ALWAYS OCTOBER for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

The winner of the SCARY SCHOOL series by Derek the Ghost is…  Marilyn Metz. She lives in the deep south with her family and is positive her 10 year old will adore this series. Congratulations!




A celebration of spooks and goblins can’t be much of a celebration without author Bruce Coville. By my count he is up to 134 books and most cover the world of monsters, aliens, and other creepy topics. I could have gone the easy route and chosen his popular I WAS A SIXTH GRADE ALIEN, MY TEACHER IS AN ALIEN series, or one of a dozen anthologies available with topics like nightmares and ghosts.Always_October

Instead, I went for one of that came out three years ago, his 100th book and my personal favorite.  ALWAYS OCTOBER is a hefty MG story many may have been missed with its length. Inside is a thrilling tale of our own world and another that deals in monsters and nightmares. Perfect as a read aloud, the story is told with alternating viewpoints: main character, Jake, and his friend, Lily. Those authors who wish to write from two POV’s can learn to how to pull this off my reading the chapters in ALWAYS OCTOBER.

Thrilling to the end but never nightmare inducing, this tale will sure keep your attention. Fun and scary monsters will demand that from you.


FULL PLOT : (from Bruce Coville’s web site)

No doubt about it, little brothers can be monsters. When sixth grader Jake Doolittle finds a baby on the doorstep and his mother decides to keep it, those words are more than just an expression. Instead, they perfectly describe the way his new little brother, LD, sprouts pointy ears, thick fur, and fangs in moonlight.

Not only is LD a monster… other monsters have plans for him. But together with his friend “Weird Lily” Carker, Jake isn’t about to let anything happen to the baby. The little guy is still his brother, even if it turns out that LD may be the key to saving the world—or destroying it.

Soon Jake and Lily are on a perilous quest through Always October, a world populated with monsters ranging from the venomous to the ridiculous. Master of comic suspense Bruce Coville presents a tale of ominous dangers and hairbreadth escapes, of the conflict between forces of dark and light, and of the lengths to which one boy will go to save his brother—monster or not.


  1. The story twists and winds it way through Jake’s family tree. There’s an author grandfather who is responsible for creating the Always October world. Then there’s Jakes’ dad who mysteriously disappeared. The plot ties everything up by the end except for keeping the door open for a possible sequel.
  2. The way each cliffhanger chapter ends demands that you read on. It’s a great example of how to hook kids into reading more.
  3. The monster names are strange like they should be: Invisible Ed, Keegel Farzym, Dum Pling, and Squeak to name a few.
  4. First lines are always a problem maker in my own writing. I look to others to bring me inspiration and Mr. Coville comes through. Here’s the first line in ALWAYS OCTOBER and yes it grabs you from the start: We’ve only got two weeks before Jake turns into a monster for the first time. 
  5. Writing is all about visualizing new places for readers. The world of Always October comes to life with vivid descriptions and wild scenes. You’ll have a safe seat as you watch it unfold.


I hardened myself against the sight. Who knew what the little monster might do if I picked it up? Part of me felt I should just turn and run, but the wretched thing continued to stare at me with those big, pleading eyes. It reached for me again.


Talent is only part of what it takes to be a writer. Luck and courage and mostly just plain old sticking to it are just as important.

Here are a couple of other little tricks you can start using today.

When you’re trying to make a scene come alive, use more than one of the senses. By that I mean don’t just tell me what a place looks like; tell me what it smells like and what it sounds like.

To help make your characters more memorable, give them some little trait that is unusual, something to help them stick in the reader’s mind.

Read your writing out loud. This will help you when you are revising.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it—never give up.

Good luck. Happy reading—and writing!

For more insights see Bruce Coville’s web site.


I’ll be back on Thursday with bonus mini-reviews of scary favorites admired by both kids and adults.

Next Monday is my last spooky post for the month where I will reveal my absolute favorite Halloween tale.  It’s a surprising choice!

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
This entry was posted in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to ALWAYS OCTOBER for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. I love Bruce Coville. And he does great audio books too.

  2. salarsen says:

    Alternating POVs… We were just chatting about what MG books used that method during a recent #mglitchat. I’ll have to remember this one uses it. I’ve had this one on my TBR list for some time. Just never enough of me to read them all. I’ll have to get to this one soon.

  3. I love this story! And I also really love that quote, from Bruce Coville. So true, and such good advise for us all to keep in mind. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, and happy MMGM!

  4. I don’t read a lot of scary books any more, but this one sounds like it might be worth my time. Thanks for the review.

  5. Dorine White says:

    Bruce Colville always scores big.

  6. diegosdragon says:

    Cover alone makes me want to read it. I love that the author took the time to give tips. Using more than one sense to describe a scene – priceless. And of course, NEVER GIVE UP!

  7. cleemckenzie says:

    Coville never fails to delight. You’ve reminded me I need to find a book to read aloud for Halloween. This is it! Thanks.

  8. I must confess that I’ve never read Coville, probably because scary books have never been my thing. But I love the premise of this one, and, when I think about it, scary funny books should be right up my alley, so maybe I should give Coville a try!

  9. Joanne Fritz says:

    Wow, 134 books! That’s a lot of writing! And helpful advice from Bruce. I’ve read My Teacher is an Alien and a few others, but hadn’t heard of ALWAYS OCTOBER. Thanks for the heads-up.

  10. Love Bruce Coville. Have only read the Unicorn Chronicles and not some of his darker books. For kids who like scary, this sounds like the perfect book! Am back now after a two-week vacation. I have some catching up to do.

  11. Andrea says:

    Seems like a great pick for this time of year!

Place your thoughts here with a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.