Deck the halls with bats and cobwebs, Spooky Season is in full swing! Have you dusted off your witch's hat, coaxed your skeleton from its closet, and saluted your neighborly black cat? Good! Have you chosen your pumpkins for carving, checked your basement for ghosts, and stocked your cupboards with candy? Excellent! Looking for some Halloween-centric books to get you further in the Halloween mood? Well I, your Spooky Librarian, have you covered!
For the nostalgic reader:
"The pumpkins on the Tree were not mere pumpkins. Each had a face sliced in it. Each face was different. Every eye was a stranger eye. Every nose was a weirder nose. Every mouth smiled hideously in some new way. There must have been a thousand pumpkins on this tree, hung high and on every branch. A thousand smiles. A thousand grimaces."
I don't think I've ever read a book more perfectly suited for the spirit of Halloween than Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree. In fact, I don't think I've ever read a book more perfectly suited for the month of October.
This is a novella about eight trick-or-treaters on a mission to rescue their friend Pipkin who's been whisked away on Halloween night. With the help of a dark, mysterious stranger named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, the boys travel through time and space, learning about the origins of Halloween while on the chase for Pipkin's soul. From funeral processions in Egypt to witch persecutions in Europe, Moundshroud takes the young trick-or-treaters on an amazing, eye-opening journey in hopes of them learning that there is more to Halloween than costumes and candy.
Bradbury's writing is full of whimsy and magic. You can practically smell Halloween on the pages. Reading The Halloween Tree within the month of October will feel no different from reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol during the month of December. It's a book you want to snuggle up with on a cool, rainy, Autumn night while drinking a steaming cup of spiced chai. It's a book that, in spite of it actually being written for young readers, will be greatly appreciated by nostalgic adults. Convinced yet? Then I highly recommend you check this one out this year!
For the dark comedy reader:
“I use a calendar to transfer a bunch of sharp broken glass bits to the table. It’s a calendar Robbie’s old man had of sexy ladies and October’s a sexy witch flying a broom and even though it’s ancient I’m glad Robbie keeps it around cuz sexy witches make Halloween even nicer.”
The shenanigans of Blood Sugar starts with Robbie, a lonely, spiteful, neighborhood outcast who is seeking revenge on all who’ve snubbed him by plotting to put poison, glass, and razor blades in Halloween candy and passing it out to innocent children on the big night. But don’t let this dastardly plot stop you short. Readers get to experience the story from the perspective of Jody, one of three castoff adolescents who've been tasked with doing Robbie’s dirty work. Will these youths be able to go through with this despicable adult’s plan?
As you read, you’ll find yourself baffled that a book with such a sinister, unsettling premise could be so funny! That’s right, folks. This book is a dark comedy and an October reading treasure. While it deals with some heavy topics like drugs, abuse, and youths growing up under tough circumstances, it also has lots of heart. Getting to experience this story through young Jody’s eyes, soaking in his endearing, insightful (and many times hilarious) thoughts might remind readers a bit of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. If you’re looking for a Halloween-centric read that’s equal parts funny and sad, with a splash of adolescent crudeness but also very light on the blood, heavy on the candy, pick this book up wherever you can!
For the true Horror lover:
"The house on Kill Creek still stands. Empty. Quiet. But not forgotten. Not entirely. Rumors are its life, stories its breath."
Kill Creek is the gripping story of four authors (Sam McGarver, Daniel Slaughter, T.C. Moore, and Sebastian Cole) who agree to spend Halloween night in a haunted house as part of a publicity stunt. But these writers are not prepared for the awful horror that awaits them. What at first starts out as a harmless spooky sleepover ends up being a fight for survival. Readers will notice tiny homages to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Stephen King's The Shining. The story is set up with a similar structure--unsuspecting guests with hidden secrets and dark pasts are invited to stay in an evil residence that slowly starts to invade their minds in hopes of destroying them and/or trapping them within its walls forever. But what sets this haunted house story apart from others is the fact that the characters themselves are horror writers, and ironically these literary weavers of the macabre web have the tables turned on them when they become the victims.
What I especially love about this book is that parts of it take place in Lawrence, KS! The University of Kansas is referenced as well as a few well known spots on Massachusetts St.! Don’t you just love when books are set in your state/county/hometown? It almost feels similar to when your favorite pop singer points you out in a crowd of thousands and smiles in your direction. It's a pretty great feeling, and yet another reason to pick this book up this October.
And as always, these three recommendations only scratch the surface. So I will leave you with some Halloween Honorable Mentions below! Happy (Spooky) Reading!
-Christina James is a Readers' Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.