Favorite Flukey Finds: Scary Books Edition

28 Oct

Well, looky here! Just in time for Halloween, it’s the Scary Books Edition of… Fluke

First, some F3 background.  Over a year ago, I created a system to stop myself from reading nothing but middle grade fiction. I borrow and read a quota of books from all areas of the children’s collection (and one token YA title).  The system (and its rules) are outlined here in Favorite Flukey Finds #1.  I have a new pile of books sitting on my freshly-swept apartment floor, photo below.  Click on the photo to see the complete list.

Click on the photo to see a list of these titles.

Click on the photo to see a list of these titles.

What I do in Favorite Flukey Finds is choose a theme, and then shine a spotlight on three titles that fit the theme.  All titles in these F3 posts started out as random choices in one of my book-grabbing sprees.  When I actually read the books, however, I wound up going gaga over them.  These books are the epitome of happy accidents.  As always, the Fluke Factor rates my awareness of each title, on a scale of 1 to 5 flukes, before I took it home. 

The more cute, flatheaded fish, the more flukey a choice that book turned out to be.

Read ahead if you dare, because these aren’t just scary books.  They are Boo-ooo-ks!

The Smoky Corridor

1.  The Smoky Corridor by Chris Grabenstein (Middle Grade Chapter Book)

The third book in Grabenstein’s Haunted Mystery series gets down to business in the first chapter when 11-year-old Zack Jennings is told a gruesome story of two brothers and a teacher dying in a fire decades ago at Zack’s new middle school.  By the end of chapter 2, a witness is rubbed out by a heartless treasure-hunter.  Then the school janitor disappears, and while the staff and students have no idea what happened to him, the reader gets to witness his transformation into a zombie and his hunt for sustenance (what else but for BRAAA-II-NNS?).

I was happy to discover The Smoky Corridor because it goes for visceral scariness instead of atmospheric scariness.  Blood gets spilled in Grabenstein’s books, body parts go splat when they hit the ground, and that’s exactly what a lot of kids are looking for in their scary books.  Grabenstein doesn’t go full Stephen King on his tween readers, however.  He tempers the creepiness with plenty of humor, and in the case of the doomed witness in chapter 2, leaving the really distressing action off the page.  That chapter ends with the villainous treasure-hunter cocking the trigger of his pistol and looking coolly into the eyes of his terrified victim.  And, scene.

By the way, Chris Grabenstein and I share the same hometown.  Buffalo, NY.  Go, Bills!  Stop Embarrassing Us, Sabres!

Five Tiny Flukes

Fluke Factor=5 Flukes (maximum flukage!).  Nothing else in the ‘G’s’ had struck my fancy, and Grabenstein was on the bottom shelf.  I always aim for the bottom shelf when I can’t make up my mind.

Beware of the Frog

2.  Beware of the Frog by William Bee (Picture Book)

Sweet Mrs. Collywobbles wears flowered hats and lives in a genteel British cottage complete with a thatched roof.  She is protected by her little pet frog, who sits on the doorstep.  Frog is a static presence with wide yellow eyes and innocent grin on his face.  When a goblin, troll, and ogre walk out of the dark wood with the aim of eating Mrs. Collywobbles, they scoff at her ‘Beware of the Frog’ sign and walk through the gate, thinking they’ll start off with a little green appetizer.  But that’s when Frog strikes…

Photo Source: William Bee Blog

Photo Source: William Bee Blog

Those body parts and pieces of clothing sticking out of his mouth (I assume before he makes that final swallow).  That flat expression on his face (which never changes throughout the book).  It’s gruesome, and pretty funny, too, thanks to Bee’s talent for deadpan British humor.  Without giving too much away, Frog meets an lamentable ending, and Mrs. Collywobbles reveals herself to be kind of a jerk.

Two Tiny Flukes

Fluke Factor=2 Flukes. A couple of colleagues had mentioned that the book was quirky and somewhat disturbing, so I pulled it off the shelf the next time I went hunting for my five picture books.

Cold Feet

3.  Cold Feet by Cynthia DeFelice, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (Folktale)

As I write this post, I begin to recognize that when it comes to the scary stuff, the titles I lean towards tend to feature disembodied limbs and humor.  If anyone wishes to analyze why that is, I invite you to have at it.  Cold Feet is a Scottish folktale in which a destitute bagpiper named Willie McPhee stumbles over a dead man while wandering through a cold and miserable wood late at night.  He wants to show proper respect for the dead, but he can’t help but notice that the corpse wears a handsome pair of boots (I invite you to read this line in your best Groundskeeper Willie brogue: “Och! They were fine-looking boots, they were!”).  Willie sensibly decides the boots will do him more good than the dead man, but when he tries to remove them, they won’t come off.  Fortunately, the dead man’s feet (disembodied limbs alert!) fall off with the boots still in them, so Willie, a practical and needy man, picks up both boots and feet and and continues on his travels.  Willie eventually uses them to play a trick on a stingy farmer by ‘feeding’ them to one of the farmer’s cows, making him believe the cow ate poor Willie.  Willie doesn’t get to enjoy his joke for very long.  As he relaxes in front of the fire in the farmer’s house (he and his wife ran away in fright), a footless stranger knocks at the door and demands Willie return his feet to him.  Uh oh.

Five Tiny Flukes

Fluke Factor=5 Flukes (maximum flukage!).  I had no idea this was a ghost story.  I just thought it would be interesting to read a Scottish folktale that wasn’t about a kelpie.

Happy Halloween, everyone!  If I dress up, it will probably be as a geeky, varsity, parochial school tennis player, complete with Martina Navratilova-style headband and striped tube socks.  How about you?  Also, what elements do you look for in a scary story?

~Catherine

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