I love October. The temperatures are falling right along with the leaves, and there is a good chance that somebody is going to come in the library and ask me for a scary story.
The chills, the monsters, the gross and gnarly … I love ’em all.
Stephen King and I have been acquainted since I was around 11 or 12, and it wasn’t long after that when I added Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz and H.P. Lovecraft to my list of favorite authors.
More recent times have brought about the addition of Jonathan Maberry, Scott Sigler and young adult authors Rick Yancey and Daniel Kraus. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” remains perhaps my favorite novel of all time, and I recently revisited the works of Shirley Jackson.
Need a great scary book? Just ask me. I promise I can point you in the right direction.
Of course things can get a bit tricky when the person asking for a great scary book is 6 years old, or even 4. Kids need scary books, too, but it can be hard to determine just what might be too scary.
For some kids, a spirited reading of “Where The Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak might suffice. There are plenty of monsters there, and lots of gnashing teeth. If your child is used to things a bit on the wilder side, I would suggest a visit to the folktale section at the library.
There, you will find a wealth of child-eating, village-stomping monsters that are sure to deliver more than a few goosebumps. Be sure and find “The Tailypo” by Paul Galdone, “The Golem” by David Wisniewski, and “Abiyoyo” from Pete Seeger. There also are many story collections that deliver classics that you will no doubt remember from your elementary school days.
“Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark,” collected by Alvin Schwartz, is always a winner. While you’re there, check out “Ozark Ghost Stories” and “Haunted Bayou,” a collection of Cajun ghost stories. These are full of short little gems, just scary enough to deliver a shiver or two.
We can’t talk about scary stories for kids without talking about R.L. Stine. His “Goosebumps” series remains the go-to collection for beginning horror fans and has spawned other series that are perfect for young ones searching for their own share of the gross and ghouly. James Preller’s “Scary Tales” series draws heavily on classic stories, whether they are urban legends or folktales.
“Eerie Elementary” novels by Jack Chabert bring the scares right to the classroom and Dori Hilstead Butler’s “The Haunted Library” tells some truly ghostly-yet-fun tales. All of these are great choices for grades 2 to 5.
For upper elementary students ready to graduate from “Goosebumps” and move on to something a bit more literary, don’t miss the works of Mary Downing Hahn. From the classic “Wait ’Till Helen Comes” to her latest ghostly tale, “Took,” this author proves time and time again that she can conjure up some real frights for young readers in grades 4 to 7.
If none of these sound right for your little one, come on in and explore. Our picture book shelves are bursting with tales of monsters and things that go bump in the night.
Stories that include a few frights can also be empowering as kids learn they can conquer their fears no matter how monstery they might be. This October, the best scares are to be found at the library — and I will be frightfully happy to help you find them.
Jodi Prather is the children’s librarian at the Bartholomew County Public Library.