NEW TITLES

There are some wonderful ideas for Halloween reading in this month's selection, but as well as books offering surprises and humour, the following books will provoke thought and discussions around subjects including friendship, identity and the environment.

Vlad the World's Worst Vampire
Anna Wilson

Stripes Publishing

ISBN 9781847157423

This book is the first in a new series about Vlad, a nine year old vampire, who creates a double life secret from his family, the Impalers. Vlad is lonely, he lives in Misery Manor with his parents, grandfather, butler, and pet bat who talks, but he has no vampire friends of his age. He is also uncomfortable with various aspects of a vampire's life, such as drinking blood, which his parents have delivered by Red Cells Express. Additionally, he is very curious about human life, especially after discovering a book about children going to Jollywood Academy. He wants to know what life is like in the day as he usually has to spend it asleep in his coffin; he wants to drink strawberry milkshake, not blood, and he prefers doing tricks on his version of a skateboard than trying to transform himself into a bat. When he manages to creep out of the Manor during the day, discovering that his skin does not burn in the sun as his parents had told him it would, he mistakenly ends up going to the local school, where he makes a new friend, Minxie, who like him is an outsider. It is not made clear yet but she hints at how she understands about leaving her family, so there is a deeper, possible immigrant backstory to this character. After enjoying the day at the school, Vlad decides that he is going to spend the days, when his family are all asleep, in the human world but he is constantly worried about what will happen if either side discover the truth about him. With amusing details such as the Impaler family saying 'thank badness' or 'daymares', and Vlad checking that there is no garlic in the human food, like apples, that are served at school, this is a pleasant story. The characters are interesting and the meeting of the two worlds is well done and a possible source of discussion and exploration. There is a wealth of parallels within popular culture like Dracula and vampires obviously, but also The Addams Family (Vlad's butler is named Mulch), Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch, and it also reminded me of a series of books that I read when I was a child - Ann Jungman's Vlad the Drac. 152 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Natalie Plimmer, librarian.

Vlad the World's Worst Vampire
Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball
Laura Ellen Anderson

Egmont Books Ltd

ISBN 9781405286725

What a gorgeous little package this book is, an eye-catching cover, orange page edging and fabulous maps and black and white illustrations - together with a story that is packed with adventure and full of heart. Amelia Fang is a vampire and the author / illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson sets up a wonderfully imaginative vampire world with plenty of giggles: Amelia has a pet pumpkin called Squashy; glitter is the equivalent of cow-poo; Sweat-shakes are the favoured pre-dinner drink; and these are served by a ghost butler called 'Wooo'. When the spoiled (but unhappy) prince of Nocturnia takes Squashy away to be his own pet, a daring rescue by Amelia and her friends - Grimaldi, - a young 'grim reaper', and a yeti called Florence - follows. There are so many child-friendly jokes and puns that I can see children giggling through this. My nine year old loved it but it is very accessible to younger children, too - and not just girls! 224 pages / Ages 7-9 years / Reviewed by Alice Green.

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball
Witch for a Week
Kaye Umansky

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471160905

Elsie helps out in her family's shop, the grandly named Pickles Emporium. Unfortunately, the grandest thing about it is its name and it struggles to win customers and sell its wares. On one run-of-the-mill afternoon, however, the shop is visited by Magenta Sharp, a local witch looking for a caretaker for her home while she visits her sister. Elsie somehow ends up employed for the task and makes her way to the forest the very next day, where she makes the acquaintance of the tower (the witch's home) and Corbett (the raven). Elsie is determined not to try out magic but cannot resist for very long and, in response to a plea from Sylphine Greenmantle (known to everyone apart from herself as Aggie Wiggins), creates a love potion that ends up causing no end of trouble, but, thanks to her new-found skill in creating a storm in a teacup, Elsie saves the day. This is the first in a new series by the very popular author whose engaging stories are enjoyed by many young readers. The characters are appealing, the language accessible for the newly independent reader and the magic of the humorous variety (who would not like a larder that produced cake if you just asked for it?!) 192 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by June Hughes, school librarian.

Witch for a Week
Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure: Book 1
Alex T. Smith

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444932065

Claude is one of my favourite series so I was pleased to hear that a new series would be coming from Alex T Smith for slightly older children, and Mr Penguin is it. When I saw the book, it reminded me of the Claude books in its stylish presentation, spot colour (the illustrations are black, white and orange) and the off-the-wall humour; we are, after all, talking about a detective penguin whose spider friend, Colin, is a kung-fu expert who has to get him out of many scrapes... But that aside, Mr Penguin is a wonderful character in his own right, keen and enthusiastic but just not brilliant at solving the mysteries he sets out to. Thankfully, his friends are there to help out. In Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure, Mr Penguin has his first case - to find the treasure hidden at The Museum of Extraordinary Objects and, after many twists and turns, the real adventure begins when Mr Penguin discovers a hidden staircase to a whole new world beneath the museum. There is plenty of action, surprises and laughs through the course of the story and younger readers aged seven to nine years are sure to be thoroughly entertained. Some of them might also spot the twist coming up in the ending, if they follow the textual and visual clues carefully enough. This is a wonderful start to the new series; I can't wait to see what Mr Penguin (and Colin the spider) get up to next! 208 pages / Ages 7-9 years / Reviewed by Alice Green.

Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure: Book 1
Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony
Chris Riddell

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781447277941

Chris Riddell's Goth Girl, Ada, returns in another quirky and beautifully-packaged adventure. Excitement is afoot at Ghastly-Gorm Hall with the arrival of an eccentric assortment of performers and players for the Gothstock festival. Hot on their heels comes Ada's grandmother, Sparkling Lady Carole, with a trio of potential brides for Lord Goth. With an unexpected visit from the delightful Shaun the Faun and plenty of underhand goings-on from Maltravers, the indoor gamekeeper, there is plenty of action and entertainment for Ada and her enterprising friends. As with the other books in this series, the story is wonderfully-written and littered with clever puns (although some of these may be lost on younger readers, it is fun as an adult to spot them!) There's a lovely cast of oddball characters (along with a couple of pantomime villains - Simon Scowl and Donald Ear-Trumpet!) and it's an easy, fun read. The illustrations are just exceptional and, along with the footnotes, miniature book at the back and overall design, they just add to a stunning product. And although this can be read as a standalone book, anyone reading Goth Girl for the first time is likely to quickly seek out the rest of the series. A treat for adults and children alike! 219 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony
Nevermoor: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow Book 1
Jessica Townsend

Orion Children's Books

ISBN 9781510104112

When Morrigan Crow is born on Eventide her fate is sealed. Destined to be blamed for the unfortunate events that befall her hometown of Jackalfax she is cursed to die on her twelfth birthday and live the time in-between as an object of curiosity and fear. When Bid Day - the annual ceremony at which children receive educational offers from patrons - arrives, Morrigan is sure she will just be a spectator but when she garners four bids (to the astonishment of her father, Chancellor of the district, Corvus) an entirely expected journey begins. Transported to Nevermoor by the enigmatic Captain Jupiter North (via the Sky-faced clock and Jupiter's beloved arachnipod), Morrigan is given a chance to enter the trials for the Wundrous Society and begin an enchanting new life. Nevermoor is utterly magical. The Hotel Deucalion, where Morrigan lives, is brimful full of wonderful, eccentric and mystifying characters. Overseen by the fantastically pompous house-keeping Magnificat, Fenestra, the hotel buzzes with charm, invention and wonder. Our heroine, Morrigan, although bewildered by her change in circumstance, soon adjusts to her new home and is a lively sparring partner for Jupiter and his nephew, Jack. The author, Jennifer Townsend builds a highly-detailed, truly magical world and this is a captivating beginning to a new series. 371pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Clare Wilkins, school librarian.

Nevermoor: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow Book 1
The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare
Zillah Bethell

Piccadilly Press

ISBN 9781848126084

A war story like no other. A mystery story that keeps you guessing on every page. A sci-fi story of friendship, family and unity. This book has it all! Set in a dystopian (near) future where a lack of water has placed the UK at the mercy of the Water Authority Board, the mesmerising Auden Dare, Vivi Rookmini and humanoid robot Paragon have to solve a mystery that might well save the world! Told from the perspective of Auden - a boy who suffers from achromatopsia (an inability to see colour) - the narrative voice is infectious and refreshing while also giving a well-rounded sense of the other vivacious characters. Although it touches on a number of genres, The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare, is neither one nor the other and this rather widens its appeal than narrows it. While aimed at 8-12 year olds in my opinion, I would recommend this book to anyone as a fantastic read, however, I think it would also make an excellent class read aloud and would prompt many topical discussions. This book genuinely exceeded all of my expectations. 355 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Rhiannon Cook, school librarian

The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare
Sky Dancer
Gill Lewis

Oxford University Press

ISBN 9780192749253

Sky Dancer is a bold and beautiful tale of friendship, nature and community. It is a story about three young people from very different backgrounds who find themselves swept up into a complex world of communities at war with one another over issues of tradition, conservation and what it means to live in harmony with the environment. At the heart of the story is the plight of the hen harrier. This is a majestic bird of prey that has been hunted to the very brink because it threatens the population of grouse upon which a shoot depends. Sky Dancer is not a sugar-coated look at rural life and Lewis does not shy away from some of the tricky issues affecting and dividing communities. As such, it is very much a story for our times and has much to offer young readers from an environmental point of view. The reader is challenged to imagine a future that is different from the status quo. In today's troubled world, this is a hugely valuable message for adults and children alike. However, the real joy of this story for me is the sense of empathy that it provokes. The characters are so deftly drawn that you cannot help but care about them and you swiftly find yourself drawn into the adventure alongside them. Themes of loyalty, friendship, hope and courage give this story real emotional power and there is genuine magic in the descriptions of the moorland itself. You feel truly transported to the wild open spaces of the moor, with heather underfoot and birds wheeling overhead. Five stars from me and I look forward to recommending this wonderful book to my pupils! 272 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, school librarian.

Sky Dancer
Spectre Collectors: Too Ghoul For School
Barry Hutchison

Nosy Crow Ltd

ISBN 9780857639608

13 year old Denzel can't concentrate on his maths homework - not while there is a terrifying transparent tangle of black tentacles making a mess of his house. Not as much of a mess, however, as the two teenagers who burst through his wall in pursuit of the ghost, recklessly wielding their guns and their magic. When it emerges that Denzel has a unique ability to see ghosts, the two teens take him back to the headquarters of Spectre Collectors, a secret organisation dedicated to protecting humanity from vengeful spirits. Packed with humour, adventure, ghosts, magic and technology, Too Ghoul For School is Men In Black meets Ghostbusters with teens! This book was a lot of fun. The main characters are a likeable and diverse bunch - Denzel is a 13-year-old boy of colour and son to a same-sex couple, Sumera is South Asian. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments (mainly courtesy of Denzel's best friend, Smithy) as well as a few very emotional scenes with Denzel and his parents - expect your tears to be well and truly jerked. The variety of ghosts, poltergeists, ghouls and other spectral beasties in this book is great - and it would be a fun creative writing exercise to get students to come up with their own phantoms for the Spectre Collectors to battle. This book has a very broad appeal - I would not hesitate to recommend it to any student who enjoys a good chuckle with their adventures. 236 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.

Spectre Collectors: Too Ghoul For School
Dog
Andy Mulligan

Pushkin Children's Books

ISBN 9781782691716

Like Andy Mulligan's earlier books, Dog is a quirky story that takes you to unexpected places. In this case, a dog with an identity crisis and a boy who will stop at nothing to find his lost dog. Spider is a gangly, energetic puppy who is excited about life and the fact he's been chosen to befriend a boy called Tom. But Spider is so new to the world that he is easy to confuse and a tricksy spider and sly cat set about undermining the puppy's belief in himself and in those who care for him. The spider, called Thread, convinces Spider (the dog) that he is unlovable; while the cat sets out to make Spider believe he is, in fact, a cat. Eventually Spider lands himself in so much trouble that he runs away where he meets other, kinder, animals who help to show him the way home. Spider' owner, Tom, is facing his own problems his parents have recently separated and he is being bullied at school; the only thing keeping him together is his dog, Spider - until the day Spider is lost and Tom will do anything to get him back. This story combines a fantasy animal quest with very real life questions around identity, belonging and how far we will go for those we love. It is also a really interesting exploration of bullying - not just the violent kind experienced by Tom, but the more subtle and almost more damaging bullying inflicted on Spider, whose innocence makes him an easy target. It is a complex message to achieve but Mulligan does it very well. I'd suggest the book for mature readers aged ten and above although I don't think this would be an easy read as, even with its many moments of humour, there is a lot of questioning by the characters and, until Spider's quest kicks off, there isn't a lot of action. There is, however, much to discuss around friendship and understanding people's motivations and this could work well for groups. The second part of the story, though, is a full-throttle quest with chase scenes aplenty and it kept me gripped. It's certainly one of those stories that you'll remember. 256 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Alice Green.

Dog
The Wizards of Once: Book 1
Cressida Cowell

Hodder Children's Books

ISBN 9781444936704

My review copy of Cressida Cowell's The Wizards of Once was barely out of its packaging when an eager Year 5 reader, desperate to read it, asked whether she could borrow it first. She devoured it in two days flat and declared it to be 'entrancing and mysterious'. How right she was! In The Wizards of Once, two young misfits from enemy tribes, Xar and Wish, find themselves thrown together when they both stray into the mysterious and terrifying Badwoods accompanied by a philosophising giant, several snowcats, a talking raven, numerous ill-tempered sprites and an enchanted spoon. This chance meeting sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to unleash a dark and menacing force that has been lying dormant for hundreds of years. The ensuing adventure will delight, amuse, enthral and chill in equal measure as we follow our two unlikely heroes as they undertake the mission of a lifetime. I fell in love with the characters in this story from the very outset. Xar, despite his inability to perform magic as would the expected from the son of Encanzo the King Enchanter, is delightfully self-confident. He is also reckless, stubborn and distinctly lacking in empathy, however I challenge any reader not to love him. Like Xar, Wish is also struggling to win parental approval. She is the daughter of the Warrior Queen and yet she does not appear to have so much as a warrior bone in her body. While warriors are imposing, bold and fierce, Wish is small, wispy and accident-prone yet, as you may have guessed already, there is more to Wish than meets the eye. The world that Cressida Cowell has crafted, both through word and picture, is one that captivates the reader from the start. Like all the very best fantasy fiction, it sweeps you up into a wonderful new world that you long to visit yourself. I especially enjoyed hearing the voice of the Unknown Narrator throughout the story and it was intriguing to wonder to which of the cast of characters this voice belonged. Perhaps we will find out in the next instalment? I for one can't wait! 384 pp / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Emily Marcuccilli, School Librarian

The Wizards of Once: Book 1
Coming to England
Floella Benjamin

Macmillan Children's Books

ISBN 9781509835492

I'm slightly surprised at myself for not having read this book before - I'm not sure how I didn't read it when it first came out in 1995. This new edition is still as relevant today as it was then, looking as it does at the story of an immigrant to this country. Floella came over to England from Trinidad in 1960 and this book charts her story as a small child in Trinidad and then her story coming to England, following her parents who came here to work. This edition is beautifully illustrated by Michael Frith and the illustrations seem to match the text by bringing the story to life on the page. Trinidad is full of colour and excitement and then this is contrasted with a rather gloomy England. This must have been the experience for countless numbers of people coming from rather warmer countries into a cold and wet one and it contrasts vividly with the glowing textures of the Caribbean island. Whilst this might be an easy read in terms of readability, it is not easy in respect of the content. First Floella and her sister experience neglect in Trinidad when their parents move to start their new life in England and then she experiences racism and ignorance when she arrives in the UK. It seems particularly relevant to today's children, many of them children of immigrants themselves, that this experience is repeated throughout time. Floella feels the injustice keenly, after all they were invited to England to help build the country after the war, and yet they were not welcomed with open arms as they expected. This book would be an excellent tool to discuss the stories of immigrants and why they come and how they are received. As it is not too complex it would also work well with younger children in Key Stage 2 and be an excellent introduction to how new pupils are welcomed into the school as well as the country! 144 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher.

Coming to England
Birthday Boy
David Baddiel, illus Jim Field

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008200473

Sam is an ordinary boy who makes a wish that has far reaching consequences. He wishes that he could have his birthday every day and this book imagines what that might be like and the impact on the family and the people around him. It somehow makes the fantastic seem perfectly natural and ordinary and although the book is peopled by some colourful characters, they also come across as perfectly plausible. My ten-year-old has read all the David Baddiel books and was very excited to read this one. He rated it as second only to The Parent Controller. I suspect he enjoyed it more than I did because it is aimed at exactly his age and the concepts appealed to him more than they did to me. There were a few laugh out loud moments and both of us loved the Guinea pig character. The name of the flats the family lived in - Noam Chomsky House - will have gone over the heads of most readers, but I enjoyed that reference! The illustrations by Jim Field are great and really add to the story. His drawings, like slightly savage caricatures, bring the people to life. The grandparents are particularly true to life, in both words and pictures, but that just might be my experiences! This is, at heart, a very moral tale of the 'be careful what you wish for' variety. Of course, Sam is bound to find out the hard way that a birthday is not so special if you celebrate it every day. It is also interesting, as it considers how everyone else in the family is affected by the wish. I can see slightly reluctant readers, particularly boys, being grabbed by this book, as it is not particularly difficult reading and the very jazzy cover and entertaining pictures will make it a popular choice. 384 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, school librarian.

Birthday Boy
The Boy With One Name
J. R. Wallis

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471157929

Jones is an orphaned 12 year old boy who has been looked after and trained to hunt monsters by his guardian Maitland. Together they are meant to keep their area of the Badlands free of Ogres, Witches and other creatures we believe to be mythological. But Jones doesn't want to be a Badlander, he just wants to be normal. Then Jones meets another orphan, the headstrong and outspoken Ruby who is desperate to be anything but normal. But in trying to prove herself more than just a girl she unleashes more danger into the world. When Maitland dies in a hunt that goes terribly wrong, Jones thinks he can now go back to being normal. But everything is not as it seems and Jones is going to need Ruby's help to clear up their mess before either can work out what their future holds. The Boy With One Name is one of those books that grabs you and doesn't let go until you reach the very last page. A wonderful tale of friendship and bravery with spellbinding supernatural and mythological creatures. I loved that both characters were desperate for a different life, desperate to have the exact opposite of what they have, it gave a great sense of what its like to be that age and that it's normal to feel that way, even in such a different world. Ruby's story was also really current, with her feminist spirit coming through. Wanting to prove that girls CAN do anything! This would be a great book for mythology or along side Anglo-Saxon history as a great light hearted class book along the theme. Recommended age 9+ due to some of the dark and mildly graphic scenes. 342 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Fiona DeeCee

The Boy With One Name
Pax
Sara Pennypacker

HarperCollins

ISBN 9780008158286

Pax (now available in paperback) is a story of how a boy and his abandoned fox reunite against all the odds. Despite his father, a 300 mile trek, a broken leg and a war zone, Peter proceeds with unwavering determination to find his fox, Pax. He is reluctantly helped by Vola, who has been damaged by her experiences as a soldier in a previous conflict and has difficulty trusting anyone including herself. The bond of friendship between Peter and Pax is remarkable and it is this that makes Pax equally determined to find his boy. Pax doesn't know how to hunt or protect himself and has never been left on his own in the wild before. He braves starvation, a minefield and an attacking pack of coyotes to reach his boy. He is reluctantly helped by a female fox, Bristle, whose whole family was destroyed by humans except for her young pack brother Runt. She can't understand why Pax would want to find Peter as all humans are untrustworthy. I loved the parallel stories and how each of the two main characters, the boy and the fox, developed and grew throughout the book and the way they learned much about themselves and their place in the world. Vola and Bristle made great supporting characters; the portrayal of the complicated nature of them both in such a simple way was superb. Runt was delightful. A great story just to enjoy, but has plenty to keep a class or group going with discussion too. Good readers from age 10 would enjoy it, and would also have something for teenage readers too. Unusually for serious book for this age group, we are also treated to some great illustrations. 276 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Melanie Chadwick, school librarian.

Pax