On January 1, 1818, the first edition of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously in London. The author, Mary Shelley, was only 20 years old. It wasn’t until the publication of the second edition, in 1823, that Shelley was given credit for her book. This year we are seeing a surge in books commemorating the 200th anniversary of the book’s publication.
Mary Shelley was a woman ahead of her time. I think she would enjoy reading these books by female authors.
I don’t know about you, but Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of year. This was especially true when I was a teen and not just because I got to put on a crazy costume and run wild, although that was a big part of it, but also because of the spooky atmosphere and the chance to indulge in scary stories and movies.
Thinking back on teen me’s favorite Halloween stories, though, I realized that it never occurred to me to look for something scary in the non-fiction section of the library.To help save the teens in my library from such a mistake I started wandering around the non-fiction shelves in our library and came up with a lot of fun non-fiction materials that show that truth can be even creepier than fiction. Here are just a few examples.
If you are like me, you’ve been ready for Halloween since August 1st. Not everyone is so Halloween-happy. Maybe you haven’t bought out the grocery store’s stock of canned pumpkin or purchased a new shade of orange nail polish, but, like it or not, October is upon us, which means you may have teens swarming your stacks in search of something to creep them out and give them nightmares. In my experience I get more requests for “scary stories” than horror novels. With that in mind I’m going to highlight some collections of short stories sure to meet various spine-chilling needs as well as give some horror specific readers’ advisory tips.
“Scary” is subjective. Every reader is going to be comfortable with different levels of the supernatural, violence, gore, etc. A good way to assess what type of horror a reader wants is to ask them what their favorite scary book is. If they are not an avid reader you may need to ask about their favorite scary movie or scary television show. You are probably going to want to recommend a different book to a fan of The Sixth Sense than you would to a fan of Saw.
If you are not a horror reader yourself or get scared easily, it’s OK for you to tell teens this. Particularly with younger teens this may help them to be more open about how scary they want their stories to be. If you aren’t a horror reader, however, you will want to familiarize yourself with the popular horror titles in your collection. If you can pick the brain of a fellow staff member or teen volunteer who reads a lot of horror, this is a great start.
When I was a kid, my mother sewed homemade Halloween costumes for my sister and me just about every year. They were great; some of the favorites I remember include a princess costume that included flounces on the skirt, several pioneer girl costumes, and April O’Neil from (the original!) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Of course, for mom to have time to make these, we had to select and commit to our costumes the summer before. I’m more of a glue-gun-the-week-before kind of costume maker, but I still enjoy making costumes. My own costume making coups thus far include a cowgirl, Waldo from the Where’s Waldo books, and this year, a ghost (admittedly not the most difficult).
If you are reading this post without already having a costume prepared, however, you need something super fast. It’s amazing what you can throw together at the last minute with one or two key pieces, so here are some literary costume ideas that shouldn’t take too much preparation:
1. If you have a leather jacket (or faux-leather jacket), you could be…
It’s the day before Halloween and perhaps this month you’ve watched a horror movie marathon or read a scary book. Have you ever been watching one of those movies or reading one of those books, and it’s the scene where the hero/heroine walks into the dark, obviously haunted house to hide from the killer and you scream, “Don’t go in there!?”
Then they do. You all know better, right?
I often have this experience and wonder what I would do if I was in those terrifying situations, running from zombies or trying to fend off a serial killer. Since I don’t have a lot of confidence in my survival abilities, I will turn to the hobby I have a lot of confidence in: reading! I propose turning to the examples of plucky, resourceful, and brave heroes and heroines in YA literature to save you from the frights of Halloween and beyond.
Here are a few books you may want to read to prepare you for a few scary situations.
Scary situation # 1: Haunted by Ghosts
Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones: Have you considered reasoning with the ghosts that haunt you? It works out fairly well for Sam Toop even though he is trying to save the ghosts, not save himself from ghosts. A little kindness goes a long away and maybe the ghost haunting you just wants a friend.
The Name of the Starby Maureen Johnson (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults): It’d be great if you could see the ghosts haunting you and could send them away with the tool of a special too like Rory, but if not consider assembling a crackerjack team of ghost hunters. Safety in numbers is always a good idea.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: If all else fails, try to get your hands on a ghost-killing knife like Cas. At the very least get a cat. Tybalt, Cas’s cat, senses ghosts like some people believe all cats to do.
When looking for a small town with more literary history, you could be hard pressed to find a place better than Salem, Massachusetts. Not only is the town the home to such literary classics as The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables but the site is a font of inspiration for books because of the horrific witch hunts, trials, and general hysteria that took place there in 1692.
The witch trials, I think, will always be a source of inspiration for writers, and will always draw reader because the hysteria and executions are shocking even as we struggle with our own modern problems of intolerance. It seems unbelievable that something so silly and foolish, and so clearly the product of fear and ignorance, could have happened on our soil even before we were a country.
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 left 19 people executed and dozens more accused of witchcraft. Dreams and visions were used as trustworthy and legal evidence in a court of law and fear ruled over all. Despite eventually apologizing and attempting to restore the names of the accused and executed, the damage was done. Lives were ruined and the city forever associated with these horrific events. For a brief history of the trials, the Smithsonian has an easy to digest article here. The history of the witch trials lives on in this little city, but in an unexpected way. Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans have taken back the city and every October, the city becomes Halloween central for the whole month. The witch trials are a sad and shameful period in our history, but reading about them is important to understand our own present prejudices and as a way to prevent our own fears from making us cruel.
Witches, magic, and the witch trials in general always make for a popular book, so here are a few titles to keep Halloween going throughout the year.