Between reading about Neil Gaiman’s inspired All Hallow’s Read idea, and finding our own Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble in The Times’s holiday reading round-up, I simply couldn’t let the opportunity of Hallowe’en go by without a reading list.
Kate and I found this a harder theme to categorise properly than I’d expected, however. So much of children’s literature contains some magical and fantastical element that you can easily find yourself including everything – does Harry Potter count as Hallowe’en reading? How about Twilight, or indeed the entire romantic fantasy genre (for that matter, how about Small Blue Thing)? In the end we seem to have come to the conclusion that books for the holiday had to be, if not directly and obviously related (Pumpkin Soup, Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat) then at least a little bit “scary”.
That, of course, raises its own set of problems. Fear is a very subjective and personal emotion. How scary is too scary? At what age can you introduce children to scary stories? I happen to find The Moomins terrifying myself, but that doesn’t seem to be an often-shared reaction (and I don’t even know where I’d begin to try and explain it).
So, with that all in mind, here’s a good list to get started, covering different age groups, varying tolerances to spookiness, and absolutely NO Moomin trolls. We’d love to hear your suggestions – please leave comments below or write to us on Twitter here or here!
For very young readers:
Axels Scheffler’s Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster – this has a bit of a scary start and then a lovely happy ending, with cake and a picnic.
Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble by Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger – a heartwarming story all about learning to accept differences in people, with beautiful illustrations.
Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg – a bona fide classic.
Room on the Broom – by an artistic pairing who give the Ahlbergs a run for their money, children’s laureate Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
Jan Pienkowski and Helen Nicoll’s Meg and Mog.
Then, for early and slightly more confident readers:
Mega Mash-Up: Pirates v Ancient Egyptians in a Haunted Museum by Tim Wesson and Nikalas Catlow – not too scary, but full of mummies and bloodthirsty pirates.
Coraline, by Neil Gaimain – an incredibly written, properly eerie story, which takes the conventions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and twists them beautifully to fit a horror genre.
Roald Dahl’s The Witches – certainly the scariest book I’ve ever read (I could never get past the bit where the Grand High Witch takes off her mask).
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy.
Goosebumps by R.L Stine.
The Owl Service by Alan Garner.
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy.
And for older readers who can handle slightly more difficult books:
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.