Hi. My name’s Jack Brady. Nikki Sweet is my cousin. Well, she’s not really my cousin, not by blood, anyway. But our parents are best friends and I’ve always called her grandmother Grandma Sweet. We’re family, and no one better say we’re not, because we are. So there.
Tomorrow, October 13, is Nikki’s birthday, and I’m kinda writing this as a sorta birthday present for her. I’d better not tell you how old she is because she’d punch me right in the eye, if I did. Nikki’s one tough girl, I can tell you that. She’s brave and strong and way more smarter than I am. She likes to collect river stones, which I think is just really weird, and there’s one awesome stone she found one Halloween that became part of an adventure we had together. Nikki’s also really, really bossy and treats me like a little kid. I don’t always like that, even though we’re both still kids and almost the same age, though sometimes she acts like she’s my mother or my big sister. But she’s cool and awesome, and she has magical powers, too. That’s really cool, too, ya know? She doesn’t have any parents, which always makes me sad, but she’s my best friend in all the whole wide world, and I love her. Just don’t tell her I said that or I’ll never live it down.
Now, not long ago, me and Nikki got ourselves mixed up in a couple of pretty crazy wild adventures. Not long after that, we met two authors named Erika M Szabo and Joe Bonadonna. We told them our story but didn’t really think they’d believe us. But ha-ha — guess what? They believed us! They believed us so much that they decided to write two books about our Halloween adventures in Creepy Hollow, a really cool world of magic and strange places and creatures. Pretty rad, right? The first book is called Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin, and the second book is called The Power of the Sapphire Wand because that Black Pumpkin is what started our first adventure, and that Sapphire Wand was pretty important to what we had to do on our second trip to Creepy Hollow, which took place a year later, on Nikki’s birthday.
I think both these books about what we saw and did and learned in Creepy Hollow are not only spooky and funny, they’re also totally awesome adventures for middle-grade kids to read, too. We also learned a lot of really good lessons about friendship, good manners, loyalty, family and courage.
It all started when me and Nikki found this weird black pumpkin in the forest near Grandma Sweet’s house one Halloween day. That was about the same time Nikki also found some crazy stone in the river — a magical stone it was, too! We also met this little silver skeleton that was some kind of talking wind chime named Wishbone, who told us that the ghosts of the Trinity of Wishmothers were trapped inside the black pumpkin and couldn’t get free without their magical Wands, which had been stolen by this evil dude named Hobgoblin, but then got stolen from him and hidden away by Wishbone. Of course Nikki and I jumped at the chance to help, so Wishbone took us to Creepy Hollow to get the three Wands he hid in three scary places: Red Crow Forest, the Tower of Shadows, and the Cave of Spooks. Wishbone’s friends joined us, too. One is named Ghoulina, and she’s a really beautiful vegetarian ghoul. The other is called Catman because he’s part man and part cat. Now that’s really, really, really rad! Believe me, we had a wild time, and we had to face danger and conquer monsters and bad guys every step of the way as we searched for the Wands before the wicked Hobgoblin and his sicko henchman, Tasmanian Devil, could find where they were hidden. And that’s all I’m gonna tell you about that adventure.
Now a year later, on her 13th birthday, Nikki discovered that she had magical powers. Totally amazing! But there were some bad people in Creepy Hollow who found out about that and wanted to kidnap Nikki. Then one night at Grandma Sweet’s house we were attacked by this ugly giant named Mutanto, who had a henchman called Howler and a whole gang of Werewolves with him. But before they could take us all back to their wicked witch of a boss lady, Evila the Grim Witch, Wishbone, Ghoulina and Catman arrived to save us and tell us about Evila’s plans to conquer Creepy Hollow. That’s when Nikki learned the truth about what happened to her parents twelve years ago. So me, Nikki and Grandma Sweet went back to Creepy Hollow to help our friends defeat Evila. That’s when I found out that I can talk to the animals in Creepy Hollow. How cool is that, right? We also met a herd of Wild Horses and I became good friends with Champ, a clumsy young colt. Hey, I even adopted a young, orphaned dragon I named Sparky. This adventure was so much more dangerous and scary than our first adventure, but I gotta tell you, me and Nikki conquered our fears and got really brave. In this awful big battle against Evila and her army we suddenly, with the help of some magic, became real warriors. And that’s all I’m gonna tell you about this story, too.
You’re just gonna have to read the books to find out more.
Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin is a 2017 Golden Book Award Winner.
The Power of the Sapphire Wand
Creepy Hollow Adventures Books 1 and 2 are also available in a single, paperback volume with b/w interior illustrations.
Amazon b&w PRINT:
And both books are now available in this lovely, special hardcover edition from Barnes-Noble, with full-color interior illustrations.
B&N color PRINT:
A few illustrations from the books:
Now here’s some really great stuff a couple of people have said about our adventures in the magical Land of Creepy Hollow.
“Szabo and Bonadonna’s story crackles with action and excitement. Their storytelling moves with the speed of lightning, but never lets the reader get lost. The atmosphere is just spooky enough to be fun but never enough to be too scary. Nikki and Jack are terrific characters. Their humorous bickering and genuine affection for each other make them very relatable. Wishbone Jones and Catman are good-natured foils for the snarky, sometimes cranky Ghoulina. Together, the band of heroes’ quick wits and courage in the face of deadly crows, evil Shadows, and wicked Spooks, will thrill anyone who picks it up. The megalomaniacal Hobart T. Hobgoblin is a great villain, who chews up the scenery every time he shows up. Though we never feel sorry for him, we learn enough about his past to understand him. There are also some valuable lessons to be learned along the way. Nikki and Jack must figure out for themselves that while selfishness and greed can lead to a bad end, courage and self-sacrifice can help defeat evil. Szabo and Bonadonna weave this into the story with great skill.”
“I had the pleasure of editing The Power of the Sapphire Wand: Creepy Hollow Adventures 2, by Erika M. Szabo and Joe Bonadonna, and was instantly swept up into an adventure of limitless possibilities. Though written for children, I as an adult felt drawn into a mystical place where anything can happen—where children can be mighty warriors, and battle the forces of evil; where animals talk, and join in the fight; where queens and princesses join forces with commoners to save their people and their land; and where wishes really do come true. The Power of the Sapphire Wand is a wonderful, imaginative tale of adventure that is filled with exquisite original illustrations by Erika Szabo, and though it is the perfect Halloween treat, I find that it is a timeless tale that can be enjoyed by children of all ages anywhere, at any time of year.”
Erika M Szabo
Erika became an avid reader at a very early age, thanks to her dad who introduced her to many great books. Erika writes alternate history, romantic fantasy, magical realism novels as well as fun, educational, and bilingual books for children ages 4-12 about acceptance, friendship, family, and moral values such as accepting people with disabilities, dealing with bullies, and not judging others before getting to know them. Erika also likes to encourage children to use their imagination and daydream about fantasy worlds.
Much like Erika, Joe’s dad introduced him to books, as well as movies and music, at a very young age. He was encouraged to write as soon as he could hold a pencil. While Joe writes mostly Heroic Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Horror and Science Fiction for an older audience, he decided to reach out to a younger audience and write something entertaining, as well as educational. This is his first collaboration with Erika, and his first children’s book.
Hope you enjoy this video trailer for
Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin.
You can check out Erika's special Children's Books for Halloween blogpost HERE
~ Jack Brady