Children’s literature experts say these spooky books are a treat for young readers

Halloween doesn’t have to be all about candy and costumes. According to Karin Westman, associate professor and head of the department of English at K-State, the holiday also can be about reading.

Westman said fantasy/science fiction author Neil Gaiman has suggested distributing books at Halloween time through his All Hallows Read project, http://www.allhallowsread.com/.

Several K-State children’s literature experts agree with the idea and have some suggestions here, and offer some additional titles to check out.

Jack-o-lantern

Joe Sutliff Sanders, assistant professor of English:
* M.T. Anderson’s “Thirsty.” “This is a beautifully depressing novel that’s a nice antidote to ‘Twilight.’ It’s written for older teens,” he said.

* Randall Jarrell’s “The Bat Poet.” “This is one of the best poems for children ever. It’s not scary, but it’s got great poems in it about bats and owls.”

* Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night.” “This is a beautiful, spooky, lush picture book full of poems about real night creatures. It balances education — lots of information about these animals — with beauty, both in the words and the images.”

* Deborah Howe’s “Bunnicula,” about a vegetable juice-sucking bunny. “It gets a lot of sneers these days, but I still think it’s a successfully funny scary book, and it’s a novel for young readers.”

* Richard Yancy’s “The Monstrumologist” and its sequel, “The Curse of the Wendigo.” “These are two of my recent scary books for anyone of any age level. These novels were written for teens.”

Naomi Wood, associate professor of English:
* “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow” by Washington Irving. Wood says the book should be required reading for all Americans. “It’s a classic and wonderfully creepy story,” she said.

* “Little Orphant Annie,” the poem by James Whitcomb Riley. “This has the memorable refrain: ‘and the gobble-uns’ll git you if you don’t watch out!’”

Anne Phillips, associate professor of English:
* “Spook” by Jane Little. “This is a short novel about a dog who belongs to a witch. Epic Halloween adventures ensue, with a very happy ending,” she said.

Sanders, Wood and Phillips also highly recommend “In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories” by Alvin Schwartz. Phillips said the collection of scary tales has been a favorite since its publication in 1985 — but also among the most frequently challenged books. “The series comes in at No. 7 on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books for 2000-2009,” Phillips said.

Wood said it’s ironic the Schwartz series has raised so much controversy as features folklore collected from children by Schwartz. “So children are telling the stories that children aren’t allowed to read…,” she said.

Wood also said these stories are definitely for those who enjoy the frisson of fear and are not put off by gore or gross-out details.

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