Are you excited for Halloween yet? I sure hope so, because I start getting in the mood for Halloween roughly around July 5 and I’ve been lonely (on the upside, all the Halloween books tend to be checked in during the late summer). But there are certain things it’s fun to do at any time of year, and one of those things is definitely telling scary stories, especially when–as in my case this past month–it’s at a sleepover with your sisters. In preparation for the occasion, I checked out four promising library books, aiming for a variety of choices in terms of length, picture quality, scariness, maturity, etc. Although we were ultimately unsuccessful in staying awake long enough to tell spooky tales as they are meant to be told (in the dark, at or after midnight, accompanied by exaggerated whispers and flashlights) and ended up falling asleep to “The Devil Wears Prada” instead, it turns out that spooky tales in the early morning hours work just as well. Enjoy!
Scary Stories to Read When It’s Dark: Starting out at a very beginner level of scariness is this book, featuring, among others, the “Shivers” story from Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel (which, incidentally, my mother cut out of our copy of the book because she thought it was too scary for us). This time reading it I was actually impressed by how serious and skillful a storyteller Frog is. The stories are all pretty mild and maybe a little predictable, but the illustrations really add flavor and are especially fun to look at in a group. Perfect collection of stories to read to kids ready to be introduced to the thrill of being scared.
Victorian Ghost Stories retold by Mike Stocks: The stories in this book are a bit longer and more complicated than the others, requiring attention to detail if you are a listener and stamina if you are reading out loud. However, they were quite haunting and charming, full of screams in the night, feelings of chilling cold, and foreboding statements like “He brushed aside his uneasiness. What a fool he was!” and “Had I known then what I know now, I would have fled the country,” etc. They were much more romantic and mysterious than scary/gory, which some readers might also find preferable. There were not many pictures but I quite liked all those I came across–black and white sketches with plenty of ominous-looking shadowy shapes and figures. I would probably enjoy this book more if I read it on my own, preferably around age 10 on a windy October night.
The Scary Story Reader: Forty-one of the Scariest Stories for Sleepovers, Campfires, Car & Bus Trips–Even For First Dates! collected by Richard and Judy Dockrey Young: I really enjoyed this book–it has SO many stories and so many categories of stories to fit whatever you’re looking for (urban legends, old favorites, funny horror stories, stories to make your readers jump, etc.). Almost all the stories are short and meant to be read out loud. Some of them I’d heard before and some contained agonizingly stupid characters (NO DON’T GO THERE AT NIGHT ARE YOU CRAZY WHY ARE YOU SERIOUSLY KICKING A DOG RIGHT NOW), but it was still fun to laugh at and react to them as a group. Highly recommend for older kids, teens, and up.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: I saved this one for last because it was my personal favorite. The stories are very well told, not to mention intriguing, eerie, and suspenseful, but the dramatic, unique visual style of Carroll’s storytelling is really what makes this a masterpiece. There are just so many arresting images that you can’t stop looking at because they reveal (and conceal!) so much and they are quite beautiful, even if they are horrible or grotesque at the same time. It also was great to read out loud because the pictures capture everyone’s attention but the words are just as compelling. I would definitely recommend this book to young adults and older, especially anyone interested in art, graphic novels, and just really, really good storytelling.