Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Scary" Books

I believe that the most frequently used search term in any elementary library catalog is "scary." No matter the time or season of the year, these queries are heard daily:
"Do you have any scary books?" "Where are the scary books?" "Are all the scary books check-out?"

One of my favorite times of the school year was the two weeks we turned off the lights in the library, pitched a tent, dragged in the silk ficus trees from around the building to simulate the "woods" and built a "campfire."

As each class came in I would greet them with my lantern and the kids would turn on their flashlights and we would "hike in" to the campsite, following a trail around book stacks and jumping over "streams" that flowed by the periodicals.

The kids would then unroll their "sleeping bags" and gather around the campfire.

With the quiet sounds of owls and crickets in the background, I would start telling stories, the spookier the better.

Without a doubt the master of scary check-outs is Alvin Schwartz. These are some books you will NEVER find on the library shelves because they go out as soon as they are checked in.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bone by Alvin Schwartz

In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories are milder tales for early readers.

After a few years of disinterest, Goosebumps are again flying off the library shelves and R.L Stine's other series are being sought.

Cold Feet by Cynthia DeFelice, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, 2000

This one of my favorite story-telling stories. Cynthia DeFelice tells the story of the piper Willie McPhee who replaces his worn out boots with boots from a feet of a frozen dead man in the woods. The story has just the right amount of "ewwww..." and can be turned into a jump tale which will evoke delighted screams.

I am always on the hunt for scary tales which is why I was so intrigued by Patricia C. Mckissack's The Dark-Thirty: Southern tales of the supernatural, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, 1992. It is a Newbery honor book and a Coretta Scott King award winner, an ALA Notable Children's Book, a Notable Children's Trade Book in the field of Social Studies and an International Reading Association Teachers' Choice.

These ten tales are wonderfully chilling and trace the history of African Americans from slavery to Rosa Parks. McKissack honors the tradition of oral storytelling with stories that would work wonderfully in a social studies curriculum.

"The Conjure Brother" and "Boo Mama" are classic stories that will resonate with kids.
"The Legend of Pin Oak" and "We Organized" address the injustice of slavery. "The 11:59" honors the Pullman car porters and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters who organized in 1926.

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite story from this wonderful collection but I can hear myself sharing "The Woman in the Snow" with kids as it flows right into a discussion of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

McKissack does not pull back from the authentic language of discrimination. Villains in a few of the tales do use terms, specifically the n-word, that sometimes result in a book challenge. I hope this is not the reason I have not seen this remarkable book in more school library collections.

An absolute, must-have!

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