What are some of your favourite spooky books? Let me know!
Here are some I have thought of…
Neil Gaiman ( could be a lot really !) but how about
The Graveyard Book
After his family are killed, Bod is brought up in a graveyard by ghosts – an array of century-spanning characters who care for him, impart wisdom and even teach body-fading skills. But Bod sometimes goes beyond the graveyard into the world of the living – and here his life is under threat from the sinister man Jack, who has pursued him since he was a baby.
Bestselling author Neil Gaiman offers up a wonderful story of life, death and coming-of-age in this book, which won the Booktrust Teenage Prize. The fabulously original story is full of humour and surprise and has a brilliantly engaging hero in Bod. Gaiman blends together the poetic, the resonant and the gruesome and Chris Riddell’s illustrations confirm the delicious sense of unsettling people and presences that run throughout.
Publisher: Bloomsbury (http://www.booktrust.org.uk/books/view/29125)
Something nasty lives in Coraline’s house.
It’s nothing to do with Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, the two faded old actresses who live in the ground floor flat with their Highland terriers and their memories of past successes. Nor is it anything to do with Mr Bobo up in the attic, the crazy old man with a big moustache who is training a mouse circus, but won’t let anyone see it
It’s to do with the door in Coraline’s flat, the door that opens onto a blank brick wall:
‘When this place was just one house,’ said Coraline’s mother, ‘that door went somewhere. When they turned the house into flats, they simply bricked it up. The other side is the empty flat on the other side of the house, the one that’s still for sale.’
She shut the door and put the string of keys back on top of the kitchen doorframe.
‘You didn’t lock it,’ said Coraline.
Her mother shrugged. ‘Why should I lock it?’ she asked. ‘It doesn’t go anywhere.’
Coraline didn’t say anything.
But she begins to wonder about it, later, in the middle of the night. Nasty little things begin skittering about, and when she gets up to investigate (bravely), there’s nothing there … except that door is now ever so slightly open. Just a crack.
Still, how could anything come through the door when there’s a brick wall behind it?
Depends what you’re up against, doesn’t it.
The other mother sat down on the big sofa. She picked up a brown handbag from beside the sofa, and took out a white, rustling, paper bag from inside it.
She extended the hand with the paper bag in it to Coraline. ‘Would you like one?’ she asked politely?
Expecting it to be a toffee or a butterscotch ball, Coraline looked down. The bag was half-filled with large shiny blackbeetles, crawling over each other in their efforts to get out of the bag.
‘No,’ said Coraline. ‘I don’t want one.’
‘Suit yourself,’ said her other mother. She carefully picked out a particularly large and black beetle, pulled off its legs (which she dropped, neatly, into a big glass ashtray on the small table beside the sofa), and popped the beetle into her mouth. She crunched it happily.
‘Yum,’ she said, and took another.
‘You’re sick,’ said Coraline. ‘Sick and evil and weird.’
It’s a brilliant book, moving inexorably from the deliciously creepy to crawling fear up the back of your spine. It was the buttons, though, that really did it for me! If you want to know, you’ll have to read it … not just for children.
Earnestly recommended! (http://www.readingmatters.co.uk/review/coraline)
Anthony Horowitz (again, lots to choose from!)
Horowitz Horror and More Horowitz Horror
|It was typical of my dad to want to stop and offer the man a lift and just as typical of my mum to want to drive on. In the back seat, I said, ‘Don’t stop, Dad.’ But it was already too late. Just fifteen seconds had passed since we saw the hitchhiker and already we were slowing down. I’d told him not to stop. But I’d no sooner said it than we did.
The rain was coming down harder now and it was very dark so I couldn’t see very much of the man. He seemed quite large, towering over the car. He had long hair, hanging down over his eyes.
My father pressed the button that lowered the window. ‘Where are you going?’ he asked.
Ipswich was about twenty miles away. My mother didn’t say anything. I could tell she was uncomfortable.
‘You were heading there on foot?’ my father asked.
‘My car’s broken down.’
‘Well – we’re heading that way. We can give you a lift.’
‘John…’ My mother spoke my father’s name quietly but already it was too late. The damage was done.
‘Thanks,’ the man said. He opened the back door.
I suppose I’d better explain.
The A12 is a long, dark, anonymous road that often goes through empty countryside with no buildings in sight. It was like that where we were now. There were no street lights. Pulled in on the hard shoulder, we must have been practically invisible to the other traffic rushing past. It was the one place in the world where you’d have to be crazy to pick up a stranger.
Because, you see, everyone knows about Fairfields. It’s a big, ugly building not far from Woodbridge, surrounded by a wall that’s fifteen metres high with spikes along the top and metal gates that open electrically. The name is quite new. It used to be called the East Suffolk Maximum Security Prison for the Criminally Insane. And right now we were only about ten miles away from it.
That’s the point I’m trying to make. When you’re ten miles away from a lunatic asylum, you don’t stop in the dark to pick up someone you’ve never met. You have to say to yourself that maybe, just maybe, there could have been a break-out that night. Maybe one of the loonies has cut the throat of the guard at the gate and slipped out into the night. And so it doesn’t matter if it’s raining. It doesn’t even matter if the local nuclear power station at Sizewell has just blown up and it’s coming down radioactive slush. You just don’t stop.
The back door slammed shut. The man eased himself into the back seat, rain water glistening on his jacket. The car drove forward again.
I looked at him, trying to make out his features in the half light. He had a long face with a square chin and small, narrow eyes. His skin was pale, as if he hadn’t been outdoors in a while. His hair was somewhere between brown and grey, hanging down in clumps. His clothes looked old and second-hand. A sports jacket and baggy corduroys. The sort of clothes a gardener might wear. His fingers were unusually long. One hand was resting on his thigh and his fingers reached all the way to his knee.
‘Have you been out for the day?’ he asked.
‘Yes.’ My father knew he had annoyed my mother and he was determined to be cheerful and chatty, to show that he wasn’t ashamed of what he’d done. ‘We’ve been in Southwold. It’s a beautiful place.’
‘Oh yes.’ He glanced at me and I saw that he had a scar running over his eye. It began on his forehead and ended on his cheek and it seemed to have pushed the eye a little to one side. It wasn’t quite level with the other one.
‘Do you know Southwold?’ my father asked.
‘So where have you come from today?’
The man thought for a moment. ‘I broke down near Lowestoft,’ he said and somehow I knew he was lying. For a start, Lowestoft was a long way away, right on the border with Norfolk. If he’d broken down there, how could he have managed to get all the way to Southwold? And why bother? It would have been easier to jump on a train and go straight to Ipswich. I opened my mouth to say something but the man looked at me again, more sharply this time. Maybe I was imagining it but he could have been warning me. Don’t say anything. Don’t ask any difficult questions.
‘What’s your name?’ my mother asked. I don’t know why she wanted to know.
‘Rellik,’ he said. ‘Ian Rellik.’ He smiled slowly. ‘This your son in the back?’
‘Yes. That’s Jacob. He’s fifteen today.’
‘His birthday?’ The man uncurled his hand and held it out to me. ‘Happy birthday, Jacob.’
‘Thank you.’ I took the hand. It was like holding a dead fish. At the same time I glanced down and saw that his sleeve had pulled back exposing his wrist. There was something glistening on his skin and it wasn’t rain water. It was dark red, trickling down all the way to the edge of his hand, rising over the fleshy part of his thumb.
Whose blood? His own?
He pulled his hand away, hiding it behind him. He knew I had seen it. Maybe he wanted me to.
We drove on. A cloud must have burst because it was really lashing down. You could hear the rain thumping on the car roof and the windscreen wipers were having to work hard to sweep it aside. I couldn’t believe we’d been walking on the beach only a few hours before.
‘Lucky we got in,’ my mother said, reading my mind.
‘It’s bad,’ my father said.
‘It’s hell,’ the man muttered. Hell. It was a strange choice of word. He shifted in his seat. ‘What do you do?’ he asked.
‘I’m a dentist.’
‘Really? I haven’t seen a dentist…not for a long time.’ He ran his tongue over his teeth. The tongue was pink and wet. The teeth were yellow and uneven. I guessed he hadn’t cleaned them in a while.
‘You should go twice a year,’ my father said.
‘You’re right. I should.’
There was a rumble of thunder and at that exact moment the man turned to me and mouthed two words. He didn’t say them. He just mouthed them, making sure my parents couldn’t see.
I stared at him, completely shaken. At first I thought I must have misunderstood him. Maybe he had said something else and the words had got lost in the thunderclap. But then he nodded slowly, telling me that I wasn’t wrong. That’s what he’d said. And that’s what he meant.
I felt every bone in my body turn to jelly. That thing about the asylum. When we’d stopped and picked up the hitchhiker, I hadn’t really believed that he was a madman who’d just escaped. Often you get scared by things but you can still tell yourself that it’s just your imagination, that you’re being stupid. And after all, there are lots of stories about escaped lunatics and none of them are ever true. But now I wasn’t so sure. Had I imagined it? Had he said something else? You’re dead. I thought back, picturing the movement of his lips. He’d said it all right.
We were doing about forty miles per hour, punching through the rain. I turned away, trying to ignore the man on the seat beside me. Mr Rellik. There was something strange about that name and without really thinking I found myself writing it on the window, using the tip of my finger. RELLIK The letters, formed out of the condensation inside the car, hung there for a moment. Then the two ‘l’s in the middle began to run. It reminded me of blood. The name sounded Hungarian or something. It made me think of someone in Dracula.
‘Where do you want us to drop you?’ my mother asked.
‘Anywhere,’ Mr Rellik said.
‘Where do you live in Ipswich?’
There was a pause. ‘Blade Street,’ he said.
‘Blade Street? I don’t think I know it.’
‘It’s near the centre.’
My mother knew every street in Ipswich. She lived there for ten years before she married my father. But she had never heard of Blade Street. And why had the hitchhiker paused before he answered her question? Had he been making it up?
The thunder rolled over us a second time.
‘I’m going to kill you,’ Mr Rellik said.
But he said it so quietly that only I heard and this time I knew for certain. He was mad. He had escaped from Fairfields. We had picked him up in the middle of nowhere and he was going to kill us all. I leant forward, trying to catch my parents’ eyes. And that was when I happened to look into the driver’s mirror. That was when I saw the word that I had written on the window just a few moments before.
But reflected in the mirror it said something else. KILLER
More Horrowitz Horror © Anthony Horowitz 2000. Published by Orchard Books.
Jonathan Stroud – The Lockwood & Co Series – new episode #2
The Whispering Skull has just been published.
The Screaming Staircase – I reviewed this last September.
The Owl Service – Alan Garner
I loved Alan Garner when I was a child and this one I found particularly spooky.
The Owl Service tells the story of Alison, Roger and Huw who discover a mysterious dinner service in the loft. This is only the first of the strange events and happenings that lead to the old Welsh legend of Blouedd (who was made of flowers and then turned into an owl after she killed her husband).
Bottom of Form
I have to admit the plot was very gripping and slightly creepy (such as when Huw finds Alison in the forest making owls and then being chased by mysterious flames), but was let down by the way Garner linked the events together.
My favourite of these events was during the storm when the plaster on the walls of the house starts to crack and reveals the portrait of a beautiful woman surrounded by flowers made of birds claws; one of the most creepy parts of the book.
The publishers have named this book a “modern classic” and the snippets of reviews themselves claim the book “builds up tension and comes to wild release in the last few pages”. I disagree with this claim. The book was like a line of gunpowder: exciting and bright throughout but often sizzles out at the end. I do not think this book deserves to be ranked up there with the Phantom Tollbooth, Thomasina and Charmed Life (other books in the “modern classics” range).
I also have a problem with the illustration on page three which depicts one of the plates from the dinner service. It is supposed to make a picture of an owl if the pattern is drawn correctly, but however much I tried I could not make one (if you are going to illustrate a book like this do it right).
Not one of the best reads ever, but take a look anyway. Preferably get it from a library not a bookshop, as you probably won’t read it again.
The original scary book for children, Struwwelpeter was one of the first books written explicitly for kids — and it didn’t exactly coddle them. The book consists of cautionary tales for children, who are warned that if they suck their thumbs, a “great tall tailor” will chop said thumbs off with giant scissors. Yikes (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/claire-fallon/9-kids-books-that-terrifi_b_4178249.html)