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Ghosts and zombies, weirdness and gore

The following books offer chills and thrills with some laughs thrown in for good measure. What more do middle-graders and middle-schoolers need come October 31st?

Invisible InklingInvisible Inkling: Dangerous Pumpkins by Emily Jenkins picks up the story of fourth-grade Brooklynite Hank Wolowitz and his bandipat friend Inkling (an invisible, endangered, pumpkin-loving creature). It’s almost Halloween, and Hank has no one to trick-or-treat with. He also gets in major trouble with his older sister when voracious Inkling destroys her amazing jack-o’-lanterns (Hank takes the blame). Droll illustrations by Harry Bliss allow readers to see Inkling in all his furry glory even when the characters in the book do not. (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 8–12 years)

In a Glass GrimmlyAdam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark & Grimm) presents another folklore takeoff that manages to be both hilarious and macabre at the same time. In a Glass Grimmly follows Princess Jill and her cousin Jack, along with their frog friend, on a quest to find the “seeing glass.” Using only their wits, the three battle hungry giants, scheming mermaids, and other unspeakable creatures before making their way home armed with new knowledge and self-confidence. Both of Gidwitz’s books have lots of kid-appeal; an appended author’s note is useful for readers wanting to know more about the original stories. (Dutton, 10–14 years)

Joshua DreadUnbeknownst to anyone else in Sheepsdale, New York, Joshua’s parents are two of the world’s most dastardly supervillains. To Joshua, they’re still Mom and Dad, so when they’re kidnapped, it’s up to him to save the day. Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon features understated, deadpan narration and imaginative details (such as zombies that can be mollified with tofu) that add up to lots of fun. Brandon Dorman’s black-and-white caricature illustrations enhance the comic-book vibe. (Delacorte, 10–14 years)

On the Day I DiedCandace Fleming’s On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave begins with a near car accident: a teenage boy driving down a deserted road at night almost runs into a young lady—who turns out to be a ghost. He ends up in a graveyard surrounded by other adolescent ghosts who tell the stories of their demise. The tales (which all take place in the Chicago area and span the decades from the 1850s to today) feature plenty of suspense, chills, and, occasionally, some gore—perfect for Halloween ghost-story swapping. (Schwartz & Wade/Random, 10–14 years)

From the October 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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