If you’re craving a reading list full of magic and fantastic creatures, these books deliver.
Whether you're looking for a book that will have you hiding under the cover with a flashlight or just something that gives a nod to favorite Halloween traditions, we've rounded up a fun list of spooky (and not-so-spooky) books to enjoy in October.
If you love the fantasy, fun, and humor of Roald Dahl, you’ll enjoy these books that capture some of that same playful spirit.
Epic adventure awaits in these fabulously constructed fantasy worlds.
When a deadly fog envelopes the Earth, people take to the skies, where a ragtag bunch of scavengers is ready to risk everything for a better life. First in a series. (Middle grades)
Jaxter Grimjinx was born to be a master thief—but it turns out that with disaster bearing down on his world, he may need to become a hero instead. (Middle grades)
Moril’s witnessed his father’s murder and his brother’s imprisonment, but that’s just the beginning of his problems. First in a quartet. (Middle grades)
Russian spies, magical potions, and a mysterious book star in an adventure that begins in 1950s California. First in a series. (Middle grades)
Nix’s pirate father can sail his ship to any place, real or imagined, as long as he has a map. But the place he’s most determined to go may spell doom for his daughter. (Young adult)
Bradley reimagines the Arthurian legends from a feminist, pagan perspective in this dense volume told mostly from the perspective of the traditionally vilified Morgan le Fay. (Young adult)
Though it’s often recommended for middle grades, I think this subversive retelling of Paradise Lost is more likely to appeal to teens. (Young adult)
Another London—filled with magic and intrigue—exists parallel to the city Richard Mayhew knows—and Mayhew is about to slip through one of the cracks between worlds. (Young adult)
Spectacular world-building lights up this fantasy about a world where humans and intelligent dragons live in an uneasy truce. (Young adult)
When Owen finds out his friend Bethany is half-fictional, he can’t wait to join her next jump into his favorite books—but fictional adventure proves more hazardous than he’s anticipated. (Middle grades)
Witnessing a murder wins Oscar a seat on a magical train that travels through time and space. (Middle grades)
Addie’s always been happy in the shadow of her adventurous sister Meryl, but when Meryl catches the Gray Death, Addie must summon her own courage and set out alone to save her sister. (Middle grades
This list is reprinted from the summer 2016 issue of HSL.
Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!
It’s a short update this week. You’d think that would mean that I was super-productive and got a lot of other things done since I clearly wasn’t spending all my time reading, but nah, not really.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
In this Booker-nominated novel, the Sisters brothers are sent to San Francisco during the Gold Rush era on a mission of murder. The younger brother, Eli Sisters, narrates their travels, during which they drink, learn about dental hygiene, and commit the occasional horrifically brutal act. Normally a book described as “startlingly violent” would not be my cup of tea, but I was completely captivated by Eli and the surprising sweetness glimpsed every so often in his musings and life story. I’m looking forward to reading more by DeWitt.
(LC Score: +1)
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Steampunk in central Africa! During King Leopold’s brutal regime in Congo, a group of white Europeans, black Americans, and local Africans come together to oppose him and build a settlement. They get a technological boost from balloon-lifted “aircanoes” and prosthetic hands that can be switched out for weapons. Shawl tells the story in bite-sized chunks, rotating through a large cast of narrators and skipping around in location and time, which moves the pace along briskly and allows her to cover a lot of ground. An unfortunate side-effect (at least for me) in this otherwise enjoyable book was that I sometimes felt like I was reading edited excerpts of a novel instead of the novel itself.
(LC Score: +1)
So here’s the thing: I love Brit Lit. I love Austen and all the Brontes (except for that ridiculous wuthering one) and Dickens and Trollope and Collins and Lady Audley’s Secret (have you guys read Lady Audley’s Secret? you totally should because it’s awesome) and the whole pack of ‘em. I was looking forward to Evelina, especially since it’s an epistolary novel and we have established that epistolary novels are Perfect and The Best and Give Them All to Me. I loaded it into my Kindle as my official “stuck waiting somewhere and forgot to bring a book” book, and then, at 38% in, I came to an important realization: life is short. And if I have to read one more page about the horrible Captain Mirvan playing “pranks” on the horrible Madame Duval while everyone else sits around and shrugs genteelly I will poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick. So I’m closing the Kindle and crossing this one off the TBR list and I don’t even feel badly about it. (Still going to read that Burney bio, though.)
(LC Score: 0, read on Kindle)
Library Chicken Score for 6/13/17: 4
Running Score: 50
On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:
Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (magic via mixtape in 1980’s Mexico City)
Version Control by Dexter Palmer (time machines from the author of The Dream of Perpetual Motion)
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale (middle grade Squirrel Girl novel co-written by Newbery Honor winner Shannon Hale)
This week's Stuff We Like is brought to you by Suzanne, who always finds the best stuff!
Around the Web
So, did you hear the one about the racist sexist trolls trying to take over science fiction’s Hugo Awards because the awards are sometimes given to non-white non-male authors writing on topics that the trolls aren’t interested in? No? Well, count yourself lucky (it’s not always easy being a sf fan <sigh>), but read this heart-warming article anyway: How a Self-Published Writer of Gay Erotica Beat Sci-Fi’s Sad Puppies at Their Own Game (I’m serious! It’s heart-warming! You’ll thank me!)
Just Say No: How to Actually Talk to a Woman Wearing Headphones
Laughed so hard I did a spit-take with my morning mug of ‘Man Tears’: Today’s Vagenda
More Neil Gaiman! I’m sloooowly reading my way through The View From the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction because I want to highlight every page and write “Yes! I feel the same way! That’s it exactly!” in the margins.
Favorite dystopian-near-future-of-economic-and-environmental-collapse novel of the month: The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber. Runner up: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. LEAST favorite: The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver (NOT recommended, boo)
For when you’re sick and tired of reading about a dystopian near future of economic and environmental collapse: Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files
Favorite podcast-turned-into-a-novel: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Were you wondering what Thor was doing during the events of Captain America: Civil War? Us too! So the whole family had to stop what we were doing and watch this: Team Thor
We would also definitely watch this version of a Full House reboot: Avengers: Full House (with an Olson sister and everything!!)
Are you a fan of Harry Potter? And podcasts about critical analysis? Would you enjoy a discussion of Hagrid and performative masculinity? OF COURSE you would, you right-thinking person you, so I can recommend this podcast, which I’ve been enjoying immensely: Witch, Please (NOTE: I would highly recommend this podcast to interested tweens and teens, but please be aware that the delightful hosts use four-letter words when appropriate and sometimes discuss adult situations.)
Dragon Con is this weekend! I won’t be there this year (though I did attend the very first one in 1987), but by the time you read this assorted friends and family will be in downtown Atlanta hobnobbing with superheroes, aliens, and cartoon characters. If you can’t make it to the Saturday morning parade, you can watch it live on Atlanta’s local CW station, as it’s being televised for the first time ever! YAY, NERDS!
at home | school | life
on the blog: I’m pretty intrigued by Rebecca’s review of Layers of Learning—I’m always looking for things my 9-year-old and 14-year-old can do together!
in the magazine: Group subscriptions are open! Now through September 30, you can subscribe to HSL for a bargain $10 per person if you subscribe in a group of at least 20 people. (This is such a good deal! You should get your homeschool group to sign up!) Email us if you're interested!
one year ago: We rounded up readalikes for The Mysterious Benedict Society.
two years ago: Shelli and Amy met up at the NASH conference.
Around the Web
I’ve been enjoying the SDCC news (superheroes! movie trailers! superhero movie trailers!) on my favorite (and sometimes NSFW) movie site BirthMoviesDeath
I love Lynda Barry: When Heidi Met Carrie
Let’s face it: I was never gonna be able to afford to fly to NYC and see Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, but I will miss watching him host Ham4Ham
But (speaking of Lin-Manuel) we’re all excited for Moana, right? Have you seen the Baby Moana trailer?
at home | school | life
for subscribers: We added the Time Cat reading guide to the subscribers library!
on the blog: Don’t miss your chance to enter our fab weather book giveaway.
in the classroom: There’s lots of good stuff coming up on the fall class schedule.
I finally made my way through The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman and WOW, now I understand what people have been talking about all these years. Bonus, The Omnibus editions make a very satisfying THUMP when you bring them back to the library returns counter.
Favorite very-post-apocalypse-plus-Brazil-and-matriarchy! YA of the month: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Favorite dutiful-daughter-and-her-doctor-fiance-and-the-squirrel-that-might-come-between-them fiction of the month: The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
Favorite French-Revolution-historical-fiction-that-posits-that-Robespierre-was- maybe-not-that-bad-a-guy? of the month: A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel
We ain’t afraid of no (female) ghost(-busters): The whole family loved the new Ghostbusters movie!
Haven’t made it to Star Trek Beyond yet (yes, we’re nerds), but we’re busy watching the first two reboot movies in preparation.
Our new kitten is all of FIVE POUNDS now and has already transitioned from fuzzy bitty kitten to mini-cat.
If anyone wants to meet up for a strawberry margarita or two, I think I’ll need it after dropping Eldest Kid off at his COLLEGE ORIENTATION tomorrow. Cheers!
Secret worlds, real-life mythology in action, and heroes-in-the-making—who can resist the lure of stories steeped in legend?
Your next picture book
In Young Zeus, the future king of the gods enlists the assistance of a motley crew of super-powered creatures to become the ruler on Mount Olympus.
Your next chapter book
What were the great Greek heroes like when they were Percy and Annabeth’s age? You can find out in Odysseus and the Serpent Maze, in which teenage Odysseus (and some other kids you might recognize) are kidnapped by pirates.
Your next readaloud
Like Percy and his Camp Half-Blood pals, Kendra and Seth discover that mythology is very real—and very, very dangerous. In Fablehaven, first in a series, they find out their grandparents’ farm is actually a preserve for mythic creatures.
Your next teen read
In The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, holistic detective Dirk Gently finds himself caught up in a mystery surrounding some pretty disgruntled Norse deities.
Your next grown-up book
Neil Gaiman’s dark, complicated American Gods is superficially about a squabble between the New World’s old and new gods is full of big questions.
Revisit your favorite fairy tales in these tellings-with-a-twist.
Your next picture book
Alexander T. Wolf finally gets to tell his side of the story in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.
Your next chapter book
Sleeping Beauty’s little sister Princess Annie is totally immune to magic—so when her sister’s curse kicks in, Annie is the only one who can save the day in The Wide-Awake Princess.
Your next readaloud
Princesses and scrappy tailor’s sons get all the fairy tale fame, a fact which the motley crew of princes in The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom sorely lament. Be prepared to pause for laughter.
Your next teen read
In Cinder, a futuristic, dystopian imagining of Cinderella set in New Beijing, Cinder is a cyborg mechanic and Prince Kai is at the center of an intergalactic balancing act. (The story continues, following different fairy tale characters, in the Lunar Chronicles series.)
Your next grown-up book
The Sleeper and the Spindle is written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. It’s also a thoughtful, nuanced short story retelling of the Snow White and Sleeping Beauty narratives.
Milo’s adventure in the Lands Beyond is full of witty wordplay and curious characters. Get a similar taste of brainy unpredictability from these delightfully eccentric books like The Phantom Tollbooth.
Your Next Picture Book:
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson celebrates the power of pure imagination with this story of a boy and his favorite art supply.
Your Next Chapter Book
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery explores some of the same big questions and ideas as The Phantom Tollbooth within a similarly whimsical premise.
Your Next Readaloud:
The Princess Bride by William Goldman has a ripping good story — it's better than the movie, and that's saying something — and a narrator whose literary asides will have you giggling with glee.
Your Next Teen Read:
Stardust by Neil Gaiman has a few adult plot points sprinkled throughout, but teens who loved Milo will be equally engaged by Tristran’s journey through the mysterious lands of Faerie.
Your Next Grown-Up Book
Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon is full of weird characters and curious situations. The twist: It’s all taking place in the real world, circa C.E. 1000.
We’re reprinting some of Amy’s summer reading series favorites from home/school/life magazine. This list appeared in our 2014 summer reading guide.
In the summer issue of home/school/life, we’re helping you navigate the transition from elementary to middle school in your homeschool. An important piece of the puzzle: Your middle grades reading list. These titles tap into tweens’ developing social and emotional lives
It’s heartbreaking to read, but that’s kind of the point of this book about life for one Jewish girl in hiding during the Holocaust.
Some of the situations in this book may be a little mature for younger middle schoolers, but its themes of identity and intelligence will captivate tween readers.
What cost does utopia have? How important is freedom? Tweens are ready to tackle those ambiguous questions right along with young Jonah in this deceptively simple novel.
For many tweens, Harper Lee’s American classic is the first novel that really makes them sit up and pay attention to what literature can do. Scout, Boo Radley, and Atticus Finch are characters who stay with you.
People have called Holden Caulfield, the book’s not-a-hero-protagonist annoying, boring, spoiled, and hard to identify with. That unlikability is part of what makes this a classic.
Tweens trying to sort out where they belong will identify with reluctant hoodlum Ponyboy in this story about two rival gangs in the 1960s Midwest.
Coincidence or fate, revenge or redemption, justice or generosity — Sachar tackles these big topics with good-spirited humor and a rollicking good story.
Golding’s novel might poke fun at some of the traditional fairy-tale elements in epic adventures, but the story of Buttercup and her Westley is an unabashed literary delight. (Golding was inserting wry narrator notes long before the trend took off in children’s literature.)
Lots of children’s books talk about the history of Native Americans, but Alexie’s novel is one of the few that digs into what it’s like to grow up on a modern-day Indian reservation. There’s tough stuff in this book, but that’s part of what makes it so worthwhile.
This book, about two lonely kids who find friendship while creating an imaginary world, will break your heart in the best possible way.
Like a more confusing, much darker version of Alice in Wonderland, Coraline is a fascinating look at the costs of getting what we want.
You don’t have to be a science-fiction fan to get completely caught up in this story of Meg’s search for her father, and even non-science-minded kids will appreciate the intelligent writing.