It’s time to stock up on candy and to get going on those Halloween costumes.
Wait. What if Halloween was… canceled? Defanged? Tamed? Now that’s scary.
You might think spooky stories are just too much for the wee ones. But such scares a good for kids, according to many psychologists. Children work through their own fears – abandonment, scary strangers – through stories that show how others deal with spooky situations.
As for those who aren’t fans of the shrinks, just think of how a good scare feels – a zoom on a roller coaster or a surprise boo. For many, being scared can be… fun. Especially if you’re reading the book with your child, offering security along with the thrills.
Still, for one mayor, cancelling Halloween makes perfect sense. He’s also banned all candy from stores until next month. It’s important to punish everyone for the misdeeds of a very few.
Yes, it’s the fault of the six Herdman kids. They’re horrible. All of them.
They put guppies on pizza. They spraypaint little children and pets. They let the dogs out. They set fire to something every few months. “The Herdmans were spread out through Woodrow Wilson School, one to each grade, and I guess if there had been any more of them they would have wiped out the school and everybody in it.”
They don’t dress up “because they looked like Halloween all the time.” And they don’t go door-to-door because they don’t need to – they just steal everybody else’s candy.
If there’s no treats, there’s no tricks either, reasons the mayor. So explains Beth, narrator of The Worst Best Halloween Ever (by Barbara Robinson, 2004, yellow dot). Then school principal Mr. Crabtree makes everything even worse, turning Halloween into a homework assignment, then ordering all the kids to spend the evening having “fun” with their parents at school on Oct. 31. Except for the Herdmans. They should stay home.
Everybody will have a safe Halloween.
It’s all in the intent, though, isn’t it? Mimi’s teacher has also planned Halloween at school, but the dress-up evening is a reward that will end with a sleepover in the gym. Mimi must decide between dressing as a pirate or a gypsy, but almost doesn’t get to school in time in this short book, La Nuit De l’Halloween (by Carole Tremblay, 1992, yellow dot).
And Mimi’s scary adventures on the way to school end up following her to the classroom…
The best-dressed child in that class, by the way, has got to be the one dressed up as a motorcycle, with a headlight on his chest, handlebars attached to his head and a drop of Quaker State motor oil behind the ears.
Of course, the master of terror is R.L. Stine and his Goosebumps. A Night In Terror Tower (1995, yellow dot) is number 27 in the series. Tourists (and kids) Sue and Eddie ditch their parents and go on a tour of London, but somehow get locked into Terror Tower after hours. Then a strange man tries to grab them… things get even scarier after that.
Older folk may prefer Sinister Scenes, the third and final installment in P.J. Bracegirdle’s The Joy Of Spooking series (2011, orange dot, in New Arrivals). But you’ll want to start reading at the beginning, with Fiendish Deeds, followed by Unearthly Asylum, in order to keep up with the growing personalities of the characters and situations. Otherwise, Sinister Scenes will seem a tad slow and awfully odd.
Nerdly outsider Joy Wells is about to graduate from elementary school, but may end up dumping the classroom entirely for a tutor, when she’s tapped to replace a missing teen star for a horror movie being filmed in her neighbourhood (a borough named Spooking).
Amazingly, the film’s based on a tale written by her fave author, E.A. Peugot, whose life she’s been stalking for the previous two books.
Although her world is literary, our Nancy Drew always seems to be surrounded by real people with bloodied axes and sneering evil.
But this time, old enemies seem to be friends, old friends are being weird, and the monsters may be all in Joy’s head. Maybe.
Bracegirdle writes for the literate kid. Follow up the Joy Of Spooking series with Bracegirdle’s muse, Edgar Allan Poe and his (online) creepy short stories.
– Eleanor Brown, Oct. 25, 2013