Posted in Librarianing, professional development, programs, Summer Reading

Summer Scares is back!

It’s time to start planning Summer Reading already – I know, right? – and there are some great themes available: there is the Oceans of Possibilities theme, and there’s the Read Beyond the Beaten Path. For those readers that like the spookier side of life, I’m very excited that the Horror Writers Association is back with Summer Scares!

I don’t use Summer Scares as the sole Summer Reading program at my library, but I do promote it to give me that little extra, to reach all my readers at the library, because I have quite a few spooky/horror fans here (including me). This year’s Summer Scares Middle Grade offerings are fantastic:


Source: RA For All, Summer Scares FAQ and Resources, 3/1/2022

 

I’ve only read one of the YA offerings, Clown in a Cornfield, which I LOVED (and which is getting a sequel in August!); I’m looking forward to diving into these other selections:


Source: RA For All, Summer Scares FAQ and Resources, 3/1/2022

 

Info and resources are available on the RA for All: Horror blog, which is updated pretty regularly by Becky Spratford, who also writes the excellent RA for All blog. These are excellent Readers Advisory blogs that you should be subscribed to; Becky Spratford has great insights and puts up plenty of links for professional development.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

This Halloween, Zombert returns!

Return of Zombert, by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Ryan Andrews, (July 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201079

Ages 8-12

Last summer, I read Kara LaReau and Ryan Andrews’s Rise of Zombert, and audibly squawked at the cliffhanger ending; needless to say, seeing Return of Zombert in my review box of goodies from Candlewick Press gave me a large amount of seasonal joy.

To catch you up: Lambert is a corporate town, with the YummCo corporation at the town’s heart. Everyone is employed by or affected by YummCo in some way, but it’s okay! Because YummCo is great! They have a catchy jingle, and the head of the company loves to give people the thumbs up! And they swear they don’t test on animals! Except they do. YummCo’s got their corporate fingers in a lot of pies, and some projects are shadowy and secret, and involve some awful animal testing. Zombert – known at the lab as Y-91 – is a cat that escaped from the lab with promises of revenge when he returns to liberate the other animals, but he’s found by a girl named Mellie, who cares for him, nurses him back to health, names him Bert, and doesn’t mind (too much) that he prefers to eat the heads of his live prey.

Zombert – as Mellie’s best friend Danny calls the “zombie cat” – has started easing into life with Mellie while haunted by nightmares of his mother, who never returned from a food run; his brother and sister, captured with him and brought to the lab, and the memories of Cold Hands, the cruel human at the lab who experimented on him. And YummCo hasn’t forgotten about Zombert, either: there are new plans afoot to get him back, and they have another inside man infiltrating Mellie’s and Danny’s lives to facilitate that. Mellie needs to earn some money to get Bert to the vet, and YummCo just happens to be holding a Best Pet contest. Is the contest legit? What do you think? This latest entry into the Zombert chronicles is even more compulsively readable than Rise of Zombert. It’s dark humor at its best, with poignant moments as we experience Zombert’s trauma through his memories. The ending will leave you yelling at the book yet again, and waiting not-so-patiently for the third part of the series, due in the Summer of 2022. Ryan Andrew’s black and white illustrations add the perfect touch of chiller to this story. Definitely grab this one.

Read a sample chapter of Return of Zombert here.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade

Scary Stories to Tell… Anywhere! Hide Don’t Seek…

Hide Don’t Seek, by Anica Mrose Rissi, (Aug. 2021, Quill Tree Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780063026957

Ages 8-12

A new collection of scary stories for a new generation, Hide Don’t Seek is a volume of middle grade spooky stories that I know my library kids – all voracious readers of Alvin Schwartz and R.L. Stine – are going to devour this. There’s a story about a suspicious summer camp where activities mostly include building a wall, and when kids go to the infirmary, they don’t come back… just be sure to pack your Cheez-Whiz; a story about a school play gone horribly awry, and a realistic doll that’s a little too lifelike. Each story is short and speaks to situations kids are familiar with: summer camp, school talent shows, playing hide and seek. This is a book that’s going to get passed around and read out loud, flashlights under the chin (cell phones?). Hide Don’t Seek earns its place next to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark on your shelves.

Hide Don’t Seek has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Uncategorized

Tor Nightfire announces graphic novel

It’s a news day! Just read that Nightfire, the horror imprint for Tor Books, is releasing their first graphic novel – eldritch horror! – in August 2022.

Eldritch horror set in modern-day Brooklyn? Reimagined Robert W. Chambers? GIVE IT ALL TO ME (and my library teens).

 

Posted in Conferences & Events

Summer Scares update!

Any horror fans out there? I am psyched, because Summer Scares is back this year! The Summer Scares Reading Program is a program through the Horror Writers Association, in a partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and BookList, to promote horror titles to adult, teen (YA), and middle grade readers. I’ve been aware of the program in the past, but this year, I am determined to do something about it. Big thanks to RA for All’s Becky Spratford – also one of this year’s committee members – for her blog entry that gave me the heads-up. Programming will be virtual, and is a nice extension of summer reading programs for those kids and teens who may be more interested in horror or the spookier side of life than the usual Summer Reading themes.

This year’s middle grade picks are:

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson.. (Aug. 2015, Workman), $22.75, ISBN: 9780761184614
Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi, (Nov. 2017, Dutton Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781101994795
Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce, (Apr. 2016, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781442473553

 

YA picks are:

The Diviners by Libba Bray, (Sept. 2012, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), $11.99, ISBN: 978-0316126106 (This is for the paperback copy, which came out in 2013.)
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, (May 2017, Dancing Cat Books), $13.45, ISBN: 978-1770864863
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson, (May 2018, Razorbill), $17.99, ISBN: 978-045147823

 

To learn more about Summer Scares and the Horror Writers Association, visit their website. To read Becky Spratford’s full blog entry on Summer Scares 2021, visit her blog, RA for All. If you have successful horror program, virtual or in-person, that you want to shout about, please let me know! My Library Kiddos are big on spooky stuff, and I’d love to get some ideas to have in my back pocket.

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Books from Quarantine: Pleasant Grove

Pleasant Grove, by Jason Price, (June 2020, Independently Published), $3.99, ASIN: B08C21Y281

Ages 12-16

Agnes Goodwin is a 12-year-old girl living in Pleasant Grove, a small town where families live in peace… and under a glass dome. The adults are all keeping a secret from the kids of Pleasant Grove, and Agnes is determined to find out what that secret is, especially after spotting a strange boy in a field one day. There are no new families in Pleasant Grove, you see; and when word of the boy gets out, the adults are determined to find him. Agnes, her brother, Charlie, and her group of friends set out to find the boy, see the alleged “wasteland” beyond the dome, and learn the secrets of Pleasant Grove for once and for all, but are they prepared for the truth?

Keeping readers guessing from the beginning, Pleasant Grove is a little bit Stephen King’s Under the Dome, a little bit Stranger Things, and a splash of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. I thought the narrative was going in one direction, but I was wrong: the plot twists were unexpected and clever, keeping me wondering until the very end. Agnes is a smart, capable character who is determined to get to the bottom of the Pleasant Grove mystery; her brother and her friends have strong personalities that readers will take to and identify with, whether it’s the timid friend, the smart-aleck friend, or the protective older brother who still isn’t sure about the whole business. Good for tweens and early teen readers who enjoy being kept off balance with their sci-fi/fantasy/horror thrillers and dystopian fiction.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Halloween YA Reading: Slender Man, by Anonymous

Slender Man, by Anonymous, (Oct. 2018, Harper Voyager), $15.99, ISBN: 9780062641175

Ages 13+

Most of us are familiar with Slender Man, right? The whole creepypasta fanfic writing and fanart phenomenon gone viral, that some people took way too seriously? If you need a little brushing up on your Slender Man lore, there’s a comprehensive piece in the Washington Post from 2016.

This is my first foray into actual Slender Man writing – most of what I know about the whole business is hearsay from social media – so I was interested in diving in and seeing what the big deal was about. A teen named Matt Barker is kind of an outcast, kind of a loner. He’s in therapy, and his therapist suggests he keep a journal. Matt’s journal entries make up a large part of the Slender Man story, enhanced by clips of newspaper articles, police interviews, online forums, and text conversations. Matt and his schoolmates are a largely well-off group of white kids, living in New York City, where they attend a a prestigious private school. When Matt’s best friend, Lauren, disappears, it sets off a series of nightmares where Matt dreams of trees, sky, and something sinister, just waiting for him. He has to decide whether or not to take matters into his own hands and find Lauren before Slender Man can hurt her.

A line in the book says that the best Slender Man fiction doesn’t actually star Slender Man, but rather uses his background presence to strike fear into readers. I don’t feel like this story achieved that. It had its creepy moments, and was a quick read, but ultimately, fell flat for me. It was on the verge of something more: more psychological, more insidious, but never really got there. Maybe more devoted Slender Man readers will appreciate this one; I want to check with the teens in my library and take the temperature of the group before I decide I was just the wrong audience for this one.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Paperbacks from Hell is a love letter to ’70s and ’80s horror fiction

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction, by Grady Hendrix, (Sept. 2017, Quirk Books), $24.99, ISBN: 9781594749810

Recommended for readers 16+

I know you may be looking at this review funny: ’70s and ’80s horror fiction? For teens now? YES. Walk with me.

First off, Grady Hendrix is straight up hilarious. If you haven’t read Horrorstor or My Best Friend’s Exorcism, you haven’t yet been introduced to his brand of smart, snarky horror: a haunted Swedish furniture store (Horrorstor) starts out witty, and leaves you sleeping with the light on for a week. A YA novel about demonic possession in the ’80s (My Best Friend’s Exorcism) starts with insidious, creepy storytelling, takes it into sheer horror territory, and ends on the most ’80s of endings; you can practically hear the synths in your mind as you turn pages. And now, Hendrix writes a love letter to that crazy time with his retrospective of horror paperback fiction. We go back to a time when paperbacks were sold in the supermarket; when kids like me would sneak peeks at VC Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic while on line at the A&P grocery store. So many creepy children. So much Satan, with so many cultists. So many animals bent on our destruction.

Hendrix is one of those authors that make you pause, grab a friend – or your teenager, in my case  and say, “No, wait, you have to hear this.” Multiple times. Until said teenager finally asks, “Wait a minute: Gestapochauns? There was a book about Nazi leprechauns? Are you serious?” And that, my friends, is where you hook them. You pick a section – any section – and you show them some of the covers. Then you read some of the text, because Hendrix’s knowledge about these books – in conjunction with Too Much Horror’s Will Errickson – is encyclopedic. And the teen is laughing and kind of terrified and wants to know more, all the same.

 

Gestapochauns are indeed a thing.

 

Paperbacks from Hell is perfect for us readers of a certain age, sure, but it’s also a book that connects us with our teens. We can get them on board with the craziness and the overwrought drama of the art and the stories. You can point out authors that teens will know, like VC Andrews, who’s now considered YA, and RL Stine, who was writing horror long before Goosebumps made him a household name. Let horror build a bridge between you and your teens. As my teen told me, “You grew up in a different time, Mom.” Yes, son. Yes, I did. And it was amazing.

Grab a copy and take a tour through the bookshelves of your youth, and invite your teens to make the trip with you. And while you’re at it, share your best six-word horror story with Quirk Books on Twitter by this Friday (9/22/17) and maybe you’ll win your own copy of Paperbacks from Hell! Details are here.

 

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A spooky Book Birthday to Spirit Hunters!

Spirit Hunters, by Ellen Oh, (July 2017, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062430083

Recommended for readers 9-13

Harper Raine is not happy about her parents’ decision to move them from New York to Washington, D.C. She can’t stand the creepy house they’ve moved into, especially when she hears the rumors about it being haunted. When her younger brother, Michael, starts talking about an imaginary friend and undergoes a radical personality change, Harper knows she has to act, even if no one else believes her. The thing is, some of Michael’s behaviors ring familiar bells for Harper, but she can’t put her finger on why. She’s missing chunks of memory from a previous accident – can things be connected?

Ellen Oh’s the founder of the We Need Diverse Books movement, and Spirit Hunters gives readers a wonderfully spooky story, rich in diversity. Harper and her siblings are half Korean; as the story progresses, subplots reveal themselves and provide a fascinating look at Korean culture, and the conflicts that can arise between generations. Harper’s new friend, Dayo, and a helpful spirit named Mrs. Devereux are African-American; Mrs. Devereux in particular provides a chance for discussion on race relations, and how racism doesn’t necessarily end with one’s life. Told in the third person, we also hear Harper’s voice through her “stupid DC journals”; journal entries suggested by her therapist, to help bridge her memory gaps, that show up between chapters. The characters are brilliant, with strong backstories, and two mystery subplots emerge that come together, with the main story, to give readers an unputdownable story that will dare them to turn the lights off at night.

I can’t say enough good things about Spirit Hunters, and neither can other reviewers: the book has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

Monstertown gets Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies!

9781484713242Monstertown Mysteries (#2): Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies!, by Bruce Hale, (Mar. 2017, Disney/Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4847-1324-2

Recommended for readers 8-12

When we last saw Carlos and his friend Benny, they’d just saved their social studies teacher from a miserable life as a were-hyena. Just when they think it’s safe to relax, they’re… bored. Seriously, where do you go from were-animals, right? They shouldn’t have worried – the lunch ladies are acting weird. I mean, weird. They start feeding the boys junk food, and the girls… well, the boys catch a glimpse of what the girls are eating, and it looks like “greenish glop, scrambled eggs, fish sticks, and a sloppy joe thing with maybe-grasshoppers inside it”. Over the next few days, kids start disappearing – all boys – and the girls start getting very aggressive. They’re talking back, bullying kids, acting kind of like the boys do! They sneer at their male classmates and threaten to bite off their heads and suck out their insides! Carlos and Benny start investigating, and they’re pretty sure that the lunch ladies are giant preying mantises that have plans for both the girls and boys in their neighborhood, but who’s going to believe them?

The second Monstertown Mystery is just as much fun as the first one, with more laughs and a lot more gross humor. (Seriously, put down that snack or that sandwich while you read this. You’re welcome.) There’s some nice social commentary about sexism, even if it comes with the whole female-biting-a-male’s-head-off sort of thing; a particularly strong statement by Carlos’ friend Tina toward the book’s conclusion. Put this out with your Goosebumps books, your Lovecraft Middle School books, and your Haunted Mansion novel (when are we getting another volume of that?) and watch the kids swarm. Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies! comes with a lenticular cover, just like The Curse of the Were-Hyena did, for transformation fun.

Come on, this is a no-brainer add to collections.