Thousands of Canadian-authored kids and YA books


Thrills and Chills: Your Halloween Reading List

Fun, spooky, and chilling tales for readers of all ages.


Monsters 101, by Cale Atkinson (Picture Book)

About the the book: Monsters! They're so much more than just that scary thing under your bed. Join Professors Vampire, Blob and Werewolf, and their trusty lab assistant--a zombie named Tina--as they reveal eerie and frankly ridiculous monsters facts never uttered outside a crypt! For example:
  •   Monsters love competitive board game nights!
  •   Favorite monster foods include clam pudding with fish heads and pickled ant ice cream!
  •   In addition to cauldrons and spider gardens, monster homes often include homemade collages!
  •   Werewolves hate the sound of vacuum cleaners!
  •   Monsters aren't all scary! Try being nice to one for a change! Offer them a compliment!
Full of eye-popping illustrations and a story with nonstop sidesplitting laughs, plus a removable Professor of Monstrology diploma at the end of the book, Monsters 101 will have children--and adults--eager to enroll, time and time again!


Cabin Girl, by Kristen Butche …

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Five Perfect Picture Books for October

The days are growing shorter, but the books have never better. These titles will bring you a bit of spooky, some autumn leaves, a zombie prince, and other great ideas about how to find a place for yourself in the world. 


Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein, by Linda Bailey and Julia Sarda

About the book: The inspiring story of the girl behind one of the greatest novels—and monsters—ever, perfectly timed for the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein. For fans for picture book biographies such as I Dissent or She Persisted.

How does a story begin? Sometimes it begins with a dream, and a dreamer. Mary is one such dreamer, a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on the tombstone of her famous feminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and whose only escape from her strict father and overbearing stepmother is through the stories she reads and imagines. Unhappy at home, she seeks independence, and at the age of 16 runs away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, another dreamer. Two years later, they travel to Switzerland where they meet a famous poet, Lord Byron. On a stormy summer evening, with five young people gathered around a fire, Byron suggests a contest to see who can create the best ghost story. Mary has a waking dream about a monster come to …

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Illustrator Gallery: Kristi Bridgeman and A Carnival of Cats

Book Cover a Carnival of Cats

Once in a while, a person has to let her editorial bias show, and mine is this: I'm mad mad mad for bunting. So I was terrifically excited when we had the opportunity feature Kristi Bridgeman's illustrations from A Carnival of Cats, written by Charles Ghigna, because there's a string of bunting on every page. (What's a carnival without one?) 

But it's not all about the bunting*. Because there's no better time than Halloween for a carnival of cats, methinks, for carnival-ing the Black Bombay cat in particular. Plus: the illustrations are gorgeous. Bridgeman is an accomplished artist (see more of her work here) who has illustrated books by Canadian writers including P.K. Page (There Once Was a Camel, and other titles) and Fiona Tinwei Lam (The Rainbow Rocket). 

Bridgeman's fine-art pieces can be found at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Sooke Harbour House Gallery. Born and raised on the west coast of Canada, Kristi resides and paints in her home-based studio at the edge of the rainforest on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.


Carnival of Cats Image


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A Chilling Tale: "Trickster," by Rui Umezawa

Book Cover Strange Light Afar

In Strange Light Afar, Rui Umezawa revisits eight popular Japanese folktales, delving beneath their sometimes baffling plot lines to highlight the psychological motivations behind the characters’ actions. Sometimes laced with ironic humor, sometimes truly horrifying, these stories of the strange and supernatural are written to particularly speak to teenagers, although they will appeal to readers of all ages.

We are pleased to share this chilling excerpt from the story, "Trickster." 


Night had fallen like a strange, dark curtain on the woods surrounding the house. I tried to find my way back into town, hoping to find the old noodle vendor, who might share a bit more of his wine.

I decided the surest path was to follow the river, which I knew cut the town in half. The moon hid among tree branches, in and out of clouds. Pillars of light appeared, then disappeared across the trail, and a breath of chill caressed the back of my neck. A murmur in the water and the whisper of leaves made me think maybe I should walk faster.

After a time, I came upon a woman crouched by the path, quietly sobbing into her hands. You could tell she was from class. The wind carried the enticing scent of her flowery perfume, and this made me stop. 

Normally, I’m not one to do much for st …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Halloween Books

Book Cover Nothing Scares Us

Our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month. 


Picture books, a first chapter book, a junior novel, and a collection of Canadian ghost stories all make for spooky reads this Halloween.

In Nothing Scares Us, by Frieda Wishinksy & Neal Layton, Lenny and Lucy are best friends. But when Lucy watches Lenny's favourite TV show, The Creature, she's haunted by an image and too terrified to tell Lenny she's scared. Then it turns out that Lenny has a secret fear of his own. This playful picture book with childlike drawings will appeal to all ages.

Book Cover Omar's Halloween

Omar's Halloween, by Maryann Kovalski, features Omar the bear, whose Halloween wish is to have the scariest costume. But bats and spiders, his friends inform him, are actually helpful bug-eating creatures—not scary at all. So his mom dresses him as a non-threatening, run-of-the-mill ghost. He's so dejected he doesn't even want to go to his own party, until a storm hits and transforms his outfit into exactly what he's hoping for.

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CanLit Is Terrifying

Book Cover Book of Tongues

Fear not! (Or at least, fear less.) Because here is your guide to a most Canadian bookish Halloween, serving to guide you through the spooky day ahead, and provide great suggestions for appropriate seasonal reading. 

CanLit Zombie expert, Corey Redekop, can hook you up with a good read via The Canadian Weirdscape, made up of selections of the nation's most outlandish, strange, and mind-boggling fiction.

Book Cover The Thirteen

Check out The Fright List for some terrifying titles, including books by award-winning horror masters, Andrew Pyper, and Susie Maloney. 

How to Kill a Vampire

Are you in the unfortunate position of the monsters in your life being not-so fictional? To that end, you might appreciate our excerpt from Liisa Ladouceur's How to Kill a Vampire, part culture guide and all practical guide. Find out how useful your handy crucifix or holy water really will be once you're fa …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books About Disguises

Book Cover Coyote's New Suit

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.


October is the superb month for books about disguise, because of Halloween, of course, and because of how the whole outdoors is dressing up in glorious colour.

Coyote's New Suit, by Thomas King, illustrated by Johnny Wales, reads like an oral tale with Raven as trickster and gullible Coyote as victim. Raven overhears Coyote boasting about his fine suit, and tells him it’s not as nice as Bear's fur, which Bear has taken off to swim. So Coyote steals it. Raven then tells naked Bear where to get new clothes—human attire hung up outside houses, free for the taking. Bear chooses a floral tank top and gold pedal pushers.

Coyote, meanwhile, stumbles around in his too-heavy bear suit at the supermarket and bingo until he gets bored with it. Coyote heads back to the pond, where the plot repeats with other forest animals until Coyote comes home with a chipmunk suit and no more room in his closet. "Why don't you have a yard sale?" Raven says, which leads to a hilarious showdown between animals (in human clothing) and humans (in animal skins). This one could be for K-4, inspiring some trickster tales from the older kids.

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Books and Ghosts: Tomes of Terror

Book Cover Tomes of Terror

Books and ghosts: how could we not feature Mark Leslie's new book, Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries, on 49th Shelf during the week leading up to Halloween? It's a collection of true tales about spooky places rife with books and ghosts, and even some less spooky places where you'd least expect a ghostly encounter—like a Smithbooks located in a suburban shopping mall. We're pleased to share that story with you here, as well as another about a library reportedly haunted by a young woman whose face has been glimpsed peering out from the tower window. 


Goosebumps at Smithbooks

Smithbooks, Sherway Gardens

Etobicoke, Ontario

The ghostly residents of many beloved bookstore locations that are now closed continue to haunt the hearts and minds of both patrons and staff members. These spirits are all the more memorable if, like any good customer, they display a penchant for a particular author’s books.

I was intrigued to chat with an old bookseller colleague about an experience that she had when she worked at a bookstore than has been closed now for about 14 years. Even though Shannon left the store back in 1998, she kept with her a fond and deep love for the bookstore, her fellow staff members, and the customers of the Smithbooks at Sherway Gardens.

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How to Kill a Vampire: Crucifixes, Holy Water and Other Sacred Objects

Book Cover How to Kill a Vampire

Happy Halloween! Though on the off chance your spooky night goes slightly wrong, we're bringing you an excerpt from the new book How to Kill a Vampire: Fangs in Folklore, Film and Fiction by Liisa Ladouceur. Part culture guide and all practical guide, Ladouceur lays out the rules of vampire engagement. Here, she outlines the uses of crucifixes, holy water and other sacred objects, dispelling myths and establishing facts citing sources from Bram Stroker to Buffy. 


Vampire: “Ha ha! Garlic don’t work, boys!”

Edgar Frog: “Try the holy water, death breath!”

The Lost Boys

Traditionally, vampires fear religious symbols. The sacred objects most commonly used for protection are Christian: water blessed by a priest, the cross or crucifix and the holy Eucharist or “Host,”—a consecrated unleavened bread or wafer meant to represent the body of Jesus Christ. These are key items in any vampire killing kit and have been used to great effect by many a fictional slayer, sometimes to kill but mostly to repel or maim.

In Stoker’s Dracula, the crucifix plays a significant role in helping the characters evade vampire attacks. Early in the story, a superstitious gypsy forces a rosary on businessman Jonathan Harker for protection after hearing he is en route to visi …

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Halloween Exclusive: An Interview with Scaredy Squirrel

Book Cover Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween

From costume ideas to trick-or-treating strategies, Scaredy Squirrel helps readers plan for the spookiest night of the year! Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween is the second in a series of nutty safety guides featuring everyone's favourite worrywart. And Scaredy was kind enough to take some time away from his preparations to answer our most burning questions (with a fire extinguisher on hand, of course) about his new book and about his plans for Halloween. 

49th Shelf: Scaredy Squirrel, you’re afraid all year long, but at Halloween the world gets scary on purpose. Is this holiday extra frightening for you, or is it pretty much business as usual? 

Scaredy Squirrel: I, Scaredy Squirrel, feel it’s necessary to be extra prepared during the extra-frightening Halloween season. It’s the time of year for lighting candelabras, carving pumpkins, and crossing the road; only a small sampling of the hair-raising activities involved in the spookiest time of year.

49th Shelf: You mention in Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween that every kind of candy comes with its own pros and cons (for example, chocolate is delicious, but it tends to melt in the paw). Are you ever tempted to just stay home on Halloween? Is the candy worth the worry?

SS: It’s always tempting to st …

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The Tombstone Ghost by Mark Leslie: An Excerpt from Haunted Hamilton

Book Cover Haunted Hamilton

On an otherwise typical Sunday night in June 1971, around the time that Ontario Place opened in Toronto, Federal Express was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas, and The Ed Sullivan Show made its last broadcast on CBS-TV, Norm and Sherrie Bilotti encountered something dark and mysterious in their home—a far more memorable event for them.

Norm Bilotti was startled out of a peaceful midsummer night’s dream by the shrill screams of his wife, Sherrie. When his eyes shot open, he immediately spied what was causing Sherrie’s sudden bout of night terrors: a faceless female shape cloaked in a long flowing gown was hovering just a few feet above their bed. They were both frozen in fear, staring at the figure before them and trying to determine exactly what it was.

Norm vocalized his query, asking his wife what the hell it was as he sat up in the bed. Almost as if in reaction to his voice and motion, the shape slowly moved to the foot of the bed. He was able to estimate her height as approximately six feet before it retreated from the bed and toward the wall. It seemed to grow smaller, then completely vanished.

Not believing his eyes, Norm leapt from the bed, ran to the light switch, and lit up the room. There was nothing by the wall where the figure had disappeared. He mo …

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"I Am Not At Peace": Ghosts and Haunting in Canadian Fiction

Graveyard at night

“There is a sense in which all novels are ghost stories: fictional characters are translucent phantoms, which readers believe in (or don’t); readers lurk in the presence of characters, spying on their most intimate moments, eavesdropping on their innermost thoughts. And however thoroughly the novelist establishes her characters’ motivations, however robustly she forges her chains of cause and effect everything that happens ultimately does so at the whim of the writer. Certain things have to happen for the narrative to progress… Every novel is haunted by a tyrannical poltergeist, in the form of its plot.” from “Poltergeist: The Little Stranger” by Thomas Jones, London Review of Books 9 July 2009

In Britain, a civilization so old that it’s nearly impossible not to be walking on a grave, it’s no surprise that fictional ghosts are abundant. From The Woman in White down to the The Woman in Black, the ghost story is a literary staple, and it’s taken comedy turns in novels by contemporary writers including Hilary Mantel and Nicola Barker.

In Canada, however, where bones underfoot are less common and those discovered often hearken back to colonial atrocities, our ghosts are not so playful. Something is extra-unnatural about the supernatural in Canadia …

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