It’s the time of year to not only watch the great horror classics, but read them as well. Every Fall, you’ll see people dusting off the Stephen King titles they love to revisit or still haven’t gotten around to. And of course, people will reread the classics. They’ll look back on Poe and Lovecraft, Dracula and Frankenstein.
But what about the children? Young fans probably aren’t ready for King, they may not understand the language in Dracula or Frankenstein, and even those books have some pretty scary and intense moments.
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There’s definitely a lot of great stuff out there for young fans if they’re willing to look. There’s less of it being released now than there was in the 1990s, when it was as big as it’s ever been. Some of these books are great introductions to the genre and some of them are true classics for old and new fans alike.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Coraline is a dark book, whether it’s a kid’s book or not. Gaiman was at the top of his game with this one. It’s definitely for children, definitely about things that kids experience and understand. It has a compelling narrative and a point to make but it can be absolutely nightmarish.
Just imagine, a world where every morning is Christmas morning and every night is Halloween. It’s a dream, one that lasts forever. That’s the appeal of Holiday House. It’s where Harvey Swick is swept away to, unaware that while time may have no meaning in this house, the outside world is advancing rapidly. This is Clive Barker’s first book for children and while it can be scary, it’s also sweet. It’s about the importance of enjoying youth as well as coming to terms with the fact that it doesn’t last, nor should it.
In the ‘90s, Goosebumps was how many kids were first introduced to the horror genre. The Haunted Mask, in particular, was the only one of the Goosebumps cannon to truly scare me. It’s a great concept, a Halloween mask that cannot be taken off and eventually melds to your face. Yikes!
Once you got into Goosebumps, the next step was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. That was the natural progression when I was growing up. These were scarier and meaner, but still toned down enough and funny enough that they fit into the pantheon of children’s horror. The amazing art by Stephen Gammell has been replaced for most newer editions of the book, which is a shame, because those were some of the most stunning illustrations ever. I would definitely consider tracking down an older copy to introduce any of these three books to a child.
Something Wicked This Way Comes embraced the pure atmosphere of fall and is great for that. Whether it’s meant for children or not, it’s one of the most well written and poignant genre novels of all time and has always been an absolute favorite of mine. Like some of the other books on this list, it is about childhood and the realization that youth is something that ends, but also something that should be held onto and cherished for as long as you have it.
There is no more essential reading for this time of year than Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree. Child or no, everyone should read this book around the Halloween season. It’s no coincidence that Bradbury takes the top two spots, either. Few authors have been able to tap into childhood and its overriding themes as well as he did. This book is not just about that. It also tunes into the Halloween season in a way that few pieces of fiction ever have.