Mira was fantastic enough to invite me to write an ongoing series of posts on the darker side of kidlit, as well as books for very young readers. As a father of a two year old boy, I have a lot of opinions on that genre that I’ll be hoisting on you soon. I thought I’d start with a post on scary books and how they can offer a sense of control to little ones. – Jorge Lacera
“Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses.” - Neil Gaiman
Like a lot of children, I really loved scary books. Anything with a monster, alien or ghost, I would hunt down and devour. Unlike other kids, my love of those stories continues to drive and inspire me and my creative work to this day. I distinctly remember being freaked out in the car reading a book on the skunk ape and then staring out the car window, imagining him roaming the Florida streets. Other people may disagree, but I think reading scary stories at a young age helps kids cope with fear.
Kids understand horror and ghost stories better than adults. They have to. The whole world is larger, scarier, and meaner than they are. Pretty much anything is capable of smooshing them like bugs. Reading a scary or spooky story puts the power back in their hands. Literally. Too scared? Just close the book! Our television and film saturated society very often doesn’t give kids a chance to turn away. I think we can all relate to glancing at a screen and seeing a tv show, news story or movie clip that is frightening and devoid of context. The fleeting image is gone and you are left to deal with it on your own.
With a book you can reread that chilling passage, or stare at the scary picture. You get to process and actually sit with the fear. Until it goes away.
It’s no coincidence that the best authors of scary or creepy stories are also funny as hell. Roald Dahl is the master of this, of course. His parallel adult short story career and experiences during WW2 give his work for children a real sense of danger, humor and wit.
Same with Edward Gorey, Charles Adams or Lemony Snicket. Scary and funny go well together, like peanut butter and chocolate or werewolves and vampires.
I also think there is a lack of really fun--scary or otherwise--creepy books for kids. Here are five random examples of old and new books I like:
1. Uncle Louie’s Fantastic Sea Voyage:
My two year old loves this book. Jan Loof's art is a cross between R. Crumb and Herge’. The main character even looks like a hipster Tintin!
2. Creepy Carrots!:
Peter Brown takes Aaron Reynold’s story and lavishes it with glorious black and white (and orange) imagery worthy of James Whale or Hitchcock himself.
3. The Wolves in the Walls:
Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean tell a tale that oozes with dead pan humor, atmosphere and doom.
4. The Gashlycrumb Tinies:
Edward Gorey’s classic abecedarian book about all the funny ways little kids can die.
5. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich:
Adam Rex’s love letter to his favorite monsters. Rex’s detailed illustrations and hilarious rhyming poetry make this an Insta-Classic.
I hope you've enjoyed these and I look forward to sharing more with you on the 4th Friday of every month.~ Jorge Lacera
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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