Thursday, October 24, 2013

If you need anything, just scream

When the school day was done – back when I was a kid, of course – I was outta there as fast as possible.  It wasn't so much that I didn't like school but more that I didn't like being at school after hours.  Once the hallways and playgrounds emptied and the noisy chatter died away, I found the whole place to be downright creepy – in a 'not good' sort of way.  But I do have some 'good creepy' memories of my elementary school.  I remember we always had a pre-Halloween carnival with games and costumes and food (it was probably a PTA fundraiser and the only time you'd have found me there after hours).  I also remember my cool 6th grade teacher, Mr. Spjute, absolutely loved Disney's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and we must have watched it a dozen times that year.  I also remember, as a much younger kid, reading the Georgie books about the shy little ghost who creaked the stairs and squeaked the front door so Mr. and Mrs. Whittaker knew it was time to go to bed.  But if your kids are too old for Georgie maybe I can offer some other recommendations (all of which I received from Amazon Vine).

The R. L. Stine books came after my time but I've seen some of the "Goosebumps" shows and decided to give The Creatures from Beyond Beyond a try.  It's about twins Randi and Tyler who find their summer vacation home to be boring – except for an off-limits closet and a life-like doll that grows and running for their lives from aliens!  The writing was worse than I expected and the plot was thin and the dialog cheesy, so maybe I didn't miss much.  But the author seems to have lots of fans and it was rather creepy.

A much better choice turned out to be Home Sweet Horror (Scary Tales) by James Preller.  The first in this new series features a retelling of the "Bloody Mary" story.  Liam Finn moves to a new town with his sister and dad after his mother's death. The old house they buy needs of a lot of repairs but no repairman in town is willing to come out. In fact, the only advice they get is that the house is evil. And before long, the house itself seems to be telling them to 'get out.'  It's written in a way to keep ratcheting up the scariness with each short chapter, and can be read aloud to great effect. The stark black and white illustrations help to enhance the atmosphere.  I'm a little concerned that the online recommendations include 2nd graders – I think kids that young might easily end up with nightmares – but the older end of the range would certainly enjoy it.  (I did.)

And I've already mentioned the first book in the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series by Charles Gilman, but I've since received the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books, and I think they're getting better as the series progresses.  In #2: The Slither Sisters, Robert Arthur runs for student body president to block Sarah Price, one of the popular girls, from winning because he knows what she really is.  And in #3: Teacher's Pest, the school has an insect problem.  But it's not just Howard Mergler who's "bugging" Robert – his best friend Glenn is, too.  And in #4: Substitute Creature, Robert and his friends get stuck in the school overnight (yeah, that would have been my nightmare) with the substitute librarian when a "nor'easter" covers Dunwich in several feet of snow.  Yes, kids will be attracted by the changing 3–D covers, but the story is actually pretty good.

So, have a Happy Halloween and find something fun to read with the kids (or by yourself). 

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