Posts Tagged ‘book list’

Children’s Books That Still Scare Us Me


It is publicly acknowledged that I am fearless and dread nothing. But that isn’t to say I cannot recognize the creepiness of some children’s books, including some that were actually meant to frighten.

1325218Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark series by Alvin Schwartz (with illustrations by Stephen Gammell)

Supremely unsettling tales of folklore and urban legends, illustrated with spidery, surreal drawings that are guaranteed to creep you out at any age. To the pre-Goosebumps generation, this is the cornerstone text of scary-ass children’s literature. Extra kudos for not only being a frequent guest on the Banned Books list, but having entire stories removed for subsequent editions.  


The_Twits_first_editionThe Twits by Roald Dahl (with illustrations by Quentin Blake)

Dahl has a bevy of beloved bestsellers, but this anti-beard screed about scary neighbors never seemed to be as widely-read as his hits. Which is to say, I was the only one I knew who wrote a book report on it. Because it scared me to death. Mr. Twit eats food out of his beard? They play cruel pranks upon each other for fun? Why are they so goddamned abusive to their pets? And let’s be real here, twit is also clearly one of the greatest words of the English language. It almost sounds like an obscenity but it’s not. TWIT! What a word!

242041The Amazing Bone by William Steig

In The Amazing Bone, a pig named Pearl finds a bone that lets her speak any language. As she walks home, she encounters a number of perilous obstacles. It’s pretty basic stuff, but worth it for the drawings. Steig is someone who I appreciate more now that I’m older, especially for his illustrations. His art is childlike, almost outsider fare, but for some reason it creeps me out big time. Perhaps because of the primitive quality, some illustrations looks like they were scrawled in the witness box by a child who saw their parents tortured. Most importantly, the image at the top of the page really freaked me out when I was young. I wondered if I was supposed to be seeing things like this at such a young age. It seemed R-rated.

lord-of-the-fliesLord Of The Flies by William Golding

Golding’s 1954 novel, set in the midst of an unspecified nuclear war, begins with a plane crashing into a remote island. The only survivors are adolescent boys. Even as an adolescent boy reader, I knew this book was my living hell. Then the kids start to argue and fight with one another, a clash of groupthink mentality and individuality themes that meant nothing to my child mind because, come on, no parents, no girls, and no bathrooms?! It was later assigned for school reading; I distinctly remember everyone in class seemed impressed that I had already read the book. Little did they know my childhood innocence ended when the savages brained Piggy.

The_Giving_TreeThe Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

You remember this one, of course you do. The beautiful tree gives selfless love to the little boy, providing him a trunk to climb, apples to sell, branches to build a boat with. By the time the book is done, the little jerk has grown into an old man. Having used up every last piece of wood, the old man finds just a stump where his beloved apple tree once stood proud and majestic. Fittingly, and to my eternal horror, he pops a squat on the corpse. This book is like an S/M primer.

by Andrew Wetzel

The Five Best Books To Read While You Are Camping

It’s camping season. The lakes beckon, the rope swings are practically screaming your name, and your tent poles are politely gathered in a trusty rucksack just waiting to be assembled in bleary-eyed haste after everyone has had a chance to pee on the campfire. But you’ll have time to kill between morning swims and toasted s’mores, so let’s find you something to read.


Walden – Although Thoreau admits his cabin was a couple miles from town and not a brutal three-week hike in, as your college roommate used to assume, this pleasant tome on the beauty and importance of nature and self-reliance has spurred many a failed back-to-the-land commune.

A Walk in the Woods – After moving back to his native US, travel writer Bill Bryson became fascinated by the segment of Appalachian Trail running through his hometown. He recruits an out-of-shape pal to tag along on his quest to tackle the entire 2200-mile trail, recounting his hilarious undertaking while also waxing rhapsodic on the AT’s history and the general disappearance of wilderness and greenways.

Wild – Let’s take the previous book and flip it to the West Coast: Cheryl Strayed’s mega-bestselling memoir details the author’s 1100-mile hike down the Pacific Crest Trail after a series of personal traumas, much to the delight of Oprah and everyone’s respective aunts. But don’t be reductive! Oprah and everyone’s respective aunts were spot-on when it came to Jonathan Franzen. Respect is due.

The Monkey Wrench Gang – Sure, all the meat eating and casual littering from the “heroes” of this 1975 novel might steer your Earth Liberation Front friends away, but Edward Abbey’s novel of a group of disparate misfits hellbent on stopping the logging industry from paving over the American West’s forested majesty basically remains the founding text for the direct action eco-defense movement. Bring-your-own-caltrops.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – Alvin Schwartz’s collection of urban legends and scary folk tales probably won’t affect you the way it did in elementary school, but holy crap have you checked out Stephen Gammell’s illustrations in the last ten years? They’re terrifying, the perfect accompaniment to this classic children’s series. If the Vinder Viper has stuck with you, I think that means this deserves a reread. When I have children, I’m going to make them read these books by flashlight when they misbehave on camping trips.

by Andrew Wetzel