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The Monster Librarian Presents:

Scary Book List for Kids


    To my knowledge there are no children's librarians or school media specialists out there who have not been asked the question "Where are the scary stories?"  This list is for the 12 and younger crowd.  It will be split into subcategories as time goes on.

Of note for teachers, librarians, and parents:

Anyone interested in the value of scary books for children ought to check out this article, recently published in the journal of the American Association of School Librarians:

    Crawford, Philip Charles. "Hatching Their Wolfish Schemes: Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's Wolves in the Walls." Knowledge Quest, Jan/Feb2006, Vol. 34 Issue 3, p39-41.


11/2/06: Reading Rockets has a great video interview with horror author R.L. Stine, a major influence on horror writing for children and teens.  To get up close and personal, take a look here.


For Halloween please visit our  Halloween Book List for Kids  page as reviews will be added throughout the month of October each year.


1/11/11: Thanks to Taylor from Ms. B's class for pointing out an excellent resource for R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series.


All Hallow’s ABC by Jenni Kaye*New Review

Daring Ink Press, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9884914-1-0

Available: Paperback and ebook edition


        There are lots of Halloween alphabet books, but a majority tend toward the cute or use branded characters(or both). While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with cute, the contemporary look of All Hallow’s ABC is a breath of fresh air. Bright and contrasting colors with solid shapes and figures are winners when it comes to getting the attention of young children, and the streamlined,  All Hallow’s ABC will really appeal to parents looking for an attractive, cheerfully menacing, approach to the Halloween season. Jenni Kaye takes an original approach to choosing words to match each letter, as well. D is for Dark, I is for Imagining, U is for Unearthly. Each page gets its own letter and artwork, with the rhyming text and illustrations paired in some rather unusual combinations: P is for Princess has a black skeleton with a crown and a tower, for instance—not the image of a princess most of us normally conjure up;  and T is for Tutu shows a smiling ghost wearing a purple tutu, rather than a ballerina. All Hallow’s ABC, with its clean lines and genuine enthusiasm for the Halloween season is a great choice for parents and kids who celebrate Halloween all through the month of October, tombstones and all.  Highly recommended.


Reviewed by Kirsten Kowalewski



Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno*New Review

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0307976819

Available: Hardcover


I received this book as an unfinished ARC from NetGalley.  I have enjoyed Cynthia Voigt’s contemporary young adult novels in the past, and this middle grade mystery/adventure with its historical setting is a real departure from those, so I was very interested to see what she would do. Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things focuses on twelve year old Max Starling, the son of theatrical parents who withdraw him from school and then disappear on a journey, leaving him behind. Max, who has always been told he is independent, now has to test that by living at home on his own and making money to eat and pay for lessons. With a thorough knowledge of the theatrical characters his parents had played and their costuming, he is able to successfully navigate the adult world using disguises, without giving away that he is living alone.


This is the frame for the story, which consists of three mysteries that Max is asked to solve. While the mysteries are individual, they are also interconnected, with engaging (if not always likable) characters, and while events occasionally feel contrived, the solutions are not immediately clear. Following all the threads of the plot to see where they will go is enjoyable, even when they’re predictable. All of these, however, distract from the original problem of the disappearance of Max’s parents.


Voigt creates a setting rich in detail, beautifully complemented by illustrations by Iacopo Bruno, and her character development is solid. However, while some exposition and dialogue are necessary to establish these, it happens at the expense of the plot. Pages and pages of dialogue are devoted to the introduction of the second mystery, but nothing actually happens. Max also spends a great deal of time brooding over his independence and separation from his parents without actually taking action. There are many children’s books out there about children whose parents mysteriously disappear on a journey (The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, for example), but, while there are occasional moments of action and suspense, there is a lot more sitting and brooding, and I kept waiting impatiently for Max to take a more active part in his own story. I think the target audience for the book will be impatient with this, as well. Although there are a few frightening moments, readers who are seeking out thrills and chills or a fast-paced plot will need to look elsewhere. The humor, intrigue, well-developed characters, and cliffhanger ending, however, will leave readers who like historical fiction and mysteries demanding more.


Reviewed by Kirsten Kowalewski



A Good Night for Ghosts (Magic Tree House #42: A Merlin Mission) by Mary Pope Osborne

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2011 (reprint)

ISBN-13: 978-0375856495

Available: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, audiobook (CD, Audible audio)


        The premise of the Magic Tree House series is that siblings Jack and Annie have discovered a magical tree house that houses a library. Opening any book will transport them to the time and place the book is about.  Their mentor is Morgan le Fay, a magical librarian from Camelot, and through her and her assistants, Merlin the magician sends them on missions through mythical and historical times and places.  While the books can be read as stand-alone titles, it’s best to read them in order. In A Good Night for Ghosts, Jack and Annie use the tree house to travel to New Orleans in 1915, on a mission to convince the teenaged Louis Armstrong, who grew up to be the “King of Jazz”, not to give up on his music.  They find Louis, or “Dipper”, working multiple jobs, turning his back on music in order to support his family. Jack and Annie attach themselves to Dipper and insist on helping him with his jobs, although they’re unprepared for the hard physical labor (it’s pretty funny).  It’s clear that Dipper misses playing music, and most of the people who know him miss it as well.


        When Jack, Annie, and Dipper are caught in a storm, they take shelter in Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, which has the reputation of being haunted. Three of Dipper’s friends, street musicians, decide to trick them, but after revealing themselves and bragging that they’re not afraid of ghosts, the real scare starts. The ghost of Jean Lafitte, and his ghostly pirate crew, arrives to terrorize all the kids, in what is actually a pretty terrifying scene for a seven year old reader. Luckily, a reluctant Dipper is able to distract the ghosts with his music. The scene in the haunted blacksmith shop scared and thrilled my kids when I read it aloud to them, and is good enough that they’ve checked it out of the library more than once.


        The logical thing would be for Dipper to recognize the value of his talent at this point, and take up his friends’ offer to join them for their upcoming jazz gig.  The story is only slightly over 100 pages, and heavily illustrated, so there’s not a lot of room for complexity. What happened instead was very frustrating for me.  Jack and Annie are supposed to convince Dipper to get started on making music without revealing the future. He is so stubborn that in order to convince him they break their own rules and show him the history book that brought them to New Orleans, to show him that he would become a famous jazz musician.

Although they do succeed, the end of their adventure was sad for me, as when they asked Dipper to join them on a streetcar out of the city, he couldn’t, because blacks and whites had to sit separately.  Annie and Jack’s surprise that anyone would treat blacks and whites differently is hard to believe, but this is the only overt reference to segregation or racism in the book. I haven’t read all the books, but I hope Osborne returns to address this issue in a later book.


        While parts of the book are silly or simplistic, Osborne does a wonderful job of recreating time and place using very few words, and develops Dipper’s character nicely in a limited number of pages. Every book in this series is heavily researched, and this one is no different; she includes facts about Louis Armstrong in the back.  A Good Night for Ghosts also has a nonfiction companion, Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #20: Ghosts. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Kirsten Kowalewski



The Orphan of Awkward Falls by Keith Graves
Chronicle Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0-8118-7814-2
Available: New


The Orphan of Awkward Falls  tells the story of Josephine Cravitz, an inquisitive twelve-year-old who moves to the northern Canadian town of Awkward Falls with her eccentric parents. Awkward Falls is a strange town, known for its sauerkraut and its Asylum for the Dangerously Insane. Josephine explores her new neighborhood and stumbles upon a run-down mansion house, which is home to a strange little boy called Thaddeus Hibble. Thaddeus’s only companions are a robot butler and a strange patchwork cat (that can speak). Josephine learns about the boy’s odd existence, and about the unorthodox work of his scientist grandfather. But the kids are in danger: the most dangerous inmate of the Asylum, Fetid Stenchley, has escaped and is heading their way…


I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, and its dark and unusual plot really had me gripped. As an adult, I found it a quirky and bizarre book. However, I’m not sure how well it fits with its intended readership. The humor in the book, and its two young protagonists, seem designed to appeal to a middle grade audience. According to the publisher’s suggested reading level, it is aimed at readers aged thirteen and up, and  the dark content (including cannibalism and a graphic description of electro-convulsive therapy) are perhaps more suitable for older readers. The story is accompanied by black-and-white pencil sketches, and some of these are really quite creepy. That said, it is an original tale with some unexpected twists – definitely a good read for fans of slightly darker fiction.   Recommended for middle grade and tween audiences.


Contains: references to cannibalism, murder, violence and medical experimentation


Reviewed by: Hannah Kate



Infestation by Timothy J. Bradley

Scholastic, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0545459044

Available: Paperback, Kindle edition


        When Andy Greenwood finds himself on the wrong end of the law and he is sent to the Reclamation School for Boys, located in the middle of the New Mexico desert.  He runs into the usual bullies and strange administrators pretty quickly, but when meets his new roommate, Pyro, he learns that the facilities were once more than just a reform school.   Then, a tremor releases an insect horror as giant killer ants attack the school en masse.

Bradley has created a wonderful homage to the creature feature and killer animal movies of the 50s and 60s, in a very readable and engaging manner that will work well for young adults. Refreshingly, Infestation has no underlying romance angle; it’s simply a scary book with terrifying giant killer ants.


        Infestation definitely ought to be paired with the giant ant movie Them!, but there are a lot of other great connections to a wide variety of reading and media related to the book. Its “reform school in the desert” setting connects it to Louis Sachar’s Holes; the ant invasion connects it to “Leinengen Versus The Ants”(a terrifying short story of an invasion of carnivorous ants that I remember reading from my middle school English textbook—save it for that age group) and the recent Lovecraft Middle School books; giant insects and tremors connect this to more recent films like Tremors and Eight Legged Freaks. And, keeping in mind that Bradley previously authored nonfiction on bugs, Infestation also provides an opportunity to connect kids with science and the natural world.


        When it comes to killer animal books, there is a gaping hole in books for tweens and teens that Bradley’s book fills. This book is a must-add for both school media centers and public libraries. Highly recommended for ages 8 and up.

Contains: references to domestic violence and violence.

Review by The Monster Librarian


Professor Gargoyle: Tales from Lovecraft Middle School by Charles Gilman

Quirk Books, 2012

ISBN: 9781594745911

Available: New


                Robert Arthur becomes a victim of redistricting, stuck with having to go to the new school, Lovecraft Middle School, where he is separated from all his friends and familiar faces (with the exception of Glen Torkells, a bully form his old school).   Robert soon finds that not everything is normal at Lovecraft Middle School, where rats swarm through the hallway and the library is an amazing place that houses it own secrets. Even the teachers are strange; the mysterious Professor Garfield Goyle is like no other teacher Robert has run into before.


               Charles Gilman has written an engaging book for young readers.  The plot moves along at a decent pace, leaving enough questions that the reader will be enticed to turn to the next page looking for answers. The illustrations are a great complement to the story, and help visualize what is happening.  While the writings of H.P Lovecraft are definitely not for children, Charles Gilman has written an entertaining and very kid friendly book that is age appropriate in form and content.

Review by the Monster Librarian


Scary School #2: Monsters on the March by Derek the Ghost

HarperCollins, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0061960956

Available: New


(Please note that this review contains spoilers from the first book of the Scary School series.)

Monsters on the March is the 2nd book of the Scary School series and takes place shortly after the first book.  Having been over a year since I read the first book in this series, I was excited to visit Scary School again.  I wasn't sure if this book would hold up to the fun adventures Derek took us through with the first book, but he didn't disappoint.


The students of Scary School have won a trip to Albania to meet the Monster King.  The students are very excited about this, but the trip becomes a bit more dangerous than expected, especially for Charles Nukid, who gets lost from the group and ends up having the Monster King's daughter, Princess Zogette, fall in love with him.  You'd think having a Princess fall in love with you is a wonderful thing, right?  But what if said Princess looks like a toad?  "Ewww" you might say?  If so, you have the same reaction that most of the students at Scary School have.  


 Derek the Ghost not only makes the adventures exciting, but he also introduces us to numerous new characters, including Princess Zogette and the Monster King,  a new teacher named Morris Grump, who isn't quite all there, and many other creatures in the forest of Albania.  Some of them might be a bit scary, so be prepared!  


There are other fun things to read and do on the Scary School website ( once you finish the book, including a couple of additional sections to read, like the secret chapter about the goblin's production of Little Red Riding Hood. You definitely don't want to miss out on that fun!  So, get your thinking cap on and head out to Scary School for another fun adventure. In order to find out if Charles Nukid is able to rid himself of Princess Zogette or end up marrying her, be sure to read Derek the Ghost's second book about Scary School. 


 I recommend this fun little read to everyone!


Contains:  Scary Monsters, Very Mild Violence


Reviewed by:  Rhonda Wilson


Horrible Hauntings by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by William Maughan with augmented reality from Jason Yim and Trigger Global

Goosebottom Books, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1937463991

Available: New


Horrible Hauntings is a unique transmedia approach to providing an interactive reading experience that uses a technology called augmented reality. The book itself is a gorgeously illustrated and designed hardcover nonfiction title, with a double page spread devoted to each of 10 different ghosts or hauntings. One page contains text, with an introductory paragraph in larger print, two to four more detailed paragraphs about the ghost, and photographs of related objects placed strategically on the page.  The size of the type for the more detailed paragraphs was a little small for my eyes to focus on, but this is a book for 10-14 year olds, and they probably have sharper eyes.


The opposite page is a gorgeous, full page illustration. The illustration does, however, look a little empty. This is where the augmented reality technology comes in. You can download an app for the book for your smartphone or tablet (as long as it has a camera) and when the app is active, you run the camera over the illustration and the ghost appears, in some cases leaping straight off the page at you! Quite possibly the creepiest one of these is the last page, devoted to the urban legend Bloody Mary, who appears in the mirror when you chant her name. If you chant her name three times, the ghost’s face comes up to the front of the mirror and stares out at you. If you move the camera she moves too.  It’s really impressive.


The problem with the way this book is set up is first, that it requires an app for iPad or smartphone to take advantage of to fully experience the illustrations. If you don’t have access to that, they seem a little incomplete.  If you do have access to the app, then it’s very easy to get distracted from ever looking at the text. In the publicity materials that came with the book, the author was quoted as saying that this wasn’t a problem she had seen when showing the book to children herself, but it made a clear impact on everyone I shared the book with. Although the text appears on a well-designed page and is informative and interesting, it was almost completely neglected in favor of the ghosts. This is a beautiful book and an intriguing use of technology, but text and technology just aren’t integrated enough. I’m sure it would be popular in a public library’s children’s collection, but in spite of the excellent information provided, the ghosts are so distracting that I’m not sure it’s a good choice for a school library. If you're looking for a unique gift for, say, All Hallow's Read, though, this is a great choice.

Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski



Witches Handbook by Monica Carretero

Cuento de Luz SL; Tra edition, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-8415241065

Available: Hard cover


Witches’ Handbook is not exactly what I expected it to be. Usually a handbook or guide to the supernatural either deals lightly with its topic or takes it quite seriously, but in this book it’s hard to tell exactly what the author intended. The type and cartoonish illustrations suggest a light and funny approach to the topic, but some of the content seems quite dark, and doesn’t match the whimsical look. The framing story is that a witchy aunt invites her niece and nephew to her house to share the secrets of The Witches Handbook, which will disappear when the last witch dies (naturally, their aunt is the last witch).


The Witches’ Handbook itself indicates that the best way to identify a witch is that, because they have very small hearts, they hate any expression of affection or love. Even a well-disguised witch can be identified by this heartlessness. The Witches’ Handbook then briefly describes some famous witches, such as the witches from Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel. It’s hard to tell if we should be taking the descriptions seriously or not. A straightforward description of the witch from Snow White ends “She spent her final years making compote (apple, of course)”. The bright, cartoonish illustrations of outlandishly dressed witches work against the words being taken seriously. Following this, there are descriptions of “unknown witches and warlocks”, and these are pretty entertaining. The illustrations are toned down a bit and the text and illustrations are a better match. Because these are “unknown” witches, Carretero has a lot more latitude, so this part is a lot more fun.  The short biographies are followed by pages devoted to brooms, potions, witches and animals, and Halloween. After finishing up these pages, we return to the framing story, where the aunt changes into a frog, but The Witches’ Handbook is still sitting on the table… so maybe there is another witch out there after all. At the very end are some puzzles and games.


It’s hard to know who the target audience is for this book.  The illustrations seem more appropriate for younger children. Based on the complexity of the vocabulary and required knowledge of context for understanding, though, I’d say the content is aimed at older elementary kids, but there’s not enough information there for it to be satisfactory to them. To kids who are familiar with the Practical Guide books from Mirrorstone and similar kinds of handbooks and guides to supernatural creatures, Witches Handbook doesn’t measure up.  While it’s visually appealing, there are many other guides to supernatural creatures that are better choices for library collections.


Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski


I Spy A Skeleton (Level 1 Scholastic Reader) by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

Scholastic, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0545175395

Available: Paperback and library binding




I Spy A Scary Monster (Level 1 Scholastic Reader) by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

Scholastic, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0439680547

Available: Paperback




I Spy A Pumpkin (Level 1 Scholastic Reader) by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

Scholastic, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0439738637

Available: Paperback and library binding



I Spy a Skeleton, I Spy a Scary Monster, and I Spy a Pumpkin are early readers that Scholastic Books suggests are appropriate for pre-K -1. The pictures in each book are taken from larger spreads that are part of the original I Spy books, which are oversized books with themed, detailed two-page photographic spreads, and more complex language and riddles to master to find the hidden pictures. In contrast, these readers are paperbacks that can easily be held in the hands of a small child. Instead of having the photographic image spread across two pages, with the riddle at the bottom, as in the original books, here one page has the riddle and the other has the photograph a child must seek to find the hidden objects. The page with the riddle breaks it down into short sections, with a picture of what the child is supposed to be searching for next to the words describing it- so, if the riddle says “I spy a speedboat”, there is a picture of the speedboat that the child is supposed to be searching for in the photograph on the opposite page. This is useful, because sometimes the vocabulary isn't as controlled as you would expect for a beginning reader. For instance, when the riddle says “I spy... someone about to fall”, there is a picture of a skeleton. Most readers starting out won't make the connection between the words and the image but they know what a skeleton looks like, so they are still able to solve the riddle.  Occasionally, the item isn't one that kids would readily identify-- try explaining what a golfer's tee is. The riddles can't all be figured out by picture clues alone-- one picture of a red head says “I spy... a bright blue nose”. In that case just finding the head doesn't solve the riddle.


I was able to work through these with my kindergartener (who has just started school) and she was satisfied that she had solved the riddles and mastered enough of the words to be able to say she had read it herself(she did a pretty good job-- I was impressed). I think it's safe to say that very beginning readers will engage with the book and feel successful as readers, with a little guidance. For my very bright first grader the actual reading of text was a snap, but he still enjoyed solving the riddles. I expect that over the next six months he'll easily transition over to independent reading of the oversized I Spy books (we check them out frequently, but he has needed guidance with the complexity of vocabulary and detailed searching until this point). I would say that these books are simple enough to offer very beginning readers a feeling of mastery that will encourage them to try other books, and engaging enough to capture the attention of more advanced first grade readers. So if you're looking for non-scary books with a Halloween theme for beginning readers, I highly recommend these (note on availability: these may be available directly through Scholastic via their book order or book fair programs).


Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski






Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Random House Children's, 2012

ISBN: 0375869387

Available: hardcover & multiformat ebook




There Was An Old Monster by Rebecca Emberley, illustrated by Ed Emberley

Orchard Books, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-0545101455

Available: New and Used

         Parents looking for relief from reading the same tired rhyme about the old lady who swallowed a fly are in luck. Rebecca Emberley and her father, Caldecott winner Ed Emberley (author and illustrator of Go Away, Big Green Monster!) have created a colorful monster-themed version for the preschool crowd. Naturally, monsters, unlike old ladies, don’t limit themselves to farm animals. Starting with “There was an old monster who swallowed a tick...” the cumulative rhyme gets more surprising and sillier, as the monster swallows ants (which make a “scritchy-scratch” sound), a bat, a jackal, and so on. There’s also an opportunity to jazz up the physical book. Singer Adrian Emberley, Rebecca’s daughter, has recorded an addictive version with a refrain of “scritchy-scratch” that I’ll warn you does get stuck in your head, and that preschoolers and even older children will want to listen to again and again (listen here, if you dare). Ages 2-8.

Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski


Half-Minute Horrors: A collection of instant frights from the World’s Most Astonishing Authors and Artists edited by Susan Rich

HarperCollins; Reprint edition, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0061833816

Available: New, Used

        Half-Minute Horrors is a collection of creepy and frightening “flash” fiction intended for middle grade readers, although there’s plenty for older readers to love as well. Some of the most talented and versatile authors and illustrators of children’s, young adult, and adult fiction have contributed, including Neil Gaiman, James Patterson, Lemony Snicket, R.L. Stine, Jonathan Lethem, Gregory Maguire, Kenneth Oppell, Adam Rex, Brett Helquist, and Vladimir Radunsky. Recommend this with care- these aren’t half-jokey “jump” tales- they are truly creepy, sometimes gruesome (although in general the gruesomeness is more suggested than actually shown),and, when there’s humor, it’s usually very dark. For lovers of the short and scary tale, though, and for the bored reluctant reader, this is a fantastic choice. Monies raised from the sale of the book benefit First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing books to lower-income families, making it a doubly great choice for promoting literacy. Highly recommended for school and public libraries, and for readers of any age who love scary stories.

Contains: references to murder and cannibalism, kidnapping, suggestions of dismemberment.

Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski



Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Strikingly True by Geoff Tibballs
Ripley Publishing, 2011
ISBN: 1609910001
Available: hardcover

        Ripley Publishers, the experts on the bizarre and strange, have presented another brilliant installment to whet our curiosity. This latest title chronicles the strangest stories from all over the world. Sporting a holographic, eye-catching cover, the book entices with full-color photographs as well as lists and fun facts. Those who love Trivial Pursuit or are just curious to take a peek into the world of the bizarre will not be able to put this book down. The table of contents alone is enough to blow your mind with categories such as “Feats”, “Bodies”, “Beyond Belief” “Food”, and “Mysteries.” Some of the more awesome entries to behold are “The Ice House”, “The Chicago World Fair’s Odditorium”, with an eight-page gatefold pullout, “Mary, the Hanged Elephant”, a section on weird Olympic facts, and portraits created entirely out of burger grease. Readers will also recognize familiar friends in tattooed ladies, mummies, and various creepy crawlies.
Each chapter is showcased with photographs and illustrations that accompany the feature story Also included are bulleted entries of other tales and quips related to the chapter. It’s the kind of book that you pick up and put down, as there is a lot to absorb and consider for one sitting. There is no doubt something for everyone, young and older readers alike; this is a book that could lead to some very interesting dinner-time conversations!

        Additional cool features include a fully interactive website: an iSword game whereby you virtually swallow a sword: interviews with extraordinary people inquiring into what motivates and drives them and allowing readers to hear their story: and “Ripley Research” boxes that provide deeper explanations about the science behind some of the weirder tales. All of this begins with “Edward’s Choice”, compiled by Ripley Archivist Edward Meyer. Here Mr. Meyer highlights his favorite acquisitions of the year and also the strangest items he has purchased in 2011. It is evident from the list alone that the Ripley staff has some of the best jobs on the planet. Highly recommended for school libraries.

Contains: some mildly graphic descriptions and illustrations


Reviewed by: Dawn Stahura



My Monster Burrufu by Alberto Corral, translated by Carolina Loren and illustrated by Alessandra Sorrentino

Petite Grande Idée, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0615459349

Available: New paperback and Kindle ebook


Seven year old Olivia has just moved from the city to a big house in the country with her father, Steve, a professional writer. When Olivia tells Steve she has heard something moving in the walls Steve tells her that it’s probably a monster- and that monsters are good luck. Armed with this information, lonely Olivia seeks out the monster, a big, furry, and somewhat crabby creature named Burrufu, who secretly writes books. Burrufu grows larger when people react to him with fear, so he stays hidden, but Olivia is a true friend, and in one of the most wonderful parts of the book, she figures out a way for him to go outside without being seen. Of course, their friendship, and Burrufu’s amazing writing, can’t go unnoticed forever.


At the beginning of  My Monster Burrufu, the author describes Olivia as “sharp and silly”, and that’s an apt description of the story as well. Corral speaks directly and frankly to the child reader in describing not just Olivia and Burrufu but also the adults- Steve and his agent, Mark.  While they’re not terribly observant at the beginning of the book, and initially jump to conclusions, they, as well as Olivia and Burrufu, change over the course of the book, and all of them have an enthusiastic, innocent view of the world that is infectious. There’s also a subtly funny thread that runs throughout the story about the importance of and disappearance of cookies, which are essential to the plot. Alessandra Sorrentino’s illustrations are wonderful- black and white, somewhat silly and cartoonish, they complement the story perfectly,  creating a lighter atmosphere than the story on its own provides.


Unfortunately, the book suffers from a flaw difficult to overcome. The main character, Olivia, is seven years old, but the language and references will go over the heads of the average third grader. Adults will appreciate this aspect of the writing, as it adds a fair amount of personality, but the target audience is going to miss out and may not comprehend parts of the story because of this. Although Sorrentino’s illustrations provide context that will help young readers even with parts of the story they might not understand, they can't solve this problem completely. Still, My Monster Burrufu is a charming read that never condescends to its child readers, and a parent might be able to convince an upper elementary kid "too cool" for a read-aloud with Mom or Dad, that they can enjoy the story together.


Contains: n/a


Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski



The Island of the Skog by Steven Kellogg

Puffin, 1993
ISBN-13: 978-0140546491

Available: New



The Island of the Skog is not a new book: it was published in 1973, the year I was born. It has always had a special place in my heart, though. Steven Kellogg is one of my favorite illustrators and has been since I was a child. Of all his many books, this is the tale that I love the most. The book begins with a band of terrified mice resolving to flee the cats and dogs persecuting them by sailing away from the city in search of a land where they can be free. After many hardships, they discover a tropical island, labeled in their guidebook as the “Island of the Skog”, with no other information. Afraid that the Skog might attack them, the mice fire their cannons to scare the Skog away. When they come ashore, they are frightened to find the giant footprints of a monster and resolve to trap it and get rid of it.


The Skog, when we finally see it, is a gigantic, menacing creature with sharp claws, hidden in shadowy draperies. It’s really a startling image- my kids jumped when I read it to them. Most of the time Kellogg draws with incredible detail- it can be almost overwhelming. He also frequently uses muted colors, which make the tiny black lines that score the page and establish the details stand out. Not so with the Skog. The detail is there, but it’s lost in the dark, dramatic folds and strong lines that make the Skog nearly step out of the page and into the reader’s world.  Almost as startling is what happens next, and to find that out, go read it yourself.  The Island of the Skog does have some advanced vocabulary and, for younger readers, the motivations of the characters may require explanations. Highly recommended for kindergarteners and up.


Contains: mild violence.




Beware the Snallygaster by Patrick Boyton

South Mountain Publishing, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0615529370

Available: New and Digital


A cute little story about an Appalachian cryptid named the Snallygaster, Beware the Snallygaster is quick-paced and filled with mystery. Holly and Peter are two intrepid fifth graders determined to find out whether the Snallygaster is real or not, for the sake of their reputations (and grades). But how do you catch a mythical monster that might be dead?


While some of story vocabulary might above the reading level for the ages Amazon lists it for (9-12), Beware the Snallygaster is a fun and very modern Halloween-themed story, good for before-bed reading or for parents who love cryptids and want to share that with their kids. Recommended for public collections.


Contains: alcohol (including moonshine which is essential to the legend), references to violence and gore.

Review by Michele Lee



Little Goblins Ten by Pamela Jane

HarperCollins, 2011
ISBN: 978-0061767982

Available: New


Little Goblins Ten is a delightfully spooky version of the counting rhyme “Over in the Meadow”. Rather than recounting the activities of the ducks, frogs, and other adorable creatures in the original version, Jane has moaning mummies, cackling witches, and rattling skeletons.


Manning’s illustrations are a perfect complement to Jane’s bouncy rhymes and vivid language. Manning does a marvelous job of creating spooky settings, from washed out haunted forests to bilious green swamps. Her monsters are adorably disturbing, and in spite of sharp teeth and (occasionally) crazed expressions, they smile a lot, are a playful bunch, like any little monsters on Halloween.  Kids who scare easily might not make it past the first few pages, which suggest a darker tone, but what starts out seeming creepy ends up being a lot of fun!


 Little Goblins Ten provides some great opportunities for interactivity when reading aloud. Kids can have a lot of fun howling with the werewolves, breathing fire with dragons, and swooping like bats. It’s a great choice for a Halloween read-aloud, and for sharing with the same kids who love Goodnight Goon and The Runaway Mummy.  Highly recommended.

Contains: spooky images.

Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski


The Stoker Legacy Book 1: I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter by A.G. Kent

Tarkus Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0615509150

Available: New and Digital


The first Stoker Legacy book starts off with seventh grader Hannah mixing up a potion while trying to follow the directions left behind by her missing grandfather.  She has no idea what has happened to him, but is looking to the instructions he has left her to summon up others to help her.  Unfortunately, she’s not very good at potions and is afraid she’s doing it all wrong.  Her grandfather had always told her she had skills, but she didn’t believe him.  He also told her that he was a descendant of a long line of monster hunters.  Her parents tell her he’s senile, but she just isn’t sure.  After completing her attempt at casting a spell over her potion, she waits…. and waits… and waits… Eventually she starts getting visitors, but not quite who she expected.  Her visitors are a vampire, a werewolf, a mummy, and a Frankenstein-like “monster”.  But these monsters aren’t there to hurt her; they are there to help her catch the madman that is loose in town. 

The adventure begins, as Hannah and the “monsters” try to track down the bad guy and find out what happened to her grandfather.  Kent has created a fabulous new series that is aimed at “tweens” but is great fun for all ages.  Bringing in each of the old Universal monsters is a nice touch for this series, as it will introduce new readers to some of the “classics” and bring back wonderful memories to some of the “big kids” who also enjoy reading young adult books.  The mix of suspenseful moments and funny quips make this book extremely balanced and show that the author knows how to pull together a good tale.  This isn’t like any horror book I’ve ever read, which is hard to say nowadays with so many out there!  I’m looking forward to the second installment of this series in order to see what Hannah and her new companions get involved with next.  This would make a great addition to all library collections and would especially do a great job of filling in an empty spot on any Halloween displays of books.

Contains:  Some scary moments, mostly friendly monsters.

Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson



The Girl’s Guide to Vampires: Everything Enchanting about These Immortal Creatures by Jen Jones

Capstone Press, 2011

ISBN: 9781429654524

Available: New hardcover


“Are vampires charming heartthrobs or evil undead”? That’s the question Jen Jones poses to her readers in The Girl’s Guide to Vampires. It’s pretty clear what her take is going to be, and it’s pretty clear who her target audience is, with photos from Twilight and The Vampire Diaries splashed across the pages. There is some factual information (including a few images) but it’s brief, and the constant comparisons to the vampires in Twilight distract from that. It’s pretty obvious that, to this author, vampires are definite boyfriend material. There’s even a Cosmo-style quiz to help bedazzled girls identify whether their crush is a vampire.


Unfortunately, Jones glosses over the monster within even the most “charming heartthrobs”.  Jones referred to Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as “mischievous” and Angel as a “good-hearted romantic”.  Perhaps she missed Season Two, where they were both sociopathic monsters.  Even the vampires in Twilight are hardly harmless. Jones does acknowledge that they can be “downright devilish”, but her tone downplays that, and in a nonfiction book about vampires, it would be nice to see their dark side taken a little more seriously. 


The age group the book is intended for seems up in the air. Jones chooses Adele Griffin’s Vampire Island, Sienna Mercer’s series My Sister the Vampire, and Bunnicula as top choices for reading material. These books are aimed at upper elementary school kids. In the next breath she’s recommending the Twilight movies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries, targeted at teens and adults. My local library apparently has this problem too. I found this book shelved in the children’s nonfiction, but it’s now been moved to the middle school books.  Capstone indicates that it’s written at a grade 3 reading level, with a suggested interest level of grades 3-9.  It’s clearly meant to catch reluctant readers, but chances are, that with those designations from the publisher it will be purchased for elementary collections, and third grade is awfully young for Twilight.


The Girl’s Guide to Vampires, with its gorgeous artwork and design, color photographs, and conversational style, will completely succeed at hooking reluctant readers, especially Twilight groupies.  As a nonfiction introduction to vampires, though, it is a disappointment.

Contains: n/a

Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski




Monster Moon #2: Secret of Haunted Bog by BBH McChiller

Stargazer, 2011

ISBN: 9781933277141

Available: Hardcover & Kindle edition


ZomBuddies AJ, Emily and Freddy are back for more adventures. When Aunt Zsofia takes them on a trip to Chinatown on the edge of a saltwater bog, they never suspected they'd end up facing down monsters, ghosts and gun-wielding bad guys. The bog holds many secrets, the most interesting of which is a young girl named Mei who claims to be hiding from the people who killed her parents. In their quest to help Mei the ZomBuddies will have to face down toxic bog water, mutated monsters and treacherous adults.


Secret of Haunted Bog is a fast-paced, fun tale. Similar in feel to the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys or Bobbsey Twins, or even the more modern incarnation of Scooby-Doo, it pits three courageous, stubborn kids against mysteries, supernatural and not. Engaging and exciting, Monster Moon makes for great in-class or before bed reading. Definitely recommended for preteen collections.

Contains: Some gross out moments

Reviewed by: Michele Lee



Scary School by Derek the Ghost

HarperCollins, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0061960925

Available: New Hardback and Kindle

Scary School is the first book in a new series written by a ghost.  Yes, a ghost.  The ghost’s name is Derek and he died while attending Scary School.  Derek the Ghost tells us the ins and outs of the school as well as introduces us to many of the students and teachers at the school.  Both humans and monsters alike attend Scary School, which is taught by all sorts of monsters for teachers.  No, not the “monsters” most humans would refer to their teachers as, but ACTUAL monsters.  For instance, Mrs. Fangs is one of the favorite teachers at school and she happens to be a vampire.  Dr. Dragonbreath, the dragon, however, has extremely strict rules to follow, so therefore the students don’t enjoy him nearly as much.  The punishments at Scary School can be quite severe, even going as far as eating the students!  Luckily they have Nurse Hairymoles around to revive said students… maybe not quite to their original self, but in a way that they can still attend school.  How would you like to attend a school with monsters for teachers?  Maybe after reading this first book by Derek the Ghost you will answer differently.

Aimed at “tweens”, Scary School is a book full of adventure and laughs.  There are a variation of monsters included that normally would scare little kids, but the way Derek the Ghost has written this novel the scares will be mild, if existing at all.  Tweens should find it interesting reading the day-to-day adventures at a school so different than their own and some may even wish that they could attend Scary School themselves.  Once finished with the book, there are additional fun prizes on the Scary School website (, including an additional chapter to the book that is accessible after answering a short quiz.  This last chapter appears to be a lead-in to the next book in the series, so be sure not to miss it.  As stated, this book is aimed at tweens, however, many adults will find this a fun read as well.  Or, better yet, this would make a great bedtime story for parents to read to their children.  I highly recommend this book be included in all library collections as it’s very creative and will help encourage children to use their imaginations while reading it.

Contains:  Scary Monsters, Very Mild Violence, Comedic Death & Resurrection

Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson




Midnight Howl by Clare Hutton

Scholastic, 2011

ISBN: 0545231019

Available: paperback & multiformat digital

Marisol, age 12, is a vegetarian Texas city girl who moves to a rural Montana ranch with her mom for a few months while their house is being rewired. The ranch is owned by Marisol's mom's best friend, husband and twin children. Montana is very different from the life she knows, with mountains, wide spaces and active night life—maybe even including werewolves. In fact, the history of the town is rife with legends of werewolves, and Marisol can't dismiss the feeling that she’s being watched when she's outside.

Midnight Howl is part of Scholastic's Poison Apple series of scary books for kids. These dark-themed books feature vampires, werewolves and ghosts. They appeal to kids who have grown up in a Buffy and Twilight-loving culture and want monster stories of their own to read. Midnight Howl is a tight book. It doesn't stray much from the werewolf mystery theme, which limits character development, especially in secondary characters. But the setting is fun and ultra-modern. Unlike the old Scooby-Doo cartoons there really are monsters prowling the pages instead of just men in masks. Highly recommended for children's collections because of the demand of paranormal, spooky books for kids, Midnight Howl, and the Poison Apple series, are fun reads.

Contains: spooky scenes

 Reviewed by: Michele Lee



Crooked Hills: Book One by Cullen Bunn
Earwig Press, 2011
ISBN: 9780982578933 – HC
Availability: New


Right from the beginning, Cullen Bunn’s new book, Crooked Hills, brought a smile to my face. It was reminiscent of the scary books I used to read as a kid, but neither the writing nor the story was dated in any way. Just a few pages in, and I wished I was curled up in a window seat, storm brewing for added effect, all alone in a creepy old house.  


Twelve-year-old Charlie Ward, his little brother Alex, and his mom travel to Crooked Hills, Missouri to stay with his Aunt Mary, Uncle Shorty, and Cousin Marty. After his dad died in an accident, Charlie’s mom has really needed a change of scenery which is how Charlie ends up in a place that boasts “more ghosts than any other town in the country.” This makes spending his summer vacation in Crooked Hills a bit more bearable.


Charlie and Marty get off to a bumpy start with an incident involving tarantulas, but soon they are on the same page, exploring all of the haunted sites Crooked Hills has to offer. Along the way they pick up crack slingshot shooter Lisa Summers. Her skills with the slingshot save Charlie and Marty more times than they would like, but they admit she is handy to have around. What with taking on the Crewes Brothers (two brothers who give bullies a bad name), and tangling with the mysterious, the boys can use all of the help they can get…if they want to survive. I can’t wait for the continuing adventures of Charlie, Marty, and Lisa in Book 2. Highly recommended.

Contains: mild violence and supernatural elements.


Reviewed by: Brandi Blankenship


We have a second look review of Crooked Hill from Rhonda Wilson:

Charlie is more than a little upset about the unexpected trip his mom has sprung on him and his brother, Alex.  They are off to visit their aunt in Crooked Hills for six weeks.  In order to cheer him up, his mom gives him a new book on some of the haunted aspects of the town.  This piques Charlie’s interest a bit and when he arrives in Crooked Hills, he has his cousin Marty show him some of the haunted hot spots.  One of the first nights there, Charlie spots a strange dog outside of his window.  After telling Marty about his find the following day, they decide to sneak out of the house that night to investigate.  Their exploration turns out to be a bit more than either of them bargained for, and Charlie finds his summer vacation is suddenly a lot more exciting.

Crooked Hills is a great new series for “kids” of all ages.  No matter the age, most people can relate to Charlie’s dilemma of going on a family vacation that he doesn’t want to.  Luckily, though, his mom has picked an interesting town for them to spend the summer.  Whether fending off bullies, hunting a mysterious dog, or dealing with an evil witch, there is never a dull moment for Charlie.  One part mystery and two parts horror, Cullen Bunn has created a suspenseful novel that keeps the reader turning pages from start to finish.   Book two of this series can’t come out soon enough!  Highly recommended to anyone!

Contains:  Mild Violence, Scary Supernatural Creatures

Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson





This Totally Bites! by Ruth Ames

Scholastic, 2010

ISBN: 9780545208789

Available: Paperback

Emma-Rose Paley is dark-haired, navy-eyed, pale-skinned and just saw her great-aunt turn into a bat. Now, on top of the upcoming school Halloween Dance (which her friend Gabby has pushed her to help plan), and her parents working hard on a major gala for the museum, Emma-Rose wonders if she could be a vampire too.

This Totally Bites! is an ultramodern middle-grade scary tale that brings the popularity of the paranormal into a kid-friendly book. Emma-Rose faces realistic kid-sized problems, some of which are even scarier than possibly being a vampire. Cell phones and the internet factor in a lot, which is good because many times such things are ignored by writers, but when they are missing it’s noticed by readers. 

While this book does have the potential to be a little too scary for sensitive kids (my daughter insisted on sleeping with a bulb of garlic on her table after we read the scene where Aunt Margo turns into a bat) it doesn't touch on any truly uncomfortable situations (for kids or parents). For kids who are trying to edge in on their parents' love of urban fantasy or paranormal romance, or who just love Buffy reruns, this is book, part of the Poison Apple series, is perfect. Recommended for public collections.

Contains: creepiness

Reviewed by: Michele Lee


Monster and Me by Robert Marsh, illustrated by Tom Percival

Stone Arch Books, 2010.

ISBN: 978-1434215895

Available: New


Every kid in Gabby’s town has a pet monster, but only Gabby’s monster, Dwight, has come out of the closet. Her mom isn’t very happy about it, but Gabby squeezes Dwight onto the school bus, and enrolls him in spite of rude and cranky school administrators. Dwight isn’t easy to appreciate. He’s huge and scary looking, eats the students, sprays slime everywhere, and communicates mostly in “raarg” sounds. The desperate drama teacher, Mr. Broadway, thinks Dwight is perfect for the role of Scrooge in the school’s play, A Christmas Carol. Can Dwight master the words “Bah, humbug” before the play begins, and find acceptance at school and from Gabby’s parents?

Monster and Me is the first book in a series about Gabby and Dwight, which, while it will appeal to younger children (mine kidnapped them for almost a year) are clearly aimed at struggling readers. The reading level is 1.1, but Gabby is obviously a middle-schooler. Marsh does a nice job of making it easy for readers to keep track of the limited number of characters by introducing them on the first page with clear visuals of each provided by the illustrator. Sequencing is nicely done- it’s clear what order the panels are supposed to follow. The full-color illustrations are uncluttered, making it simple to see what’s going on. Younger kids will enjoy Dwight’s roaring and “raarging”, and older ones will get jokes younger ones will miss. The one confusing thing in this book was that, although we know immediately that Gabby’s father isn’t in the picture, and this plays a role in the plot, it’s never actually explained why.  I wish this had either been explored further or tied up. It’s clear that this book is targeted for classroom use. It ends with author and illustrator bios, a glossary, a section called “How to Draw a Monster”, where Tom Percival illustrates how to draw Dwight, discussion questions, and writing prompts, making this an easy choice for teachers to share. That said, Monster and Me may not be the perfect choice for reluctant readers who CAN read but choose not to read school-assigned texts. A lot of these kids may already be reading much more complex graphic stories with complicated sequencing and vocabulary outside of school. But for the upper elementary reader who is reading well below grade level, this is an excellent choice.  Recommended for elementary and middle school library media centers and children’s departments in public libraries.




Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children by Trace Beaulieu Illustrated by Len Peralta

Amorphous Productions, 2010

ISBN: 9780557463343

Available: New


In the forward to Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children, author Trace Beaulieu remembers going to his local library and reading Dr. Seuss, and hopes that some day a young child will be reading his book at the local library.  I believe Beaulieu will have his wish come true many times over.     Beaulieu’s rhymes are clever and funny, and the humor definitely will have appeal to children, hitting time honored topics such as poop, parasites on pets, a mad child scientists experiments, and the tale of a boy and his beloved sled going down an unforgiving hill.   Some of the rhymes will have kids giggling madly; others will be enjoyed by certain kinds of adults, making it a good choice for parents and children to read together. 

The illustrations complement the rhymes beautifully. Len Peralta does a fantastic job of adding the visuals to the rhymes, and children 9-12 should be able to get the meaning of the rhymes without knowing all the words.   However the book might be a good starting point to have children look up the words, which include a number of scientific terms. In many ways some enterprising teacher might even use the book as a starting off point to get kids interested in using the dictionary or some science topics.   

Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children is highly recommended for public libraries and school libraries.    


Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys: The Rat Brain Fiasco by Julie Gardner Berry and Sally Gardner

Grosset & Dunlap, 2010

ISBN  0448453592

Available: New 

Cody Mack is used to getting into trouble.  The principal’s office is his second home. However, as he sits outside the principal’s office while his parents are inside, Cody realizes this visit isn’t like the others.  First, this meeting is lasting much longer than most.  Second, he’s overhearing words like “remedial neuro-therapies.” When he is finally called into the office, he notices a tall, strange man in the room.  The man, Dr. Farley, runs a special school for naughty kids.  His parents quite readily sign the forms, and Cody leaves with Dr. Farley that afternoon.  When he arrives, he realizes that the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys isn’t your typical boarding school.  It’s hidden away in a dark and dangerous forest.  The teachers are all monsters: vampires, werewolves, and mummies. On his first day at Splurch Academy, Cody is thrown into the dungeon, where he is surrounded by rats.  He soon learns of Dr. Farley’s evil plan to swap the brains of these rats with the boys at Splurch Academy, using a horrendous device called the “Rebellio-rodent Recipronator”! The “rat-boys” are then controlled using a remote control device worn by Dr. Farley.  Parents will see their “ well-behaved” boys, and Dr. Farley will be famous!  Unfortunately, Farley has met his match with Cody!

Told in short chapters broken up by comic panels, this book would be the perfect addition to any library.  The short chapters keep the attention of young readers and aid in the pacing of the book. The comic illustations are quite humorous, really adding detail to the story. Highly recommended. 


Reviewed by:  Jennifer Lawrence



Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys: Curse of the Bizarro Beetle by Julie Gardner Berry and Sally Gardner

Grosset & Dunlap, 2010

ISBN  0448453592

Available: New 

In the second book in the Splurch Academy series, Cody's nemesis, Dr. Farley, has been banished from the school. However, that doesn't stop odd events taking place at Splurch Academy. Horrible bugs are crawling the halls of the Academy.  Dr. Farley is no longer around, so who is behind these horrible creatures?  At a school full of monsters as teachers, Cody doesn't know who he should trust.  His parents don't believe him, so he must once again try hard to survive his "term" at Splurch Academy!

 Curse of the Bizarro Beetle  will do an outstanding job of grabbing the attention of even the most reluctant reader.  The format of alternating short chapters with comic panels continues to engage and  excite young readers.  As the second book in the series, the reader learns more about the mysterious Dr. Farley and the other strange teachers at Splurch Academy. Revealing more information about the main characters at this pace will guarantee excitement and anticipation about the release of subsequent books in the series.  Highly recommended.


Reviewed by:   Jennifer Lawrence




Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror edited by R.L. Stine

Speak, 2010

ISBN 0142417742

Available: New

A great line-up of well-known paranormal authors, including Heather Graham, R.L. Stine, and Heather Brewer, contribute tales that would make a perfect addition to any slumber party or campfire.  While technically aimed at the young adult age group, most of these short stories are quite tame and could be read by middle-graders.

Some of my personal favorites include Jennifer Allison's The Perfects.  In this tale, Hannah and her family have recently moved, and it isn't long before she's asked by a neighbor to babysit.  She's seen the two children and a baby playing outside.  However, when she shows up to babysit, she finds there is no baby, and the children are obsessed with watching gory television shows about surgeries. When she hears a baby crying, she discovers, too late, what the family was having for dinner. Heather Brewer's Shadow Children deals with the ever-popular and familiar fear of the dark.  Dax is convinced that his younger brother, Jon, is exaggerating when he begs to sleep with a light on, insisting that the shadows will get him in the dark.  Dax doesn't believe Jon until he sees Jon being pulled into the closet by the shadows.  

Fear is highly recommended attention to any library collection.  Reluctant readers may gravitate toward R.L. Stine’s familiar name and will discover a whole host of talented writers! 


Reviewed by:   Jennifer Lawrence




Nocturne by L.D. Harkrader

Wizards of the Coast, 2010

ISBN: 9780786955022

Availability: New and used.

                Flannery Lane is a 15 year old girl who possesses the power of great magic, not that her over-protective Uncle Anatole will allow her to use it, though he is a powerful wizard himself! That is, until her uncle is suddenly incapacitated by a curse. Now Flan finds that she is the only one who can perform the magic necessary to ward off the vampire suspected of break-ins and the disappearances of young girls in Wicker Street. After all, what else could be responsible, given that a gorgeous new-to-town vampire hunter has implored her to create a powerful talisman to guard against the undead? Flan must hope that she can defeat the vampire before she becomes its next victim.

                Limited only by a few sentence fragments and slight predictability, Nocturne is a highly engrossing, satisfying, and quick read. Harkrader does an excellent job of giving the fantasy world of the novel life and depth and presents us with characters that fit well in that world, but that we, as readers, can fully identify with. Particularly satisfying is the strong female protagonist who is not afraid to speak out against the stereotype of the clumsy, faint-hearted heroine. Readers who enjoy a novel that blends the fantasy and horror genres will definitely like Harkrader’s tale. Recommended for readers aged 10-15 and for public library YA horror collections.

Contains: violence and murder (not gory).

Reviewed by:  Stacey L. Wilson, MLIS.




Zombiekins by Kevin Bolger, illustrated by Andre Brecha

Razorbill, 2010

Available: New

ISBN-10: 1595141774


At the Widow Imavitch’s garage sale, Stanley Nudelman buys a disturbing-looking stuffed animal named Zombiekins that comes to life when struck by moonlight. When Stanley, unaware that Zombiekins has awakened, brings it to school, chaos ensues as it escapes and starts infecting the students. Stanley and his best friend Miranda race(sort of) to survive the onslaught and transform the zombies back into students.


Zombiekins looks like the kind of book fans of the Captain Underpants books would love. It is heavily illustrated in a cartoony style, and, judging from my five year old’s reaction, Andre Brecha’s pictures are worth looking at for hours on end. The Captain Underpants books are aimed at kids in the younger grades, though, and I’d be reluctant to even give Zombiekins to its target audience of upper elementary kids, because the characters are often cruel. Stanley is regularly victimized by the school bully, with even his best friend totally indifferent to his situation. It doesn’t take pages of descriptions of merciless violence to get this across, and it certainly isn’t funny. Stanley is also shown as clueless and slow, especially compared to Miranda. Even his attempt at heroism is a failed joke.  Upper elementary kids might go for the overall cutesy-creepy feel of the story, which is effectively reinforced by the illustrations, but the story comes across as very mean-spirited, and upper elementary kids get enough of that from their peers.


              Zombie loving adults, though, will find a lot to enjoy. The conformity of school, enforcement of meaningless or irrational rules, and the slightly twisted stereotypes of various types of teachers and students are things a lot of grown-ups experienced during their own school days, and parents of preschoolers (or former preschoolers) will get vicarious satisfaction out of Zombiekins’ destruction of the cutesy electronic stuffed toys their kids attach to.  And zombie lovers should enjoy the send-up of some of the elements of the average zombie movie, such as when Stanley and Miranda get away from the extremely slow Zombiekins “in the nick of time” by stepping slowly backwards.


               In short, Kevin Bolger has written a great kids’ book for adult zombie lovers. Adults wanting to add some cartoony zombie fun to the mix for their independent beginning reader or reluctant reader, though, would do better to track down Kirk Scroggs’ Grampa and Wiley at the Zombie BBQ. Not recommended for children’s collections or school library media centers. Adult zombie lovers, though, may want to check this out!

Contains: violence, bullying, destruction of property.

Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski


Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon

Dial, 2009

Available: New

ISBN-10: 0803733631

See below for review

Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs
by Ursula Vernon

Dial, 2010

Available: New

ISBN-10: 0803733658

see below for review.
Dragonbreath: Curse of the Were-Weiner
by Ursula Vernon

Dial, 2010

Available: New

ISBN-10: 0803734697

            Ursula Vernon has a winning recipe with her Dragonbreath series. Fast-paced, fantastical adventures combined with situations the average kid can relate to, a comic book style, and a dose of humor are a perfect match to beginning independent readers, reluctant readers, and five year old boys.


Danny Dragonbreath is the only mythological creature at the Herpitax-Phibbias School for Reptiles and Amphibians, and in spite of his name, he can’t muster up even the smallest breath of fire. Big Eddy, the komodo dragon who terrorizes the school, singles Danny out at lunch, and his teacher, Mr. Snaug, thinks he’s hopeless. Danny’s timid best friend Wendell follows anxiously in the wake of Danny’s enthusiasm, imagination, and fearlessness.


In the first book, Dragonbreath, Danny flunks his assignment on the ocean, but his teacher gives him a second chance- one more night to get it right. Rejecting Wendell’s suggestion of a visit to the library, Danny, with Wendell in tow, hops the bus to visit his cousin Edward, a mythological sea serpent who lives in the Sargasso Sea. Of the three volumes, this is my favorite. My son is a huge fan of “twilight zone” sea creatures and Vernon did a great job of incorporating them into the story, along with pirate ships, hostile Atlanteans, a kraken attack, and a snot-spewing sea cucumber. This volume also introduced a vicious attack potato salad, and the entire book was worth reading just for the moment when the school bully walked off with Danny’s lunch tray.


Volume two, Attack of the Ninja Frogs, introduces Suki, a Japanese exchange student who is constantly getting ambushed by ninja frogs. Danny, a huge fan of ninja movies, takes her on the bus to visit his grandfather in mythological Japan, where they discover that Suki is the reincarnated queen of the ninjas. Chaos, involving ninjas, samurai, and a volcano, ensues. This volume wasn’t quite as strong as the first, but Danny’s enthusiasm is contagious and his ninja fanboy attitude is hysterically funny.  Suki is a strong, resourceful character and a nice change from the “girly girls” common in books for kids this age.


In volume three, Curse of the Were-wiener, I cheered the return of the vicious potato salad. I guess when a lot of the action happens in the lunchroom, it’s inevitable that there will be a book about how bad the cafeteria food is. At Danny’s school, it’s so bad that the hot dogs bite the students, instead of the other way around, infecting them with the Curse of the Were-wiener. All the students except Danny, who brought his lunch, start growing hair between their scales and acting strange (I was a little lost on this one. Weren’t they going to all turn into hot dogs when the full moon hit? Since when are hot dogs hairy?). Unfortunately, in this case, Danny does not have a mythological relative he can go to for help. Wendell, bitten by a were-wiener, clearly needs help, fast. The hunt for a solution includes risky searches of the school kitchen, a nighttime adventure in the sewers, rats, and a battle with the alpha-wurst. Of the three books, Curse of the Were-wiener is the scariest and freakiest- rats in the school cafeteria are much more of a possibility than ninja frogs from mythological Japan. It also really showcases the strength of Danny’s and Wendell’s friendship. Although it’s not any longer than the previous volume, Curse of the Were-wiener felt like it was the longest of the three books(I read all three aloud to my five year old, and he got restless near the end of this one). However, Vernon approaches the story with creativity and humor and uses color effectively to communicate the menace of the were-wieners, with their red eyes.


All three books are highly recommended for elementary school library media centers and children’s departments in public libraries. Danny Dragonbreath and his adventures are sure to please all kinds of elementary kids- a school librarian of my acquaintance tells me they’re never on the shelf. Readers of the first two books expecting more of the same should probably know that Curse of the Were-weiner has a slightly darker flavor. Volume four, Lair of the Bat Monster, is due out in March 2011, so fans of Danny Dragonbreath won’t have long to wait for a new adventure.


Ripley’s Believe It or Not: Enter If You Dare!
Ripley Publishing, 2009
Available: New
ISBN-10: 1893951634


            Even kids who aren’t familiar with the Ripley’s brand can’t help but notice the blinding purple and silver covers of this oversized reference book, and once those kids open the covers, librarians can be sure it will always be checked out, usually with a massive list for holds, unless a second copy is stashed behind the desk. After all, once you get past the covers and the sensationalistic name, this is, in fact, a reference book, one with the power to fascinate just about anyone, complete with a table of contents, detailed index, and compelling color illustrations.

The first few pages are a look at what goes on behind the scenes at the Ripley museums, in research, collecting, display, and model creation, writing, and editing, and include comments from the Ripley’s archivist about some of the strangest experiences and items he has collected to date. Following this brief but informative introduction is a table of contents that separates the various stories and strange facts into categories, including “Strange but True”, “Animal Antics”, and “Body Oddities”. Facts about food, art, and science, world records, the supernatural, and weird weather abound in this book. Yes, there’s plenty that’s gruesome, gross, or heart stopping. Yet, some of the things the Ripley’s staff identifies as “incredible” seem pretty tame, such as the tree growing out of the courthouse roof in Greencastle, Indiana (maybe this is just because I grew up in Indiana).

As tempting as Enter If You Dare! is, though, it’s not a book that most people will read from cover to cover(I tried). Anyone who doubts the intelligence or reading ability of those who read the book, though, had better think twice. Each page is packed with facts, and the writers don’t “talk down” to the kids. Designed to draw kids in and respectful of their ability to soak up information, Enter if You Dare is a great tool and a fun book that all kinds of kids will enjoy. Highly recommended for school library media collections in elementary and middle schools and children’s departments in public libraries, and for reference collections.

Contains: mentions of decapitation, cannibalism, and the supernatural, and disturbing images.

Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski




Aldwyns Academy by Nathan Meyer

Wizards of the Coast, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5504-6

Available: New

Aldwyns Academy is a school of magic, an academy that every young aspiring wizard wishes to go to. Well, all of them except for Dorian. He wants to be a great warrior like his father, but his mother, a powerful sorceress in service to the king, wants him to follow in her footsteps and has pulled a lot of strings to make sure that happens. When he arrives he doesn’t believe that he can be a wizard. His instructors don’t believe he has the stuff of wizardry, and his mentor and guide, a self-assured elven girl named Helen, sees him as nothing more than a nuisance. The only one who seems to have any faith in him is Caleb, an unlikely half-orc wizard in training who has no other friends. Together, these mismatched heroes will discover why dire wolves, bugbears and ghosts are invading the school grounds and threatening the academy. 

Aldwyns Academy takes off running and continues the high-adventure marathon from the first page to the last. The story is a combination of action and mystery that reads quickly with short paragraphs that will easily hold a young reader’s attention. The author also does a fine job of presenting a moral lesson in the form of Caleb, the half-orc child. It’s a case where appearances are deceiving and preconceived  notions turn out to be wrong. Aldwyns Academy would make a fine addition to any children’s library. Children who love fantasy stories are sure to like this one.


Reviewed by: Bret Jordan




Xtreme Monsters:  Zombies by S.L. Hamilton
ABDO Publishing Company, 2010/2011
ISBN: 9781616134723
Available: New

    Monster non-fiction books are a staple in school libraries and children’s sections in public libraries.  S.L. Hamilton offers up a series called Xtreme Monsters, and in this case we will look at the Zombies title.  Zombies is a hardcover hi-lo title, 32 pages long, written at a third grade reading level but aimed at a middle school audience (the publisher suggests it for up to grade 9). It discusses the voodoo origins of zombies, their strengths and weaknesses, how to kill zombies and zombies in literature and video games.   

    Writing a monster’s guide for children is actually more difficult than one would think because it is easy to fall into a trap- many of the images of monsters in movies and games are geared more toward adults and teens and are not suitable for children.   Zombies falls into this trap. The book presents images of video games such as Left for Dead and Dead Rising, and shows the covers of George Romero movies, which are rated R.  In short, images are shown of products that are not appropriate for kids, and given the reading level, it could easily end up in very young hands. While Xtreme Monsters: Zombies has plenty of colorful and gross imagery that kids might enjoy, librarians will want to be aware of its content, and elementary school media specialists might want to pass on this one.

Contains: some gore



The Books of Elsewhere Volume 1: The Shadows By Jacqueline West

Penguin Group, 2010

ISBN-13: 9780803734401

Available: New

Meet Olive, an 11 year old girl new to the neighborhood whose family has just moved into a mansion with quite a past. As Olive explores the house’s many rooms and their contents, she rushes headlong, literally, into unearthing the dark history of the mansion’s previous inhabitants, when she finds a pair of glasses tucked away in the drawer. When Olive dons them, she learns there is far more to the strange, dark paintings that seem permanently affixed to the walls than she thought – she can actually step inside and enter the paintings. In one painting, Olive meets Morton, who, along with three guardian cats, helps her discover the true nature of the sinister Aldous McMartin and his granddaughter Annabelle. Olive inadvertently releases Annabelle from her painting, and now Annabelle is intent on bringing Mr. McMartin back to life so he can reclaim his mansion at the expense of Olive and her family. It’s up to Olive to put things right again.

         Beautifully detailed illustrations are interspersed throughout the story, adding to the highly descriptive narrative. The Shadows is very reminiscent to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline with the absent parents, a new home to explore, a talking cat (cats in this case), and entrances to another world; however, the story holds its own on a more light-hearted level. The Shadows is a delightful read of witchcraft, hauntings, and a young girl’s power to face her fears and set the world right. Recommended for a school library or a public library’s juvenile fiction collection, for ages 7-12, The Shadows would also work well as a bridge into young adult literature and for those who enjoyed Coraline.

Reviewed by Kelly Fann


Benjamin Franklinstein Lives by Matthew McElligott and Larry Tuxbury

Penguin Young Readers Group, 2010

ISBN-13: 9780399252297

Available: New

Benjamin Franklin didn’t die, he’s just been in a state of suspended-animation, waiting for the Modern Order of Prometheus to wake him when America faces its next crisis. Benjamin Franklinstein Lives by Matthew McElligott and Larry Taxbury intertwines history and science to create a very light-hearted tale about Benjamin Franklin reappearing in the 21st century and his subsequent friendship with his neighbor, Victor Godwin. Lightning strikes Victor’s apartment building reanimating Benjamin Franklin after nearly 250 years of slumber. Ben believes his Custodian has woken him to do the work of the Modern Order of the Prometheus, but there is no Custodian in sight, only Victor, a young scientist in the making.

 After a bit of scientific trial and error, Ben and Victor determine the right amount of electricity necessary to keep Ben running fully charged and they set out on the path to find the Order and determine Ben’s and possibly civilization’s fate.  Explosions, experiments, and destruction follow Ben and Victor’s moves as they navigate their quest.

             A recipe for Promethean All-Natural Extra Tart Lemonade, a diagram of Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, lock casing patent figure, a map of downtown Philadelphia, and chemical makeup diagrams of “harmonic fluid” are just a few of the illustrations that add a fun educational component to the story. Lively dialogue, humorous situations, and fantastic illustrations create an entertaining read in Benjamin Franklinstein Lives.

             Benjamin Franklinstein Lives isn’t so much a horror story as it is a tale about a new friendship and the wonder of science; it just happens to have monster as a main character who operates quite a bit like Frankenstein’s monster. Recommended for a school library or a public library’s juvenile fiction collection, ages 7-12.

Reviewed by Kelly Fann




A Vampire is Coming to Dinner! 10 Rules to Follow by Pamela Jane, ill. by Pedro Rodriguez

Price Stearn Sloan, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0843199642

Available: New and Used

    A Vampire is Coming to Dinner! is a cute picture book  When a vampire is unexpectedly coming to visit a young boy for dinner, the book consists 10 rules that one must follow when a vampire invites himself to come for a visit.  Each page gives one of the rules and the page then folds out to show a devious little boy in process of breaking the rules, to the dismay of the visiting vampire.  All is well at the end as both child and vampire appear in a surprise popup, having a good old time!  The art is clever and the mischievous little boy tormenting the vampire by breaking every rule is sure to get giggles out of children as they appreciate the sight gags.


Contains: Rampant rule breaking!




Ghost Dog Secrets by Peg Kehret

Dutton Juvenile, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0525421788

Available: New

Rusty can’t take his mind off of the German shepherd he saw chained to a tree in freezing cold weather. At the encouragement of a ghost dog, he starts to bring food and water to the German shepherd, and soon realizes that the dog is being abused.  When the adults fail to resolve the situation, Rusty takes matters into his own hands, and has to make a decision:  Would taking the dog be stealing, or rescuing?

Peg Kehret does a great job of capturing the emotions of a dog lover.  The German shepherd, Ra, is loveable and sweet, every child’s ideal dog.  However, I don’t see it as much of a horror novel.  The ghost dog subplot was an afterthought at best.  Kehret does a good job of navigating the moral gray area that is sometimes associated with rescuing neglected pets.  The discussion of animal abuse and rescue was a little heavy-handed at times, but it does have a lot of good tips for animal lovers.  I do recommend this book for children that love dogs, but not so much for children looking for something spooky.  Note: Children who like this book may also enjoy The Ghost of Cutler Creek by Cynthia DeFelice.

Review by Cherylynne W. Bago



Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson and Shmuel Thaler

Tricycle Press, 2002
ISBN-13: 978-1582460789

Available: New and Used

    Pumpkin Circle shows the life cycle of a pumpkin, from the time the seed is collected from a pumpkin in the fall,  through its planting and growing, and finally to its harvesting, just in time to carve into Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Brief, simple text accompanies color photographs of children in the garden planting and taking care of the pumpkins as they grow. The candid photos will draw young readers into the story, and there are some good opportunities to talk about gardening, plants, and the life cycle- Pumpkin Circle is about much more than Halloween. Young readers may just love the pictures, though, especially in the last few pages, which show creatively carved jack-o-lanterns glowing in the darkness-a wonderful finish for the life of a pumpkin, as the cycle starts over again. This is a perfect preschool read aloud that can also be enjoyed independently by children in the early elementary grades. It’s not frightening, which makes it a good choice for children who are easily frightened at a time of year where scary stories rule.  Note: Since it focuses on the life cycle of plants, it might be shelved in nonfiction, so librarians should take note to seek it out and promote it with the Halloween books  Highly recommended for public library children’s collections and elementary school library media centers.



AlphaOops: H is for Halloween by Alethea Kontis and illustrated by Bob Kolar

Candlewick, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0763639662

Available: New

               In this Halloween themed AlphaOops story,  the mixed up alphabet is getting ready to celebrate Halloween in traditional AlphaOops style. When the letter A isn't ready to start the Halloween alphabet,  the letter H gets top billing.  The other letters appear throughout the book representing different creatures and items of Halloween. Kontis includes some alphabet book in-jokes, as when the letter J apologizes to the jack-o-lantern for picking another word, saying "J can't always be for jack-o-lantern". Q, always a hard letter to get creative with, successfully breaks the mold, and S and X come up with an imaginative pairing. Unfortunately for the letter B, booted from his early place in the alphabet, other letters keep stealing his costume ideas. The letter P is a pirate, with the same costume as B's buccaneer; Y's yeti is identical to B's Bigfoot.  Readers will cheer (and jump) when B finally gets the last word! The illustrations are fantastic and fun, and the kids will giggle at Bob Kolar’s art and Alethea Kontis’s story.  AlphaOops goes a step beyond the typical letter representing a word in that the letters themselves have been given some personality.  AlphaOops: H is for Halloween has catapulted itself up to a must have for any school library or public library’s children’s section and would make a great addition to any display.    It is a wonderful read for kids who have become acquainted with the alphabet and is engaging enough that parents will enjoy sharing it with their kids. Once Halloween has passed, children and adults who love this book will want to check out the first book in the series, AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First




Ghoulish Goodies: Creature Feature Cupcakes, Monster Eyeballs, Bat Wings, Funny Bones, Witches' Knuckles, and Much More! (Frightful Cookbook) by Sharon Bowers
Storey Publishing, LLC; Original edition, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1603421461

Available: New

My son REALLY loves cookbooks. A few months ago, he could only look at the pictures, but now he can read a lot of the words, and he will look at, talk about, and try to convince me to read the recipes and make them… right away! Right now he’s especially fond of Halloween cookbooks, so when I found Ghoulish Goodies among the new books at our local library, I snagged it for him right away.  The introduction is dramatic and hooked him immediately, and the pictures are gorgeous. The author says it’s a “family-friendly” cookbook, so kids should be able to participate in making the recipes.  She doesn’t say what ages she’s talking about, though, and while I learned some new and easy kitchen tricks, I can tell you that my kids (ages 3 and 5) don’t have the patience, and I don’t have the skill, to elaborately decorate cupcakes or shape jack-o-lantern shaped cookies by hand. Other recipes that sounded good, and looked like they would be reasonably simple, like "Orange Rice with Bacon", involved a lot more time than the recipe suggested and and didn’t really provide my kids with an opportunity to get involved- although the result was delicious. Other recipes that did allow the kids to participate a little more were still trickier that we thought they would be- when we tried making "Funny Bones" we discovered that it's a lot more difficult to dip pretzels with marshmallows in melted chocolate than it sounds. We had fun, but our final product looked nothing like the picture!  Still, there are a lot of suggestions on how to create a creepy-but-not-too-creepy spread for a Halloween party, and the author's "mom-sense" attitude meant that I felt a lot more comfortable trying the recipes. Ghoulish Goodies contains creative and easy to read recipes, attractive pictures (although we would have liked to see more), and some simple ideas that could really impress guests at a Halloween party. It's a lot of fun to look at and to read. Unlike a lot of Halloween "idea" books, the recipes really are something you can see kids enjoying. But for the recipe-impaired, don't be deceived into thinking that the author's recipes are quite as "easy" as they look. If your kids like to cook, and like Halloween, they'll get very excited about Ghoulish Goodies. My son was thrilled to see us review it here. Just make sure to supervise closely, both for safety's sake and to intervene if the level of frustration gets too high. Recommended for families and for cookbook collections in either the children's department or general nonfiction collection in the public library. Librarians, make sure you seek it out for your Halloween displays.





Scary Stories Treasury; Three Books to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell 

HarperCollins Publishers,1985
ISBN-13: 978-0060263416

Available: New and Used

The Scary Stories Treasury contains three popular volumes of “scary stories”, collected from folklore and urban legends by Alvin Schwartz: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. Any librarian who isn’t familiar with the books collected in this volume really needs to check them out. Not only are these titles in high demand for older children and teens, but they are an incredible storytelling resource. In fact, in the introduction to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Schwartz writes that scary stories are “meant to be told”.  


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the best known of the three books, and is the one I’ve used the most. It both starts and ends with “jump” stories, and these are fun to tell to a group. “The Viper” and “The Ghost with Bloody Fingers” are stories I’ve frequently told. Also included are the poem “A Man Who Lived in Leeds”, the song “Old Woman All Skin and Bone”, “The Hearse Song” and the Halloween game “The Dead Man’s Brains”. Other stories in the book include variants on familiar tales, such as “The Guests”, in which a young couple looking for a place to stay the night learn after the fact that their hosts were ghosts, and urban legends like “The Hook”, in which news that a murderer with a hook for a hand is on the loose spoils a date. Finally, there are some truly creepy and scary tales about ghosts, witches, shapeshifters, and the supernatural. While most of these come from folklore, and can’t be mistaken for anything happening today, they can still give readers, and listeners, the shivers.


More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has longer stories. Some are set in a specific historical period, such as “The Weird Blue Light”, which takes place during the Civil War. Many of them have sudden endings. In “Something Was Wrong”, we follow a bewildered and frightened John Sullivan around, learning only in the last few words that he is dead. Some folktales have clearly been adapted for a modern audience, such as “The Drum” an ominous contemporary variant of the folktale “The New Mother”. Schwartz doesn’t hold back or moralize when he retells a story. “Wonderful Sausage” is a clever and horrifying tale about a butcher who adds a special ingredient to his sausage. This volume also has a few more contemporary tales, ranging from frightening to tragic, and a description of the creepy sleepover game “A Ghost in the Mirror”. While the stories in this volume are more satisfying in many ways, I’d say these tales are aimed at a slightly older audience.


Scary Stories 3 continues with more detailed and sometimes complicated stories. In “Just Delicious”, a twist on the folktale “The Golden Arm”, a terrified wife feeds her husband a dead woman’s liver without his knowledge... and the woman wants it back. “Harold” is a chilling story of a vengeful doll. “The Wolf Girl”, set in a specific time and place, has its basis in the lives of real people, as does “The Trouble”, a story about poltergeist activity in the Lombardo household. “Maybe You Will Remember”, a baffling story about a girl whose sick mother disappears from her hotel, becomes truly horrifying when the reader turns to the notes at the back of the book to solve the puzzle. The volume wraps up with a couple of mildly funny stories. Of the three books, I’d say this is my least favorite, possibly because it is so grounded in detail, as details often distract listeners, making it harder to get them engaged in the story.


All three books have detailed notes and bibliographies provided by the author. While you don’t have to read the notes to enjoy the stories (with the exception of “Maybe You Will Remember”) they are easy to understand and interesting. All three books also have incredible illustrations by gifted children’s book illustrator Stephen Gammell, done in just black and white ink. It’s his illustrations that make the books so magnetic to kids... and so terrifying. The illustration for “Wonderful Sausage”, as an example,  brings a whole new grotesque dimension to the story. With just a few strokes and some shading, Gammell ups the scare level considerably. Tormented, skeletal faces, ragged clothes, distorted and indistinct figures, glowing eyes and teeth, empty chairs, empty baskets, empty clothes... it’s enough to cause nightmares, and makes much more impact than if we had only Schwartz’s words. Many collections of scary stories from American folklore don’t include illustrations, or at least not effective ones, and that is probably one of the reasons why more of them aren’t well known. The Scary Stories books, however, are notorious, to the point that the series was seventh on the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently challenged books for 2000-2009, and the illustrations are surely a good part of the reason why these books in particular are noticed.


The main benefit of owning The Scary Stories Treasury is that you’ll have all three books in one volume. Each book appears to have been faithfully reproduced, with Gammell’s original illustrations. However, there’s no new or additional material here. Readers who don’t have the books and want them might want to consider this volume, but for those who already own them, there’s no reason to purchase it. I highly recommend that libraries of all kinds have at least one copy of each of the books included in The Scary Stories Treasury, and the Treasury itself might make a nice reference volume, and you’ll find that the Scary Stories books are rarely on the shelves. The Scary Stories Treasury is highly recommended to libraries and readers who do not already own copies of the Scary Stories books, and recommended as a reference volume for school and public libraries. Appropriate, based on maturity of the reader, for grades 4 and up.


Contains: Violence, gore, cannibalism, deception, the occult, witchcraft, murder.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski




A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Dutton Juvenile, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0525423348

Available: Pre-order

“Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome”.  That’s the hook the storyteller uses to pull you in to A Tale Dark and Grimm. In the first few pages he gleefully warns us that the tales of the Grimm Brothers are not as tame as the stories we are familiar with today- they’re violent and bloody.

Adam Gidwitz connects several of the stories from the Grimm Brothers and original content by following two children with very familiar names- Hansel and Gretel- on a winding, terrifying journey. There’s frequent commentary on the story, bolded to set it apart from the actual tale, and this does a neat job of translating the printed words into an almost conversational storytelling. It’s not hard to imagine these tales being told aloud, and I can imagine some interesting readers theater emerging from this!

While some of these stories will seem familiar, and there are predictable elements, there are still plenty of surprises along the way. Gidwitz doesn’t just retell the tales of the brothers Grimm, he makes additions and changes. Most of them are interesting and fun, and blend well into the original tale.  Gidwitz doesn’t pull his punches, but since not all of his commentary is serious, some may not realize how gory it gets. It’s best to be prepared. Some of the tales he chose to incorporate into his story, notably “Brother and Sister” and “A Smile Red as Blood”, have the potential to be deeply disturbing. Parents may want to read ahead.

Beyond the overuse of “awesome”, I really enjoyed A Tale Dark and Grimm. Gidwitz shows obvious enthusiasm for these stories as both a reader and as a storyteller and teacher who has thought about and seen for himself the impact these stories have on children. This is not a book for the faint of heart, nor is it an easy read, but it’s a perfect antidote to the saccharine fairy tales most kids are familiar with, and, with its strong male and female protagonists, will appeal to both boys and girls looking for something with a darker tinge. Recommended. Grades 5-8

Contains: cannibalism, beheadings, dismemberment, soul stealing, torture, gambling, the Devil, mild language.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


A Practical Guide to Dragon Magic by Susan J. Morris

Wizards of the Coast, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7869-5347-9

Available: New

            A Practical Guide to Dragon Magic presents facts, lore, and details that every young boy or girl who would one day like to apprentice under a dragon needs to know. The guide covers the different types of dragons and how to approach them to win their favor, what to avoid so that the young apprentice doesn’t anger them and even displays the Dragonic Script and suggests key words to use when speaking with a dragon for the first time. It shows the magical equipment that will be needed before approaching a dragon, along with what is required once the dragon accepts the young girl or boy as an apprentice. Each type of dragon is carefully examined to let the young apprentice know what to look out for and what not to do. A Practical Guide to Dragon Magic also explains the responsibilities of a Dragon Master.

This guide is a well thought out book about dragons that is presented almost like an enlistment guide for a dragon academy, told from they Dungeons and Dragons mythology standpoint. I could easily see this book being handed out to prospective Dragon Riders a generation or two before the story of Eragon was written. Though new, it is presented as a used ‘textbook’ with stained pages and notes in the margins, giving the reader a feel that this book has been passed down from student to student over the course of several years. It reads like a factual textbook, though far more interesting. One little jewel that a young reader is sure to like is the questionnaire in the back of the book entitled ‘Finding Your Dragon: A Quiz'. Twelve questions are asked and the results are presented on the next page where the child can see which dragon best fits him or her.  Finally, each page is loaded with artwork that is sure to interest anyone who loves to look at dragons.

Review by Bret Jordan

How to Trap a Zombie, Track a Vampire, and Other Hands-On Activities for Monster Hunters by A.R. Rotruck

Wizards of the Coast, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7869--5548-0

Available: New

This book covers almost everything a young monster-hunting wizard might need to know before going out on a weekend of adventure. It tells what supplies the young wizard will need and gives detailed instructions on how to make things like staffs, wands, potions, clothing and backpacks. Helpful camping tips are also provided for when the young wizard finds himself in the outdoors or in a dungeon. Not only are tips provided, but also detailed instructions are given as to how to create a lamp, put together a campsite, finding food, avoiding traps and navigating. Finally, there is a detailed list of monsters to hunt and tips on how to hunt them along with entertaining a monster or even recruiting one into the young adventurer’s party.

A.R. Rotruck has done an excellent job of putting together one of the most entertaining instructional books I have yet seen. I could imagine this book being the first one a Hogwarts student would get upon enrolling in the wizard’s school. For the parents who love Dungeons and Dragons but have a child too young to play the game, this book would be an excellent one to read to a child to spark their imagination and start them thinking about ‘what if?’  Each activity is carefully illustrated and easy to follow. Not only are the activities illustrated, but the book is packed with original illustrations and images pulled from the later editions of the Dungeons and Dragons rule books. This wizard’s instructional guide would be perfect for the young girl or boy who dreams of monsters and magic and any parent who is looking for fun projects to do with their child.

Review by Bret Jordan


Abigail’s Mirror by Melissa Strangway (Book 2 in the Derek and Ravine series)

iUniverse Star, 2010

ISBN: 9781440161766

Availability: New and Used In

    Derek and Ravine’s latest adventure, Ravine finds a mirror at an antique store that she feels strangely drawn to. Who wouldn’t be when the person staring back at you isn’t you? Derek is reluctant to be drawn into another otherworldly adventure, but even he can’t help wondering what the apparition named Abigail wants, especially since she can bring them to her world through the mirror. Can Derek and Ravine help Abigail before something truly awful happens to her? Or to them?


    Strangway’s world and characters are just as well-written, accessible, and believable as they were in 56 Water Street, the first book in this series. Those who read and loved the first book will definitely like this one, too. Abigail’s Mirror introduces more complex side stories and is a much longer story with long chapters, so it’s not as quick of a read, but Strangway’s engrossing writing style ensures that readers won’t tire of the story before they finish. Recommended for readers 8-12 years old and for public libraries, particularly those with an interest in collecting Canadian children’s fiction. Special note for series readers: I recommend reading this series in order.

Review by Stacey L. Wilson, Master of Library and Information Science candidate at The University of Western Ontario.


Jitterbug Jam:  A Monster Tale by Barbara Jean Hicks, illustrated by Alexis Deacon

 Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (February 24, 2005)
 ISBN-13: 978-0374336851

Available: New and Used

Jitterbug Jam practically begs to be read aloud.  It’s a tale to be shared by a storyteller and his audience.  It succeeds on its own merits- the illustrations, and even the physical book, take a backseat to the narrative.

The illustrations and design of the book are absolutely worth exploring, though. Using a variety of styles, Alexis Deacon creates a vision of a monster world that will suck the reader right in.  Deacon’s sketches are focused on his characters, stripped down to their essential elements and then emphasized with clearly delineated lines.  Background colors are muted grays, yellows, browns, and greens. The monsters would blend in, too, without the heavy lines that separate them from their surroundings, and their clothes, which pop out with color. The placement of the words and illustrations on each page accentuate the narrative. For example, the illustration on the first page is a small picture of our narrator, Bobo, surrounded by empty space.  The first few words , “Nobody believes me”,  are in large type just above the boxed illustration, making our child narrator seem smaller and more fearful , something a full page illustration could not have accomplished.  Deacon also uses a “comic book” approach that allows him to present a sequence of visual images in an active, three-dimensional way that moves the story along. Speech balloons provide an informal approach to dialogue that will be familiar to those comfortable with a graphic format as well. 

Jitterbug Jam is the story of a little monster hiding from the boy under his bed.  It’s the story of a grandpa who really listens to and believes in his grandson (and tells a pretty good story himself). It’s a story about two little brothers who might have more in common than either can imagine. Most interestingly, it’s a hopeful story that ends with a beginning.  What kids are going to focus on, though, is the scary-looking Boo-Dad and the yucky looking jitterbug jam, as they follow the rhythm of the story, and, at the end, they’ll be demanding jitterbug jam on toast for lunch.  Recommended for school libraries and public library children’s collections. Grades 2-5.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Monster Slayers by Lukas Ritter
Wizards of the Coast LLC, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7869-5484-1

Evin is a mischievous young man living in a small village who dreams of excitement and adventure. He and his friend Jorick soon find more adventure than they bargained for when gnolls ransack their village and kidnap everyone. Together they track the gnolls to a distant wizard’s tower, where they find Bet, an elven wizard who holds a strange tome of monster information and a secret that draws Evin’s suspicions. Nothing is what it seems, as friends become strangers, and enemies become allies.

            Monster Slayers is a book for young readers. The first few chapters are shallow, the characters lack depth and Jorick’s brutal straightforwardness comes across too strong and prevents the reader from feeling sympathetic to him. There is a purpose in the shallowness though, one that should catch the reader by surprise as the plot twists and morphs into surprisingly good story. As the tale unfolds, Jorick’s attitude becomes far more bearable and he begins to develop into a three-dimensional character that the reader will be able to relate to. The author does a fine job of creating creatures that the young reader will easily be able to visualize. Older readers who are fond of their Dungeons and Dragons days will remember those times as they see the rogue in Evin, the fighter in Jorick and the magic-user in Bet. Monster Slayers would make a fine addition to a young readers’ collection or for anyone who enjoyed playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Contains: Violence
Review by Bret Jordan




Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli by Barbara Jean Hicks, illustrated by Sue Hendra

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-0375856860

Available: New


                Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli was a difficult book for me to review, because my kids kept taking it. Every time they brought it back they chanted “Read it! Read it!” When a book inspires that kind of reaction, there’s not much more for a reviewer to add. The text is bouncy and rhyming, and a repeated verse inspired much jumping, stomping, and shouting: “Fum, fo, fi, fee,/ Monsters don’t eat broccoli”! The illustrations are bright and clear, and my kids identified with the monsters completely:  “I’m the blue one! I’m the orange stripy one!”  It was fun for my kids to “find the vegetables”, too, as a close look will reveal that those “yummy, gummy trees” look an awful lot like broccoli! The artist also includes clever details and “in jokes” in the background, and a retro look that parents will appreciate.

                I will say that Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli has not actually inspired my children to eat their vegetables. They have had a lot of fun looking at the pictures, hearing the story, and chanting the words, though. This isn’t a “scary book”, but monster-loving kids will have a blast. If you’re looking for more along a monstrous vegetable theme, check out The Monster Who Ate My Peas by Danny Schnitzlein. Or check out the author’s website, where you can print out The Official Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli Fan Cookbook.




The Ink Drinker by Eric Sanvoisen, ill by Martin Matje, trans. by Georges Moroz

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2002
ISBN: 0440414857
Available: Used and New

            From his hideout in his father's bookstore, a boy who hates books notices a new, and very suspicious looking customer. The customer appears to float, rather than walk, and then he inserts a straw into one of the books and begins to suck on it! Once he notices the boy, the customer makes an abrupt exit, and when the boy discovers that the words have been sucked right off the pages, he quickly gives chase. Venturing into the cemetery, the boy realizes he has encountered a vampire! Luckily, the vampire, named Draculink, has developed an allergy to blood, and the only food he can digest is ink, sucked from the pages of a book. Of course, Draculink's inability to drink blood doesn't stop his urge to bite, and he turns the boy into an ink drinker as well, inspiring an ironic, insatiable desire for books.
            This darkly funny early chapter book will be a favorite of any teacher, librarian, or parent who has ever tried to reach a child who dislikes reading, and the fast moving plot, believable voice, humor, and mild scariness will appeal to many reluctant readers. It's a perfect short read-aloud for a younger child who has developed an attention span for longer stories than those found in picture books, and the first book that, between the action-packed story and evocative illustrations, actually created a physical reaction in my son- he ran around with his tongue sticking out, demanding a straw, for at least an hour, and begged to hear the story again. If you can find a copy, The Ink Drinker is a must have for any library collection and nearly any reader. Highly recommended for all libraries.


Ghosts of the Fox River Valley by Donna Latham

Quixote Press, 2007

ISBN-13: 9781571664341

Available: New and Used

    The Fox River flows for 170 miles through Wisconsin and Illinois, and when Donna Latham announced that she was writing and collecting ghost stories from the surrounding towns, area residents reached out to share their tales. Some, such as "The Phantom Panthers", a version of "Wait Til Martin Comes" are clearly local variants of well-known "scary stories".  Others, like "Another Cup for Willa", about a woman who is visited by the ghostly presence of a dead friend on her birthday, are personal recollections. Often the two seem to overlap. The first story, "The Train Track Ghosts" is one of these. The storyteller's voice is so vivid that you can almost see him sitting on the author's porch, but underneath the trappings of the tale he tells is a recognizable urban legend. The quality of the stories vary. Some stories flow smoothly- "A Bond That Will Last Forever", the story of two World War II veterans who fulfil a promise to meet every year- is very well done. Others feel awkward- although the plotting is good, the author frequently uses complex vocabulary, and her attempts at dialogue and writing in dialect often seem forced. Latham also chose to illustrate her book with a strange and cluttered collection of clip art, which is distracting and interrupts the flow of her stories. However, she does a good job of fitting in local history and background without overwhelming the narrative, a difficult thing to do, and does a nice job at establishing the setting for her stories, so she accomplishes what she set out to do rather well.
    While Ghosts of the Fox River Valley is an interesting read, there isn't enough new material here to recommend it for all libraries. However, public and school libraries and local history buffs in the area Latham describes in her book ought to take a look. In particular, school libraries and upper elementary or middle school teachers may want to consider it in connection with teaching to social studies standards that focus on local history and language arts standards focused on speaking, listening, and writing, as Ghosts of the Fox River Valley is a good resource for beginning an oral history project. Beyond possible uses in the classroom, the same kids who love Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories books will love having ghost stories set in their area available to them. Recommended to public and school libraries and local history collections in the area of the Fox River Valley.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski



The Nose by Nikolai Gogol, ill. by Gennadij Spirin

David R Godine, 1993

ISBN: 0879239638

Available: New and Used

    Ivan Yankelovich is delighted to have a loaf of freshly baked bread for breakfast... until he discovers a nose inside! It's not just any nose, either, it is the nose of one of his customers, a self-important bureaucrat named Kovaliov. Terrified to leave the nose where it can be connected to him, Yankelovich sets off to hide it, but his furtive behavior attracts official attention. 
    In the meantime, Kovaliov wakes up to discover he has no nose. Covering his face with a handkerchief, he starts down the street, where he spots his nose, dressed as a fine gentleman and high official. Kovaliov hesitates to approach a social superior, even a former appendage, but he wants his nose back and confronts the nose, who denies any connection with him. Eventually a police officer returns the nose confiscated from Yankelovich, but it won't stick to Kovaliov's face! Kovaliov is unable to show his face in public without ridicule, shutting down his social ambitions, as the nose-posing-as-officer has become a sensation. Then one day Kovaliov wakes up to find the nose back on his face, firmly attached.
    Anyone looking for logic or narrative structure in The Nose will be disappointed. The pieces don't fit together neatly... there's more than one beginning, and it doesn't seem like the story really ends. It is nightmarish in some ways- finding a nose in his breakfast must have been pretty stomach-churning for Yankelovich, and when he abruptly disappears from the story the imagination finds ominous ways to fill in the blanks. Gogol is an important figure in Russian literature, with a talent for the surreal who wrote in a different time and a different context, and he wasn't writing for children. The setting, names, and characters may seem alien to many children, the vocabulary is advanced, and the social satire will probably fly over kids' heads. But when it comes down to it, this is one giant, horrifying, absurd joke about a nose, and kids definitely get that. Reading it out loud, it is almost impossible not to at least giggle.
    Gennadij Spirin's illustrations will make certain that kids get the joke. Many pages are framed with incredibly detailed drawings of St. Petersburg, Russia, the setting of the story, and observant readers will spot the bizarre giant nose in its plumed hat traveling the streets in its elaborate horse-drawn carriage. Everything in the full page illustrations seems slightly exaggerated, so the most absurd elements aren't jarring, and readers won't even realize how far they are suspending disbelief until they are well into the story. Spirin's representations of the nose are amazing. Some of them seem very cartoony, but in full uniform, the nose does appear to be its own person, so to speak.  And, in fact, this book has been used to teach upper elementary students about personification and figurative language.
    Although it's a picture book, very young children won't be ready for it, but elementary and middle students may enjoy it, especially with some guidance.  It's also a good choice for older students looking for a nonthreatening introduction to Russian literature, and readers of any age who like a touch of the bizarre. Recommended.


Fear this Book: Your Guide to Fright, Horror, and Things that Go Bump in the Night by Jeff Szpirglas, ill. by Ramon Perez

Maple Tree Press, 2006
ISBN: 1897066678

Available: New and Used

    Jeff Szpriglas has created a guide to fear. Phobias, superstitions, killer animals, monsters, cryptids, scary movies and more- Szpirglas examines them all in Fear This Book. The book is much more than a list of fears, though. The author also explains the physiological and psychological reactions to fright, and details experiments and therapies that have been used to understand fear. This could come across as a pretty academic read, but Szpirglas’ conversational and informal approach, Ramon Perez’s cartoony illustrations, and the colorful design, which chunks information into interesting blocks of text, will grab the eye, and the attention, of even the most reluctant reader. Although it’s a serious topic, and Szpirglas treats it with respect, there’s also humor- lists, silly quizzes, and mascot monsters commenting on the text. In his author’s note, Szpirglas writes that “the more you know… the less you may fear”. Whether you’re looking for knowledge, for entertainment, or for an idea for your next science fair project, you may find what you are looking for in Fear This Book. Highly recommended for school elementary and middle school libraries and for nonfiction science collections in public libraries’ children’s departments

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski



Silver Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham

Mirrorstone, 2009

ISBN: 9780786952533

Available: New

    The weakest entry into the YA series Dragon Codices, The Silver Dragon Codex takes place in a small circus.  Jace, the young high wire acrobat must help Belen, a beautiful dancer, acquit herself of the charges being brought by a white robed mage from Palanthas.  Surely the beautiful young girl cannot actually be a silver dragon in disguise... and even if she was she couldn't possibly be an EVIL silver dragon who destroyed a whole town, can she?

    Jace, Belen, and a few others from the circus head off to determine the truth behind the story.  Along the way they are confronted by werewolves and a chimera, and the truth turns out to be far more complicated than it first seemed.

    I say this is the weakest entry so far because the other stories in the series are well thought out and all of the varying story lines are wrapped up neatly by the end of each book.  I find this to be important in a YA novel.  The Silver Dragon Codex leaves many things unexplained, and also suffers from problems with continuity and weak writing.  For example, we are told that a character has limited familiarity with their language and never uses the word “I”, but on the same page, that character uses “I” three separate times. I also found this book to be a bit darker than the others, and for some reason it came across a bit dull.  Perhaps it is because the characters are less likable than the ones in previous novels, or perhaps the problem is the overly complicated plot. Although this is an okay book, and readers following the series may want to try it, it is nowhere near as good as previous books in the series.

 Appropriate for ages 11+

Contains: Fantasy Violence without gore

Review by KDP



The Gates by John Connolly

Atria; First Edition first Printing edition, 2009
ISBN: 1439172633

Available: New

    Poor little Samuel is not having a good time. His parents have recently split up, he's very smart but tends to annoy or creep out most adults, and he perplexes most of the kids his age. He decides to go trick-or-treating 3 days early (in order to show initiative) and he and his little four legged pal Bosworth stumble across the beginning of the end - a bored uppity couple and their equally bored friends. When boredom overtakes the Abernathys they decide to give the dark arts a try - mix in a few scientists who are trying to create an artificial black hole a few countries away and you have the opening to the gates of hell. What can a little boy and his dog do about the crack in the gates of hell, especially when grown-ups won’t believe a word?  
    It may sound a bit far-fetched or over the top, but readers will find themselves engrossed by sweet little Samuel and his wonderful dog. Not to mention the demons who are having a harder time at this taking over the world thing then they expected - I mean no one ever tells demons to look both ways before crossing the street. I laughed, I smiled, I enjoyed this book from beginning to end.

"The Gates" reminded me of Pratchett, Gaiman and Christopher, targeted at the pre-teen generation. But at the same time I really felt that this was a novel for adults, thinking back on their pre-teen years. With a splendid use of the English language and a dry but light sense of humor, the author has written a fun book that many will enjoy.
 Review by KDP



The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket

HarperCollins; Har/Com edition, 2009
ISBN-10: 0061236276

Available: New

    The Composer is Dead is a pretty sophisticated picture book. The plot is simple- the composer is dead, and the Inspector is interrogating the various instruments in the orchestra to find out who’s responsible. The humor, vocabulary, and need for context are not simple at all.  I “got” the jokes, but I’m not the target audience for picture books. My four year old, who is in the target audience for picture books, loves music, and always wants me to identify the individual instruments in orchestral music, was totally baffled by the story. The vocabulary is complex and is not as explicitly explained as in Snicket’s other books, and the necessary context isn’t provided.  What are musical notes and what do they look like? What are the names of the percussion instruments?  What does a conductor actually do? What are all those names at the end of the book?  The illustrations were often confusing.  Which silhouetted instrument in the illustration is an oboe and which is a clarinet? Who are all the dancing people and why are they dancing?  I did like the portrayal of the Inspector, whose appearance reminded me quite a lot of Hercule Poirot, but he actually didn’t look like a policeman, and that was confusing to my four-year-old as well. The lettering was good- major words like “AHA!” certainly got the proper emphasis and attention- but overall, the illustrations didn’t add much. What makes The Composer Is Dead really interesting is the audio CD that accompanies it, which actually plays music by the individual instruments as the Inspector interrogates them. This was fascinating and really brought the story to life. Unfortunately, trying to combine listening to the CD with turning the pages of the book was a real failure because of my son’s impatience. The CD and book just weren’t complementary. We have revisited the CD more than once because of his fascination with the music and instruments, but the book just isn’t going to be a success with the picture book audience. It’s even a pretty sophisticated title for the typical Lemony Snicket reader, although I’m pretty sure kids who love his books would be disappointed if it weren’t available. I’d say that, due to the kind of humor and irony ( I think most kids will miss the smarminess of the oboes) and the need for considerable context, this book and CD will be most effective with middle school music students- it would be a great way to introduce a research project into dead composers- and adults with some familiarity with classical music. Recommended for elementary and middle school libraries.  



Bang Goes a Troll (Awfully Beastly Business) by David Sinden

Aladdin, 2009
ISBN: 1416986510

Available: New

    Ulf, a young boy, is part of the RSPCB - the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Beasts. What beasts, you ask? Why, your standard run-of-the-mill trolls, goblins, gryphons, and fish-headed giraffes.

    Ulf also happens to be a werewolf. He has lived most of his life at the RSPCB because he technically qualifies as a beast. His friends include the human vet, a fairy, and a giant. They work together to keep bad guys from hunting and hurting various mythical monsters. In this book, the bad guys have rounded up some young trolls and are planning on hunting them for sport, so Ulf and the rest of the RSPCB head off to figure out what is going on.
    This reads much like a “Looney Toons” adventure, and there is a lot of possible peril and danger for those of you who are worried about sensitive minds. There is a guillotine, people shooting at animals, bad guys setting fire to animals’ homes, evil hunters with nasty devices, and someone wrapped in meat and used as bait. Think of the violence along the lines of reading Wile E. Coyote attempting to catch the Roadrunner- it sounds far worse then it actually is. Most of it is actually rather silly and will garner giggles from the young ones.
    The book is written in a large typeface that will be appealing to many of the younger crowd, and there are occasional drawings that are quite good. The book is a fast read, and there is a lot of action jammed into a short number of pages, so as an adult, expect for it to whiz right by. As far as characterization, there really isn't much. Ulf is a boy who wants to be included and to help, his curiosity and sense of adventure gets him involved in something he was told to stay home from, and in the end he saves the day. The Goblin will remind you of a mixture of Sméagol from Lord of the Rings and Dobby from the Harry Potter series.
    The morals of the tale include not judging others, not harming animals, and that everything has a right to live. In the end this is a quick read that kids a bit young for the Harry Potter will enjoy.

Review by KDP


Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Harper Collins; 25th Anniversary edition (November 9, 1988)
ISBN-10: 0060254920

Available: New

    There isn’t much I can say about Where the Wild Things Are that hasn’t already been said. Some parents read it to their children joyously, others wouldn’t dream of sharing it. It’s been banned, and it’s been celebrated. It’s been made into an animated short, an opera, and a movie, and has inspired music. Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Award, Where the Wild Things Are is a treasured children’s picture book classic that has now touched the lives of children across three generations.

    Many adults have a vision of childhood as a time of innocence, but children have a dark side. They are often powerless, or overwhelmed by feelings and experiences they can’t yet understand. They are afraid, but can’t always name their fears, and it can be difficult for them to express themselves in words. Children push boundaries to provoke reactions- to find out where the line really is, and who cares enough to keep them safe. Sendak taps into the fears and feelings of childhood effectively, and it’s subversive and frightening to adults.

    Where the Wild Things Are is the story of Max, a little boy with a big imagination who is sent to his room for making mischief, and finds himself in a strange world where he easily overcomes the terrible Wild Things and becomes their king, the wildest of them all. It’s easy to see why many adults don’t like this book. There’s no moral to the story- it is pure escapism and emotion. The words are almost unnecessary- it all takes place in the imagination. The story resonates with many children but it is a journey to a dark and sometimes frightening place, and very sensitive kids may not be ready for it. You never know, though… my own four year old, who is afraid of goblins and sleeps with his lights on, listened quietly and examined the illustrations carefully. He didn’t demand to have it read to him again, but it didn’t disturb him at all.

Highly recommended for children of all ages, and an excellent choice for reading aloud.

 Review by Kirsten Kowalewski




Sarah’s Little Ghosts by Thierry Robberecht, ill. By Phillipe Goosens
Clarion Books, 2007

ISBN: 978-0618892105

Available: New and Used

    When Sarah breaks her mother’s necklace, her first instinct is to hide it and pretend nothing is wrong. But as soon as the first lie passes her lips, a little ghost pops out of her mouth and starts chanting the words she really ought to say- “I broke your necklace”! Only Sarah can hear and see the ghost, but its mere presence gets in the way of her relationship with her parents. With each lie, another ghost pops out of her mouth, Soon she’s being chased by a horde of chanting, singing ghosts.
The ghosts in Phillipe Goosens’ illustrations don’t look threatening at all. They’re small, cute, and harmless-looking. Seeing them in a cloud around Sarah, though, it hits home that even little lies add up to a lot of misery. While this isn’t a particularly spooky story, the idea of lies literally catching up with them will give the K-3 crowd the creeps, and the unscary representations of ghosts are likely to cause a few giggles as well. Recommended.
Review by Kirsten Kowalewski

Halloween Day by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell

HarperCollins, 1997

ISBN: 9780064435895

Available: Used

    Anne Rockwell once again presents an accessible text aimed at preschoolers and kindergarteners. The same class that appeared in Show and Tell Day, also a collaboration with her daughter Lizzy, is now preparing for the school Halloween parade. An excited child narrates the story, describing her friends’ costumes and the party afterwards. The illustrations are colorful, with a gentle humor, and complement the text well. This is a good book for first-time trick-or-treaters who may be afraid of costumed characters, and a good preparation for kids who have difficulty with transitions who haven’t participated in a school Halloween parade in the past. I wish I’d had this book at this time last year when my son participated in his first Halloween parade- it would probably have been a lot more fun for everyone involved! While Halloween Day isn’t particularly scary or a compelling page turner, it is a worthwhile title for the children’s section of a public library or a school library media center.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Halloween Night by Marjorie Dennis Murray, illustrated by Brandon Dorman
Greenwillow Books, 2008

ISBN: 9780061351860

Available: New and Used


“Twas Halloween night, and all through the house/Every creature was stirring, including the mouse”.

    So begins one of the stranger variations on “ Twas the Night Before Christmas”, where instead of greeting Santa Claus, the residents of a haunted house prepare for their visitors. The illustrations are a dead giveaway that readers should expect a tickle to the funny bone. There’s a significant “gross-out” factor that’s aided considerably by the illustrations- it’s one thing to read about ogres setting up a buffet of live bugs, but the visual impact is another experience entirely. There is a lot to see in the illustrations for those readers who really want to take the time to look. Zombies march through a graveyard that’s barely visible from the foreground of a basement scene; the chairs are decorated with skulls, each with its own expression; a one-eyed jack-o-lantern grins from the corner of a page. But the illustrations are just part of what makes the story work. The truth is that kids rarely get to join in with the monsters to scare the pants off other kids, and it’s just plain fun to be part of the plan and part of the party. The art is digital, and the characters populating the pages seemed to be drawn in a style similar to Pixar’s. In fact, the illustrations scream out “Animate me”! The illustrations aren’t enough on their own, though- the characters need the driving force of a silly, gross, and maybe-a-little-bit-scary story. Halloween Night will probably be most appreciated by kids in grades 2-5. Recommended for elementary school library media centers and public library children’s departments.

 Review by Kirsten Kowalewski



Dhegdeer: A Scary Somali Folktale retold by Marian A. Hassan, illustrated by Betsy Bowen

Minnesota Humanities Commission/Somali Bilingual Book Project, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1931016193

Available: New

     Dhegdeer is a monstrous cannibal woman endowed with incredible strength, speed, and hearing, whose evil ways have cursed the lush Hargrega Valley in Somalia, turning it into a desert wasteland. She builds a hut next to her house to lure and trap unwary travelers needing shelter and water, and enspells Bowdheer, a jar in which she stores human flesh, to alert her if anyone touches it.  When an exhausted mother and child see the hut and stop to rest, Dhegdeer’s daughter warns them that they are in grave danger. As she looks for food for the weary travelers, she accidentally bumps into Bowdheer, who wakes a very hungry Dhegdeer.

Dhegdeer is a character from Somali folklore used to scare children into good behavior. Parents caution their children not to wander away “or Dhegdeer will get you”.  Betsy Bowen’s illustrations carry out that ominous theme. Vivid colors are painted in broad strokes over black gesso, giving the illustrations a shadowy feel. While figures are outlined in black, they are indistinct. Only the faces of the main characters are shown with detail, and Dheghdeer’s appearance and expression are frightening indeed, especially presented in closeup. No child would want to see that face in person!

    This book is a project of the Minnesota Humanities Commission and Somali Bilingual Book Project, which is intended to preserve heritage languages (there is a considerable Somali population in Minnesota) and increase English literacy skills for refugees. As a bilingual title, the same text appears in both English and Somali on facing pages, and can be enjoyed in either language. Teachers may find possible curriculum connections with this book as well.

     Dhegdeer may appeal to upper elementary kids and (even though it’s a picture book) middle school kids looking for a scare, but it’s also an original title that would be a fine addition to any collection of folktales, and is sure to draw in reluctant readers in need of an arresting text, whether they are bilingual or not. Highly recommended for folktale collections in the public library and in elementary and middle school library media centers.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski




A Practical Guide to Vampires by Treval Vorgard, edited by Nina Hess

Mirrorstone, 2009
ISBN: 0786952431

Available: New

    A Practical Guide to Vampires presents itself as a nonfiction handbook compiled by a vampire hunter and enthusiast. The author describes their habits and haunts, and gives advice to the reader on how to track and hunt vampires, and survive to tell the story. The book is designed to look like an “authentic” journal. The pages look yellowed and stained, and there are handwritten notes throughout. A Practical Guide to Vampires is visually impressive. The illustrations are beautifully done and dynamic in nature, and will capture the attention of even reluctant readers. The text is arranged attractively with plenty of “white space”. Interesting facts are boxed, or appear as “notes” hastily attached to the pages, and the book includes intriguing diagrams and lists. It’s good that the design is well-planned, because the actual text contains some difficult vocabulary. Teachers willing to follow where their students lead will find that there are many ways to use the book’s design to support reading and comprehension, especially during the Halloween season.

    Interest in this book is not limited to kids, though. Adults with interest in vampires may also like it, and will note some dry humor that more literal minded kids will miss, as well as an oblique reference to Twilight. A Practical Guide to Vampires is a companion to the Ravenloft universe of Dungeons and Dragons, and there are quirks here and there that reveal it, such as the detailed mapping of a vampire’s residence and the endless listing of magical tools, but most people won’t notice or care. A Practical Guide to Vampires works just fine as a stand alone title, a handsome and compelling addition to the growing collection of handbooks to the supernatural. Highly recommended for elementary and middle school library media centers and general public library collections.

Contains: references to blood-drinking

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski




Monster Moon: Curse at Zala Manor by BBH McChiller

Stargazer Publishing, 2009

ISBN: 9781933277103

Available: New

      In the vein of “The Goonies” and There's a Batwing in My Lunchbox by Ann Hodgeman comes Monster Moon: Curse at Zala Manor, the tale of AJ and Emily, two friends who get caught up in a centuries old pirate curse cast on AJ's family line. This book has it all- secret tunnels and talking animals, mad science and real monsters. This is the perfect Halloween themed book for in class reading in elementary schools and early middle schools. Equal parts scary, mysterious, gross and silly, it's pure fun. It's definitely recommended for all collections aimed at fostering a love of reading.

Review by Michele Lee



Green Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham

Mirrorstone, 2009

ISBN: 9780786951451

Available: New

    Scamp is one of the smaller boys in his town, and has always been picked on by the larger boys.  He has learned to be quick to run and light of foot when the bullies are about.  Then comes the fateful day when Scamp flees from the bullies into the darker parts of the forest, and comes across a chest laying next to the body of a large, dead, green dragon.  What is contained within the chest will take him on an adventure where he will encounter tragedy, magic, dwarves, dragons, daemons and a race more ancient then humankind.  Scamp, his big brother, and his best friend set off with the contents of the chest to appease a dead man's last wish.  They meet with strange and often scary things along the way.  They learn that being family means being there for one another when you really need it, to trust in themselves and that perhaps nothing is "born" evil.  Can they save all of Krynn before the strange black hooded, red-eyed mage gets what he wants?

    This is a YA book, though it is entertaining enough for adults.  Most adults will find the characters rather thin but still amusing.  Green Dragon Codex is good for the 12 and up crew, and a nice introduction to fantasy for the younger generation. 

Contains: some mild violence, evil plots and plans, ADHD behavior saves the day.

Review by KDP



Brass Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham

Mirrorstone, 2009
ISBN: 0786951087

Available: New

    This is a very simple and straightforward tale of friendship, what it takes to be a friend, and how to have friends you have to make sure that first of all YOU are a good friend. Our story starts with a young Brass Dragon discovering that his parents have been done in by an evil Blue dragon. The little dragon is lonely and unhappy now that he is living alone and looks high and low for a friend. Meanwhile a little gnome gets himself kicked out of the city for an invention gone wrong - but he has an even better idea, if only people would listen to him.
    The dragon and gnome cross paths in the desert and learn the truth about friendship while helping each other to reach their goals. It's a really sweet story that many will enjoy. For the adults, there may be a bit lacking in the character department, but I handed this book off to my 11 year old son and it seems to be right up his alley. I would recommend this for the 10 and up crew depending on their reading ability. For those concerned about violence - the Brass Dragon's parents are killed, and there is a bit of violence, though none of it is overly gory. I would not give this to my 7 year old, but the middle school group should be fine.

Review by K.D.P



56 Water Street by Melissa Strangway

iUniverse Star, 2008

ISBN: 9781605280318

Availability: New and Used

    Something strange is going on at 56 Water Street. Derek and Ravine see the lights turning on and off and find out that they are the only ones who can actually see the house: to everyone else it is just an empty lot. When they work up the courage to go into the house, they find out that the ghost of a teenaged girl in the house has made it visible because she wants their attention...and their help to solve the mystery of her sister's fate so that she can finally rest in peace.

    Strangway has created a believable world using simple and accessible language that is also creatively descriptive. Her characters are of the brave, mischievous kind that kids will identify with and love. At times, the writing is repetitious from chapter to chapter, but rather than being a detriment to the story, this makes it ideal as a chapter-a-night ghost story for the 8-12 year old range. Those anxious to find out what happens need not worry, however, as 56 Water Street is a quick read at 145 pages. Recommended for public libraries, particularly those wishing to acquire more titles by Canadian authors.

 Review by Stacey L. Wilson, Master of Library and Information Science candidate at The University of Western Ontario.



The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

HarperCollins, 2008

ISBN: 9780060530921

Availability: New and Used

    Nobody (Bod) Owens is, in most respects, your average kid, except that he lives in a graveyard. After his parents and sister are murdered when he is just a toddler, he is adopted by ghosts in a cemetery near his home and is given a rare gift: the Freedom of the Graveyard, which allows him to do many of the same things as the ghosts, including walking through walls. However, there is one thing that he can't do, which is leave the graveyard. Leaving could put him in danger of being found by Jack...the man who killed Bod's parents and whose mission won't be complete until he kills Bod too.

    As always, Neil Gaiman creates an atmosphere at once terrifying and captivating for all ages. The accompanying black and white illustrations, courtesy of Dave McKean, add to the atmosphere of the story and are placed well throughout the novel. Gaiman's characters display a greatness of depth that is not often seen in literature for this age range. The main characters are also seen at various stages of their youth, making them easy to identify with for children, teens and adults alike. This is a page-turner that no reader will want to put down until every page has been read. Winner of the Newberry Medal, this title is recommended for public libraries and academic libraries with children's literature collections.

Notes: Contains violence, murder and potentially disturbing scenes.

Review by Stacey L. Wilson, Master of Library and Information Science candidate at The University of Western Ontario.


Mouse’s First Halloween by Lauren Thompson, ill by Buket Erdogan.

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2000
ISBN-10: 0689831765

Available: New and Used

    Mouse’s First Halloween won’t inspire fear, but when you read it aloud, it might make your toddler jump. Thompson offers a suspenseful setup, “Deep in the shadows/Mouse saw something flickering”, then breaks the tension with Mouse’s frightened squeak. Turn the page and the author reveals that the mystery is “not so scary after all”. It’s pretty clear from Mouse’s friendly appearance that this isn’t going to be a book to terrify, but Erdogan uses dark colors and outlines effectively to engage the reader’s imagination about what exactly could be rustling around in the night. Turn the page and even things that might be scary to kids (or mice) are portrayed at their most benign (and cutest). The book ends on a positive note, making it a good choice to share with first-time trick or treaters. Recommended.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski



I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll, ill by Howard McWilliam

Flashlight Press, 2009

ISBN: 9780979974625

Available: Pre-order for April 1st

    Ethan has a problem. Gabe, the monster who lives under his bed, has gone on vacation, and it’s not easy to find a substitute monster as scary as Gabe. Herbert’s teeth aren’t sharp enough, Ralph’s claws are too manicured, Cynthia has a very non-scary pink bow on her tail, and Mack’s tongue reduces Ethan to giggles. How will he ever get to sleep without his nightly scare? There is a subversive appeal to I Need My Monster. Ethan manages just fine without his parents’ help, and he isn’t fooled by trickery. Instead, he quickly takes control of the situation. Ethan clearly has a special relationship with Gabe, one that’s outside both adult and monster norms, and the fear factor is an important part of that.  The design of the book is very effective, and the illustrations complement the story’s combination of scares and giggles. While shadowed, they are whimsical and colorful, and scary monster claws and tails turn out to be attached to bright yellow, purple and green creatures more comic than they are frightening. Although I Need My Monster is targeted at 4-8 year olds, kids at the younger end of that spectrum may not have the sophistication to appreciate or understand the humor, and some of the word choices and illustrations could have a powerful impact. Particularly with the preschool crowd, this is a book to share and discuss. I Need My Monster is a great choice for middle and upper elementary kids who have outgrown their fears of the monster under the bed, and now enjoy a delicious scare, especially one leavened with humor. The same kids who loved Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls are sure to appreciate I Need My Monster, too. Highly recommended.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Monsters on Machines by Deb Lund, ill. Robert Neubecker

Harcourt, 2008

ISBN: 9780152053659

Available: New

    Monsters on Machines will be a hit with the preschool and early elementary crowd.  It has plenty of monsters, both silly and scary, with gleeful delight at running construction machinery and pride in building a house. The monsters’ names roll off the tongue- “Vile Melvina” and “Stinky Stubb” - and readers can practically hear the sound of the “mud-mounding” and “nail-pounding”. There’s a lot for parents to like here too. From the very first page the monsters are safety conscious, donning hard hats and earplugs, they enthusiastically eat lunch, using their monster manners, take their naps without a fuss, and clean up their construction mess at the end of the day. Of course, this isn’t the time to spoil things with a teachable moment. Kids will identify with and revel in the kinetic, “monsterous” construction crew in all their grimy glory.  Robert Neubecker skillfully uses vibrant color to bring his ink drawings to life, and his illustrations make it almost possible to imagine that the pictures were drawn and colored by a monster-loving child. Both Lund and Neubecker use every space they can to involve kids in the story, even using the inside covers, which have miniature drawings of construction machines on them, to give parents and children the opportunity to make the book a truly interactive experience by talking about and matching the machines. All in all, Monsters on Machines is a great choice for active, mud-loving, mess-making kids, especially those fascinated by monsters, machines, or construction of any kind.  Highly recommended.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Monster Musical Chairs by Stuart J. Murphy, ill. by Scott Nash

HarperCollins, 2000

ISBN: 9780064467308

Available: New and Used

    There’s nothing scary about Monster Musical Chairs, but it is a blast to read aloud! The plot is pretty simple. Five monsters are playing a crazy game of musical chairs, and when the music stops, one monster is “out.”  Of course, then you take a chair away and the bouncy, repetitive rhymes start up again. By the end of the game(and the book), your child will be saying the words with you! These monsters aren’t sore losers, either- they just pick themselves back up and start another friendly game.

    Monster Musical Chairs is part of the MathStart series, which is intended to get kids to see the fun in math, and the focus of this particular book is subtraction, targeted to ages 3 and older. In the back of the book, there are suggestions for activities and additional books for parents who want to use the book for direct instruction and to extend mathematical exploration. Even if you never look at that back page, though, you and your child can still rock to the imaginary music of five whimsical monsters racing around a bunch of chairs. The pastel-y, cartoony monsters aren’t going to scare anyone, but they are perfect for a fun, simple read-aloud that a parent and young child can share. And who knows, maybe along the way, the kid will learn a little math.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski 



Coraline by Neil Gaiman

HarperFestival; Mti Rep edition, 2008
ISBN: 0061649694  


    When I saw the advertisements for the movie Coraline, I knew that with a 7 year old I would have to watch the film so I quickly grabbed the book off the shelf to make sure I'd read it first.
    How weird it all is... I read it in just about a half an hour or so... and it was creepy.

     Little Coraline is bored.  Both of her parents work at home, but they are always busy with work, and rarely have time to play with her. She wanders about their house (a flat converted from a much larger house) and visits with the neighbors. They don't seem to really notice her, though- everyone talks at Coraline rather than to her. She enjoys exploring and eventually comes across a door in her flat that opens to a brick wall. Her mother explains that it used to be a door that went into the neighboring flat, but now it's bricked up in case they rent it out.
    Suddenly strange things crawl through the night, and the door that once led to a wall of bricks, opens to a long dark hallway, and a world disturbingly similar to the one she just left... only with frightening and sinister undertones. Coraline uses her strength, intelligence, cunning and determination to find her missing parents, and to get back home.
    As an adult I thought to myself - this book will scare the crapola out of little ones! In the back, though, Gaiman states that the book was frightening to adults but an exciting adventure to children. Perplexed, I handed it off to my 7 year old. With a little help, he made his way through it.  Not only did he manage to read it, but there were no nightmares. He was thrilled with it and can't wait for the movie. I'm still perplexed as to how this book brings out such completely different emotions in children and adults. I don't know that the movie will be able to pull it off... I have a hunch that the movie might encourage leaving the light in the hallway on at night.
    If you are an adult, don't let that stop you from reading this wonderful book. Although a door opens into another world, I wouldn’t compare it to Narnia. Think of it more like Alice in Wonderland(and not the Disney version either), or The Wizard of Oz, focused on the scenes with the flying monkeys and the witch.
Highly recommended, excellent novel. Read it to 7 and up, readable by 10 and up.

Review by K D P


The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Gris Grimly

HarperCollins, 2008
ISBN-10: 0060783338


     Neil Gaiman’s picture books shine when they are paired with the art of extraordinary illustrators, and The Dangerous Alphabet succeeds on Gris Grimly’s sinister illustrations. Gaiman provides a witty introduction and thirteen rhyming couplets that provide some original, alliterative, and ominous interpretations of what each letter stands for (M is for Mirrors you’ll stare in forever/N is for Night, and for Nothing and Never). It’s not much to hang a story on, but Grimly fleshes the tale out into a disturbing adventure with a sepia-toned Dickensian setting, of two children and their pet gazelle attempt to survive a treasure hunting trip though an underground river surrounded by monsters and villains.

 Grimly packs a lot into each illustration, too. Careful examination shows that he has managed to incorporate, fairly unobtrusively, items that begin with the same letter that appears on the page (the letter Y includes a yield sign with a yak on it, for instance) Casually flipping through the pages of this book will leave readers unsatisfied, but those willing to take the time to sort through Gaiman’s mixed up alphabet and closely examine Grimly’s detailed (and very creepy) drawings, are in for a gruesome delight. While the age range for this book is 4-8, I suspect that most kids that young won’t “get” the story. Kids who enthusiastically gobbled up Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, though, will probably love it and might even share it with Edward Gorey-loving parents. Recommended as an upper-elementary parent/child read aloud, as a choice for fans of Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly, for public library children’s collections, and for elementary and middle school library media centers.

 Contains: zombies, child kidnapping and imprisonment, implied cannibalism, and a variety of creepy creatures.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski.



A Practical Guide to Faeries by Susan J. Morris

Mirrorstone, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5140-6

Available: New

     A lush, nearly decadent book, A Practical Guide to Faeries is exactly what it advertises, a guide to finding, dealing with and surviving faeries. With beautiful art on every page, along with textured spots and even recipes, it teases every sense, pulling children (and adults) into the world of the Feywild. This book is high fantasy, but doesn't forget the darker side of fae, profiling fae who drink blood and try to drown adventurers and realms where you age a year a day. The fae's trickiness and love of jokes (some of which can be harmful to humans) are also mentioned often, lending a tone of adventure and danger to the fairy tales.

  This book is actually part of a series based on the world and mythos of the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons, giving fans a rules free, child-friendly way to share their fun with their kids, but readers don’t have to be familiar with Dungeons & Dragons to enjoy this book. With its vivid art and fun "guided" style it's a great addition to fantasy collections whether library or public. Recommended.

Reviewed by Michele Lee.



Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot

Roaring Brook Press, June 2008

ISBN-13: 9780753462096

Available: New and Used

    Darkness comes into Daisy’s pink and white bedroom while she is playing happily, and begins to fill the pages, reaching out to cover her, but Daisy’s got his number. As soon as he’s close enough, she grabs him by the wrist, and suddenly they’re partners in a jazzy dance! The simple rhyming text comes to life with Ella Burfoot’s illustrations. Burfoot outlines Daisy’s pink and white spaces and determined, excited face with solid lines, in marked contrast to the abstract figure of Darkness. Although one might expect the illustrations to look flat on the page, Burfoot has managed to provide some three-dimensionality by giving shadows to Daisy and the objects in her light-filled room, and by defining the figure of Darkness from a matte black with a shiny material that reflects light. The shiny material that Burfoot uses to express the image of Darkness invites children to touch, just as Daisy does, giving them some control and even a way to experience wonder in what can be a very friendly, rather than ominous, experience after Mom and Dad turn out the light. Even very little ones will enjoy this book. Note for librarians: expect to see a lot of fingerprints on the shiny pages! Highly recommended for children's collections in public and elementary school libraries, and as a parent-child read-aloud.
The Librarian from the Black Lagoon
by Mike Thaler, illustrated by Jared Lee

Scholastic, reissued in August 2008

ISBN-13: 9780545065238

Available: New and Used

    Hubie’s class is getting ready to visit the school library for the first time, but rumor has it that the library is a scary place, and that the librarian, Mrs. Beamster is terrifying. Just to get inside, you have to be decontaminated! The books are bolted to the shelves, the kids are literally glued to their chairs, and the computer uses a real mouse! In appearance, the scary Mrs. Beamster has a lot in common with Viola Swamp (from Miss Nelson is Missing) and she revels in making library time miserable, reading catalog cards aloud at story time and gleefully stamping “OVERDUE” with every step she takes. Mike Thaler’s story uses humor to bring the fears of a first time student to the forefront, and librarians will smile at seeing the typical library stereotypes overblown and, eventually, punctured. Jared Lee’s quirky drawings and comic book style are engaging. The word balloons with “Gads!” and “Wow!” and “Radical!” grab kids’ attention and work as hooks that will allow struggling readers to retell the story, complete with dramatic exclamations. Although there actually isn’t a lot of action in the story, Thaler’s words and Lee’s illustrations work together to create a funny, incident filled book that will give the target audience a fresh look to a familiar (or soon to be familiar) place.  Note: this book is part of the Black Lagoon series. Highly recommended, especially for elementary school library media centers.

Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by James and Deborah Howe

Aladdin, 2006

ISBN: 978-1416928171

Available: New

    Bunnicula is a classic scary story for kids. When the Monroe family finds a strange bunny in a theater showing Dracula, their cat, Chester, and dog, Harold, decide to investigate the aptly named Bunnicula. As if the bunny's strange markings and creepy red eyes weren't

enough, weird things start happening around him, like vegetables appearing completely drained of their juice. The lovably dim Harold and

too-smart-for-his-own-good Chester must figure out if Bunnicula really is a bunny-creature of the night.  This is a fantastic choice for introducing children to scary stories.  There's real drama and tension, with enough silliness to keep the scary parts feeling safe. The characters, even Bunnicula, are distinct and lovable. Bunnicula stands up to the tests of time, memory and rereading. This book is a boon to any scary stories or kids' fiction collection. Highly recommended.


Note: Bunnicula is the first in a series. Additional titles include:


Howliday Inn

The Celery Stalks at Midnight


Return to Howliday Inn

Bunnicula Strikes Again!

Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow


There is also a related series, Tales from the House of Bunnicula, and there are other individual related titles and easy readers.



Review by Michele Lee



Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler, ill. by S.D. Schindler

Aladdin, 2005
ISBN: 1416902767

Available: New

    Chaos ensues when Skeleton wakes up with the hiccups. He tries to go about his everyday activities but with the hiccups rattling his bones, it’s hard to get things done right. Margery Cuyler’s text is very basic, but it is brought to life through witty illustrations and page design. Uncluttered pages with vivid colors pop Skeleton out from the page. Cuyler tells us that Skeleton “brushed his teeth”, but Schindler feeds us the visual punchline, which is that Skeleton’s entire jaw flies off when he hiccups. Of course, none of the traditional methods for getting rid of the hiccups work with a skeleton- the illustrations of Skeleton trying to drink water upside down, eat sugar, and hold his breath are worth a thousand words. There are plenty of “in-jokes” for the observant- Skeleton sleeps in a bed with a headstone for a headboard, wears furry bat slippers, and uses “Ghost White Bone Polish”. The text’s repeated words “hic, hic, hic” jump across the pages unsteadily, complementing the illustrations with strategic placement. Skeleton Hiccups is a true picture book. On its own, adults might find writing falls flat, but the illustrations and design complement Cuyler’s story beautifully, and beginning readers will appreciate her pared down language and repetitive patterns.  The quality of the finished product will engage the youngest readers, and can be enjoyed by their grown-ups, too. Recommended for public library children’s collections and elementary school library media centers.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Nightmare Academy: Monster Madness by Dean Lorey

HarperCollins, 2008

ISBN: 9780061693717

Available: New


     A new evil is threatening to escape from the Nether and all that stands in its way is  The Guardian, a small child-like creature who is anathema to the monsters of the nether. The Guardian lives under a portal to our world, and his ability to weaken nether creatures is the only thing keeping The Named from entering our world. The Guardian has one weakness- the touch of a human can kill it. Still, it desperately wishes for that human contact. The Named know this and are capturing children to bring back to the Guardian in the hopes that one will touch the frail creature and remove his protection from the portal. They quickly succeed in weakening The Guardian to the point of death. Charlie and his friends must go on a mad quest to find the only medicine that will heal the sad creature - hydra milk. The task seems daunting, since no one has ever seen a female hydra, and The Named are clever and treacherous, and are slowly forming a web that humanity may not be able to escape.


Once again, Dean Lorey writes a story full of strong and entertaining characters. Even the villains are brought to life with personalities of their own, breaking them out of  the standard villain mold. Nightmare Academy: Monster Madness is full of adventure from the first page to the last, with plot twists and surprises that will catch almost any reader off guard. Many monsters that the reader is familiar with from the first book will be quickly recognized, along with a wide variety of new ones that bring even more life to the Nether. Nightmare Academy: Monster Madness would make a fine addition to a children’s library collection.


Contains: Mild violence and gore

Review by Bret  Jordan


Encycopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee

Scholastic, 2007


Available: New

     Encyclopedia Horrifica is a collection of articles on all things paranormal, from aliens to vampires to psychic powers. The end result is an unusual reference book, complete with index and selected bibliography that kids will dig into and enjoy reading.  Encyclopedia Horrifica also has some educational components. For instance, it compares vampires and werewolves in the movies to their closest real world counterparts.  There is an interview with a psychic spy, an excerpt from the journal of paranormal investigators staying overnight in a haunted house, and a discussion of real life zombies. The book is also interactive, with a chatty narrator and several quizzes and activities.  The book’s design and visual appeal create a nice fusion of text with photographs, drawings, and a variety of other images,  that will engage the reader’s imagination, making this a great way to reach reluctant readers. Parents and librarians may want to keep in mind that a book like Encyclopedia Horrifica can be a “jumping off” point for interested and engaged readers, which could lead to further exploration of some surprising and possibly disturbing topics. Highly recommended for school media centers and public libraries.



They’re Coming For You: Scary Stories that Scream to be Read by O. Penn-Coughin

You Come Too Publishing. 2008

ISBN: 9780981683607

Available: New

    O. Penn-Coughin shares a variety of stories intended to chill the bones of the audience for Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories books. However, while Schwartz collected his stories from folklore and legend, Penn-Coughin has written these himself. In his introduction, Penn-Coughin makes suggestions aimed specifically at young readers on how to tell the stories orally. However, the definitions the author provides in the book’s margins suggest that he expects the reader to refer to them in a silent reading. The inclusion of instructions to would-be oral storytellers throughout affects the structure, effectiveness, and flow of the stories for silent readers, however. Some stories have also been written in dialect, which is distracting and will be frustrating to struggling readers. According to the author, the stories in dialect were intended to be told orally, to make them more engaging for a live audience, but I found that they subtracted from the stories’ effectiveness.

    The stories are of varying quality. Some are genuinely horrifying, like “Into the Woods” and “Checked Out”. A few, such as “Man in the Box” and “Real Bad Burrito” are witty.  “Shot at the Gas Station” and a few others could be used to bolster interest in social studies in Oregon, the author’s home state. And some of them, like “The Delicious Death of Jay Whitebread” are just annoying. Penn-Coughin also illustrated the collection, and his illustrations are a real strength of the book. His bizarre, indistinct black and white images provide plenty of opportunity for the imagination to run wild and are a perfect complement to a collection of scary stories.

    They’re Coming For You: Scary Stories that Scream to be Read won’t replace Alvin Schwartz’s collections, but it is a reasonable supplement. Though flawed, the collection will win over its intended audience, and if scary stories are in high demand in your library, it’s a worthwhile purchase.     

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski




All the Lovely Bad Ones: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008
ISBN: 9780618854677

Available: New

    The title of this book comes from the dedication to James Whitcomb Riley’s poem “Little Orphant Annie”, a cautionary rhyme for troublesome children, and this book is full of troublesome children. Travis and his sister Corey played so many pranks at summer camp that they weren’t allowed back, so they are spending the summer at their grandmother’s supposedly “haunted” inn. They decide to stage some ghost sightings, and soon have tourists flocking to the quiet inn. Hahn’s ghost seekers are a colorful group, giddy at first, but they sober up and flee the scene once they face a real, and very scary, spirit. The inn, once a poor farm, is haunted by the ghosts of mischievous boys, “the lovely bad ones”, who were tormented by the sadistic Miss Ada, and Travis and Corey must solve the puzzle of how to lay the spirits to rest. The backstory is provided in an awkward way, from a short local history(which erroneously credits “Little Orphant Annie” to John Greenleaf Whittier) and through the television, but somehow Hahn manages to keep the reader gripped by the story. Travis and Corey are likeable kids, and the ghost boys are an engaging group of poltergeists who add energy, chaos, and some levity to the plot. Miss Ada’s hypnotic evil is truly chilling, and her end is not pretty. This is a true ghost story and has some frightening, violent moments, but thanks to Corey and Travis, “the lovely bad ones” do find their way home at last. Recommended for upper elementary and middle school students. Contains: Child abuse, mention of suicide

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Pumpkin Day, Pumpkin Night by Anne Rockwell, ill. by Megan Halsey

Walker & Company, 2001
ISBN: 9780802776143

Available: New

    I admit there is nothing scary about Pumpkin Day, Pumpkin Night. Still, it’s a great book for the Halloween season. With simple words and spare text, and lots of repetition, Anne Rockwell describes the experience of a child exploring a pumpkin patch, choosing a pumpkin, scooping out the insides, and carving a jack-o-lantern with his mother. Older readers may smile, looking back on the days when they roasted and salted pumpkin seeds in the oven (mine were always a little burned). Halsey’s illustrations fit the text well- uncluttered paper sculptures give the pages a three dimensional appearance, so pumpkins really look like they’re piled up, and even cast shadows in places. Clean lines and bright colors make this a perfect choice for sharing this Halloween tradition with a preschooler before venturing out to the pumpkin patch together.    

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin by Mary Sarfozo, ill. by Valeria Petrone

Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 2004
ISBN-13: 9780689871351

Available: New 

    Lumpy, bumpy, showy, glowy, sunny, sumptuous… Mary Sarfozo obviously had fun playing with words when she wrote Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin. The story describes Peter, a joyful tiger, and his search for the perfect pumpkin to carve with his dad and enter into the jack-o-lantern contest. The rhyming is irregular, but instead of disrupting things, it simply keeps the story skipping along. Colorful, well-defined illustrations glow on the pages.   You can’t read Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin without smiling, and preschoolers and early elementary students will love looking at the pictures and hearing this read out loud. Highly recommended.

 Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


The Viper by Lisa Thiesing

Penguin Young Readers Group
ISBN-13: 9780525468929

Available: New

    Lisa Thiesing presents early readers with a not-so-scary version of the campfire “jump” story called The Viper. With friendly cartoonish illustrations and foolish, likable Peggy the Pig as a main character, the story is more silly than suspenseful. Thiesing also uses the story to introduce concepts of time, including years, seasons, months, days of the week, minutes, and seconds, but her handling of this seems confusing and inconsistent. As the arrival of the Viper gets to its final countdown, the story picks up, with its funniest and most suspenseful moments right at the very end. The last moments of the story make this a great read-aloud. The “bong bong bong” of the clock just as the Viper raps on the door will make kids jump, and the punchline to the story, when read out loud, will make them giggle. Beginning readers who find the traditional easy readers bland will find a lot to appreciate in Thiesing’s work, and librarians will find this book a refreshing addition to their collection. Recommended.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski



I Was a Second Grade Werewolf by Daniel Pinkwater

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 1995
ISBN: 9780140557183

Available: Used

    When Lawrence wakes up in the morning he’s happily excited to discover that he’s no longer a boy- he’s a werewolf! Unfortunately, in spite of snarling, running to school on all fours, and biting the girl who sits in front of him in class, nobody seems to notice. Even his best friend doesn’t take him seriously. Illustrated with large, colorful, happy drawings that look as if they might have been done by a second grader, it’s clear that there’s nothing to fear in this gently funny little book. Early elementary readers will get a kick out of  Lawrence’s imagination and enthusiasm, and adults will be relieved to find a engaging beginners’ book. Recommended.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski




Wolves by Emily Gravett

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2006
ISBN-13: 9781416914914

Available: New and Used

    Most people don’t think of the library as a dangerous place, but in Wolves, Emily Gravett shows that you can never tell what lurks within the pages of a book. Uncluttered pages illustrate an unwary rabbit who is so absorbed in his new library book, a nonfiction book about wolves, he absentmindedly walks into some real trouble. Those readers needing reassurance can take comfort in the author’s promise that “no rabbits were eaten in the making of this book”.

     Wolves is really a “sophisticated” picture book. In spite of its appearance, it is not really aimed at the preschool crowd. Although the stated age range for the book is ages 4-8, the book really requires a good understanding of narrative(there are two endings) and the ability to “read between the lines” using clues from the pictures. Wolves also communicates a much different message than most children’s books, even disturbing and subversive titles.  Subversive children’s books generally provide child readers with a sense of control and power in a world where their actions are determined by outside authorities. Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is an excellent example of this.  Unlike Sendak’s book, though, Gravett’s work does not allow a child to take control. It actually creates a situation where the main character’s, and the child reader’s sense of security and power, is violated. 

     Wolves is more a work of ironic metafiction than a children’s book, and as such is more likely to be appreciated by older children and adults. And while children have their dark side, the grim humor doesn’t seem particularly age-appropriate for kids just getting the hang of “What’s green and sings”?   Younger children may enjoy the illustrations (my son LOVED them) but most will miss out on the irony. However, older children, teens and adults who enjoyed the dark humor and postmodern illustrations in Gaiman and McKean’s Wolves in the Walls will probably get more out of Gravett’s contribution to the growing area of sophisticated picture books.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski

A Child’s Guide to Household Monsters by James Otis Thach, ill. by David Udovic  

Front Street, 2007

ISBN: 978-1932425581

Available: New and Used

    A Child’s Guide to Household Monsters is a cumulative tale about a little girl discovering that traditional household monsters she has been afraid of are not as scary as they seem. The monster under the bed, the monster in the closet, the monster in the attic, and the monster in the basement, are scared of one another, and she ends up befriending them all. Thach’s witty, rhyming couplets give Udovic plenty of opportunity to shape the tone of the book, resulting in an interesting juxtaposition. The artist uses bright, almost neon colors in places, that literally glow in the shadowy darkness of the pastel illustrations. The goofy looking monsters are endearing rather than frightening, making this a good book for children who appreciate shivery fun paired with a little gentle humor. Recommended. .

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Wanda’s Monster by Eileen Spinelli, ill. by Nancy Hayashi

Whitman, 2005

ISBN-13: 9780807586570

Available: New and Used

    Wanda is certain she has a monster in her closet. Her parents are certain she doesn’t. Granny, however, listens at the closet door and confirms it. Just as Wanda runs to hide, Granny points out that closet monsters have a bad reputation for a reason, “How would you like to live in a cold, dark closet?” What happens next is a surprise for both Wanda and her monster. Spinelli treats Granny, Wanda, and her monster with respect and humor, and Nancy  Hayashi’s colorful, almost cartoony illustrations, will reassure children that they have nothing to fear, and quite a bit to enjoy, with Wanda ‘s Monster.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


What Will You Be For Halloween? by Mark Todd

Houghton Mifflin Company,2001

ISBN-13: 9780618088034

Available: New and Used

    What Will You Be For Halloween? uses short verses accompanied by illustrations to describe a number of traditional Halloween costumes. The book’s strength is the artwork. The bright colors and dark lines do a nice job of making the illustrations pop out from the page. The irregular outlines suggest children at work, carefully drawing their intended costumes. Luckily, the pictures do their work without needing explanation, since the rhythm is uneven and the lines do not fall in a predictable pattern. These flaws make it difficult to read the story aloud, although the illustrations scream out for exactly that. The lack of background information in a book clearly intended for young children is frustrating, as well. How many kindergarteners know what binary code is?  Young children will like the illustrations, but the unpredictable text will throw new readers for a loop. 

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Grandmas Trick-or-Treat(I Can Read Level 2) by Emily Arnold McCully

HarperCollins Publishers, 2002
ISBN-13: 9780064442770

Available: Used

    Pip’s Grandma Nan takes manners seriously and refuses to dress up for Halloween. Her Grandma Sal thinks playing tricks and scaring people is the best part of the holiday. The problem is that while they argue, they are taking all the fun out of Halloween for Pip and her friends. The trick-or-treaters make a run for it, get lost, and are menaced by bullies dressed as pirates. Can Grandma Sal and Grandma Nan team up to save the day? Pip’s grandmas are unintentionally funny, and make a good “odd couple.” Kids will particularly enjoy the Halloween theme of this book, the second book Emily Arnold McCully has written about Pip and her grandmas. There are a limited number of easy readers when it comes to scary stories and Halloween, and this is a nice addition to that list.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski


Bunnicula and Friends: The Vampire Bunny (Ready to Read Level 3) by James Howe, ill. by Jeff Mack

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2004
ISBN-13: 9780689857249

Available: New and Used

    Bunnicula and Friends: The Vampire Bunny is a nice transitional read for the child moving from easy readers to longer chapter books. The book is a shortened, simplified version of Howe’s popular chapter book Bunnicula. As with most easy readers, the focus is on the action, so readers won’t get the detail, background, and character development present in the original book, but Howe is a fine writer and does a good job of capturing the flavor of the story.  The pacing is good, and the book will catch and keep the reader’s interest. Bunnicula and Friends: The Vampire Bunny  would be a great choice for older reluctant readers as well. At 42 pages, with fairly advanced vocabulary and sentence structure for an easy reader, this book has the potential to attract the interest of struggling readers and build students’ comfort level with longer titles. Highly recommended.

Review by Kirsten Kowalewski    




Monsterology: The Complete Book of Monstrous Beasts ed. by Dugald A Steer

Candlewick Press, 2008

ISBN: 9780763639402

Available: New

            Monsterology contains a guide to mythological monstrous beasts, written by the fictional Dr. Ernest Drake.  The book is oversized, with an attractive cover, and the contents are presented in an almost “scrapbook” format. Drake divides his text into chapters, and in each chapter writes about his journeys to distant lands and the creatures he finds on his travels. There are a variety of photographs, illustrations, and maps, and each creature is pictured next to Drake’s description, which includes information about their geographic location, lair/nest, size, forms of attack, and food.  

Monsterology is visually impressive and gorgeously illustrated. It begs to be touched, with foldouts and tactile sections where readers can touch a unicorn’s hair, a salamander’s skin, and the scales of a sea serpent.  The visual nature of the book and its interactive features guarantee that monster-loving children at all reading levels will enjoy Monsterology, but younger children interested in the detailed text will need an adult’s help to read and understand it.  While the interactivity of the book helps immerse the reader in Dr. Drake’s world, it will present a challenge for librarians as these types of items are easily torn or damaged from frequent use (or even use by a single overly rambunctious child).  The book is designed for ages 6+ and as long as librarians and parents keep this in mind before giving it to a child, the book should survive the experience. Monsterology is a volume in the Ologies series and a companion book to Dragonology.  It is an excellent addition to the growing field of monster guides and encyclopedias, and would fit nicely beside a Practical Guide to Monsters.

Contains: n/a


Nightmare Academy: Monster Hunters by Dean Lorey

HarperCollins, 2007

ISBN: 9780061340420

Available: New

    Charlie Benjamin’s mother and father keep him in a protective bubble. They are afraid that the other children will harass him, make fun of him, and hurt him. They fear for good reason because whenever Charlie falls asleep, he opens doorways to another dimension, a dimension full of hungry spiders, memory stealing hags, and electricity eating gremlins. Luckily, there is an organization for boys just like Charlie. The Nightmare Academy is a fantastic place where children learn to harness their nightmares and use them to fight against the creatures of the Nether, the plane of existence where the nightmare creatures live. The only problem is that Charlie is an anomaly even in this strange group. His powers far outclass those around him and he soon becomes a danger, not only to himself and his family, but a possible threat to the entire world.

     Dean Lorey has created a marvelous alternate reality where nightmares become catalysts for summoning real and deadly creatures. The story draws the reader in with lively characters and threatening villains, wondrous creatures and hideous monsters. Charlie and his newfound friends are sympathetic, accessible characters with incidents of humor and moments where they expose their true fears. I read this story to my nine-year-old daughter and she wouldn’t let me stop at just one chapter a night. I always had to read at least two chapters at a time and through the weekend four chapters in two different readings. She absolutely loved this book. I would recommend this story for any children’s library.

 Contains: Mild violence and gore

Review by Bret Jordan






The Lima Bean Monster by Dan Yaccarino

Walker and Company, 2001

ISBN: 0802787762

Available: New

    Sammy hates lima beans. Meal after meal, his mother puts them on his plate, until he is forced to take extreme measures. He smuggles the lima beans out in his sock and dumps them in an abandoned lot. Other children in the neighborhood soon adopt his scheme and the pile of hated vegetables grows and grows. When the whole mess is hit by lightning, it comes to life as the Lima Bean Monster, looking to munch on some “human beans.” It looks like the only way for the kids to save the day is to eat their vegetables!

    The Lima Bean Monster has potential, but somehow falls flat. The cartoony illustrations  are fun and the colors will take readers back to cheesy 1970’s creature features. Unfortunately, Sammy is a bratty little kid, so it’s hard to sympathize with him, and it’s even more difficult to buy that a huge and hungry monster would stand still and let a bunch of kids nibble on him. A much better version of the “eat your vegetables” monster story is the witty The Monster Who Ate My Peas by Danny Schnitzlein.

Review by Francesca the Librarian


My Sister the Vampire series by Sienna Mercer



#1 Switched (2007) ISBN: 006087113X

#2 Fangtastic (2007) ISBN: 0060871156

#3 Re-Vamped (2007) ISBN: 0060871180

#4 Vampalicious (2008) ISBN: 0060871210


    The My Sister The Vampire series by Sienna Mercer revolves around the story of a normal, pleasant, friendly middle school girl named Olivia Abbott who likes cheerleading and the color pink. When Olivia moves to a new school, she meets Ivy Vega, a goth girl who looks just like her.  Olivia finds out that Ivy doesn’t just look like her but is her identical twin sister with one major exception…she is a vampire.  The series revolves around the twins’ search for their birth parents, complicated by the girls’ attempts to stay together without upsetting either the vampire or human communities.  In this series the vampires aren’t the traditional bloodsucking monsters but actually have a set of very strict rules about letting humanity know about them and absolutely no biting!  The series definitely falls into the subgenre of “Chick Lit with Fangs” and is filled with humor and heartwarming moments, with not a real scare in the lot.   Mercer’s books are filled with vampire puns and giggles and the series doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Readers looking for brooding, bloodsucking fiends will be disappointed, but if you are looking for a light-hearted series with humor and a little vampy fun, then the My Sister the Vampire series will be right up your alley.. 




Jabberwocky: The Classic Poem from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There’ by Lewis Carroll, ill. Christopher Myers

Jump At The Sun, 2007

ISBN: 1423103726

Available: New

    Jabberwocky is an extraordinary sophisticated picture book with a powerful visual impact. Award-winning illustrator Christopher Myers takes a radical and imaginative approach to Lewis Carroll’s famous nonsense poem, reimagining it as a city basketball contest between our hero and his monstrous foe, the dread Jabberwocky, a giant basketball player with a few too many fingers, pointed teeth and blazing eyes. The colors are bold and the images effectively tell the tale.  The contemporary context Myers creates gives Carroll’s poem fresh life and will captivate an audience that might never otherwise encounter the work of Lewis Carroll.  Highly recommended to school and public libraries.



The Midnight Library: The Cat Lady by Damien Graves

Scholastic, 2006

ISBN: 0439893917

Available: New

            The Cat Lady includes three stories. In the titular story, “Cat Lady,” Chloe takes a dare to throw a stone at the window of the local creepy old woman whose house is filled with cats. In the next story, “Who Dares Wins,” Mark and Calvin, friends who are naturally competitive, vie for the attention of the mysterious Chrissie. The last story, “Don’t Wake The Baby,” is about a babysitting job gone awry.  The quality of the stories is uneven. The titular story is the strongest, with the most ouch appeal.  The last story has a definite creep factor, but unfortunately, the storytelling is weak. The Midnight Library series is targeted to ages 9+, and is hosted by author Damien Graves; each title contains three tales of horror.   If there is currently a successor to the Goosebumps series it appears to be The Midnight Library.   The stories range in length and fear factor, but are engaging enough that kids will want to read the next one.  


Titles in the series include:

The Cat Lady



Blood and Sand

End Game

Deadly Catch

I Can See You

Shut Your Mouth




Everything I Know about Monsters by Tom Lichtenheld

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2002

ISBN: 068984381x

Available: New

            On the first page of Everything I Know about Monsters, author Lichtenheld admits that there are no such things as monsters outside of the ones created by our imagination. He then proceeds to give us a tour of the various monsters from his imagination. Lichtenheld’s creatures are commonplace monsters- the monster under the bed, the monster in the closet, and the various monsters in the basement. Lichtenheld’s guide makes them relatively harmless and easy to get rid of.   The illustrations are light, humorous, and complementary to the text.  Everything I Know about Monsters will be a favorite of small children for its illustrations, and the humorous text (and gross-out factor) will also appeal to older elementary students, especially boys, looking a fun monster book.

Contains: n/a




Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival by Icats Nitram illustrated by Pamela McCarville

All Us All The Time Publishing, 2008


Available: New

    To get to Grimsby’s Show (come only if you dare) Willow May must enter the Midnight Carnival.  On her way she encounters gargoyles, dragons, cyclopean clowns, and other mythical monsters (not to mention a vicious armadillo). Once inside, a series of creatures normally considered frightening perform not-so-scary tricks. A vampire walks the tightrope, zombies perform acrobatics, and rock-and-roll werewolves strut across the stage. Children will enjoy Pamela McCarville’s bright and witty mixed media illustrations of the wide variety of monsters and legendary creatures, but the text does not provide necessary context for its intended audience. Most four year olds, for instance, aren’t going to have the knowledge to understand why a phoenix would accidentally burn the audience. Also, while it seems like the story is building toward some ominous event at the carnival, it’s really more a parade. Willow May’s motivations in the story seem unclear, and her actions, instead of furthering the plot, seem to trail off. Still, most kids will enjoy the book, and this is a nice jumping off point for parents to share the background stories of the carnival’s many creatures with their children. Readers advisory note: readers who enjoy this book may also enjoy Marilyn Singer’s Monster Museum.  


Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey

Harcourt Children's Books, 2003
ISBN: 9780152049492 

Available: New

    Dav Pilkey's unusual style of illustration- photographic collage retouched with acrylic paint- gives his book a surreal look even before the story has started. Although his rating of EG warns that some material make be too goofy for grown-ups, the book is like a giant inside joke for the parents. Kids will slide right inside the story of Dogzilla, a giant dog who emerges from a volcano at the smell of barbecue in the city of Mousopolis (populated, you guessed it, by mice), eating barbecue and accidentally destroying Mousopolis in her wake. The leader of the desperate mice, the Big Cheese, hits on a plan to chase Dogzilla away- by threatening her with a bath! She finally retreats into the volcano. Problem solved, right? Well... there's always next year. Pilkey's combined narrative and illustration make Dogzilla an absurd delight your kids will love to share, and Pilkey's over-the-top sense of humor will make it a book adults will enjoy sharing with them as well. There's a companion book, Kat Kong, that lovers of Dogzilla will want to check out as well. Highly recommended. Contains: extremely bad jokes.



Supernatural Rubber Chicken by D.L. Garfinkle

Mirrorstone, 2008

ISBN: 9780786950119

Available: Preorder (June, 2008)

          Nate and Lisa, a bickering brother and sister, are given a talking supernatural rubber chicken that can bestow super abilities on someone other than the owner.  When the siblings try to use the rubber chicken to help their friends, the school bully is accidentally imbued with super charm and the fun ensues. Supernatural Rubber Chicken is a fun little story with a supernatural aspect.  However, while Garfinkle is generally funny, it should be noted that there is a running gag about the siblings’ mother who writes children’s stories involving dead dogs in the attempt to win the Newbery Award. While adults (particularly children’s librarians) may appreciate the humor, kids probably won’t.  Although the book is aimed at ages 6-10, parts of it will fly over the heads of early elementary students, but the humor, design, and language used make it a good choice for reluctant readers ages 9 to 12.



Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham

Mirrorstone Books, 2008


Available: Pre-Order, January 2008

    When a Red Dragon attacks Mudd’s village and kidnaps the village seer, Mudd goes on a quest to find a pendant that will summon a Silver Dragon to aid in a rescue mission. Mudd is joined by his sister Hiera, a dwarf named Drakecutter,  Iroden, and the warrior Kirak. Red Dragon Codex is more a fun fantasy adventure than a scary story, but with plenty of mystery, battles, and monsters, it is an entertaining read.  Red Dragon Codex is the first book in the companion series to A Practical Guide to Dragons. Note for teachers and school library media specialists: Red Dragon Codex contains a number of “teachable moments,” making it a candidate for use in character education. A discussion guide may be available upon publication, at  Red Dragon Codex engaging fantasy story makes it a good book to reach reluctant readers.  Recommended for school and public libraries.  For ages 8-12

Contains:  fantasy violence




A Practical Guide to Monsters by Nina Hess

Mirrorstone Books, 2007

ISBN: 0786948094

Available: New

    Kids love monsters, and A Practical Guide to Monsters has new and interesting monsters of all kinds. The book introduces us to Zendric, a high wizard and master of magic, who has written this guide to the monsters of the realm for his apprentices’ study.  Zendric describes each monster, providing information on its height, weight, habitat, society, language, and attack mode, and also the best defense against it, accompanied by eye-catching illustrations. The monsters include traditional creatures like zombies and vampires, as well as monsters unknown to most children, such as the Behir and Chuul.  Some of the creatures have detailed images of their lairs that are beautifully done.  The book also contains pages on arms, armor, and equipment that “adventurers” need to fend off the described creatures.  Readers advisory note: This book should be appreciated both by kids who enjoy fantasy books and kids who like monsters. Those who enjoyed Judy Sierra’s Gruesome Guide to World Monsters should definitely take a look at this one. Although the book can stand on its own, much of the material in this book is derived from the Monster Manual, a resource from the roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. With these roots and its visual appeal it may also appeal to older teens and adults. Appropriate for ages 9+, A Practical Guide to Monsters is recommended for public libraries and elementary and middle school library media centers.  Contains: man-eating monsters



Who’s Afraid of Godzilla? by Di Kaiju, illustrated by Bob Eggleton

Random House, 1998

ISBN: 0679891242

Availability: New and used

    Godzilla is the biggest, strongest, toughest monster on Monster Island.  All the other monsters are afraid of Godzilla and always run away when he comes to play.  Godzilla goes away to find someone who will play with him, and  while he is gone, Gigan and Megalon  begin bullying all the other monsters on the island. It is up to Godzilla to save the day.  The other monsters realize that Godzilla isn’t so bad and decide to play with him.  Who’s Afraid of Godzilla? is a gorgeously illustrated paperback picture book for children that effectively shows that first impressions can be mistaken in an entertaining fashion.  It is a fun and easy read for kids who like their monsters supersized! Appropriate for:  Ages 4+  Contains: bullying.



Godzilla on Monster Island by Jacqueline Dwyer illustrated by Tom Morgan and Paul Mounts  

Random House, 1996

ISBN: 0679880801

Available:New and Used

    Godzilla on Monster Island is another fun Godzilla book for kids, starring Godzilla, King of the Monsters, who lives on Monster Island. When a mysterious white round object appears on the shore, it is up to Godzilla and his friends to keep the object safe until they can figure out what it is. In order to do so, they must battle other monsters, including a giant robot.  Godzilla doesn’t show as much personality as he does in Who’s Afraid of Godzilla?  but Godzilla on Monster Island will still entertain monster-loving kids. Appropriate for: Ages 4+ Contains: monster violence.



I See a Monster: A Touch And Feel Book by Laurie Young, illustrated by Daniel Mahoney
Piggy Toes Press, 2006
ISBN: 1581174837
Available: New
    This incredibly cute lift-the-flap touch book follows a young boy in a monster costume as he goes through out his house seeking out friendly looking monsters. The monsters are hiding behind various objects and the readers have to unfold the page to see the whole monster. The monsters all have a patch of a unique fabric that young readers can touch and explore. The surprise of the last layout is a mirror that makes the child a part of the story! The book is a fun one to share with the toddler in your life, with its variety of fabrics, interactive fold-out pages, and peekaboo mirror, as well as gentle, funny illustrations by Daniel Mahoney. The monsters are friendly and silly, an entertaining and engaging way to introduce the wonderful world of monsters to your little one. Libraries considering this book will want to be aware that the fabrics are not well attached to the pages, so the book might easily be damaged after a few uses. Parents, however, will definitely want to share this book with their own little monsters.



Favorite Scary Stories of American Children by Richard and Judy Dockrey Young

August House, 1999

ISBN: 0874835631

Availability: New and Used

    Favorite Scary Stories of American Children is a collection of 23 short and scary stories told in the oral tradition  ranging from the truly creepy and frightening  to pun filled groaners.  the authors, who are professional storytellers,  chose the stories based on the enthusiastic demands of their young audiences. The age appropriateness of each story is indicated using a code of pictorial symbols (for ages 5-6, 7-8, and 9-10), with the key to the code on the page opposite the title page.  All the stories are intended to be readable by nine and ten year olds, but the authors note that stories aimed at younger children may not hold the interest of independent readers. Because of its attempt to cover a wide range of ages, cultures, and interest levels, the book is a mixed bag, including versions of classic scary stories like "The Red Velvet Ribbon" and  folktales like "The Bloodsucker", as well as some that feel like story flotsam, such as "Stop the Coffin."  This book would be a great resource for storytimes or for teaching storytelling to children, and has a variety of possible interdisciplinary connections for elementary classrooms. An afterword for parents, librarians, and teachers addresses the value of scary stories for children as well as some of the concerns and issues that may come up in the telling and reading of scary stories. Origins of the stories and a pronunciation guide for regional terms are also included in the back of the book.  Favorite Scary Stories of American Children will appeal to children who have worn out Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories books, as well as to parents, teachers, and librarians looking for a way to give their kids the shivers. Recommended for elementary school libraries, public libraries, and families.  Contains: violence





There Are Monsters Everywhere by Mercer Mayer

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2005

ISBN: 0803706219

Available: New and Used

    A young boy feels menaced by monsters that seem to be everywhere, in his room, by the garbage, and hiding in the bathroom.  Our unnamed hero decides he can't take it anymore and gets his parents to take him to karate class, where  he develops self confidence. When he returns home, he scares the monsters away with some well placed karate moves to garbage cans and shower curtains.  While some could interpret the story as suggesting that violence is an appropriate way to deal with fear, Mayer provides a good and positive message about facing one's fears and being self sufficient.   The illustrations complement the story well.  


Midnight in the Cemetery: A Spooky Search-and-Find Alphabet  by Cheryl Harness, illustrated by  Robin Brickman

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 1999

ISBN: 0689808739

Available: New and Used

    Midnight at the Cemetery tells the tale of two children who go to a cemetery in search of buried treasure.  The treasure is guarded by Dead Ed who summons the spirits of the graveyard to scare the kids away.  The rhyming text is alliterative, with each verse focusing on a specific letter. Each two page spread is dedicated to one or more letters, and readers paying attention will notice many things on the pages associated with the letter that appears in the rhyming verse. For example,  the initial pages, devoted to the letters A and B, reveal angels, ants, bats, and bugs. The illustrations are creepy, unique and fantastic, created solely out of watercolor paper, paint, and glue, The book does have a major flaw, however. The letters are not individually mentioned, as in most alphabet books, and the reader is never told  either that there are items on the pages beginning with the letter or what items to search and find until the last page of the book. Although the publisher's suggested age range is 5-9, the level of observation required makes the book more appropriate for older elementary students who have mastered Walter Wick and Jean Marzollo's I Spy books. Contains: attempted grave robbing.


Thelonius Monster's Sky-High Fly Pie by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Edward Koren

Random House Children's Books,2006

ISBN: 0375832181

Available: New

    Enjoyable rhymes describe the path of Thelonius Monster as he concocts and executes his plan to make a giant pie filled with flies.  After collecting the flies and setting his pie up, Thelonius invites all his fellow monsters for a treat, but the flies have other plans.  New Yorker cartoonist Edward Koren's black and white drawings are both amusing and revolting, and the flies are humanized with quirky faces. Thelonius Monster's Sky-High Fly Pie would be a fun read aloud and a good choice for storytimes, especially paired with Simms Taback's There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. Appropriate for preschool through early elementary school children.  Recommended for both school and public libraries.  Contains: extreme dietary silliness.


Grampa's Zombie BBQ by Kirk Scroggs

Little, Brown, and Company, 2006

ISBN: 0136059021

Available: New

     Grampa's Zombie BBQ continues the adventures of Wiley and his Grampa, introduced in Dracula vs. Grampa at the Monster Truck Spectacular, reviewed below.  This time Wiley and his grandparents are hosting a neighborhood barbecue.  Unfortunately, when the hungry dead start to rise from the local cemetery, Gramma's special recipe barbecue sauce isn't enough to appease them, and Wiley and his Grampa have to find a way to stop them before the neighborhood becomes zombie lunch.   Once again, Kirk Scroggs has produced a creative, horror-themed book filled with hilarity.  There are some jokes  and references that children will miss, but adults will catch them, making the book an excellent title for parents and kids to enjoy together.  The book is filled with entertaining illustrations that complement the text and has a nice large readable font. The suggested age range for this title is 8-12, but teens may also enjoy it. A great choice for kids who have zoomed through the Captain Underpants books and are, um, hungry for more. Recommended for school and public libraries. Contains: Zombie mayhem, explosions.


The Scarecrow's New Clothes by Lisa Thiesing

Duttons Children's Books,2006

ISBN: 0525477500

Available: New and Used

    Peggy the pig loves to dress up with new outfits for every occasion. With a big party coming up, Peggy is looking for a new outfit to wear. Peggy searches and searches and isn't able to find an outfit she likes.  Finally as she is walking home she sees the perfect clothes on a scarecrow, so in the middle of the night Peggy puts an old pair of clothes on the scarecrow and takes the scarecrow's clothes.  Peggy is very happy with her new clothes but unfortunately for Peggy, the scarecrow is not.  The Scarecrow's New Clothes is a nice addition to the generally tame world of easy readers, and would make a great read aloud, with good opportunities to have children be involved as the scarecrow says "Give me back my clothes!"  Parents and teachers may want to note that ultimately Peggy scares the scarecrow and gets his clothes in the end, and while that may reassure young readers,  her successful theft of the clothes  sends a questionable message to young minds.  Contains: Theft


My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck and Illustrations by Mark Buehner

HarperCollins Publishers, 2002

ISBN: 0060088605

Available: New and Used

    A sweet little picture book where a little monster describes all of the things that that his mother does that tells him she loves him, including taking him to the swamp to swim and combs the cobwebs from his bangs.  The book is aimed at ages five to eight and is beautifully illustrated with images of the three eyed monster mama taking care of and supporting her child.   This turns out to be a fun book for mothers to share with children or for children's librarians to share at story hour.  Recommended.


Dracula vs. Grampa at the Monster Truck Spectacular by Kirk Scroggs

Little, Brown, and Company, 2006

ISBN: 0136059021

Available: New

    During a stormy Halloween night, overcoming a F5 Tornado and an angry Gramma, Wiley and his Grampa take a break from their monster movie marathon to go to the Monster Truck Spectacular, a monster truck show put on by Colonel Dracula.  Once there they are invited by Dracula to visit his backstage lair where thrills and chills await them. Kirk Scroggs includes the proper mix of monster and humor in both story and art. While kids may not get all the jokes and references, the adults sure will, which makes this a great book  for parents to read aloud with their children.  Visually appealing, with a wild ride of a story,  this a great hook book for reluctant readers, although it should be noted that some of the vocabulary is more advanced than the illustrations and font size suggest.  At 102 pages, Dracula vs. Grampa at the Monster Truck Spectacular is a perfect choice for that last minute book report.   This is the first in a series titled "Wiley and Grampa's Creature Features" and is followed by Grampa's Zombie BBQ. Fans of Dav Pilkey's "Captain Underpants"  books should also enjoy this series.   Recommended to both school and public libraries.  Contains: A chase scene, implications of a potential fight that doesn't materialze.   


The Devil, the Banshee and Me by L.M Falcone

Kids Can Press, 2006

ISBN: 1553378946 

Available: New

    Will Trenom's ordinary life gets turned upside down when a man claiming to be the nephew of the Devil comes to stay at his parents' bed and breakfast.   Adding to the general strangeness, Will sees a banshee outside the house across the street.  The banshee's presence indicates that someone is about to die.  The story takes off as Will investigates to find out for whom the banshee is here, and  plots to stop it.  L.M.  Falcone has created a fast-paced and original story that captures the imagination.  The momentum of the story will keep the reader riveted through the climax.  There is a good mix of humor strewn through out the book so that it isn't overly heavy or dark, and Falcone fits in a timeless message: be careful of what you wish for for you might just get it.  Appropriate for children aged 9-12,  The Devil, the Banshee and Me is a recommended purchase for elementary school and public libraries.  Contains:  possession, drowning, frank discussion of death, mention of the Devil.




Horror at the Haunted House by Peg Kehret

Puffin, 2002
ISBN: 0142301469

Available: New (library binding) and Used

    Ellen Streater and her brother Corey have volunteered to play roles in the local Historical Society's haunted house fundraiser.  However once Ellen enters the old mansion that wiill house the benefit, she feels a cold and chilling presence. Soon, the ghost of Lydia Clayton, whose husband built the house, appears to Ellen.  Ellen even starts to see and feel the ghost's presence at home.  Ellen thinks that the ghost is trying to tell her something and begins to investigate the house and the owners to try to find out more about their history and to put the spirit to rest.  Horror at the Haunted House is a ghost story with a dash of a mystery thrown in .  Ellen is a strong, inquisitive female character who may appeal particularly to girls. The writing is solid, and the fast-paced plot and imaginative elements of the story will grab the attention of both boys and girls . Horror at the Haunted House is a good core ghost story book.  Appropriate for children ages 9-12 , this book is recommended for elementary school library media centers and public library children's collections. Contains: attempted murder.



Monster Museum by Marilyn Singer and Illustrations by Gris Grimly

Hyperion, September, 2001

ISBN: 078680520X

Available: New and Used

    Writer/poet Marilyn Singer provides a group of school children with a guide through her monster museum, where they are introduced to a wide variety of monsters from film, literature, mythology, and folklore. From banshees to zombies, Singer’s witty rhymes will entertain children of all ages.  Gris Grimly’s illustrations are a perfect match to Singer’s words- just over-the-top enough to balance menace with humor.  Monster Museum is a great choice for a read-aloud- a wonderful way for parents to connect with their child’s interest in monsters. The glossary of monsters in the back of the book and the poetry format offer curriculum connections that make this a great choice for teachers and school library media specialists to share with their students as well.  This is a fun book and children who enjoy monsters will be glued to the pages.  Recommended for public and school libraries. For Ages 5-9



The Boy of A Thousand Faces by Brian Selznick

Laura Geringer Books, 2000

ISBN: 0060262664

Available: New and Used

    In a town where nobody believes in monsters, ten year old Alonzo King truly believes in the unbelievable. He never misses the midnight monster movie showcase hosted by Mr. Shadows, going so far as to write Mr. Shadows about his dream to emulate the great horror movie actor Lon Chaney by costuming himself as a variety of monsters.  As Halloween approaches, rumors of a monster called “The Beast” begin to circulate in school, and Alonzo is thrust into the spotlight as a monster expert as everyone speculates about the mysterious Beast.  Brian Selznick’s illustrations go well beyond what readers of other books he has illustrated, such as Frindle and Riding Freedom, might expect. His use of black and white in fonts, pencil drawings, and photographs is reminiscent of the black-and-white movies Alonzo adores. Movie stills, photographs of Bigfoot, and monster-themed stamps all combine with Selznick’s trademark pencil drawings to create a unique visual experience. An oddball story that celebrates imagination and accepting others, The Boy of a Thousand Faces is a perfect book for lovers of monsters and monster movies, and for those who might feel a little out of place.   Review by Francesca the Librarian



Scared Witless: Thirteen Eerie Tales to Tell by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, illustrated by Kevin Pope

August House, 2006


Available: New

    Scared Witless is a collection of and guide to telling “jump” stories. Fans of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark can kick it up a notch and go from readers to tellers of tales by taking some hints from storytellers Hamilton and Weiss. Stories range from the traditional to the entirely original, and each is followed with suggestions for telling the story to a group. Included in the collection is a fine retelling of “The Red Satin Ribbon” and a couple of groaners that don’t appear in Schwartz’s collections. Also included is an adaptation of a story that appears in a collection by folklorist Joseph Bruchac. Kevin Pope’s illustrations are more goofy than they are threatening, and reflect the general tone of the collection. The stories are short and enjoyable reads and many contain enough repetition that primary school children should be able to tell them with practice. Scared Witless is a fun book to look through, and an engaging tool for getting kids and adults to work together on listening and speaking. Recommended for school library media centers and public library collections. Contains: ghosts, extremely mild violence.




The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Henrik Drescher
Candlewick, July, 2005
ISBN: 076361727X
Available: New

    Judy Sierra, storyteller and folklore expert, has collected a number of different monsters from folktales and legends around the world in a guide that all children who love monsters will enjoy. Entries include details such as where the monster comes from, a description of the monster, survival tips, and a gruesomeness rating, which tells you how dangerous the creature is reported to be. Although the entries are brief, Henrik’s surreal illustrations often show monsters actively attacking their victims and create terrifying and creepy images to complement the text. As these are taken from folklore around the world it might be a useful tool for school teachers who are looking for a hook for some of the reluctant students involved in cultural studies. A word of warning: some of these creatures are very gruesome! Parents, teachers, and librarians will want to be aware that the description of what these creatures can be very intense, especially when coupled with Henrik’s illustrations. An example is the Snee-nee-iq , a monster from the lore of the Pacific Northwest, that hunts at night for children who won’t go to bed and carries them off to be smoked over a fire to save them to be eaten later. The book will fascinate monster lovers big and small and can be used in studies of folklore and different cultures. Contains: Intense descriptions and illustrations of gruesome and violent behavior. Recommended for ages 6 and up.


Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes and Yuyi Morales
Henry Holt, 2006
ISBN: 0805074295

Available: New
    In Los Gatos Black on Halloween, Marisa Montes and Yuyi Morales have created an amazing fusion of words and pictures. Montes’ clever bilingual rhymes bounce through an assortment of creepy creatures and eerie happenings, as Morales paints clever and funny images into her truly dark and scary monsters. The chilling zombie child with glowing eyes is a little less frightening when you see the smiley face on his T-shirt, and the toothy wolfman peering nearsightedly through his glasses is almost lovable looking. As Montes’ jaunty words float across the double-spread illustrations, the interplay of story and art keeps the book scary- but leavens it with humor. Readers will want to come back to this book again and again, as every time new details pop out. The humor in Morales’ work may escape younger children, since overall the illustrations are very dark and disturbing, but preschoolers and elementary students in search of “scary books” won’t be disappointed, and they might even learn some Spanish along the way. Younger children may enjoy the brighter, cheerier illustrations in Morales’ Pura Belpre Award winner, Just a Minute. Highly recommended for school and public libraries. Contains: mentions of the supernatural and the occult. Review by Francesca the Librarian


Mommy? with art by  Maurice Sendak, the scenario by Arthur Yorinks, and the paper engineering by Matthew Reinhart

Michael di Capua Books / Scholastic -Pop-Up edition September, 2006
ISBN: 0439880505

Available: New

    A fantastic pop-up book, Mommy? shows a little boy in pajamas crawling through a haunted mansion, running into classic monsters including Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman, and the Mummy while searching for his mother.  Each monster tries to look ferocious to the little boy as the child makes the single worded inquiry "Mommy?", only to have the boy move on completely fearlessly, leaving the monster baffled.   The art is absolutely fantastic and the pop-ups are fun and innovative.  It is of note that the flaps secured on the left side of each two page spread are pullouts which need to be opened to move the story along- the spinning mummy is a particularly entertaining and elaborate example.  Sendak's drawings will remind fans of earlier works like In the Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are, and of operatic and theatrical sets he has designed. In fact, the scenario on which the book is based was a theatrical performance called "It's Alive!" by Arthur Yorinks.  Reinhart, already well known as co-creator of the Encyclopedia Prehistorica, clearly worked closely with Sendak to create this weird and wacky gem.  A consideration for libraries is that although it is sturdy, Mommy? is an elaborate pop-up picture book, and it is easy to imagine it getting torn or destroyed with frequent use.  Some children may find the illustrations frightening, but most will be enthralled. Recommended for supervised use with children at home, Mommy? is a monstrously entertaining visual and kinesthetic treat.  




Freaky Flora by Michel Gagne

Gagne International, May, 2004
ISBN: 0971905363

Available: New and Used

    Michel Gagne offers another alphabet picture book, this time focusing on plants.  Gagne once again offers up amazing and imaginative illustrations, and in this case some are more benign looking while others such as the Cacti look particularly menacing.    The one item that I have to take issue with is that Gagne has given us entries for some non plants such as with Anemone (which is a flowering plant) where the illustration is of a Sea Anemone which is an animal and Mushrooms which are in the Fungus Kingdom not the plant kingdom.  It may seem picky but I suspect that there are a number of alternative plants that could be used for those entries that the obviously talented Gagne could do something with.     




Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich by Adam Rex

Harcourt Children's Books, September, 2006
ISBN: 0152057668

Available: New and Used

    Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich is a fantastic combination of picture book and poetry that will be sure to tickle the funny bone of any monster loving kid or adult.  Adam Rex illustrates a series of poems that connect with many of the traditional monsters such as Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mummy and others.  There are some elements to the poems that will appeal to the adult readers and children may not get, This isn't as large a drawback as one might imagine, for it really makes a great read along/read aloud book for both parents and their children. This book is truly meant to be read aloud to gain maximum effect and entertainment.   The entertaining poems are are illustrated comically and colorfully, a homage to classic monsters in a variety of styles that complement beautifully the various stories and movies on which the poems are based.  Recommended for school, home, and personal libraries and as a read aloud for librarians and parents to share with their childre



Insanely Twisted Rabbits by Michel Gagne

Gagne International, December, 2000
ISBN: 0966640446

Available: New and Used

    Insanely Twisted Rabbits is a collection of draft drawings of mutated rabbits by artist Michel Gagne.  This book is a fantastic example of what happens when an artist lets his/her imagination wander while staying focused on a subject.  The rabbits look to have been combined with all sorts of other creatures, from bats to rhinos to dinosaurs- and then there are just plain scary mutated rabbits with all sorts of horns, fangs, and claws that abound.    As with Gagne's Frenzied Fauna, parents and librarians will want to judge the appropriateness of some of the images based on children's reactions. Some might find the images a little too scary, but others will be mesmerized by Gagne's imagination gone wild, resulting in the phrases "neat", "cool", and "awesome". Age: varies based on the child's personality and interests. Recommended.


M.T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales: The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen by M. T. Anderson
Harcourt Children's Books, June, 2006
ISBN: 0152053522

Available: New
    The main characters from a variety of fictional series books are all drawn into a mystery while on vacation at the Moose Tongue Lodge and Resort. Katie Mulligan, the star of the Horror Hollow series, accompanies her friends Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, and Lily, on what she hopes will be a real vacation. Although it’s more of a send-up of series books than a horror story, readers of horror series books will howl with laughter all through the first chapter. Of course, there is no such thing as a series book without an adventure, but Katie tries hard to avoid it! Throughout the book, Katie’s resolute desire to ignore anything mysterious, horrifying, or supernatural is extremely entertaining. Jasper also gets his moment of horror- while gagged with duct tape and tied to a chair his allergies kick in, he rolls down a mountain over the edge of a cliff, and a poisonous snake makes ready to strike at his slightest movement. Anderson does a great job of poking fun at series books and genre fiction, and his writing is intelligent enough to also appeal to grown-up kids. A wonderful book to read to yourself or read aloud- if you can keep yourself from breaking down into tears of laughter. Grades 4- up. Contains: fake gore, kidnapping, mild violence. Entry by Francesca the Librarian

The Halloween Mouse by Richard Laymon and illustrated by  Alan M. Clark 

Cemetery Dance Publications, October,  2001
ISBN: 158767047X

Available: New and Used

Ages: 6+
    Timothy Maywood Usher Mouse lives in the library, reading about fantastic adventures. One Halloween night, Timothy gathers his courage to leave the library to go on an adventure.  After escaping a run in with a snake thanks to a piece of candy corn. Timothy dreams of going trick or treating but must first survive an encounter with the neighborhood cat involving a jack-o-lantern. In the end, far away from his cozy home in the library, Timothy discovers that having adventures is even better than reading about them.  Alan Clark's illustrations are detailed and colorful, and the book is a visual treat. Richard Laymon has created an engaging (if lengthy)story. Although the dialogue is awkward, Laymon's inventive description and great action sequences will grab the reader. Laymon is writing as much for adults as he is for children: some vocabulary and most literary references will go right over children's heads, but will add an extra dimension of meaning for the adult reader. A very cute Halloween picture book.  This book could be shared with patient primary grade readers as a read-aloud or with intermediate readers either as a read-aloud or as independent reading. 




I'm Going to Eat You! by Matt Mitter and illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

Reader's Digest, August, 2006
ISBN: 0794407676

Available: New

Ages: 4+

    Young Spike sitting in bed hears an ominous "I'm going to eat you!" which leads him on a fantastic exploration of his house finding the source of the voice. Along the way he meets the bogeyman, a sea serpent, a ghost, and a werewolf.  In the end it turns out to be his little sister threatening a cookie, "I'm going to eat you!" The illustrations by Jimmy Pickering make the book a treat, as all the monsters are fantastically drawn ,and the popups are wonderful.   A must for any parent or child who likes spooky monsters. Recommended.


Frenzied Fauna by Michel Gagne

Gagne International, November, 2001
ISBN: 0966640497

Availability: Used

    Frenzied Fauna is an incredibly imaginative  animal alphabet book by artist Michel Gagne.  Gagne's animals are drawn in fantastic and sometimes scary ways, with spikes, teeth, tusks, and a half dozen eyes. While Gagne tends to stick with fantastic versions of animals that children might recognize such as lizards, horses, and owls, he also adds entries for mutated mammals, microbes, and trilobite. You will want to test a few images of this book with very young children to see how they react. Older children will get a kick out of the book.


Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust, by Eve Bunting, illus. by Stephen Gammell

Ages: Upper elementary and older, with appropriate guidance.

    I am including this book on the list because of the horror I felt as I was reading it, so please don't consider its inclusion to be frivolous. I certainly wouldn't give it to a fourth grader insisting on a "scary book." Although this is a picture book, care needs to be taken about how it is shared with children. It should never be read alone: it is too terrifying. It should always be read with guidance and followed with discussion. The story's main character is Little Rabbit, who watches the animals in his clearing disappear one group at a time as the Terrible Things descend upon the inhabitants. The remaining animals pretend that nothing is happening, and finally Little Rabbit is the only witness to the disappearance of all of the animals. The words are spare and the story on its own is a powerful and frightening one, but the true horror of the situation is expressed through Stephen Gammell's terrifying black and white illustrations. The Terrible Things are shadowy smears across the pages. We never see their true shapes, we only see the fear they create. Terrible Things has been suggested as a tool for introducing the topic of the Holocaust at the middle school or high school level, but with guidance and careful choices of literature, children at the elementary level can understand how fear and intolerance can help evil take root.  Entry by Francesca the Librarian


The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean

HarperTrophy, Reprint edition, July, 2005

ISBN: 0380810956

Available: New and Used

    The Wolves in the Walls is a sophisticated picture book, which means you will enjoy it as much as your child will. Gaiman, the creator of many graphic novels and a writer of fantastic adult fiction, has created a delightfully dark and entertaining story about Lucy, a little girl who is still learning the difference between reality and fantasy. McKean's chaotic illustrations, which combine drawings with "real" pictures in a format reminiscent of graphic novels, effectively portray Lucy's uncertain world. Lucy hears the sounds of wolves in the walls. Her parents and older brother deny their existence, while at the same time telling her, "If the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over." Of course, there are wolves, they do come out of the walls, and Lucy's terrified family runs away. Lucy bravely returns to her house to rescue a favorite toy and discovers that the wolves aren't so frightening after all. She convinces her family to take back the house, and the cowardly wolves run screaming out the door, afraid of the humans coming out of the walls... But is the experience really all over for Lucy's family? She has confronted her fears, but there are elephants in the walls... Gaiman never talks down to the reader,  and he is writing for children: it's a great book to read aloud, and it touches on the fears and uncertainties on the child within us all. Wolves in the Walls won the 2004 Stoker Award for best work for younger readers, and the 2004 award for best illustrated narrative from the International Horror Guild.

Ages: Elementary and older

Entry by Francesca the Librarian



Monster Lake by Edward Lee

Little Devil Books/Necro Publications, September, 2005

ISBN: 1889186562

Available: New

    Terri and her friend Patricia look to spend their summer playing badminton and having fun, until one day Terri notices a big frog. The frog also has big teeth and frogs aren't supposed to have teeth! This propels Terri and Patricia on an adventure to uncover the mystery of the giant frogs where they end up at the old boathouse by the lake that they are forbidden to visit.  It is at the lake where the girls run into monsters beyond their imagination.  Edward Lee is known for some very intense adult horror, but here he shows his versatility in writing a monster books for kids that has such a entertaining story that kids won't want to put in down.   Appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students requesting a good scary story.  I would consider this a good core book to a scary story collection. Ages: 8-12


The Monsters of Morley Manor by Bruce Coville

Magic Carpet Books- Reprint September, 2003 
ISBN: 0152047050

Available: New and Used 

    The Monsters of Morley Manor isn't as much of a scary book as an adventure book with monster characters in it.  In the book, Anthony and his little sister Sarah buy a box filled with five miniature monster figures, a lizard man, a medusa, a wolfman, a vampiress, and a hunchback. When one of the figures gets wet it starts to come alive and thus begins an adventure involving aliens, giant talking frogs, and ghosts.  Coville fits a lot into this book and while it works just fine it seems like it would have been possible for him to have a book just with the five monsters and without the alien story line.  A good book for monster loving kids.    Ages 9-12


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