With zombies, banshees, ghosts and other creatures, these nine books that have crossed our desks recently have spooky adventures for middle-grade readers.
"GUSTAV GLOOM AND THE FOUR TERRORS," by Adam-Troy Castro, illustrated by Kristen Margiotta, Grosset & Dunlap, $12.99, 240 pages (f) (ages 8-11)
"Gustav Gloom and the Four Terrors" by Adam-Troy Castro and illustrated by Kristen Margiotta, continues the adventures of Gustav Gloom and Fernie What in the Gloom mansion.
Despite Fernie's last heart-stopping adventure in the Gloom mansion, Gustav persuades her safety-conscious father to enter the Gloom mansion with his children to rescue Gustav's father from Lord Obsidian, the ruler of the Dark Country.
The children must venture into the Pit room and face the People Taker hoping now to rescue not only Gustav's father, but Mr. What as well.
There is no offensive language, but there are some fighting and violence, and the adventures at times are dark and intense.
— Rosemarie Howard
"UNDEAD ED AND THE DEMON FREAKSHOW," by Rotterly Ghoulstone, Razorbill, $10.99 (f) (ages 8-12)
"Undead Ed and the Demon Freakshow" is a novel starring Ed Bagley, an undead zombie. Ed's nemesis, Kambo Cheapteeth, has demonic powers and is after Ed's soul.
With the devil's fingers attached to his hand, Ed often finds himself at odds with the actual devil as the two fight for control of his body and mind.
"Undead Ed and the Demon Freakshow" does not have profanity, but it portrays violence and possible murder. The book describes an undead being ripped apart and shows drawings of limbless bodies and a decapitated head.
Rotterly Ghoulstone is the pseudonym of a British author.
— Elizabeth Reid
"THE BOOK OF ELSEWHERE, Vol. 4: The Strangers," by Jacqueline West, illustrated by Poly Bernatene, Dial, $16.99, 320 pages (f) (ages 8 and up)
The adventure continues for Olive, Rutherford, Morton and their feline friends in the latest volume of the Elsewhere novels, "The Strangers."
Halloween is the perfect night for something to go magically wrong, and the large, old stone house that used to belong to the evil, scheming McMartin family, is the ideal setting.
"The Strangers" includes Jacqueline West's wit and prose along with beautiful illustrations to help the story come alive.
There are new mysteries to solve, villains to discover, and questions of trust in this wonderful addition to the Elsewhere series that leaves room for another volume to come.
The language in the story is clean.
— Tara Creel
"THE CREATURE FROM THE SEVENTH GRADE: Sink or Swim," by Bob Balaban, illustrated by Andy Rash, Viking, $15.99, 253 pages (f) (ages 9-12)
In Bob Balaban's "The Creature from the Seventh Grade: Sink or Swim," the second in this duology, Charlie Drinkwater is poised at the brink of disaster — and Stevenson Middle School's terrifying swimming pool.
When Charlie, who is also known as The Only Mutant Dinosaur in the Seventh Grade thanks to being descended from mutated dinosaurs, is falsely accused of suspicious stealing, he and his loyal friends are out to prove his innocence, even though it would be easier to confess to something he didn't do.
Charlie has to decide between keeping a promise and clearing his name. He may be afraid of many things, but a promise-breaker Charlie is not.
There are multiple instances of bullying, both physical and verbal, but the language is otherwise clean.
— Karen Schwarze
"LOCKWOOD & CO.: The Screaming Staircase," by Jonathan Stroud, Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, 400 pages (f) (ages 10 and up)
The first volume of Lockwood & Co. series, "The Screaming Staircase" by British author Jonanthan Stroud is set to please both young and not-so-young readers.
In the spirit of "Ghostbusters," "The Screaming Staircase" introduces a new young cast of characters running a London-based psychic investigation agency known as Lockwood & Co. The "plucky and talented" Lucy Carlyle and agency owner Anthony Lockwood set out to solve a dangerous mystery in Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England.
It has plenty of chills and thrills, but no profanity, innuendo or other objectionable content.
— Scott Livingston
"THE GRIMM CONCLUSION,"by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hugh D'Andrade, Dutton, $16.99, 343 pages (f) (ages 10 and up)
"The Grimm Conclusion" by Adam Gidwitz is the final book in the Grimm series and is fast-paced and exciting.
It has a quirky, unnamed narrator who is the most appealing character in the book and who slowly takes the reader through various fairy tales.
It follows two children who have a variety of adventures, which mirror those of Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin and the Juniper Tree. They venture into deep and scary forests, face ogres, demons and monsters, and escape from bad people.
It is a depressing story with a life-affirming message at the end. Fans of the series will definitely enjoy the new twist on age-old fairy tales.
"The Grimm Conclusion" has no profanity or crude scenes.
— Shelby Scoffield
"ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN," by Paolo Bacigalupi, Little, Brown, $17, 292 pages (f) (ages 11 and up)
"Zombie Baseball Beatdown" by Paolo Bacigalupi is a fun and scary zombie story that also tackles real problems, such as immigration reform, the treatment of cattle at beef processing facilities, chemical food enhancements and what it means to be a real friend.
Rabi, Miguel and Joe are best friends who find themselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse when the cows at the local meat-packing plant start to exhibit strange behavior. They are all on the local baseball team and find that their bats come in handy for more than swinging at fastballs or curves.
"Zombie Baseball Beatdown" is a well-written and fast-paced book that delivers more than action — it also gives plenty to think about.
It does contain some violence, directed mostly at zombie cows and people. But there are also scenes of fights between different classes of kids in the town. It would be most suitable for readers in middle school.
— Connie Lewis
"TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD," by Ellen Booraem, Dial, $16.99, 319 pages (f) (ages 11 and up)
Conor O'Neill thought his life was difficult with trying to please his parents and keeping away from his younger sister's teasing. Life takes him on a strange turn when a young girl named Ashling shows up in his bedroom — and she's a banshee, who only appears swhen someone is going to die.
Ashling decides to attend middle school with Conor while she's waiting. Conor, Ashling and a few other members of his family have a great adventure to the underworld as they try to stop the death the banshee was to claim.
Best of all, they discover they have cellphone service and texting ability to receive help when needed from the land of the living.
"Texting the Underworld" covers topics such as the afterlife, the possibility of reincarnation and Irish heritage, history and folklore. It has a few mild swear words along with some non-descriptive violence.
— Micah Klug
"HOW TO CATCH A BOGLE," by Catherine Jinks, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99, 320 pages (f) (ages 11 and up)
There's a very simple reason for child disappearances in 19th century London — bogles.
Despite the growing disbelief among Londoners, bogles (child-eating monsters) abound in dark nooks and abandoned crannies, just waiting to get their claws, talons and little monster hands on an unsuspecting child.
But Mr. Bunce, the bogler, and Birdie, his 10-year-old apprentice, make a living out of killing bogles, so there's no need to be frightened, right?
"How to Catch a Bogle" keeps the frightening moments tense and the lighter moments playful — a chillingly fun tale.
This book contains descriptions of horror, black magic and mild language.
— Nathan Sorensen