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Halloween Books For Young Readers

  •  love in the time of global warming by Francesca Lia Block (age 14 and up, $16.99)

    love in the time of global warming by Francesca Lia Block (age 14 and up, $16.99)

  •  love in the time of global warming by Francesca Lia Block (age 14 and up, $16.99)

    love in the time of global warming by Francesca Lia Block (age 14 and up, $16.99)

  •  love in the time of global warming by Francesca Lia Block (age 14 and up, $16.99)

    love in the time of global warming by Francesca Lia Block (age 14 and up, $16.99)

  •  love in the time of global warming by Francesca Lia Block (age 14 and up, $16.99)
  •  love in the time of global warming by Francesca Lia Block (age 14 and up, $16.99)
  •  love in the time of global warming by Francesca Lia Block (age 14 and up, $16.99)

From flying frogs to postmodern pigs to fabulous fish, three-time Caldecott winner David Wiesner knows how to turn ordinary into eerie – or is it the other way around? In this new, almost wordless picture book, a sleek black-and-white feline named Mr. Wuffles starts on his excellent adventure by stalking disdainfully past a series of conventional cat toys. A stuffed mouse? Ho-hum! A jingle bell ball? So dull! A badminton birdie? Surely, you jest! “Oh, Mr. Wuffles!” sighs the clueless human proffering gifts. But what is this? A diminutive metal sphere perched on stiltlike legs. We can see that its interior is alive with tiny green toga-clad creatures. Now this could be interesting! Mr. Wuffles does what every cat must do when encountering something new, unknown and highly intriguing: He sniffs it, rubs it, bites it, bats it and rolls it under the radiator. Chaos ensues as the minute alien world inside the ball is upended and delicate instruments are smashed. The bald, green figures inside scratch their heads in bewilderment. Speech bubbles erupt with circles, triangles and other more exotic marks. Their language may resemble nothing so much as ancient pictographs, but the meaning is clear: This huge black-and-white creature must be taught a lesson. But luckily for all concerned, intergalactic warfare is averted. Once again, author-illustrator David Wiesner has done what he does so well: Create a world so real that we can see the grain in the floorboards, the seams in the jeans and the rust on the radiator – then he turns it upside down to show us the hidden worlds that lie on the other side of ordinary. We must all take a lesson from the sharp-eyed cat, he suggests, and not only learn to look, but turn our own world upside down and look to learn.

In her 1831 introduction to Frankenstein (first published anonymously in 1818), Mary Shelley refers to the novel as her “hideous progeny” but bids it to “go forth and prosper.” It has not only prospered but multiplied and mutated, becoming the stuff of incalculable nightmares, dramatic adaptations and Halloween costumes. The rather thrilling story of its creation – initially springing up out of a cozy highbrow ghost-story competition – is at the heart of Hideous Love, Stephanie Hemphill’s portrait of the young Mary Shelley. As in Wicked Girls, Hemphill’s account of the Salem witch hunt, this new story is told through a sequence of free-verse poems. The book begins with Shelley lamenting the absence of her mother (Mary Wollstonecraft, who died 11 days after giving birth) and the stifling presence of her stepmother. But by age 16, she meets Percy Bysshe Shelley and is swiftly caught up in their love affair, their children and their writing projects.

The years covered – 1814 to 1822 – are not only eventful but harrowing (not least the deaths of three of her children), yet this period also features her delight as she begins writing in earnest: “I hear a voice / and know it to be / my own.”

Compelled because of her social notoriety to publish Frankenstein anonymously, Mary is of two minds: “The temperamental child / inside me / pounds her fists / in anger about this, / but the wiser, patient Mary / just keeps writing / without a name.”

This Halloween, bypass the usual vampires and werewolves of teen fiction for what lurks between the covers of Francesca Lia Block’s brutal, beautifully written Love in the Time of Global Warming. Those fanged and furry creatures are but a sugar rush compared with Block’s genetically engineered giants as she treats us to a dystopian tale tricked out in her signature lush prose. In the opening pages, Penelope sees her loving family and the fantastical city of Los Angeles disappear in the flood and fires that follow a tremendous earthquake. One of few survivors, she steals the van of the marauders looting her home and sets off into the ruined landscape. Block loosely styles Penelope’s journey on The Odyssey, with Homeric figures intriguingly updated, including surgically enhanced sirens in the “swamplands of Beverly Hills” and Circe as a cake-besotted soap opera star. Penelope is no buff, bold hero but a grieving, relatable girl “stuffed full of fear.” She believes that her younger brother may be trapped in a giants’ lair, and as she travels there, she joins forces with several shaken, gay teens.

The heart-wrenching showdown occurs in Las Vegas, where the wreckage of a faux pyramid and Eiffel Tower hints at global destruction. As Penelope connects with a new love and strives to protect her friends, Block asks readers to rethink the role of hero. Penelope grows to become not just a skilled sword-wielder but also a talented weaver of stories that warn, chronicle and save.

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