Books Middle Grade Picture Books Poetry Reading Ruminations

[Saturday Reads] Tales of the Bizarre and Paranormal with a Tinge of Goofiness: A GatheringBooks Halloween Special


Fats here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just booklove miscellany in general.

It is the last day of our bimonthly theme, Black Holes and Parallel Universes: Marvels of Science and Speculative Fiction, but we won’t be dealing with black holes, robots, and steampunk. Today, I decided to post a Halloween special instead to commemorate this lovely celebration observed in many countries. Below is a slideshow I created for your enjoyment. It contains random text and images from the web that I think go well with our Saturday Reads special today.

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I have 4 books to share with you, each containing a selection of spine-tingling poems and/or stories. I didn’t realize that Halloween was getting close, and that November 1st happened to fall on a Saturday, the day before the launch of our new theme. I placed these books on hold two weeks prior and were not made available until last week. I must say I got lucky.

I like reading stories that are hundreds of pages long but I sometimes find myself enjoying short story and/or poetry collections. I must admit, I rarely buy such books but it’s always a pleasure when I come across one. Short story and poetry collections certainly take less time to finish, and there’s no trouble picking up where you left off even after months of not reading it. However, if you’re like me, I have to be in the mood for this sort of reading. I still prefer to pore through my thick reads. Anyway, I digress.

horror1The first of the four books is entitled Half-Minute Horrors, a collection of instant frights from the world’s most astonishing authors and artists. (Pretty much what was said at the bottom of the cover.) This collection includes 55 short, scary, spine-tingling, hair-raising, and eye-popping stories ever created. (As was noted on the front dust jacket of the book.) The book lives up to its title, although some stories are more than thirty-seconds long. It contains “instant thrills” from fan favorites such as Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, Pseudonymous Bosch, Lane Smith, Joyce Carol Oates, Gregory Maguire, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, R.L. Stine, Brian Selznick, Adam Rex, Jon Scieszka, Holly Black, Avi, Katherine Applegate, and Chris Raschka, among others.

horror2“Half-Minute Horrors” does not only include short stories. It also contains comic strips and wordless tales. These are original creations of some of the brilliant writers of all time. It was noted on the copyright page that Brian Selznick’s ‘A Thousand Faces’ first appeared in ‘The Boy of a Thousand Faces,’ which was published in 2000. Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Shadow,’ on the other hand, was previously broadcast on Weekend America’s Halloween Radio program in 2007.

One of my favorite stories in the book was the one created by Jon Klassen, as shown in the right. Some of the stories are really creepy, some were okay, and others did not make sense to me at all. Writing a short story can be quite a challenge, and I’m afraid that some of the stories from the book barely caught my attention. I would still recommend that you give this book a try and find out for yourself.

horror3Jack Prelutsky and Arnold Lobel team up to create Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep. Included in this collection are twelve spooky poems fit for the day of the dead. In the book, Prelutsky pays tribute to various creatures of nightmare such as ghoul, troll, werewolf, vampire, and the bogeyman. The words that Prelutsky used are intended for older children but the younger ones will also take delight in these verses, thanks to his rhythmic writing.

Arnold Lobel’s black and white illustrations are as spooky as the ghoulish figure sitting next to you. Below are sample illustrations and an excerpt from my favorite poem in the book, The Dance of the Thirteen Skeletons.

horror5[E]merging from their coffins
buried deep beneath the snow,
thirteen bony apparitions
now commence their spectral show,
and they gather in the moonlight
undulating as they go.

And they’ll dance in their bones,
in their bare bare bones,
with the click and the clack
and the chitter and the chack
and the clatter and the chatter
of their bare bare bones.

They shake their flimsy shoulders
and they flex their fleshless knees
and they nod their skulls in greeting
in the penetrating breeze
as they form an eerie circle
near the gnarled and twisted trees.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,
and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
H.P. Lovecraft, 1890-1937

horror6The third book that I borrowed for today’s Halloween special is entitled The Big Book of Horror: 21 Tales to Make You Tremble. Unlike the more recent creations in ‘Half-Minute Horrors,’ the stories featured in ‘The Big Book of Horror’ were classic tales of horror. Most are familiar stories written by Edgar Allan Poe and Guy de Maupassant. Stories by Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and H.P. Lovecraft are also included in this collection, among others. The stories were divided into four parts and re-imagined through the vivid and uncannily striking illustrations of Pedro Rodríguez. At the end of the collection, a description of the misfortunes that fell upon the writers featured in the book were inscribed on tombstones. Pretty neat.

horror7Meanwhile, Calef Brown concocts a variety of silly poems in his book, Hollowilloween: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown. I love, love, love the cover of the book! It’s so orange-y, so Halloween-y, and the devious look on the tabby cat is priceless. Compared to Nightmares, Hallowilloween is intended for younger children. Like the former, the poems in Hallowilloween feature spooky characters we are familiar with. The illustrations are somewhat similar to those in The Big Book of Horror, with Brown’s illustrations being sillier than Rodríguez’s. Below is a sample spread from the book, and I’ve also included my favorite out of 14 poems.


Calef Brown’s poems are hilarious and fun to read aloud. Here’s the poem I like best:

Not Frankenstein

I’m not Frankenstein,
but people say
I’m “Frankensteinesque.”
I sit at a desk
in my mountain lodge
and do decoupage.
It’s an homage, you see,
to the human collage — that’s me!
I’m completely assembled
with spare parts.
My head is square
where my hair starts.
My gruff talk,
my stiff walk,
even the way
I sometimes “go ballistic”…
It’s all very “Franekensteinistic.”

It’s too bad that I was only able to feature 4 books. There were a few more books I wanted to feature but I didn’t get a chance to grab a copy on time. These books were Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories and all the books included in Chris Priestly’s Tales of Terror series.
Also, Goosebumps is a childhood favorite of mine.

Half-Minute Horrors
Written and illustrated by various artists
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
in partnership with First Book (2009)
Book borrowed from Wayne County Public Library.

Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep
Written by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Published by Greenwillow Books (1976)
Book borrowed from Wayne County Public Library.

The Big Book of Horror: 21 Tales to Make You Tremble
Illustrated by Pedro Rodríguez
Original Spanish text adapted by Xavier Valls
Published by Sterling Publishing, Co. (2006)
Book borrowed from Wayne County Public Library.

Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown
Written and illustrated by Calef Brown
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (2010)
Book borrowed from Medina County Public Library.



Reading Challenge Update: 267-270 (25)

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