Grimly fiendish

Hopefully I’ve got you thinking more about the Damned than current events, but my true intention (rubs hands together) is to introduce you to two brand-new kidlit books perfect for Halloween…or whenever you want shivers crawling up your neck.

A sweet, slightly spooky story inspired by the author’s Dominican heritage, Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega features two best friends, Lucely and Syd, who accidentally cast a spell that awakens malicious ghosts in their Florida hometown. Luckily, Lucely is protected by her loving, quarrelsome ancestors, who appear to her either as fireflies or in their slightly translucent (and sometimes grouchy) original forms. And Syd’s grandma, Babette, is a dreadlocked witch who designed the Spectral Master 4000 to bring bad ghosts down. Together with Chunk, a cat with her own secrets, the Ghost Squad is funny, adventurous, and just-enough creepy for middle-grade readers. Fans of Coco and Zoraida Córdova’s Brooklyn Brujas series will enjoy this.

The second book in Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces series–which I enjoyed very much last year–Dead Voices is a hair-raising new middle-grade adventure with buddies Ollie, Brian, and Coco. This time it’s December, and a blizzard rages outside a creepy ski lodge where the kids and a few adults are trapped with no electricity or heat. After a mysterious stranger tells them about the lodge’s miserable history, eerie voices and spooky apparitions menace them all. Coco must figure out who’s haunting Mount Hemlock before she and her friends are trapped within the labyrinthine corridors of the past forever. This book’s creep-out factor is definitely higher than Ghost Squad, but the characters’ love for one another and cleverness in solving the mysteries is truly satisfying. A great book to read beside a flickering fire while the wind howls outside…if you don’t mind lying awake all night.

May all your tricks be treats in disguise. Happy Halloween!