Mister Shivers Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories by Ma Brallier, illustrated by Letizia Rubegni (9781338318548)
This easy reader is a wonderful choice for older children who need a simpler text. The book is full of shivers and delights for those who love a good creepy story. The book has five individual stories, each a stand-alone tale which also makes this a great pick for smaller and shorter reading sessions. The book begins with a box left at someone’s door full of items for stories. Those objects are then the basis of each tale. There is a scary house and dare to enter it. There are neglected toys that seek revenge. A scratchy throat proves to be something truly awful. A statue insists on being warm. Scratching at the window may not be a tree branch after all.
The easy text works really well here, the simplicity of the words building a sense of not quite being told the entire tale and details being held back from the reader. Brallier builds suspense nicely in each story and readers will notice a nod to classic scary story tropes in the tales that doesn’t impact the delicious scariness of them at all. The illustrations are used liberally throughout the book and also will appeal to older readers. Their dark shadows add to the shivery nature of the book. It’s also great to see a diverse cast of characters in the stories.
A great pick to use in reading classrooms and to offer parents looking for easy readers for slightly older children. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
When You’re Scared by Andree Poulin, illustrated by Veronique Joffre (9781771473651)
A little boy is scared to jump down into the water from a branch, even with his mother waiting below to catch him. A little bear cub feels the same way as he considers jumping from a branch into a dumpster. The mother and son each lunch together after swimming. The cub has lunch too, in the dumpster. When the boy goes to throw away their bag of garbage, he meets the mother bear standing outside the dumpster. The boy is scared of the bear, the cub is scared that he can’t get out. Mother and son decide to help the bears and bring a big log so that the cub can climb out, they are all very scared. Their plan works and the day ends with darkness and no one scared at all.
This Canadian picture book addresses the different aspects of fear. It uses the perspectives of both a human child and a bear cub to show that fear is universal. It also demonstrates that fear can be overcome and that doing so can make a positive difference in the world. The book uses words sparingly to tie the two perspectives together, allowing the story to really be told in the illustrations.
The illustrations are done in collage. They are bright and bold, showing the forest setting of the camping site and the dumpster. In certain images, the emotion of fear is shown as obliterating the sunny day entirely. It’s a very effective use of illustrations to convey emotion.
A book about fear that also encourages moving beyond fear to action. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Owlkids.
Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna (9781911171539)
A girl talks about how her fear had once been small and helped protect her. However, when she came to a new country, her fear grew much bigger and kept on growing. Her fear kept her in the house when she wanted to go out. Her fear doesn’t want her to go to school. Fear fills the girl’s dreams, evenings and meals. It makes her feel separate and lonely. When a boy reaches out to her at school, they draw and paint together. When they head outdoors, a dog barks at the two of them and suddenly both of them reveal their fears to one another. Her fear steadily gets smaller and more manageable as she begins to try new things and meet even more people.
Sanna, the author of The Journey, returns with her second book that once again speaks to the experience of an immigrant child. The use of Fear as a full character in the book works very well, embodying this large emotion and demonstrating how it can control one’s life. Children who are not immigrants will be able to see their own fears represented here as well, making this a strong choice for discussing emotions.
The art plays a crucial role in the book, particularly in the way that the fears are presented. Sanna creates a fear that is friendly at times and ferocious at others. Fear is soft and changes size, sometimes riding on the girl’s back and weighing her down. When Fear shrinks, it becomes almost toylike and very manageable, conveying that some fear is a good thing to have.
An original look at fear as an emotion. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Scariest Thing of All by Debi Gliori
This story of a very frightened young rabbit is uplifted by the marvelous illustrations. Pip was a very little rabbit and had a huge list of things that he was scared of. The list included rain because it reminded him of the sound a leggy wiggler makes in its web, bubbles in the water reminded him of a gobbler hiding at the bottom of the pond, and tree stumps were like the teeth of a giant wood troll. He exhausted himself because he was so worried and frightened all the time. He was so tired he fell fast asleep until dinnertime. When he woke up, he heard a dreadful Raaar! Pip ran and ran, as far away from the sound as he could. Finally, he stopped deep in the woods. He saw a scary thing nearby, and heard the sound again. Pip was going to have to be brave and smart to figure out what was making that horrible noise.
Gliori’s story of a small rabbit who is afraid of almost everything will resonate with children. The ending has Pip becoming a much braver rabbit. The book does conclude a bit too quickly and neatly. Gliori spends much of her story developing the depths of fear and panic that Pip is living with. All of that plays out very strongly, creating a firm foundation for the story.
The art here really makes this picture book special. It moves from the sunny warmth of Pip’s family and home to the dark blueness of a woods at night. Throughout the woods scenes there is an incredible blue moon rising above him, giving a haunted feel to those pages that is marvelously chilling.
This would make a great pick for a preschool Halloween story time because it has monsters and creepy things but won’t frighten. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Who’s There? by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Pierr Morgan
A very active bunny bounces into bed when the moon comes up. But just as he is curled up and ready to sleep, he hears a strange noise! What could be making the creak, creak, CRINCH? When he sits up and listens, nothing is there and everything is quiet. But then it comes from even closer. Perhaps it’s a Crusty Dumply Ogre?! The noise comes closer still. Maybe it’s a Grimy Gooey Ghoulie! The noise is even closer. And now the door is starting to open! The little bunny gets his flashlight out and shines it at the door. And what does he see? You’re just going to have to read the book to find out.
This book reminds me so much of Ruth Brown’s A Dark, Dark Tale which is one of my favorite autumn reads for kids. This one reads aloud delightfully well too and gives the reader so much to work with from the dramatic pauses to the alarming noises. The drama is well crafted, so the story builds up and up, each noise and reaction becoming more and more intense.
Morgan’s illustrations are dark and dramatic, with only the bed and the door in stark colorful contrast to the darkness. The descriptions and depictions of the imagined monsters adds to the fun, because they are so silly that children will feel a bit of relief from the drama.
Just the right amount of drama and tension for young listeners, this is a tale that will delight. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Viking.
I’m a Shark by Bob Shea
Shark knows that he is completely awesome. He’s very brave! He never cries when he gets a shark (sort of). He can watch scary movies without closing his eyes, mostly. He’s not scared of dinosaurs at all, in fact they should be afraid of him. But even brave shark is scared of something. Not bears. Not a giant squid. Not the dark. You might be surprised what has Shark so scared!
Shea seems to write effortlessly for toddlers and preschoolers. His books have a simplicity that is evident in both their illustrations and their words. Here the book is written in the form of a conversation between Shark and his fish and crab friends. Shea has used fonts, colors and placement to make the book work beautifully. Shark is written with such a big personality that his voice is strong and sure.
The illustrations are thick-lined and bold. They will work very well with a group of children because they will project so well from afar. Great humorous touches are included in the book, like the scary movie the fish are watching.
Highly recommended, this book about even the most brave having fears will be a welcome treat. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
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Roly Poly Pangolin by Anna Dewdney
This new book by Dewdney has the same cadence as her Llama Llama books. Roly Poly is a very small, young pangolin who doesn’t like new things. Even friendly faces scare him and have him running away. When he hears frightening noises, he runs, falls and then rolls tightly into a ball. It takes a lot of courage for him to eventually uncurl and see exactly what frightened him so badly. But when he does, he finds that it just might be easier to make friends than keep on fleeing in fear.
This is a simple book perfect for a toddler audience. Dewdney uses rhyme and rhythm as well as repeated phrases throughout the book. Filled with just enough action and strange noises, this book will appeal to children who may be fearful of new things themselves. Dewdney’s illustrations are equally welcoming. There is plenty of humor here in both the text and the illustrations too. The book ends with a paragraph of information on the pangolin.
Get this into the hands of Llama Llama fans and also to those children who enjoy new, strange animals. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Penguin.
Ferocious Wild Beasts by Chris Wormell
Jack’s mother told him never to go into the forest because there are ferocious wild beasts in there! But Jack didn’t listen and now found himself lost in the woods. When a bear walked up to Jack and asked what was wrong, Jack told him about the ferocious wild beasts of the forest and how they gobble up both people and bears. The bear was worried and the two of them walked on together. They met an elephant who was told about the wild beasts and was also terrified, so the three walked on together. They next met a lion who when hearing about the beasts also traveled with them. With the sinking of the sun, they had even more animals grouped with them and on the outlook for the wild beasts. They heard a stomping. They saw a huge glowing eye. They heard a loud roar. What could it be?
This is a great picture book. It has wonderful pacing that draws readers in and captivates them. The humor is broad and children will immediately understand that the very animals accompanying Jack on his travels are the ones his mother warned him about. Wormell’s use of realistic animals makes the book even more successful as it heightens the tension and adds to the humor too. The watercolor illustrations here will work well with a group as will the text which has a rhythm and flow that reads aloud nicely.
Highly recommended, this is a book where children will get the joke and enjoy playing along with it. A perfect addition to story times on elephants, bears or lions. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.
Also reviewed at BooksForKidsBlog, Kiss the Book, and A Patchwork of Books.