Monthly Retrospective

This is going to be a fairly brief monthly roundup since I was otherwise occupied for much of the month of October.  That said, the books I talked about in October are definitely worth a look, especially if you’re into spooky books, whether picture books or novels.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to deal with very scary books.  Even Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which I giggled my way through during the day, cost me several nights’ rest after the moon rose and the lights were out.  I am terrible at scary books, is what I’m saying.  But I love the spooky, especially in October: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is excellent for spooky but not too scary, for example.  So I made it my mission to find books which had slightly spooky elements but were fundamentally not-at-all-scary to share with my three-year-old this Hallowe’en, and I think we nailed it.  In the spotlights below you’ll find two mild-but-not-milky picture books and a slightly creepy novel.    All of these are books which are guaranteed not to keep you or your children up at night, but should make you glad that you’re in a nice cozy house, secure against whatever ghosts roam the world when the leaves are changing and the shadows seem just a little bit deeper…

Enjoy, and if you have any recommendations for spooky-but-not-terrifying books, please share them!

I Am a Witch's Cat.jpg I Am a Witch’s Cat: This book tells the story of a girl who is her mother-witch’s cat, and we watch as the cat-girl imagines various normal activities (grocery shopping and cooking) as a witch’s life, and herself as a witch’s familiar.  Just as you’re chuckling at her vivid imagination, you turn the page to see what her mother is up to on Friday evenings– and whoosh! she zooms by on a broom!  A beautiful tale of the warm and familiar with a very slightly spooky imaginative twist, this is a really ideal story for anyone, book-loving toddler and up, who’s got her head in the clouds.

Ghosts in the House.jpgGhosts in the House: Do you love ghosts?  The witch in this little story does!  When she moves into a haunted house, the little witch and her cat are thrilled to find a set of ghosts living there.  She catches them all, gives them a good wash, and puts them all to excellent use.  Perfect for toddlers and up, this story is right on the edge between “charming” and “uncanny.”  Without ever really being too spooky, you get a sense of the little witch’s power, and how she can do things no normal child her age can do.  The orange, black, and white illustrations perfectly complement the clever story.

Left-Handed Fate.jpgThe Left-Handed FateIf you have an older child looking for a slightly spooky novel, The Left-Handed Fate is absolutely ideal.  Set right at the outset of the War of 1812, it combines history with magic, all through the actions of a powerful cast of characters: Lucy, the honorary lieutenant of her father’s letter-of-marque; Max, the naturalist on a quest; and Oliver, the “prize-captain” of The Left-Handed Fate who has some of the most difficult decisions to make in the book as he balances his duty with the more nuanced situations staring him in the face.  Wartime pressures and excitement combine with a longing for peace and security, and all are overshadowed by whatever that mysterious black brig is off in the distance…  Whether you’re looking for a good historical novel or a mystery to make your spine creep just a little bit, or if you simply love a well-crafted book with well-developed characters, give this one a try.

For a comprehensive list of the books we looked at this past month:

  • Scary, Scary Halloween: One of the spookier books I’ve seen for children, and beautifully illustrated by Jan Brett. Ages 3 and up.
  • Ten Timid Ghosts: A charming counting book for toddlers and up.
  • Ghosts in the House: Toddlers and up, a slightly eerie story about a girl and her ghosts.
  • The Left-Handed Fate: A middle grade and up novel set during 1812, with courageous and clever characters.
  • Room on the Broom: A charming story for toddlers and up about a witch whose friends help her in a time of need.
  • I Am a Witch’s Cat: A daughter imagines herself as a witch’s cat, but readers will chuckle when they find out what the mother is really up to on Friday nights!

For a final note, check out my blog post over at Late Last Night Books for more on Cat Valente, the author of Fairyland!

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