#SurvivalStories2021 Books Early Readers Features Genre Horror and Deliverance in Books International It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Launch of October – December Theme: Horror and Deliverance in Books

... presenting "The Ghoul" by Taghreed Najjar and Hassan Manasra and "Magic Candies" by Heena Baek.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). 

I am very pleased to announce and launch today our October – December 2021 reading theme:

Horror and Deliverance In Books

We are on the look-out for books that fit the following deliberately-nebulous criteria:

  1. horror and scary stories
  2. everyday horrors that human beings face and conquer
  3. monsters and monstrosity
  4. stories that provide deliverance and redemption
  5. tales that show both darkness and light

I am pairing these two international picturebooks from South Korea and Jordan because they present a different facet of what-is-typically-perceived to be monstrous and strange – perfect for our current reading theme.

The Ghoul [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Taghreed Najjar Illustrated by Hassan Manasra Translated by Michel Moushabeck
Published by Crocodile Books (2020) ISBN: 9781623719258 (ISBN10: 1623719259) Review copy provided by publisher. Book photos taken by me.

This story is said to be inspired by Arabic folk tales about a quiet village that constantly lives in fear of The Ghoul who “lived in a cave at the top of the mountain.”

A young boy named Hasan went about asking his parents and townsfolk about The Ghoul and it is clear that there are all sorts of rumours about this creature: it loves eating little children, especially the noisy ones; it has scary features and is quite fierce. Yet, no one can truly give exact details or information as to whether The Ghoul has truly hurt anyone in their village, despite the fact that everyone lived in fear that it may come at any time and wreak havoc in the community.

Thus, Hasan decided to go see The Ghoul for himself. He refused to live in fear and wanted to see if the creature is indeed as fearsome as it is portrayed to be.

The story is a good reminder of the nature of fear and the misunderstandings created by false and unwarranted assumptions about those whom we perceive as the “other.” It is also sobering to be confronted with the idea that we can actually be perceived as monstrous, too, and our insularity feeds off that notion even further. 

As much as I loved the narrative, I was deeply taken by the art, too, and will definitely make it my life’s mission to find even more picturebooks illustrated by Hassan Manasra, who is a Jordanian now based in Qatar.

Magic Candies [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Heena Baek Translated by Sophie Bowman
Published by Amazon Crossing Kids (2021)
ISBN: 9781542029599 (ISBN10: 1542029597) Original Title: 알사탕 ARC provided by publisher. Book photos taken by me.

Tong Tong loves playing with marbles. Never mind that he has no one to play with, because he can always play with himself and his dog named after his favourite game: Marbles.

As Tong Tong went off to find new marbles, he found himself inside a shop that sold hard candies of various colors, shapes, and sizes that looked very much like marbles. They reminded me a little bit of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans from Harry Potter. These candies that Tong Tong found, however, are quite different: each one allowed him to magically hear voices!

If the premise sounds bizarre, it is – yet it is executed in such a masterful manner, with just the right amount of absurdity mixed together with the heartfelt and true.

I particularly loved the scene about the unvoiced sentiments in the Father’s heart that Tong Tong is now able to hear amidst the constant nagging and admonitions and endless reminders, thanks to these “magic candies.” 

What makes this book an even perfect fit for our current reading theme is that Tong Tong is now able to listen to her dead grandmother’s voice! Strange and surreal – but very uplifting, too. At its very core, the story is about loneliness, befriending one’s self, and finding whatever it is out there in the world that provides a semblance of comfort. It is also about hearing the unarticulated truths and responding to the invisible that only we can bring into the light.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 93-94 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

1 comment on “[Monday Reading] Launch of October – December Theme: Horror and Deliverance in Books

  1. Completely Full Bookshelf

    Hooray for a new reading theme! And wow—you always find such amazing picture books, and so often, they are ones I haven’t heard about at all (like The Ghoul) or only heard very little about (like Magic Candies, which Unleashing Readers reviewed). Both sound like such powerful stories, and I love the art of The Ghoul! And the art of Magic Candies is, well, kind of bizarre, but kind of gorgeous too—and certainly unique. If my library gets a copy of Magic Candies, I’ll see if I can track it down. Thanks so much for the great post, Myra!

    Liked by 1 person

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