Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the thing haunting readers’ minds and riling up their blood, and stake out some books that have bite.
We hope you made last weekend a vampire one, as the long-awaited television adaptation of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy hit streaming services across North America. It’s been eight years since the unsuccessful movie (at least in terms of ticket sales; I think it resulted in at least one good cover of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” which makes it a success in my books). The YA novels have rebooted into a new television series about St. Vladimir’s Academy on NBC Peacock in the U.S. and W / StackTV here in Canada, which premiered this past week.
If binging the series hasn’t drained you (get it?) of all vampire interest, we’ve listed some fang-tastic vampire books for all age categories below. Read on for some great kids’ books and YA that grab you by the throat!
When the gang at St. Vladimir’s finish their exams, you know they look forward to a Vampire Vacation, which happens to be the title of our first recommendation in picture books. The book by Laura Lavoie and Micah Player, is about a young vampire (Fang) who is sick of trips to Transylvania and coffin museums, and longs for the sand and surf of a beach vacation. If you know a little about vampires, you can imagine why Fang’s parents refuse – until he convinces them a beach vacation can even be fun for a family of vampires.
For recreation that’s more in line with the typical vampire’s temperature, there’s Glory on Ice: A Vampire Hockey Story by Maureen Fergus and Mark Fearing (great last name, IMHO). Vlad is a centuries-old vampire who decides to dominate peewee hockey, until he realizes his supernatural powers don’t mean much until he gets the fundamentals down. The perfect book for anyone starting hockey – undead or not.
Vlad the Rad (no relation) by Brigette Barrager, is similar in that its titular radical vampire is not interested in anything spooky – unless you consider a sick kickflip or primo slide spooky. Through this high-energy picture book, Vlad learns to combine his passion for skateboarding with his schoolwork, and young readers will learn a way to combine their studies with the things that they find rad.
Vampires aren’t the only spooky creatures covered in Cale Atkinson’s Monsters 101, but readers learn a lot about them – and not just from Professor Batula McFang, one of the guides (along with Professors Blobblins, Howlsworth, and Tina, the zombie lab assistant) who sets the record straight on the fact and fiction about all things ghoulish. You’ll learn so much, it’s kind of like a vampire academy (in book form).
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
What if you love vampires, but Charlotte’s Web is also your favorite book of all time? Let me tell you about the graphic novel series Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer. A reference to famous vampire Van Helsing, this series features the young descendant in a family of fearless vampire hunters who has always preferred a pen (for writing poems) to a stake or sword. But when he sets out in the family biz, he discovers he doesn’t need to do it all on his own, and soon assembles a crew of buddies to help “save his bacon.”
If kids and YA books have taught us anything, it’s that vampires love schools. And there may not really be any vampires in Our Teacher Is a Vampire and Other (Not) True Stories by Mary Amato, but Mrs. Penrose’s class all thinks there are – and isn’t that what matters? Alexander H. Gory thinks his teacher is a vampire, and so he passes around his notebook, detailing the proof. Gossip and fear spreads (not unlike in Vampire Academy), but their teacher’s real secret is both more mundane and more earth-shattering!
Not to be confused with Vampire Vacation (see earlier), Kiersten White’s Vampiric Vacation is the second in her gothic and charming Sinister Summer series, which are kind of like Addams Family travelogues. This book follows the Sinister-Winterbottom twins as they travel not to the beach, but the Sanguine Spa in the “little Transylvania Mountains” overseen by the mysterious count. It’s all fun and games (scavenger hunts, mostly) until boy twin Wil begins to show symptoms of vampirism!
Speaking of schools, the series Middle School Bites by Steven Banks and illustrated by Mark Fearing (that guy must love vampires!) is all about the hijinks that ensue when a boy, Tom Marks, is bitten by a vampire (as well as a werewolf . . . and a zombie) and returns to his middle school. As the first Vam-Wolf-Zom, he has to contend with the monsters that made him who he is, as well as deal with music class and the occasional bully in this very funny series from one of the head writers of SpongeBob SquarePants.
Of course, if you’ve watched the Vampire Academy series and read the books, our first recommendation is visiting Richelle Mead’s associated Bloodlines series. The six-book saga focuses on Sydney Sage, the alchemist in Vampire Academy who aids Rose later in the books (but has not yet appeared on the show). Alchemists are a group of humans who dabble in magic and connect the worlds of humans and vampires. In Bloodlines, Sydney, in hiding, is sent to a human private school in Palm Springs, California, where she must shield a Moroi princess from assassins who want her dead.
And if vampire romance is your thing, you’ll also want to read Renée Ahdieh’s The Beautiful Quartet. The four-part series takes a page from the book of Anne Rice, set in a sultry and sexy 19th Century New Orleans, chock-full of vampires, and is electrified by the romantic tension between Sebastien Saint Germain, central figure in the city’s macabre nightlife, and dressmaker Celine Rousseau, who has been taken in by a convent.
The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling puts a playful queer twist on vampire romance, as a teenage psychic who can foresee the death of every person she touches falls in love with a vampire (who is already dead – but you knew that). Claire, the vampire, is tasked with teaching Elise, the precognitive, how to master her death prediction powers, and the two soon find themselves trying to solve the future murder of one of Elise’s teacher . . . and solve the mystery of why they’re so dang attracted to each other.
The brand-new Go Hunt Me by Kelly Devos has connections to both the vampires at the academy and the fans (and makers!) of the show. Seven teen amateur teen horror filmmakers go on a trip to shoot a Dracula short on location at a remote Romanian castle. But the setting proves to be scarier than they thought, as the crew goes missing one-by-one in the foreboding building that may have inspired a horror classic.
And we have to mention two forthcoming vampire titles to keep on your radar in 2023:
In Nightfall by Suzanne Young chronicles the story of siblings Theo and Marco as they move to live with their grandmother in the beachside town of Nightfall, Oregon. A town, not unlike the one in classic 80s vampire movie Lost Boys, where a gang of teen girls who may or may not be “nightwalkers” rule the streets at night.
And Deke Moulton’s forthcoming spooky and funny middle-grade novel Don’t Want To Be Your Monster is about two vampire brothers with very different feelings on the ethics of drinking people’s blood who set aside their differences in their Pacific Northwest town.
So long, and fangs for reading!