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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Scare Up a Good Boooooook

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net
I love reading scary books -- the kind that make me shiver from head to toe -- whether it's Halloween time or not. I know that not everyone feels the same. However, if you, too, are a fan of the horror genre and are looking for a spine-tingling read, here are a few books that I recommend for various ages:

Picture book:

Hansel and Gretel,
retold by Neil Gaiman
and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti, 2014

A woodcutter leaves his children in the woods and when they try to find their way home, they stumble upon a house made of gingerbread.

As Gaiman recounts this well-known fairy tale, he doesn't stray far from the original story. He does add his own sinister touches, however, and his words pair well with Mattotti's dark, eerie artwork. This book, like all good picture books, begs to be read aloud. (I suggest reading it out loud in a dark room, with only a flashlight to see the words and pictures, for maximum effect!)


Middle grade fiction:

The Thickety: A Path Begins,
written by J. A. White, 2014

The same night that six-year-old Kara's little brother Taff is born, her mother is executed for witchcraft. Now, many years later, the siblings are still shunned by the people of their village. The villagers believe magic to be evil and fear it more than anything -- except for the dark and wild woods nearby, the Thickety.

I first spotted this novel at a book store. The title and cover art intrigued me, so I opened it up and began reading. After just a couple of pages, I jotted the title and author down in my "to read" list on my phone; the next time I visited the library I checked out the book. I really liked this fantastical tale and it is one that I would've enjoyed at age 10, as well. (It may have given me a nightmare or two back then, however!)

This is the first book in The Thickety series, which also includes The Whispering Trees (2015) and Well of Witches (coming out in 2016). I'm hoping to read the second book soon and will look for the third one next year!


The Night Gardener,
written by Jonathan Auxier, 2014

This Victorian ghost story follows a pair of young orphans who go to work as servants in a tumble-down house far from town. It does not take Molly and Kip long to discover that both the house and the family who lives there are not quite what they seem....

I saw that a reviewer on Goodreads wrote this about The Night Gardener: "Long story short, this novel is Little Shop of Horrors meets The Secret Garden." I thought that was a fitting description! I found this to be a delightfully creepy book and have recommended it to my 10-year-old, Ben.


Lockwood & Co.:
The Screaming Staircase,
written by Jonathan Stroud, 2013

For over 50 years ghosts have stalked the land, frightening the living, wreaking havoc, and even killing those poor souls unlucky enough to come in contact with them. Psychic Investigations Agencies have been formed across the country to seek out the horrifying spectres and destroy them. When the young agent Lucy Carlyle arrives in London looking for work, she is offered employment with the smallest, most unconventional agency in the city, Lockwood & Co. She and her coworkers, Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins, quickly find themselves in the middle of a dangerous mystery. Can the three of them survive long enough to solve it?

This book is shelved in our library's middle grade section and also the young adult section. I personally feel that it is most suited for older children, teens, and adults. (I know I would've been terrified if I'd read the book when I was 8 or 9!) Ben had been planning on reading it, which is why we checked it out, but while he was working his way through another book, I read this one. I'm glad that I got to it first -- afterwards I talked with Ben about it and we decided that he should probably wait a couple of years before reading it himself.

That being said, I absolutely loved this book! And it truly scared me. Stroud is a masterful writer. (I adored his Bartimaeus trilogy, as well.) The main characters are very likable and well-written. In addition to the suspense that Stroud injects into every chapter, he also provides many laugh-out-loud moments.

This is the first title in the Lockwood & Co. series, which also includes The Whispering Skull (2014) and The Hollow Boy (2015). I have not read the others yet, but am eager to do so -- hopefully soon!

Young Adult Fiction:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane,
written by Neil Gaiman, 2013

When a man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, he finds himself drawn to the farm at the end of the lane. While there, images he hadn't thought of in years come flooding back, memories of the strange, frightening events he'd witnessed as a boy -- and a magical girl named Lettie who promised to protect him.

I found this book (which a friend aptly called "a grown up fairy tale") in the adult section of our library, but there is also a copy in the young adult section. I am a Neil Gaiman fan and was excited to read this when it came out. I was not disappointed. It is a beautifully written, haunting book that I plan to reread soon!


For more hair-raising book recommendations for kids and teens, check out my posts from previous years: Oh, the Horror! and Books That Go Bump in the Night.

Have you ever read any of the books listed above? If so, what did you think? I'd love to hear about your favorite spooky stories. I'm always looking for new ones to read!

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