DarkEcho Horror
VirginMechanick by Rick Berry


Don't waste your money on more over-priced sugar to stuff the kiddies with! Try handing out some REAL treats to your favorite hobgoblins -- books!

October 1999
by Paula Guran

Despite what some misguided souls say, horror is a healthy part of growing up. Fear is an emotion that, like any other, has its place in human development. Not that ALL horror is suitable for youngsters -- but the right terror tales at the right time are actually beneficial to kids. Educators and librarians will tell you that frightening fiction with happy endings can help preschool children overcome real fears and cope with reality. By age seven, kids know the difference between make-believe and fact. and horror becomes an exciting and healthy escape from the all-too-scary real world. Between eight and twelve horror can help teach children bravery and assist in establishing their own identities. In the teen years, horror provides a safe, controllable outlet for exploring "forbidden" emotions like anger and envy.

So, this Halloween consider some horror books as special treats for the young folks in your life (and as an excuse to enjoy these titles yourself!) Reading is much healthier than eating candy -- and many of these selections (all offered here in paperback versions) are so delicious even reluctant readers may be swayed to devour them.

(Just click on any underlined title and you can buy the book from

book cover WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (Ages 2-8)
Illustrated and written by Maurice Sendak
HarperTrophy; ISBN: 0064431789

Max dons his wolf suit and winds up sent to bed without supper. But in his room a forest grows and he travels to a place full of Wild Things with gnashing teeth and rolling eyes. Max becomes the Wildest Thing of All, but also arrives safely back in his room. Sendak's superb illustrations and stream-of-consciousness-text makes this now-classic, multiple award-winner a perfect read-aloud.

book cover HECKEDY PEG (Ages 2-8)
by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood
Harcourt Brace; ISBN: 0152336796

Seven children -- each named for a day of the week -- are transformed into foods by Heckedy Peg, a tricky, sinister witch. Their brave and clever mother saves them. Gorgeous illustrations and a text that's a sure-to-please scary read-aloud has made it a longtime favorite of teachers, baby-sitters, and librarians as well as children. (This 1987 book is now available in oversized paperback.)

book cover IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE (Ages 4-8)
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Susan Meddaugh
Houghton Mifflin; ISBN: 0395699428

Two pair of sneaker-clad feet enter or leave the spooky rooms of a mysterious house full of creepy creatures. Each room is described in rhymes that are more giggly than gruesome and work especially well for read-aloud. The illustrations are both silly and scary and provide some art-extras for those who pay attention. Although there's a reassuring ending, not everything is explained, so a hint of suspense remains.

book cover GOD BLESS THE GARGOYLES (Ages 4-8)
written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
Voyager Picture Book; ISBN: 0152021043

If you or the kids in your life have yet to discover Dav Pilkey, do so now. His subversively hilarious Captain Underpants series [most recent title CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE INVASION OF THE INCREDIBLY NAUGHTY CAFETERIA LADIES FROM OUTER SPACE : (AND THE SUBSEQUENT ASSAULT OF THE EQUALLY EVIL LUNCHROOM ZOMBIE NERDS)] are justifiably major hits with the eight-to-eleven set. (Okay, you might get a giggle out of 'em, too.) Although a lot of his work tends toward the zany (he also did KATKONG and DOGZILLA ) this rhyming tale of gargoyles is really quite touching. By using gargoyles as symbols of the misunderstood, the book helps children understand the pain of being outcast and rejected. Gargoyles are en vogue now, but -- unlike most of the titles for kids that play on the theme -- this one has the stuff to make it a classic. Pilkey's illustrations evoke Marc Chagall, and in one case, he intentionally (perhaps ironically) uses the Edward Hopper painting "Night Hawks" to make his visual point.

book cover THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW (Ages 4-12)
retold by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Daniel San Souci
Yearling Books; ISBN: 0440410746

With at least two new TV special coming up as well as Tim Burton's film of the headless horseman legend, I took a look at several versions of Washington Irving's classic tale. I also tested a few out (including the original) on my nine- and twelve-year-olds. This one won out overall. San Souci can always be depended upon to provide a dramatic, yet child-accessible text and he does so in this book. The realistic yet slightly primitive illustrations were abundant and appropriate.

book cover GEORGIE (Ages 2-8)
written and illustrated by Robert Bright
Farrar Straus & Giroux ; ISBN: 0374425396

First published in 1944, this classic had been out of print for more than ten years. The amiable, gentle ghost Georgie may be familiar to parents and grandparents, but modern kids deserve to meet him, too. Charming and reassuring, it teaches young children about interdependence and the need for everyone to feel useful.

book cover BEWARE OF THE SNORING GHOST(Ages 4-8)
ISBN: 0694010316
ISBN: 0694010545
both written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz
HarperCollins Publishers

It turns out there's nothing supernatural about the snoring ghost in this "Peanuts Gang" book featuring Peppermint Patty and Marcie. but even the teacher hears strange sounds from the "haunted" desk. HAPPY HALLOWEEN, GREAT PUMPKIN! is the latest incarnation-in-print of the now-seasonally traditional Great Pumpkin TV special.

book cover THE WITCHES (Ages 7 -13; read aloud to 5-8s)
by Roald Dahl
Puffin; ISBN: 0141301104

The kids may already be aware of the great movie made from this Dahl classic, but the book is even better. Poignant, adventurous and funny, THE WITCHES is scary because, even though its hero is turned into a mouse, it all seems so perfectly plausible. It begins: "In fairy tales witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ordinary jobs. That is why they are so hard to catch."

edited by Jane Yolen and Martin H. Greenberg, illustrated by Doron Ben-Ami
HarperTrophy; ISBN: 0064406466

A slim anthology of seven original shorts stories, each set in a different room of a haunted house. Scary enough, but never gruesome, the brief lengths of the stories and the accompanying realistic illustrations make this one popular with kids. Good for quick read-alouds, too.

book cover SEVEN STRANGE & GHOSTLY TALES (Ages 9-12; read aloud to younger)
If your little monsters are already devouring Brian Jacques Redwall series, this collection will be of particular interest. But even if Jacques is new to you, you'll enjoy his rich writing and imaginative storytelling. Amusing and thought-provoking these often-cautionary tales are spooky without being (I was told) "really-truly-scary."

ISBN: 0064401707
ISBN: 0064401774
ISBN: 0064404188 (Ages 9-12)
All retold by Alvin Schwartz; Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
HarperCollins' Children's Books

These three collections of dramatically retold traditional folklore have been reverently passed down from child to child in my family and remain frightening favorites .Some of the short tales are spooky and chilling, others are silly and far more humorous than horrific. (Don't tell the kids, but they are also getting a great introduction to how folklore is disseminated and transformed, as well.) Gammell's black-and-white drawings are another plus.

book cover THE OCTOBER COUNTRY (Ages 11 and up)
by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Joe Mugnaini
Del Rey; ISBN: 0345407857

Halloween is a perfect time to travel to THE OCTOBER COUNTRY and this edition has a fascinating collage-cover and apt black-and-white interior illos along with a new introduction by the author. Originally collected in the 1947 DARK CARNIVAL (Bradbury supposedly cut several stories from the original collection -- now a rare collector's item -- that he felt were too horrific) these stories are classics to be treasured by all ages.

book cover WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE (Ages 12 and up)
by Shirley Jackson
Viking ; ISBN: 0140071075

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is better known (and also highly recommended), but WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE is particularly appealing teens with its still-adolescent Merricat as narrator. The story of the isolated Merricat, her sister Constance and Uncle Julian Blackwood -- the only survivors of an arsenic poisoning that killed the rest of the family -- is a masterpiece.

book cover BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE (Ages 14 and up)
Bantam Books; ISBN: 0440226686
THE SILVER KISS (Ages 14 and up)
Bantam; ISBN: 0440213460
both by Annette Curtis Klause

Both the ALA and the School Library Journal cited BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE as a great pick for young adults. I'd agree, but more so for girls than boys. A smoldering romance, it is also a female-positive rite of passage novel with a teenage werewolf-protagonist who falls in love with a human boy. In THE SILVER KISS, a seventeen-year-old girl coping with her mother's terminal illness and other challenges meets a handsome young stranger who turns out to be a vampire with his own problems. Krause's first novel, this one is not quite as strong as BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, but still a compelling romantic vampire read for teens.

book cover CHRISTINE (Ages 14 and up)
by Stephen King
New American Library; ISBN: 0451160444

For boys who may not identify with romantic vampires and werewolves or the unhinged heroine of Jackson's novel, what better suggestion than a book about a boy and his car? Seventeen year-old Arnie Cunningham and his beloved Plymouth Fury, Christine, may be past history for you, but they are probably brand-new for many teen terror-lovers.

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