Cardboard Monsters, Ghost Knights, and Magic Hotels

by Amy Kraft on October 14, 2012

My review pile has been collecting spooky books for a while, and with Halloween fast approaching, I thought I’d start plowing through them. Here are some of my favorites.

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

You can think of this new graphic novel as a Monkey’s Paw for makers. Cam’s dad, Mike, really wants to get him something great for his birthday. Trouble is that without a job, Mike can’t afford anything but the 78-cent cardboard box a totally creepy guys convinces him to buy. This box comes with two rules: you can’t ask for more cardboard, and you must return every scrap you don’t use. Mike and Cam decide to build a boxer out of the box (get it? BOX-er?) and are stunned when the boxer comes to life. The rules of this magical cardboard are soon forgotten, and soon they’ve made a cardboard machine to make more cardboard. Things get bad when their obnoxious neighbor, Marcus, gets a hold of the cardboard starts to build monsters, including a horrific version of himself. And when Cam tries to create a cardboard version of his dead mother… well, that actually has mixed results. Soon the cardboard teaches everyone what it means to be good. This book is action-packed with great art. For scare factor and emotional relationships, I’d say this one is good for ages nine and up.

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke

There’s no excuse for letting this book languish of the shelf for so long–I’ve always enjoyed Cornelia Funke’s work. The ghostly knight in period dress on the cover betrays how modern this book feels. Jon Whitcroft has problems. His mom is marrying a dentist he detests, who Jon refers to as “The Beard,” and they ship him off against his will to boarding school. Turns out, that’s just the start of Jon’s problems. One night, terrifying ghosts on horseback appear under Jon’s dormitory window. Unfortunately, these ghosts are determined to kill him because he’s a Hartgill, descendant of a long family line against which these ghosts are determined to get revenge. Fortunately, there’s a girl in town that can see the ghosts, too. She and her grandmother know a lot about ghosts, and she leads Jon to seek the help of a knight entombed in the cathedral, Longspee. When fighting ghosts, it’s quite handy to get the help of a ghost knight. This is a great book for both girls and boys, as both Jon and Ella are strong, interesting characters. It gets a little scary in places, so this is another good one for nine and up.

Hocus Pocus Hotel by Michael Dahl

Need something a little spooky for younger readers? This book has the vibe of a Alfred Hitchcock Presents for kids; it reads like a few short mysteries sandwiched together. Charlie, a smart kid with a photographic memory, is sure he’s going to get pounded when the class bully, Ty, gives him a note to meet in a specific location after school. It turns out that Ty needs Charlie’s help solving mysteries in his family’s hotel, The Abracadabra. Shower curtains have gone missing. It sounds like there’s a ghost on the ninth floor. And did the magician Mr. Madagascar jump out of a window and vanish into thin air? Charlie and Ty work together to solve the mysteries. My only complaint is the Ty-as-a-bully angle. Simply an unlikely friendship  between Charlie and Ty would have been enough without the bully/nerd trope. Overall, this is a fun book for the Scooby Doo crowd, and there are some cool charts that show how magic tricks are done.

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