Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe (J)

It’s Tween and Teen Tuesday where we review either a juvenile (J) or young adult (YA) book.  In honor of Halloween, we’ll be reviewing ghoulishly scary and spooky books throughout the month of October.

Bunnicula

Bunnicula   

Deborah and James Howe (Juvenile Fiction)

Who would have thought that a seemingly innocent rabbit found in a movie theater would turn a happy family upside down…and possibly threaten the world?  Chester, that’s who.  The Monroe’s family cat knew the instant that snuggly bunny entered their home that something was definitely not right.  Harold, the family dog, was clueless and Mr. and Mrs. Monroe and their two boys were no help at all.  No.  It was up to him and him alone to expose this furry fraud for who he really was.  Soon, Chester would make his discovery known to all since the clues were all coming together:  the nocturnal sleeping habits, the drained vegetables, the Houdini-like talents of escapism, the FANGS!  Come on!  Why is he the ONLY ONE WHO SEES IT?  Well, cats are far more intelligent.  Thankfully, Chester has a plan, but can he make it work in time to save his family and everyone on the planet?

Bunnicula is a harmless and hilarious way to get your young reader into the Halloween spirit.  FAR more benign and innocuous than The Witches by Roald Dahl (reviewed on October 9), the antics of Chester and Harold are entertaining and lighthearted.  Perhaps the only scary thing about this book is the cover (an adorable rabbit with red eyes and fangs?  Yikes!).  And, if your youngster wants more fun with the Monroe pets, Howe provides fans with six more books in the Bunnicula series.  Hare-ray!

So, hide your vegetables, put your garlic necklace on, and prepare yourself for some hare-raising fun with the most adorable vampire you’re likely to ever meet.

Rating: 4/5

* Book cover image attributed to http://www.amazon.com

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (J)

It’s Throwback Thursday where we review a Classic from literature.  In honor of Halloween, we’ll be reviewing ghoulishly scary and spooky books throughout the month of October.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow   

Washington Irving (Juvenile Fiction)

About two miles past the village of Tarry Town, there is a little village which is perhaps one of the quietest places in all the world.  It’s known as Sleepy Hollow and is thought to be bewitched.  Residents have been known to see strange sights or to hear voices in the night air.  There is never a shortage of ghostly tales or haunted spots, but the dominant spirit that holds dominion over all is the lone headless figure on horseback.

If you think Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is similar to Disney’s 1949 animated Halloween staple, think again.  Irving gives us three characters (Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel, and Brom Van Brunt a/k/a Brom Bones) with three very different desires (to be the boss, to be the bride, and to be the best).  First, we have Ichabod Crane who, contrary to his appearance and demeanor, is quite the adept opportunist.  He woos old Baltus Van Tassel’s daughter, Katrina, motivated not by his passion, but rather by her purse for Ichabod realizes that she is the natural heir apparent to her father’s estate.  Then there’s the charming Katrina Van Tassel who is as manipulative as she is beautiful.  She leverages Ichabod’s feelings for her merely to motivate her apathetic suitor, Brom, toward matrimony.  Lastly, we have Brom Van Brunt who is nothing more than a jealous and possessive man-child with a penchant for childish pranks and an aversion to adult responsibility.

Irving gives us an emotionally charged and haunting tale of ghosts, legends, love, greed, and jealousy…all tightly wrapped within a thick, black cloak and sitting high atop a powerful, red-eyed steed.  All is not what it seems to be in the tranquil hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, and master storyteller Washington Irving reminds us that appearances can be deceiving and fear only has the power we give it.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to http://www.scholastic.com

 

The Witches by Roald Dahl (J)

The Witches

The Witches   

Roald Dahl (Juvenile Fiction)

“In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks.  But this is not a fairy-tale.  This is about REAL WITCHES.”

Our story is told through the eyes of a seven-year old boy.  He’s quite ordinary really, but we soon find out that this rather ordinary boy is about to do some particularly extraordinary things.  Before he is eight years old, he tells us that he has had not one, but TWO encounters with witches…and he has lived to tell about it through this book.  I implore you to read this book so that you too will know how to spot a witch, for witches look just like ordinary women.  Miss the signs and alas poor reader, you might as well count yourself squelched!

Told in true Roald-Dahl fashion, the author gives us yet another whimsical, comical, and delightful story.  Dahl treats us to a young hero who shows courage, cleverness, and cunning in the most dangerous and dire of circumstances.  Even when he is at his lowest (and I mean that quite literally), our protagonist always seems to find the bright spot and never resorts to self-pity or defeatism.  His “can do” attitude and spunk will cast a wickedly delightful spell on your heart and is sure to entrance readers of all ages.  A few gory details of the supreme witch’s appearance may leave younger readers a tad squeamish, but it’s all told in good fun.

Dahl presents us with two very different groups of people whose appearance hide who they truly are.  When the narrator’s grandmother poses a question to him about identity and appearance, he responds, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you.”  And that, friends, is about as bewitching and magical a message as you can hope for.

Rating: 4/5

* Book cover image attributed to http://www.amazon.com

 

 

 

 

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

In honor of Halloween, we’ll be reviewing ghoulishly scary and spooky books throughout the month of October.

The Woman in Black.jpg

The Woman in Black   

Susan Hill (Adult Fiction)

It’s Christmas Eve at Monk’s Piece.  Lawyer Arthur Kipps, his wife and children are gathered around the fire telling ghost stories, as is ancient tradition.  They all take turns until it comes to Arthur.  “Now come, stepfather, your turn.  You must know at least one ghost story, stepfather, everyone knows one…”  Arthur does know a ghost story.  One haunted by a child’s anguished screams, an approaching pony and trap, a moving rocking chair with no occupant, and a mysterious woman in black.  A ghost story made even more horrifying and terrible because this story is true…absolutely true.

I wasn’t familiar with Susan Hill before this book, but about twenty pages in, I was so impressed with the eloquent and nuanced writing style, and so immersed in the story, that I wondered if she was English.  Sure enough, she is.  There is no mistaking a truly adept English or British author.  The turns of phrase, the sentence structure, and the painstaking attention to detail without being overly verbose all add up to an exceptionally well-crafted book.

Hill gives us a satisfying horror story which achieves its goal of raising the hairs on your neck and increasing the beats of your heart.  By introducing noises in the dark, mysterious brushes against your body, and an invisible presence that always seems to be just right behind you, she goes to the very core of our fears and keeps them tucked into the deepest, darkest corners of our soul—very far away from the light.  Hill gives us a gripping and suspenseful story that builds at a steady and progressive pace until the final climax.  With one last blow thrown in at the end, it might be best to read this with a torch (flashlight) nearby…just in case.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.penguinrandomhouse.com

 

 

Coraline by Neil Gaiman (YA Horror)

Coraline.jpg

Coraline   

Neil Gaiman (Young Adult Fiction)

Coraline (not Caroline) Jones lives in a rather large house with her mother and father.  Because the house is much too big for just one family, she shares it with Misses Spink and Forcible (they live in the flat below) and the crazy old man with a big mustache (who lives in the flat above).  The day after she moves in, Coraline goes exploring.  She IS an explorer after all and exploring is what she does.  She explores the gardens, the tennis court, and even the old well (which is very dangerous so it’s best to stay away from it).  Soon, she begins exploring her house, which leads her to a door (which is kept locked), which opens up to a brick wall.  But one day, the brick wall isn’t there and Coraline decides to go through the door, because that is what explorers do.  It’s not long before Coraline realizes that she should have listened to the mice (in the flat above) and NOT have gone through the door.  Mice are smart.  At least they pronounce her name correctly.

Coraline is a wonderfully spooky and thrilling tale of a young girl who is clever, brave, and kind.  Her curiosity tends to get her into mischief, but a level head and a compassionate heart always seem to allow this little explorer to come out on top.

In his book, Neil Gaiman shows us different kinds of love.  There’s the I-love-yellow-Wellington-boots-in-the-shape-of-frogs love and the I’d-love-for-you-to-go-away-so-I-can-work love and then the I-love-you-so-much-that-I-will-give-you-everything-so-you’ll-love-me-too kind of love.  Throughout our story, Coraline deals with all of these:  her own love for quirky things; the love from her parents who often don’t seem to notice her; and the demanding love from a strange being that will go to any length in order to acquire and keep it.  The Ancient Greeks identified eight kinds of love.  Psychologists state there are seven.  For Coraline, there is only one kind of love and that is the love she has for her mother and father.  It is this love that gives her the will and the strength to fight against seemingly overwhelming odds and terrifying beings in order to find her way home again…and back to love.

Rating: 4/5

Posted: 10/2/2018

* Book cover image attributed to http://www.amazon.com