From the Guide: Slightly Spooky Middle-Grade Tales

wednesdays From the Guide: Slightly Spooky Middle Grade TalesIt’s time for trick-or-treating, costuming-wearing, and embracing all things eerie. In “Horn BOO!” the Horn Book staff recommends spooky (or kooky) offerings, mostly picture books, for celebrating Halloween. The following books about ghosts, hauntings, monsters, and more will all appear in the forthcoming fall 2013 Horn Book Guide. These novels are lightly creepy, gently macabre, sometimes humorous options for middle graders looking to revel in the spirit of the season.

—Katrina Hedeen
Assistant Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Bourbeau, Julie  The Wednesdays
250 pp. Knopf 2012 ISBN 978-0-375-86890-0
LE ISBN 978-0-375-96890-7
PE ISBN 978-0-375-87286-0

Gr. 4–6 Illustrated by Jason Beene. Max rebels by going outside on a Wednesday, the day when everybody locks themselves  inside to avoid “the wednesdays,” creatures who make everything in the otherwise normal village go peculiar. As Max befriends the monsters, he realizes that he is becoming one of them; he must get to the bottom of the phenomenon before it’s too late. An outlandish, pleasantly creepy romp.

Castro, Adam-Troy  Gustav Gloom and the Nightmare Vault
245 pp. Grosset 2013 ISBN 978-0-448-45834-2

Castro, Adam-Troy  Gustav Gloom and the People Taker
228 pp. Grosset 2012 ISBN 978-0-448-45833-5

Gr. 4–6 Illustrated by Kristen Margiotta. In People, Fernie follows her cat, chased by his own shadow, into the grim Gloom mansion; Gustav and the peopleless shadows who reside there must help her escape the People Taker. In Nightmare, Fernie discovers more oddities in the spooky house, and she and Gustav go up against a new foe. The enjoyably weird and eerie stories are accompanied by suitably somber drawings.

Dahl, Michael  Hocus Pocus Hotel
207 pp. Capstone 2012 ISBN 978-1-4342-4253-2

Gr. 4–6 Illustrated by Lisa K. Weber. When tough guy Tyler tells nerdy Charlie to meet him after school in an alley, Charlie assumes the worst. But it turns out Ty needs Charlie’s help — mysterious things have been happening at the hotel for retired magicians where Ty lives with his parents. Charlie’s photographic memory and Ty’s inside knowledge lead the two on this enjoyable romp through mirrored hallways and spooky basements.

Klise, Kate  Hollywood, Dead Ahead
160 pp. Houghton 2013 ISBN 978-0-547-85283-6

Gr. 4–6 Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise. 43 Old Cemetery Road series. In their fifth book, young Seymour and his collaborators/caretakers Grumply (alive) and Olive (a ghost) land a movie deal for their bestselling serial ghost story, 43 Old Cemetery Road. But Tinseltown isn’t all glitter — producer Moe Block Busters changes the script, and fame changes the writers. This mild mock-gothic tale is told through playful narrative devices: letters, newspaper extracts, and black-and-white illustrations.

Loftin, Nikki  The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy
285 pp. Penguin/Razorbill 2012 ISBN 978-1-59514-508-6

Gr. 4–6 Illustrated by Brenna Eernisse. Lorelei isn’t pleased: she has an awful new stepmother and her school has burned down. Then she starts at brand-new, too-good-to-be-true Splendid Academy, where the children enjoy countless luxuries — as long as  they eat constantly. Soon Lorelei realizes that there are grim plans for the students. This creepy modern “Hansel and Gretel” story succeeds thanks to a well-paced plot and fluid writing.

Rivers, Phoebe  Giving Up the Ghost
143 pp. Simon Spotlight 2013 ISBN 978-1-4424-6616-6
PE ISBN 978-1-4424-6617-3

Rivers, Phoebe  The Secrets Within
152 pp. Simon Spotlight 2013 ISBN 978-1-4424-6850-5
PE ISBN 978-1-4424-6849-8

Gr. 4–6 Saranormal series. Sara’s ability to see ghosts is developing in unexpected ways in these sixth and seventh books in the  series: she fights off a selfish ghost’s unwelcome gift of mind-reading (Giving Up), and she uses a new power of reading objects’ history to solve long-running mysteries (Secrets). Sara’s friendship troubles and everyday life in seaside Stellamar round out these intriguing, nicely constructed middle-grade ghost stories.

Winkler, Henry and Lin Oliver  How to Scare the Pants Off Your Pets
172 pp. Scholastic 2013 ISBN 978-0-545-29889-6
PE ISBN 978-0-545-29884-1

Gr. 4–6 Ghost Buddy series. Billy gets his ghost friend Hoove a pet in hopes of improving Hoove’s flunking grade in Responsibility — except Hoove is too scary for most critters. It’s not until the family takes in a stray cat, and she has three kittens, that Hoove steps up. There’s a lesson here, but it’s nicely camouflaged by this third series installment’s humorous spirit and witty banter.

From the September/October 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, click here.

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Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is assistant editor of The Horn Book Guide and manager of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards.

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