Shadowy stairways, creaky doors, crumbling graveyards – all the elements you need for a hair-raising horror story, you’d think. Yet some tales send tingles up your spine while others fizzle out like damp squibs. What makes the grade – and what fails? We assess seven scary books for kids between the ages of 10 and 12 years.
All The Lovely Bad Ones
In Mary Downing Hahn’s novel, mischievous siblings Travis and Corey visit their grandma’s inn in Vermont. They play pranks to promote the idea that the place is haunted, only to find that it really might be. Scare factor The only thing scarier than ghosts are child ghosts. And the book has plenty of them. The plot is engaging, with a heightened sense of adventure. Snore factor The book tends to drag sometimes, hurtles through events at other times and never quite achieves a just-right pace. Best read On a family vacation, in a ramshackle little hotel with squeaking doors.
“Very small stories. Very big scares,” promises the blurb and we’re inclined to agree. With a gleefully sinister streak running through them, the tales – most of them barely a page long – range from darkly humorous to downright chilling. Spooky comic strips, poems and even the odd haiku are scattered across the narrative. Scare factor Tales high on the spooky scale include “A Very Short Story” by Holly Black, Mariko Tamaki’s “Wet Sand, Little Teeth” and the badass comic “Legend of Alexandra and Rose” by Jon Klassen. Also deserving mention is Jerry Spinelli’s story which puts a murderous spin on the age-old chicken-and-egg conundrum. Snore factor “A Disturbing Limerick” and “The Goblin Book” are rather blah. Best read while plotting against a particularly annoying classmate or against a doll with an evil glint in its eye.
One Dozen Stories
Translated by Gopa Majumdar from Satyajit Ray’s “Ek Dojon Goppo”, the tales are more spooky than scary. But the sense of looming danger keeps the reader hooked. There are also a couple of Feluda stories in the collection. Scare factor “Anath Babu’s Terror”, in which a ghost hunter explores a haunted house, “The Hungry Septopus”, featuring a monstrous plant, and the eerie “Bipin Chowdhury’s Lapse of Memory”. Snore factor “The Vicious Vampire” and “The Pterodactyl’s Egg” are less than exciting. Best read In a greenhouse, hoping all the plants are vegetarian.
Penguin Book of Indian Ghost Stories
Staples like dak bungalows and doddering old caretakers populate the text-heavy pages. The stories are predictable for the most part and tend to ramble on. Scare factor Satyajit Ray’s “Anath Babu’s Terror” and Sudhir Thapliyal’s “The Yellow-Legged Man” infuse some much-needed vitality into the proceedings. Snore factor John Lang’s “The Meerut Graveyard”, which reads like a colonial history lesson. Best read In a Himachali dak bungalow, with a nonagenarian chowkidar pottering in the background.
Puffin Book of Spooky Ghost Stories
From chatting online with a ghost to a bad-tempered grandmotherly spectre demanding food, most of the stories make for easy reading. Scare factor Jerry Pinto’s “Saritha Kamakshi Makes a Mistake” and “The Swing” by Deepa Agarwal induce quite a few goosebumps. A special mention for Anita Vachharajani’s “Burrrp!”, which, though creepy, provokes some chuckles too. Snore factor Most of the stories could have been edgier. Best read Cuddling a cat with dangerous eyes.
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
This isn’t really a scary book, except for the extremely scary cats. Most of the tales are meant to be read aloud (or whispered) at sleepovers. Some actually make you guffaw in the end. Scare factor “The Girl Who Stood on a Grave” and “Room for One” are among the spookier stories. Also, “The Viper” for a corny but effective twist in the end. Snore factor Everything else. Best read Huddled in bedcovers, under torchlight, with listeners hanging onto your every word.
The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman’s book is about a boy called Nobody Owens, who is raised in a graveyard by ghosts. It’s a gripping read, with evocative writing and illustrations. Parents are likely to get hooked as well. Scare factor Gaiman doesn’t waste time tip-toeing around dark passageways and wizened old men. The book dives straight into the macabre, opening with a grisly murder and keeping your toes firmly curled from then on. Bod (short for Nobody) makes friends with a witch burned at the stake, tumbles through Hell with ghouls and learns to “fade” with the help of his ghost teachers. Snore factor None at all. Best read Indoors on chilly grey monsoon evenings, as gusts of wind make the vases rattle.
By Mithila Phadke on June 21 2012