[Cue sinister music].
Beware creepy carrot breath!!!
With Halloween creeping up on us like the cat spider lurking out by my compost bin, I thought I’d recommend a couple of creepy titles to go along with the holiday.
First up is Canadian author Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest.
If you liked Coraline by Neil Gaimen, then this
one’s for you. It has the same claustrophobic atmosphere with an intensely, evil character that tries to manipulate the protagonist. The premise behind this story is that Steve and his family’s worry over his baby brother who has a life-threatening medical problem. Steve is particularly anxious since he suffers from an anxiety disorder. Imagine his relief when a mysterious presence promises to help fix the broken baby. Yet there is something about this presence that worries Steve and prevents him from jumping at this offer. The presence (What is it? An angel, maybe? It appears to have a connection to the wasp’s nest that is being built in the eaves of the house. Could it be…?) seems comforting at first but becomes more and more demanding and menacing as time goes on. Once Steve realizes her sinister intentions, a terrifying struggles ensues. Terrific buildup of tension with a very satisfying resolution.
Highly recommended for middle grades.
My next recommendation is Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. This is a series of short stories told in graphic novel format.
At first, I thought this was going to be retellings of fairy tales. Well boy, was I wrong!
This does contain some fairy tale motifs (girls in red cloaks, wolves, hauntings) but the stories take some very dark twists and turns. The stories tap into disturbing dark corners of the human psyche and conjure up distressing emotions when parents disappear, jealousy motivates murder, guilt-ridden consciences end in madness, with no reassuring happily-ever-after endings. The illustrations are bold, graphic and bloody.
I especially love the conclusion of the book as it set us up with a bedroom reminiscent of the that found in the children’s classic bedtime story of Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Little Red Riding Hood is just snuggling into bed relieved to have made it through the woods without having met the Big Bad Wolf. But as it turns out, the BBW is looming just outside her bedroom window, ominously hissing at her that though she made it this time
“you must travel through those woods again & again…and you must be lucky to avoid the wolf every time…But the WOLF…the WOLF only needs enough luck to find you ONCE.”
Oooo, how spine-chillling is that? Sleep well, Little Red Riding Hood – NOT!
I’m recommending this for grades 9 and up.
My last suggestion, a favorite of mine, is Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds. This one is for the primary grades and constitutes the perfect revenge story. Jasper Rabbit loves carrots especially those he purloins from Crankenhopper Field. They are the best and they are free. Jasper Rabbit doesn’t know that there’s no such thing as a free-lunch in this life and a price Must. Be. Paid. His all-consuming passion for these carrots results in dire consequences.
[Cue sinister, foreboding music.]
The carrots strike back! They begin to stalk Jasper, the only one who can see these unnatural, vexatious vegetables. They lurk in the shed, and in the closet and what’s that shadow on his bedroom wall? They are everywhere and Jasper must do something! Well, let’s just say that Jasper comes up with a solution that the carrots and he can live with and it’s party time in Crankehopper Field for the terrifying, Trumpian-hued, taproots. Fabulous, over-the-top, humorous horror. The black, grey and orange coloured-illustrations by Peter Brown are perfect, depicting a self-absorbed Jasper being stalked by three, well, creepy carrots
Happy Creeping Reading, Everyone.