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Some Scary (and not so scary) Stories

Some Scary (and not so scary) Stories

Kate Marley

Perennially popular, scary stories really seem to come into their own in October. While it may seem that mere books, in these days of Freddy Kruger and the evening news, don’t have the same horror factor, be warned! The power of the written (or spoken) word is still powerful enough to create shivers.

Inside a house that is haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. c 1998, Cartwheel Books. Using the familiar rhythm of the famous nursery tale “The House That Jack Built”, this rebus story with a Halloween theme works best when read aloud. Then, kids can get the full effect of the rhyming mishaps of the poor creatures of the haunted house, as they get their own scary experience. Cartoonish, bug-eyed characters, illustrated by Tedd Arnold with amusing little details, make this a fun book for the fall.

The Halloween House by Erica Silverman. c 1997, Farrar, Straus, Giroux. Here’s another well executed take off, this time of the nursery counting song Over In The Meadow. Two cons on the lam try to hide in an empty house at Halloween, but various animals and monsters (with younglings) are at every turn. Kids can count down from ten little werewolves to one witch, and chuckle over the unexpected ending. Amusing pastel drawings by Jon Agee make this an even more fun book to share.

The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam by Angela Shelf Medearis. c 1997, Scholastic. Told in original verse, the hero is a pudgy cook named Dan who wants to collect the reward offered by a realtor to get rid of Sam’s ghost. But his night in the haunted mansion doesn’t turn out quite the way he (or his readers) had anticipated. Expressive illustrations by Jacqueline Rogers add to the book’s potential as another great read aloud.

Velcome by Kevin O’Malley. c 1997, Walker and Co. This is an interesting mixture of funny and scary by an up and coming Baltimore author and illustrator. Adults and older children will recognize the camp behind some of the pictures, but a few of the stories, and some of the jokes on the side might be best for older or more sophisticated picture book readers. Detailed illustrations by the author also deftly combine giggles with the grotesque.

13 Monsters Who Should Be Avoided by Kevin Shortsleeve. c 1998, Peachtree Publishers. Professor LeGrand warns readers in verse about some really strange monsters such as snurps and gorgs. Illustrator Michael Austin cleverly hides most of them, with mostly only tentacles or claws showing in dark, misty settings to set the readers’ imaginations at work for the rest of the monster.


Halloween Hide-And-Seek by Pamela Jane. c 1997, Bantam. Jonathan’s been invited to a Halloween party, and is excited about a game where each guest tries to find the spookiest hiding place. Early elementary kids will sympathize with his struggle for bravery and politeness. A cute story, nicely illustrated by Julie Durrell.

The Berenstain Bear Scouts Scream Their by Stan & Jan Berenstain. c 1998, Scholastic. The Widow Bearkin has left the troop some property in her will but there’s a catch - they have to spend a night in what everyone KNOWS is a haunted house! How the Bear Scouts earn their inheritance and solve a mystery at the same time makes a slightly shivery and satisfying story. Illustrations are by the authors’ son Michael.

The Halloween Horror and Other Cases by Seymour Simon. c 1997, Morrow Junior Books. This is part of the Einstein Anderson, Science Detective series, so a little brain power is all that’s needed to solve these ten separate cases with this generation’s Encyclopedia Brown. The black and white drawings are by S. D. Schindler.


A Terrifying Taste of Short & Shivery retold by Robert D. San Souci. c 1998, Delacorte. Quite a few of these “thirty creepy tales” from around the world really are creepy, and some with unhappy endings. Some children run into nasty situations, and some, but not all, escape. These would make great stories to read in the dark, or during sleepovers, or around the campfire.

Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man by Wendelin Van Draanen. c 1998, Knopf. On Halloween night, Sammy and her friends run into a mystery at the spooky Bush House. In solving the mystery, and settling some private scores, Sammy learns that all is not always what it appears to be. Not even herself. This looks like it will be an interesting new series with a heroine that might remind adult readers of Kinsey Millhone.

Hook Moon Night by Faye Gibbons. c 1997, Morrow Junior Books Inspired by tales she heard as a child in the Georgia mountains, these spine tingling stories - including a ghostly panther, bad luck necklace and a premature burial - will make almost anyone shiver.

Reef of Death by Paul Zindel. c 1998, HarperCollins. Mr. Zindel's two previous horror books were highly recommended for reluctant readers by the ALA, so this will probably fit that bill (and more) also. Set in Australia, with a mysterious reef, horrible deaths, a deadly monster, aborigines...and a treasure. For horror fans, a delicious treat. Squeemish people should stay away.

Save Halloween! By Stephanie S. Tolan. c 1993, Beech Tree. First off, this isn’t scary or even slightly mysterious. But older readers will be interested in the moral arguments advanced. Is Halloween the devil’s holiday? A sixth grade girl from a family of evangelical preachers struggles to find a way to balance her love for Jesus and family with her belief in the First Amendment. And even though she’s never been allowed to participate in Halloween, she’s always been fond of the holiday. How she reconciles two seemingly opposing views, and discovers depths within herself make for an interesting and thought provoking book.

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