemonster

By: Rick Walton
Illustrated by Nathan Hale

Twelve little monsters reside in an ancient castle with Miss Devel who watches over them. After briefly describing the fiendish habits of the young monsters, the reader meets Frankenstein, one of the twelve small monsters, and learns about his creepy behaviors, like scaring rocks and tormenting Miss Devel. One evening, there is a medical emergency at the castle, and Miss Devel calls the doctor for help. Frankenstein has lost his head so he is rushed in a hearse to the laboratory for surgical repairs. Frankenstein’s little monster friends visit him and are envious of the results of Frankenstein’s operation. They then find reasons for making their own surgical visits. In this parody, Walton and Hale twist and retell Bemelmans’s classic story, Madeline, by using Frankenstein as their main character. The illustration on the book’s cover may look oddly familiar to Madeline and readers may notice the word play with the author’s name, Ludworst Bemonster, which is used as the pen name for the book. Those readers who like a bit of a monster-twist to a familiar story may find this parody hilarious.

2012, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Ages 4 to 9, $12.99.
Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children’s Literature).

Hailey’s Halloween
By: Lisa Bullard
Illustrated by Holli Conger

Halloween is tomorrow and young Hailey has no idea what she will wear. As she moves through the costume store, trying on various outfits, Hailey tells the readers all about her favorite holiday. She dresses as a dinosaur and a monster as she explains Halloween’s origin among the Celts as a celebration called Samhain. As Hailey dons a ghost sheet, she reveals the adoption of “All Hallow’s Eve” as a church holiday. Pirate Hailey speaks of the Europeans who brought the holiday to North America on big ships. Keeping her final costume selection a secret until the end, Hailey and her parents carve a jack-o’-lantern in anticipation of the big day. Though this title from the “Cloverleaf Books – Fall and Winter Holidays” is classified as juvenile nonfiction, it has plenty of entertainment value for young readers. Children will enjoy the colorful and entertaining illustrations which accompany Hailey’s browsing adventure. With a parent’s help, youngsters may even want to try out the included recipe for “Make It Yourself: Face Paint”! Educational side notes provide information that could be useful in curriculum support, such as the origin of many of our present-day Halloween traditions. The glossary, index, and list of additional resources make this an excellent book for those just learning how to perform research. Hailey’s story concludes with her big costume reveal as she goes trick-or-treating with her friends, and her Halloween spirit will surely be contagious!

2013, Milbrook Press/Lerner, Ages 5 to 7, $23.93.
Reviewer: Rachelle Andrade (Children’s Literature).

Halloween Forest
By: Marion Jane Bauer
Illustrated by John Shelley

Have you ever dreamed of having a fantastic, spooky Halloween adventure? This entertaining story opens with the line, “Have you ever thrown your trick-or-treat sack on your back on all Hallow’s Eve and taken your leave of town?” After dashing out of town, the reader finds a forest filled with bones–bare bones of trees, bat bones, cat bones, and rat bones, which stare down. The reader also sees dog bones, hog bones, frog bones, and even fog bones. The bones are every child’s worst nightmare, but the reader does not sigh, cry, or dash away in dismay. No, the reader does not worry about rattling bones. Instead, she cries, “Poo!” and “Booh!” in response. The reader wiggles and squiggles her bones before yelling out, “Trick or treat! Smell my feet! Give me something good to eat!” At the end of this delicious story, the reader collects a bag of wonderful candy. Young readers will love being a character in this interactive tale by Newbery Honor writer, Marion Bauer; they will also enjoy the finely crafted illustrations by John Shelley.

2012, Holiday House, Ages 4 to 8, $16.95.
Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D (Children’s Literature).

Monsters Aren’t Real
By: Kerstin Schoene

We meet our monster hero on the first double page, astounded as it is surrounded by the repeated statement in may type faces: “Monsters aren’t real!” Contemplating itself in a mirror, it wonders, “Then what am I?” It knows it has all the necessary monster requisites, so it sets out to prove that monsters are real. Writing it everywhere, even confronting people, it finds that nobody is even paying attention. Trying to frighten a youngster watching TV, it ends up joining him on the floor. Just when it is about to give up, another monster turns up to prove its point. Off they go together, hand in hand. “Monsters are real. Really.” The hero is more cute than scary, with large eyes, antlers, claws, and a blobby body. The mainly double-page settings are basic, like walls for graffiti, or the dock on which a fisherman is untroubled by the huge octopus the monster drags along to show him. Many scenes are wordless fun.

2012 (orig. 2011), Kane Miller/EDC Publishing, Ages 4 to 8, $14.99.
Reviewer: Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

9781489624109 Pumpkin Countdown
By: Joan Holub
Illustrated by Jan Smith

The class is going on a trip to the pumpkin patch. There are nineteen students and one teacher, so the book starts the counting at twenty. The class and teacher sit two by two in ten rows and, as they journey, there are items to count. At thirteen they arrive at the pumpkin patch and meet Farmer Mixenmatch. Along the fence is a row of thirteen pumpkins representing as many varieties. There is a petting zoo which provides an opportunity to count the animals. Next, the kids and the reader learn how a pumpkin grows and watch bees make honey. What is a pumpkin patch without a maze and this one has ten scarecrows. Finally, it is time to pick pumpkins and in the course of that activity, everyone sees pumpkins of many shapes and colors. The numbers that accompany this trip and countdown are featured in the corner of each page and are printed on the more common orange pumpkin. The endpapers are filled with pumpkin facts. A good selection for any fall or Halloween lesson.

2012, Albert Whitman, Ages 4 to 7, $16.99.
Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).

Pumpkin Fever
By: Charnan Simon
Illustrated by Jan Bryan-Hunt

Erin’s family goes to the pumpkin field and chooses two round pumpkins. Dad and Erin carve one pumpkin while Mom uses her pumpkin in a different way. Most of the double-page pictures have less than ten words of text. The simple, colorful illustrations tell a large part of the story. This “Rookie Reader” deals with counting, numbers, and shapes. Beginning readers will get practice reading the math and shape words one, two, circle, rectangle, round, square, and triangle. The best use for this book might be as a read-aloud book to introduce these math concepts to young children. The blurb at the end of the story introduces the author and illustrator and this is followed by several activities to reinforce the lesson in counting and recognizing shapes–a rebus poem, maze, counting and grouping, as well as matching shapes. There is list of the fifty-nine words that make up the story. It will make a nice, not scary, Halloween story. Part of the “Rookie Ready to Learn-Seasons and Weather” series.

2011 (orig. 2007), Children’s Press/Scholastic, $22.00. Ages 2 to 6.
Reviewer: Betty Key and Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).

9780802723925 The Scariest Thing of All
By: Debi Gliori

The tiniest bunny in a large, busy burrow, Pip is afraid of a near-endless list of things. When he hides in the warm, green grass, he is lulled into a nap that lasts until the smell of cooking wafts across the field. Raaaarrrr! Raaarrrr! The terrifying noise causes the little guy to turn and run into a forest full of creatures and shadows to add to his list of scary things, and the noise stays right with him. He stumbles into a twisty dark shape that does not budge when the terrible noise rumbles again. Standing still before the shape, Pip finally has time to realize that the noise is only his tummy, rumbling for dinner. In a slightly forced conversion, Pip decides that he must be “The Scariest Thing of All” and, if he is not afraid of himself, then nothing else should scare him either. Scampering back through the woods, he confronts one former fear after another, leaving the wigglers and gobblers and trolls of the forest frightened and shaking in his wake. The text will make for a fun parent/child read-aloud and Gliori’s watercolor and ink creations will provide delightful discoveries as the little ones explore the book on their own.

2012 (orig 2011), Walker Publishing/Bloomsbury, 3 to 7, $16.99.
Reviewer: Barr Lichty (Children’s Literature).


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