Sometimes the world can be a scary place, and it’s important for our kids to learn how to manage their fears.
One way to do that is through experiences that are just a little bit scary, but not too much. Laughter and curiosity can both make a scary situation a little easier to handle. Since October is the month when we dust off our ghosts and goblins and put them on display, I figured it may be a great time for a few books about spooky, creepy, and scary (but not too scary) subjects.
Adam Rex pits Darth Vader against traditional Halloween monsters like a wolfman, vampire, and a ghost—but to no avail. Darth Vader isn’t scared of them. But is there anything the Sith Lord fears?
The book has the narrator speaking directly to Darth Vader, who is not at all impressed, but there’s a bit of a Monster at the End of This Book vibe to it. Adam Rex’s illustrations are fantastic: Darth Vader is almost photorealistic, while the various creepy crawlies (and other surprises that come later) are a bit more cartoony.
Grace and Walter want a bedtime story from their Papa, but they can’t agree on how scary it should be. Grace wants it to be scary; Walter wants it not too scary. As Papa tells the story, the illustrations reflect the tale he’s spinning, but Grace and Walter interject, making things more or less scary. But how scary is “too scary”? Clever Papa eventually manages to get Grace and Walter on the same page.
Is this a Halloween book or a Thanksgiving book? Well, a bit of both. Vlad just wants to celebrate Thanksgiving with his friends (Virginia the werewolf, Sandy the witch, Mumford the mummy) when his family turns up unexpectedly, with their own ideas about how everything should be prepared. (No garlic in the mashed potatoes!) What should be a celebration turns into a disaster, even though Vlad loves his family.
It’s a cute book with some monstrous puns, and it acknowledges that sometimes being around family can be pretty difficult. Vlad’s family, at least, gets a chance to make things right. Hopefully, you’ll be able to survive your own monsters during the holidays too!
Bear keeps a clean and tidy house—it’s just him and his stuffed bear, Ursa. But when Bear notices a sticky spiderweb, he gets very concerned, sure that the spider is going to make a huge mess of everything. The illustrations in Bear’s Scare are adorable, particularly the close-ups of the spider, who is actually being quite harmless: sitting and reading a book, making tea, knitting a scarf … until Bear upends the place looking for the spider. In the end, Bear makes a new friend (as expected) and realizes he had made some wrong assumptions about the spider.
This follow-up to There’s a Monster in Your Book is another interactive book that asks the reader to play along, this time with a newly hatched dragon. When you tickle her nose, she sneezes and sets the page on fire, so then you have to deal with the fire and put it out, and so on. The illustrations make it look like some of the pages are burnt or torn, and the dragon is just so gosh-darn cute. But maybe one dragon in your book is enough…
How do monsters get ready for bed? This rhyming verse shows monster parents putting their wee ones down for the day—vampires, mummies, ghosts, zombies, bigfoots (bigfeet?), and more. There’s actually nothing particularly scary in this one—it just depicts all the monsters as loving families with sweet bedtime routines.
Okay, this isn’t your typical Halloween book, but in my opinion, the giant cockroach pop-up might be the scariest thing in this week’s selection of books. Beyond the Sixth Extinction imagines a world long after a climate change disaster, introducing newly evolved species that sprout up in an environment that is polluted with radiation, barren of trees. Each of the imagined species comes with a huge pop-up sculpture, followed by a two-page spread describing it in a little more detail. There are giant, flightless pigeons, a dandelion-cabbageworm hybrid, and barnacle-like rats. You can see a few of the pop-ups in action in the book trailer, and in Robin Brooks’ Word Wednesday this week, which takes a deeper dive into the book.
Although the species in the book are imaginary, there are arguments that the sixth extinction is real and is happening already, caused by human activity. And that’s the real scary story here.
Similar to the Ultimate Insult Generator, this book has five sets of flaps that you can mix and match to make silly spells: “Spine of book and snap of dragon, enchant your brother into a bald-headed spam dancer!” Okay, so they might not rhyme, but they’re good for some giggles, with over 60 million possible combinations.
My Current Stack
I finally read Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, the first book in the Sixth World series, and really enjoyed it. It seems appropriate, with Indigenous People’s Day this week, to read a book about a Native American heroine battling monsters after a huge flood destroys huge portions of what was once the United States. I’ll write more about Maggie Hoskie and her clan powers later, but for now: if you like fantasy and superpowers, it’s worth reading a story from a different perspective, steeped in a different culture.
Finally, I’ve got a stack of spooky comics that I’ll try to share with you next week! Happy reading!
Disclosure: I received review copies of these titles.