A New Literary Halloween Tradition!

Halloween is by far a favorite time of year in the Donahue house. Costume prep, haunted houses, and carving pumpkins build our excitement towards passing out candy for the neighborhood trick or treaters and sharing some of our reptiles with them! This year, though, is of course…different. So when the opportunity to review some terrific Halloween books published by Candlewick Press arose, I couldn’t pass. I don’t know how books and writing haven’t been a part of Halloween yet since they are central to most other parts of my life, but these titles certainly broke ground for a new tradition.

Families with younger readers are going to love Gustavo The Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago. The illustrations and content celebrate Day of the Dead and this friendly little ghost couldn’t be more lovable. Any writer looking for mentor texts around the theme of belonging will benefit from the tight story arc with a character that will warm any readers’ heart. Drago creates the perfect ending, without sacrificing Gustavo’s individuality. The illustrations make this picture book ideal for even very young readers. My two year old had a ball finding Gustavo hiding on every page, examining the other monsters, and cheering Gustavo on as he played his violin!

Readers and writers of middle grade novels looking for a spooky story that combines rescuing a pet will be hooked by The Rise of Zombert by Kara Lareau and illustrated by Ryan Andrews. This book is ideal for middle grade readers that have moved recently from chapter books into middle grade. The plot moves quickly, the writing is easy to follow, and the illustrations embedded within the novel as well as at the beginning of each chapter give children space to think and make connections across the text! The author weaves together four clear story arcs:

  • Mellie struggles to be noticed by her blog obsessed parents who spend all of their time recording her younger twin siblings…
  • Mellie and her best friend Danny attempt to deal with their arch nemesis, Carl…
  • Factory workers of the town’s biggest factory hunt down their escaped lab cat…
  • Mellie and Danny try to help a stray cat that may or may not actually be a zombie cat…

Some of these arcs are resolved, while the most compelling arc just reaches the climax as the book ends. I was relieved to see that Rise of Zombert is a part of a series, but I really wish the next book was already released because this cliff hanger is intense. Any writer trying to figure out how to create an ending to a book that will be part of a series could study this to see how some parts of the plot are resolved while others will lead the reader right into the next book.

For all the readers out there that gravitate towards texts structured in a nonfiction format, Ghostology: A True Revelation of Spirits, Ghouls, and Hauntings is the perfect Halloween read. The book is filled with folklore and facts about spirits and ghost hunting, but the best part is that his book is currently haunted. The evidence provided in the book of this spirit creates a mystery all readers will want to solve. There are clues hidden within the book and across the book and the reader plays a very active role in deciding how far they want to go to solve the mystery of the spirit haunted within this book. I can’t wait to read other books in the Ology series!

This Halloween covid-19 will prevent my family from trick or treating, sharing a good spook in a haunted house, or carving pumpkins with our extended family, but these books sure added to our fall festivities. Reading new spooky books will definitely be a tradition we carry on, even though we hope we can enjoy all of our other traditions in October 2021!

A big thank you to Candlewick Press for providing these titles for review!

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