After seeing 5 minutes of The Shining on TV once as a child, I knew I would never be able to appreciate Stephen King, or mainstream horror, the way others do. I personally ascribe to the Barney school of fear: “It’s kinda fun to be scared, when you know it’s not for real.”
These two series are a great way to scare the bejezus out of kids, while getting them to love reading on their own. When I say scare, what I really mean is amuse. As Marnie mentioned last week, inaugurating kids into the world of horror, magic, and camp is truly necessary. With these two series, you’ll have an easy time of it.
The Bailey School Kids is a series of over 80 short chapter books revolving around the mishaps of a group of elementary school kids. They seem to have an inordinate number of strange and spooky teachers at the Bailey School, and the kids are on the case. With more than 80 storylines to choose from, you (or your kid of choice) will surely find at least one to love. While I haven’t read them all, I know that each tackles a different mythical creature, from ghosts and wizards to vampires and mermaids. I remember ritualistically visiting the library each week as a kid to choose new Bailey School books, not least based on their wacky titles (some personal favorites include Mummies Don’t Coach Softball, Dragons Don’t Cook Pizza, and Wolfmen Don’t Hula Dance.) This series is a goofy way to explore mythical and spooky creatures, with a background of humor and fun. Plus the cover art is hilarious.
The Magic Tree House, it might be argued, is less about ghouls and goblins and more about brainwashing kids into loving history and literature. As a former Tree House reader I can attest to its success in this area, but it still has no shortage of spooky happenings. While some of the books are more obviously academic (what with the child protagonists hanging out with Dickens, Shakespeare, George Washington, and Mozart), there are many others that speak to the mythical mystery of Halloween. The series of nearly 50 chapter books begins as famed Arthurian baddie Morgan le Fay sends Jack and his little sister Annie on adventures through time, with the aid of the hundreds of books in their magic tree house. They battle dinosaurs, fight with ninjas, and even venture to the moon. The one adventure I remember reading and revisiting often as a kid was the one in which they visited Ancient Egypt in Mummies in the Morning. I seem to remember them being chased by cursed mummies, helping an Egyptian princess or queen, and being unsure of how to get home. That was the greatest part about these books: that these two kids were scraping by in terrifying situations alone, (without the help of adults,) and often surviving and making it home barely by the skin of their teeth. So: adventure, creatures, and independence! What more could a kid want from a creepy Halloween book?
And if y’all aren’t as into the light terror as I am, go check out the Gashlycrumb Tinies. It still involves kids, but with a much more twisted and grown-up cynicism (spoiler: the kids all die, gruesomely).