Anyone interested in the value of scary books for children ought to check out this article, recently published in the journal of the American Association of School Librarians:
Crawford, Philip Charles. "Hatching
Their Wolfish Schemes: Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's Wolves in the
Walls." Knowledge Quest, Jan/Feb2006, Vol. 34 Issue 3,
Gagne International, November, 2001
Frenzied Fauna is an incredibly imaginative animal alphabet book by artist Michel Gagne. Gagne's animals are drawn in fantastic and sometimes scary ways, with spikes, teeth, tusks, and a half dozen eyes. While Gagne tends to stick with fantastic versions of animals that children might recognize such as lizards, horses, and owls, he also adds entries for mutated mammals, microbes, and trilobite. You will want to test a few images of this book with very young children to see how they react. Older children will get a kick out of the book.
Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust, by Eve Bunting, illus. by Stephen Gammell
Ages: Upper elementary and older, with appropriate guidance.
I am including this book on the list because of the horror I felt as I was reading it, so please don't consider its inclusion to be frivolous. I certainly wouldn't give it to a fourth grader insisting on a "scary book." Although this is a picture book, care needs to be taken about how it is shared with children. It should never be read alone: it is too terrifying. It should always be read with guidance and followed with discussion. The story's main character is Little Rabbit, who watches the animals in his clearing disappear one group at a time as the Terrible Things descend upon the inhabitants. The remaining animals pretend that nothing is happening, and finally Little Rabbit is the only witness to the disappearance of all of the animals. The words are spare and the story on its own is a powerful and frightening one, but the true horror of the situation is expressed through Stephen Gammell's terrifying black and white illustrations. The Terrible Things are shadowy smears across the pages. We never see their true shapes, we only see the fear they create. Terrible Things has been suggested as a tool for introducing the topic of the Holocaust at the middle school or high school level, but with guidance and careful choices of literature, children at the elementary level can understand how fear and intolerance can help evil take root. Entry by Francesca the Librarian
The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean
HarperTrophy, Reprint edition, July, 2005
Ages: Elementary and older
The Wolves in the Walls is a sophisticated picture book, which means you will enjoy it as much as your child will. Gaiman, the creator of many graphic novels and a writer of fantastic adult fiction, has created a delightfully dark and entertaining story about Lucy, a little girl who is still learning the difference between reality and fantasy. McKean's chaotic illustrations, which combine drawings with "real" pictures in a format reminiscent of graphic novels, effectively portray Lucy's uncertain world. Lucy hears the sounds of wolves in the walls. Her parents and older brother deny their existence, while at the same time telling her, "If the wolves come out of the walls, it's all over." Of course, there are wolves, they do come out of the walls, and Lucy's terrified family runs away. Lucy bravely returns to her house to rescue a favorite toy and discovers that the wolves aren't so frightening after all. She convinces her family to take back the house, and the cowardly wolves run screaming out the door, afraid of the humans coming out of the walls... But is the experience really all over for Lucy's family? She has confronted her fears, but there are elephants in the walls... Gaiman never talks down to the reader, and he is writing for children: it's a great book to read aloud, and it touches on the fears and uncertainties on the child within us all. Wolves in the Walls won the 2004 Stoker Award for best work for younger readers, and the 2004 award for best illustrated narrative from the International Horror Guild. Entry by Francesca the Librarian
Monster Lake by Edward Lee
Little Devil Books/Necro Publications, September, 2005
Terri and her friend Patricia look to spend their summer playing badminton and having fun, until one day Terri notices a big frog. The frog also has big teeth and frogs aren't supposed to have teeth! This propels Terri and Patricia on an adventure to uncover the mystery of the giant frogs where they end up at the old boathouse by the lake that they are forbidden to visit. It is at the lake where the girls run into monsters beyond their imagination. Edward Lee is known for some very intense adult horror, but here he shows his versatility in writing a monster books for kids that has such a entertaining story that kids won't want to put in down. Appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students requesting a good scary story. I would consider this a good core book to a scary story collection.
The Monsters of Morley Manor by Bruce Coville
Magic Carpet Books- Reprint September, 2003
Available: New and Used
The Monsters of Morley Manor isn't as much of a scary book as an adventure book with monster characters in it. In the book, Anthony and his little sister Sarah buy a box filled with five miniature monster figures, a lizard man, a medusa, a wolfman, a vampiress, and a hunchback. When one of the figures gets wet it starts to come alive and thus begins an adventure involving aliens, giant talking frogs, and ghosts. Coville fits a lot into this book and while it works just fine it seems like it would have been possible for him to have a book just with the five monsters and without the alien story line. A good book for monster loving kids.