Recommended Reads: Halloween Edition

With HALLOWEEN less than a week away, may I interest you in a list of spooky reads?

Gotta start with the classics.

You can't go wrong with any Poe collection, but how about Edgar Allen Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness illustrated by the enormously talented and fabulously pseudo-named Gris Grimly?

And as much as I like Poe, I LOVE Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." I don't know how many times I've read it, but I'll never tire of it. If you've only seen the film adaptations, now is the perfect time to step into the real Tarry Town with Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, and Katrina Van Tassel. (It won't take long. It's short.)

Does anyone do unsettling better than Edward Gorey? He's PERFECT for Halloween! My favorites are The Doubtful Guest (gotta love a mysterious penguin in a striped scarf) and The Willowdale Handcar.

For the kid in you (or, you know, your actual kid), try these: Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex. These poems are hilarious, and the illustrations are phenomenal -- everything from gorgeous glossy black & whites to Charlie Brown-esque comic strips. And did I mention how FUNNY they are? Check out some of the titles inside the latest:

"No One Comes to Skull Island Anymore"
"Dracula Jr. Wants a Big-Boy Coffin"
"Please Stop Staring at My Delicious Head"
"Edgar Allen Poe Hears Sweet Music Like the Dulcet Tones of Angels or Whatever"

(FYI, Adam Rex also has a pretty cool blog.)

Can't resist mentioning one of my favorite authors. Both The Graveyard Book and The Dangerous Alphabet were released this year and would make excellent Halloween reading. Gaiman is great at creepy, and it's interesting that it's his work for children that's always the scariest! It's also worth noting that The Dangerous Alphabet -- a very Clever with a capital "C" picture book -- is another work featuring the art of Gris Grimly, so it's double-y cool.

(FYI, Neil Gaiman also has a pretty cool blog.)

I think there's a law that says you can't talk about scary books without talking about Stephen King. So. He's unusual for me, in that I generally prefer his short stories (which are still long & more like novellas) than his novels, but I do have a soft spot for The Shining. I like to hand it to the Literary Snobs who come into my work, scoffing about the poor, tasteless schmucks who read Stephen King. Heh. It always shuts them up. There's a reason it's a classic.

And for another adult novel, try The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I don't know why I don't talk about it more often, because it really is phenomenal. It's not scary-scary, but it's appropriate to include because it has one of the most terrifying villains I've ever seen. I'm talking about a seriously scary dude. But . . . that's not surprising because this book has EVERYTHING! It's an adventure, romance, mystery, and thriller, and not only that, but the plot revolves around Wondrous Lost Books.

If you want to get your teen girl on -- me! me! me! -- how about Jinx by Meg Cabot (about witches) or Devilish by Maureen Johnson (about demons)? These are quick, fun reads that will keep you smiling the whole way through.

(FYI, Meg and Maureen also have a pretty cool blogs.)

For writers, now is a perfect time to browse something by Karen Elizabeth Gordon: Deluxe Transitive Vampire (grammar), The New Well-Tempered Sentence (punctuation), or The Disheveled Dictionary (vocabulary). If you've never run across her work before, you're in for a treat. Forget Strunk & White. Learn how to construct prose with her delicious cast of Gothic characters.

For example, study independent clauses with sentences like these from Deluxe Transitive Vampire:

--I fondled his lapel, and I caressed his socks.
--Her irony is getting rusty, and her audience is bored.
--The mannequin gave the baby vampire her phone number, but she knew he'd never call.

The Spider and the Fly by Tony DiTerlizzi (based on Mary Howitt's poem) is on my list of top five picture books of all time. This book is BEAUTIFUL. The illustrations glow and flicker like a silent film, and the creepy factor is through the roof. This one is always a big hit with elementary-aged children.

(FYI, Tony DiTerlizzi also has a pretty cool blog.)

And because no one does Halloween better than picture books, here are a few more. These are some gentler -- but sooo cool -- titles, for little ones who want to bask in the holiday spirit without getting too scared. In other words, these are the books that I would have liked when I was young! It took me a long time to be brave about such things.

Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler (author) and S.D. Schindler (illustrator)

Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes (author) and Yuyi Morales (illustrator)

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems -- Not a Halloween book, but monsters are always appropriate this time of year. Plus, I can't talk about picture books without recommending one by Mo. Because he is the best. Period.

(FYI, Mo Willems also has a pretty cool blog.)

And because I'm on a graphic novel & comics kick right now, I've gotta mention The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman (author), and Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, & Cliff Rathburn (illustrators). Big thanks to my super-awesome friend Jim for recommending this! As you know, zombies are the new vampires, and this fits the interest perfectly. It's an ongoing comic about living in a world with zombies, and because it's open-ended, it allows us to inspect so many more aspects of life-after-catastrophe that horror films don't have time for. And like all good zombie stories, the people are often the scariest creatures of all. So, as Jim warned me, don't get too attached to any of the characters...

Now that I've shared mine, what are YOUR favorite creepy reads?


  1. I JUST went and requested The Walking Dead. I love Zombies. I love survivalist stories. And Richard Gorey? 'Nuff said.

  2. I've never read THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW or THE SHADOW OF THE WIND. What is wrong with me? I'm glad for the recommendations.

    Possibly my all-time favorite book is DRACULA. I love Victorian gothics, and it reigns supreme over the genre. In fact, I just finished an awesome ghost story and am ready to start something new. Time for a re-read of DRACULA!

  3. Thanks for the list of books! I've already read a lot of them, but there were a few I haven't.

    I read Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret because you recommended them, and then I passed them on to my sister cuz they were fabulous!

    Have you read Boo, by Robert Munsch? He also wrote The Paper Bag Princess, which happens to be my favorite princess picture book of all time.

  4. Ooh..I am totally going to check these books out! So speaking of Halloween..are you dressing up?

  5. elise -- We're on a zombie wave ;)

    lk -- How could I have forgotten Dracula??? I have a crush on Jonathan Harker. Not even sure why.

    myrna -- YAY!!! Oh, that makes me SO HAPPY! I'm thrilled you loved her books as much as I did, and that you passed them on. HURRAH! I haven't read Boo, but I'll look for it.

    sparkle -- I am actually SO BAD at dressing up. I always wait until the last minute, and end up with something lame. How about you?

  6. Well not a book but, if you get a chance, check out this movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1139797/ which is a Swedish take on a kids coming of age story with a vampire thrown in. I know zombies come first with you but I'm pretty sure vampires are a close second.

    BTW: I love that you wore a shiny dress on Hallowe'en covered with a turquoise kimono. And how does your hair stay that fantastic blue? Any colour I put in never lasts!