Sunday, October 18, 2015

Here Be Monsters!

Looking for fun and spooky books?

“Leo: A Ghost Story”
By Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Best For: Ages 3 - 5
Rated: 3.00 (Friendship, Ghosts, Imagination)

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, it’s not easy being a ghost. Leo has been alone a long time and all he really wants is a friend. But it’s difficult to make friends when you’re a ghost. When a new family moves into his house, Leo tries to be friendly, but the family wants nothing to do with him. So Leo sets out into the city in search of a friend. He wanders until he meets Jane, who has a big imagination and a very open heart. The two develop a close friendship as they play pretend. 
 Robinson adds emotion to the tale with simple yet powerful acrylic and pencil illustrations in somber tones. The retro-illustration style fits well with Mac Barnett’s honest and whimsical text. This is a well-constructed story of friendship and acceptance. Plus, it’s a fun way to ease children’s fears of the unknown.

What’s good: A strong message of open-mindedness and acceptance.
What’s bad: May lead to questions about life and death.

“Serafina and the Black Cloak”
By Robert Beatty
Best For, Girls: Ages 8 - 12
Rated: 3.5 (Mystery, Friendship, Paranormal, Biltmore Estate)

            Set on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, this creepy fantasy-adventure draws you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat from one page to the next. It’s 1899 and although Serafina’s dad is a custodian on the estate, he and his daughter are seldom seen or heard. They keep to themselves, living secretly in the mansion’s basement. Serafina has unique golden eyes and an uncanny ability to stalk and catch rats. Her father is very loving but never allows her to be seen by the Vanderbilt family and continually warns her to stay out of the forest surrounding the grounds. 
            Things change when a figure in a dark cloak begins kidnapping children who are visiting the estate. Serafina defies her father and befriends Braeden, the Vanderbilt’s nephew. Together, they set out to solve this dark and enchanting mystery. Strangely, each clue also brings her closer to discovering the truth about herself. Fans of spooky tales and mysteries will find satisfaction between the covers Serafina and the Black Cloak.

What’s good: Serafina is an engaging and intriguing heroine that makes you want to know more.
What’s bad: The kidnappings may be a little too graphic for some readers.

By Ronald L. Smith
Best For, Boys: Ages 9 – 13
Rated: 3.5 (Deep South, Witchcraft, Race, Friendship) 

This spiritually-charged, Southern gothic tale has it all – mystery, first love, magic, action, fantasy and horror. Set in 1930s Alabama, this tale is told in the distinctive voice of the titular character, Hoodoo Hatcher. He’s a 12-year-old boy that lives with his grandmother, because both his mother and father have passed away. 
Witchcraft is commonplace in Hoodoo's neck of the woods. But odd things get even odder when a fortune teller warns him about a stranger. She tells Hoodoo that only he can save himself and his people. 
Hints of racial hardships are blended with religion and family values. Somehow it all seems to mingle well with mojo bags and magical potions. Hoodoo is a mystical battle of good and evil that is definitely worth reading during the Halloween season.

What’s good: Great voice and style that makes you want to keep reading.
What’s bad: Some small pacing issues, but they’re easy to look past.

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