Tag Archives: scary stories

An eerie tale

21 Oct

Like many teachers, I dislike Halloween. It makes teaching difficult for the days leading up to the holiday and, for days following, there is the candy issue. I also dislike the scariness factor.I have never liked scary stories, or too much graphic nastiness, and Halloween brings out the worst aspect of this.

So I approached The Nest,  written by Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Jon Klassen, with great caution.

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It is a short chapter book that is more eerie than scary, and that is Ok with me, though I still only read such books early in the day, or listen to them in the car. I did a bit of both with The Nest in part because I wanted to enjoy Klassen’s illustrations along with the text.

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Publisher’s summary:Steve just wants to save his baby brother—but what will he lose in the bargain? This is a haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline, from acclaimed author Kenneth Oppel (SilverwingThe Boundless) with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.

For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered.

All he has to do is say “Yes.” But “yes” is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back?

This book is terrifying, but not scary in the way I hate. If you are loping for a short read to set the mood for Halloween, I highly recommend The Nest.

Would you walk in these woods?

14 Aug

From 1974-1982, my family lived in New Hamburg, Ontario, a short drive away from Stratford, home of the Stratford Festival. We would occasionally drive there, picking up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken that we’d eat in the park near the Festival Theatre. It was peaceful and idyllic.

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Startford is also the home of Emily Carroll, graphic artist and author of Through the Woods, 

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a collection of five mysterious and eerily chilling graphic short stories. If you read my blog, you know that I generally avoid books like this. I read this at 5 this morning so it wouldn’t disturb my sleep tonight. What I like a out these stories is the way the words and pictures work together to scare the bejeebers out of you. The language is sparse, but poetic. The artwork relies heavily on black and red. Your imagination does the rest. 

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The five stories in this collection tap into visceral fears kids (and adults, for that matter) have about being in the woods. Alone. In several stories, characters don’t heed words of warning. As a reader, you tell them not to go into the woods, but still, they do it. And the consequences are dire.These macabre tales feel very much like old stories the Grimm brothers might have collected. As such, you can make some decent predictions about what will happen, but it is the way the stories are told that make this book so amazing. 

So, the next time someone tells you not to do something, take heed. 

 

The Power of a Story

23 Jul

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The cover looked scary, so I almost rejected The Night Gardener  by Jonathan Auxier without opening it. When I did, I looked at the subject headings:

1. Ghosts – Fiction

2. Household employees – Fiction

3. Brothers and sisters  – Fiction

4, Orphans  – Fiction

5. Storytelling  – Fiction

6. Blessing and cursing  – Fiction

7. Dwellings  – Fiction

8. Horror stories

Number eight was worrisome because, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I have an aversion to scary stories. I have learned over time, however, many are not as scary as I fear. If you think of this list as you would an ingredients list on a food package, horror is only the 8th ingredient. Ghosts are first, but the things in between are not so bad.

So, I decided to give it a try, and like Mikey, I liked it. Do you remember Mikey?

Back to  The Night Gardener.

Molly and Kip, unaccompanied minors are driving their fish cart, pulled by their horse, Galileo, to a house everyone warns them not to go to. They feel they have no option. They are alone, unskilled, in a foreign country, and are willing to work for room and board. Molly does possess a very useful soil, aside from her willingness to work hard. She is a story-teller. The house they arrive isn’t what it seems. Something mysterious is happening and the family seems to be wasting away. The children encounter a mysterious stranger and an ancient curse. along the way, Molly tells stories and Kip wonders how a story differs from a lie. Molly thinks, “Both lies and stories involved saying things that weren’t true, but somehow the lies inside the stories felt true.” As the story unfolds, and Molly and Kip realize that they must end the curse and save the family, she elaborates:“A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens ‘em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.”

I had a little trouble getting into the story at first. The drama unfolds slowly, but it is worth persevering. By the middle of the book, I was hooked and wanted to see how it would end. I don;t think this is a book I would read aloud in class, but I’d definitely recommend it to some of my students who love middle grade fiction. The book feels as old as a fairy tale and is very well written, aside from the Irish Brogue, which I think Auxier could have left out.

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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