Children's Bookshelf - October 2014
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Scary Books – Not Just for Halloween
by Evelyn Cunningham

As the days grow shorter and darker and the winds start to blow, cuddling up with a good book is the perfect way to spend an evening. With Halloween and its promise of shivery fun just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to try a scary book! Although some parents worry about frightening children (and we certainly don’t want to cause nightmares!), many experts believe that far from being detrimental to children, scary books and some of the “grimmer” fairy tales can actually help children face fears they already have and help them to conquer them.

Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley is just such a book for toddlers and pre-schoolers. By turning the sturdy die-cut pages, the reader creates a monster feature by feature, from the “two big yellow eyes” to the “scraggly purple hair,” and then tells it to “GO AWAY,” dismantling it page by page until the monster has been vanquished.

Another great monster book for little ones is Under the Bed by David Wood and Richard Fowler. A young bear interrupts his parents’ sleep claiming there’s a monster under the bed. As he describes the monster’s frightful characteristics, the sleepy dad reassures his son and urges him to go back to bed — until the book finishes with a funny, surprising pop-up. This can be as scary or as funny as you want to make it; it’s all in the reading!

Is That You, Wolf? by Steve Cox is one of my favorite interactive picture books. Little Piglet fears a wolf may be hiding on the farm and, as he searches, the reader is invited to reach into covered pockets with the refrain: “Slide your hand in if you dare…Wolf may be lurking so BEWARE!” Children love feeling the different textures — furry, rough, sticky, etc., as the piglet fears that it’s the wolf’s fur, feet, tongue or other part until another pop-up surprise ends the book with a (small) fright.

For younger readers, the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne provides excitement and suspense as siblings Jack and Annie extricate themselves from difficult situations, often involving natural disasters or dangerous historical times. There are now more than 50 of these well-researched books, but in October try Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve, in which our heroes travel back to Camelot and encounter ghosts and ravens as they help Merlin the Magician recover the stolen Diamond of Destiny.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by British author Joan Aiken is a book I have revisited every decade or so since childhood, and I love it every time. When Sir Willoughby Green takes his ailing wife on a sea voyage, their feisty daughter Bonnie and her delicate cousin Sylvia are left in the care of his distant cousin. It quickly becomes apparent that things will not go well for the girls, and when news of the ship’s sinking arrives, all hope seems lost. With secret passageways, an evil governess, a horrid orphanage and howling, predatory wolves — but also lots of loving and kind characters to temper the misery — this book has all the ingredients of a satisfying, memorable read for grades 3 and up.

For older elementary/early middle school students, Mary Downing Hahn reliably delivers chills with her often supernatural tales. In Deep and Dark and Dangerous, a 2012 Nutmeg Award-nominee, Ali gladly agrees to spend the summer with her aunt babysitting her young cousin at a lakeside cottage. But why is Ali’s mother still terrified of this place decades later and what connection does a mysterious, spiteful girl have to a long-ago tragedy?

Another great author for that age group is Peg Kehret, whose books tend more towards real-life horror situations. Stolen Children, the 2012 Nutmeg-winner, is another babysitter-in-peril story, with 14-year old Amy and 3-year old Kendra kidnapped by two bumbling, but dangerous, men who hold them for ransom in a secluded cabin. It’s a thrilling ride as Amy uses ingenuity and courage to try to save Kendra.

Although October is the perfect time for a fright, scary books can be fun in any season. So, whether you choose to read one by flashlight while camping on a hot summer night, by the fireplace as a blizzard rages on a wintery day, or under a budding tree as birds serenade you in the spring, remember that suspense and chills are not just for Halloween!

Upcoming Events at the Library

The Norwalk Public Library offers storytimes, music programs, LEGOS®, crafts, Zumba and special programs for children 12 and under. For a frightfully good time, register for the After Hours Spooky Stories PJ Party, for grades 2-6, on Friday, October 17 from 6-9 p.m.

The library is located at 1 Belden Avenue. For more information, call 203-899-2780, ext. 15131, or visit

Evelyn Cunningham is the Children’s Librarian at the Norwalk Public Library.



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