While you’re carving the pumpkins, mulling the cider, and digging through the giant box of costumes you keep in the basement (because you never know when you might need a great costume), don’t forget about this fool-proof way to get into the Halloween spirit: A twofer—Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book read by the author—Himself—in its entirety, for free. I’ve mentioned this book previously but at Mouse Circus, you can listen to Gaiman’s lyric, economical prose about a boy who is raised by, and learns about life from, ghosts. It makes for a nice tradition and a good candidate, too, for Gaiman’s All Hallows Read, an effort to give out books (along with the candy) on Halloween (the backyard flavor of his video is very amusing). The audio version of this book would be great on a car trip, too.
Something about the relentless nature of zombies, the way they come in slow,inexorable waves, so comfortable with their horribleness, makes them a wonderful mascot for these financially troubled times in which misfortune seems as insidiously targeted to the average citizen as are the shuffling undead to an errant noise. This, in turn, is what makes watching them get their heads blown off so incredibly satisfying. We can’t seem to get enough of it. The lure of a “literate” zombie novel, as it has been described repeatedly, puts Colson Whitehead’s Zone One on my reading list. And Quirk Books has come up with an interactive zombie app. Now you can read an enhanced (music and sound effects!), illustrated version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the original Pride and Prejudice, or both, side by side.
Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story, the latest addition to his series featuring Chicago’s wizard-detective Harry Dresden, is fun because Harry has his hands figuratively tied by dying. Returning as a ghost to solve the mystery of his own death, Harry finds out, first, that it’s difficult to interact with the living and, second, that there are Things That Go Bump In The Night that even ghosts are afraid of. Before he can succeed on his mission, Harry must master the rules of ghost survival and face some hard truths about his relationships with the people most important to him.
Stephen King’s The Shining is so iconic, it would be remiss of me not to mention that he is reportedly working on a sequel called Dr. Sleep that will feature a group of roving vampires called The Tribe. Unfortunately, my curiosity about how Danny Torrance becomes associated with vampires will have to wait until next year to be satisfied.
I haven’t forgotten the teeny tinies. Margaret Mahy never disappoints and these stories, first published in 1978 and illustrated by the amazing Quentin Blake, combine her wonderful humor with hugely entertaining plots. In The Great Piratical Rumbustification, a dubiously reformed pirate becomes a babysitter to the Terrapin boys and wants to use their house for a pirate party. The Librarian And The Robbers finds a lovely librarian kidnapped by illiterate robbers. Somehow (no spoilers here), she engineers her escape and turns the tables; probably the Dewey Decimal System’s first real street cred.
William Joyce has a string of popular titles bearing his name but his illustrations for The Man In The Moon left me gobsmacked. This is the first book in the Guardians of Childhood series which will eventually include the mythologies behind Santa Claus, Mother Goose, the Sandman, and a few others charged with, as Joyce maintains, “protecting the imaginations of children.” There is more information about the series here.
Finally, some Halloween advice from me:
Ghosties are friendly, zombies need brains,
Witches like teacakes whenever it rains.
Over most of the frighties, you wield all the power;
But if it’s raining—for god’s sake, don’t run out of flour.