5 Grim & Grisly Tales for Future Goths or Morticians

Kiddie tales and scary themes have gone hand in hand since the beginning of time.  Nothing beats a fairytale when it comes to hair raising (especially in their original form; check out Der Struwwelpeter or Grimm’s if you don’t believe me!). But over the past few decades, there has been a nice balance struck between fear and fascination on the printed page.

If you’re looking for good reads that are mostly macabre and slightly scary, check out these books that will not only satisfy your fascination for everything creepy, but also your love of great storytelling.

Outside Over There

by Maurice Sendak (author, illustrator)

This one is a classic; and for good reason. While Where the Wild Things Are  is certainly Sendak’s best-known book to the masses, Outside over There is a timeless tale as well.

It’s the story of Ida, a young girl who’s been put in charge of babysitting her younger sister. She doesn’t embrace this responsibility; in fact, she’s quite miffed about it. But when goblins steal the baby and Ida goes headlong into their magical world to make things right, she learns about the power of family and discovers an inner strength she never knew she had. Sendak’s illustrations are cute and creepy at the same time.

The Witches

by Roald Dahl (and Quentin Blake, illustrator)

As Dahl explains in the beginning of this wonderfully witchy tale,

In fairy tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. Real witches dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ordinary jobs. That is why they are so hard to catch.

When the worlds of the fantastic and the mundane clash – the book’s seven-year-old hero is transformed into a talking mouse! – there are more twists and turns than an upside-down maze. The illustrations are simple, and deceptively sweet.

The Gilded Bat

by Edward Gorey (author, illustrator)

Another terrifying tale of transformation, The Gilded Bat is one of the strangest stories you’ll find. The prose is sparse – the tale told in just 30 lines – and it’s about Maudie Splaytoe, a ghoulish girl given to staring at dead birds, who is discovered by a diva dance-teacher and morphed into a prima ballerina… whether she likes it or not. Gorey’s elegant, Edwardian-style line drawings are unforgettable once seen, and his singular style is in full-force here.

The Nightmare Before Christmas: 20th Anniversary Edition

by Tim Burton (author, illustrator)

Jack Skellington lives in Halloweenland, a place that’s scary all year-round, but he is fed up with “the scaring, the terror, the fright, and tired of being something that goes bump in the night.”

He wants to bring joy and happiness, so Jack kidnaps Santa and takes his place as the jolly elf. He tries to rewrite tradition: “And what to their wondering eyes should appear / But a coffin sleigh with skeleton deer / And a skeletal driver so ugly and sick / They knew in a moment, this can’t be St. Nick.

Needless to say, Jack doesn’t enjoy his ill-gotten gains and as things go further and further awry, he learns the true meaning of Christmas. Burton’s illustrations that mash-up these two most-popular holidays are elaborate, charming, and fanciful to say the least.

Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #1: Professor Gargoyle

by Charles Gilman (and Eugene Smith, illustrator)

Author Charles Gilman has attempted – and achieved – the impossible by making the bloodcurdling books by H.P. Lovecraft child-friendly.

This loose adaptation takes place at a menacing mansion built with recycled material from the Tillinghast manor, and follows a seventh-grader through the trials and tribulations of being stuck in a haunted boarding school. This series of stories (other titles include Teacher’s Pest, and Substitute Creature) definitely gives Potter and Hogwarts a run for their magical money.

Kooky and creepy, these adventures are sure to amuse. The illustrations are amazing (tentacles breaking through a chalkboard isn’t something you see every day) but it’s the holographic/animated covers that are the real stars.

What scary storybooks do you enjoy reading to your kids? Share your favorites with us!

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Tags : picture books   

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