I’m a big fan of Quirk Books — they continue to put out fun books that live up to the publisher’s name. Point your browser over to quirkbooks.com and spend a few minutes looking over their library and I’ll bet dollars to donuts you’ll find at least one book that you’ll put on your Wish List. I highly recommend The Last Policeman and its sequel (read my reviews here), and I recently enjoyed William Shakespeare’s Star Wars (also reviewed here).
I’ve got a couple of new Quirk books to share with you here — one is a new book in a great Middle Grade reader series and the other is fun little book that’s a bit hard to categorize.
100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts
Got a child who’s a bit hesitant about Halloween that’s fast approaching? Go into any Halloween store for a costume and you’re bound to find some amazing costumes, but let’s not forget that back in the 40s/50s (maybe even later?) many parents would cut two holes into a white sheet for an instant ghost costume. I know my dad went as one when he was a kid, and I do remember a few showing up for the costume parade when I was in elementary school.
The basic ghost is tried and true, and one could even say iconic — remember that funny scene in Beetlejuice when Baldwin and Davis tried to scare away the new homeowners? It’s hard to believe that there was a time when this little fellow was actually considered the standard for representing the career choice; today’s special effects for spooks, spectres, and ghosts are beyond terrifying to children (and many adults).
Author and artist Doogie Horner is seeking to demystify and take some of the terror out of the traditional ghost in his new book, 100 Ghosts. (Okay, the book pretty much takes out ALL of the terror.) It’s a funny collection of drawings that attempt to answer the basic question of what this ghost looks like in other situations — costumes, moods, and movie/TV characters to name just a few.
There’s some funny stuff here, and my oldest son enjoyed flipping through the book looking at all the funny ways a ghost might dress up or look in different circumstances (after being ironed, for example). My favorites? 8-bit. Vinyl (on the cover of some famous albums). Ventriloquist. Undercover Cop. My son’s favorites? Pirate. Fantastic Four. Used Car Lot (the infamous dancing man prop). My son didn’t get a few (Grumpy Cat, for example), but he still enjoyed the variations on a theme.
100 Ghosts opens with The Classic and doesn’t stop for 99 more pages. It’s a small hardback that makes for a perfect coffee table book — it’s eye-catching (a beautiful blue color with a small Classic ghost on the cover) and sure to be picked up for a quick laugh by visitors and kids.
Lovecraft Middle School: Substitute Creature
The latest book (#4) in the Lovecraft Middle School series written by Charles Gilman, once again finds our hero, Robert, and his friends, Glenn and (ghost) Karina, fighting the evil forces that are building in and around the new middle school.
If you’re not familiar with the series, you can read my previous reviews here, but here’s a quick synopsis with a few minor spoilers: The seaside village of Dunwich was re-zoned, forcing young Robert Arthur to change schools. Lovecraft Middle School is brand new, with cutting edge technology, an impressive library, an olympic sized swimming pool, and much more. It’s also filled with teachers and students who have been replaced by horrible creatures from another dimension. The new school contains materials that survived the explosion of the Tillinghast Mansion where Crawford Tillinghast conducted strange experiments many decades earlier until its destruction. Tillinghast survived, but is now in another dimension that shares portals between our world and his (due to the materials from the mansion being used in the school’s construction), allowing monsters to move back and forth. Robert, Glenn and Karina have done their best to fight the evil trying to gain entrance into our world, and so far have been successful.
Book #4, Substitute Creature, finds the town of Dunwich hit by a massive snowstorm that forces an evacuation of the school. But not everyone got out in time, and now Robert, his mom, his friends, and a few other unusual characters are going to have to wait the storm out in the school. They have food, light, and blankets, but the temperature is dropping because the generator has been attacked (claw marks everywhere). Mrs. Carcasse, the substitute, and Mac the janitor are making it difficult for Robert to investigate some of the strange activities that are going on around them, and Robert finds himself faced with a difficult choice as the adventure wraps up.
As with the previous books, Book #4 comes with a lenticular cover that shows Mrs. Carcasse’s appearance changing as the book is turned left and right. My oldest son isn’t quite ready for these stories yet, but he sure does like the covers. And I have no doubt that he’ll enjoy reading these in a few more years (putting them away on the shelf and telling him he’s not old enough yet seems a sure-fire way to tempt him to continue improving his reading skills.)
It’s been a great little series that I’ve enjoyed (I’m a huge HPL fan), and it’s got the perfect mix of danger, horror, and humor to keep kids interested without scaring them away completely. (Boredom isn’t even a possibility with the pacing of these stories.) If you’ve got a Middle Grade reader who might be interested in some light scares and adventure, start him or her out with Professor Gargoyle, the first book in the series. If they enjoy it, they’re going to love Books 2 and 3, The Slither Sisters and Teacher’s Pest as well as Book 4.
Note: I’d like to thank Nicole at Quirk for providing me with these review copies.