I started studying subversive books way back in September with the plan to cover lack of parental supervision, nudity, and scariness. I thought scary would be easy. But then over the course of the last few weeks, my living room turned into a Booknado!
I considered Lion vs. Rabbit (Alex Latimer) because bullying is scary and Extra Yarn (Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen) because an archduke breaking into your house is scary. Vampire Baby (Kelly Bennett, Paul Meisel) seemed like a sure thing, but it's just too darn cute.
I interviewed my 4yo over juice boxes.
"Is Tiger in My Soup* scary?"
"I give it one dot of scary."
Geesh. Even my kid has her own rating scale for scariness and tigers roaring apparently rate low.
(*Kashmira Sheth, Jeffrey Ebbeler)
I entered a state of I-don't-know-what's-scary paralysis!!
So I decided to focus on what scares me the most:
1. The Dark
2. Scary Creatures
3. Mortal Danger
4. Real Life
Making it dark is an immediate way to add a sense of fear to a picture book, so lets face that fear first!
(There's a Nightmare in my Closet, by Mercer Mayer)
Nighttime rooms are dark, closets in nighttime rooms are even darker, and worries of what might lurk in the closet are the darkest. When a brave little boy confronts the nightmare in his closet, he has to think fast when he makes the monster cry. Tucking the nightmare in his own bed seems to be a good way to keep other nightmares away.
(Ten Moonstruck Piglets, by Lindsay Lee Johnson, illustrated by Carll Cneut)
As a parent, imagining my piglets sneaking out to explore the moonlight really freaks me out. But the piglets don't seem to realize the danger they are in until clouds cover the moonlight and darkness surrounds them. Once owls hoot and foxes prowl the little piglets howl for mama.
""It's dark," he said. "I think I might be lost," he said.""
(Too Noisy, by Malachy Doyle and Ed Vere)
Sam Bungle heads into the woods to escape his too noisy family and enjoy some quiet, serene nature. Which is lovely until it gets dark. Then creep crawly things and glowing eyes and slithery things are all he can find in the deep dark woods. Luckily his too noisy family is out looking for him.
"Lazslo was afraid of the dark."
(The Dark, by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen)
Lazslo hopes the dark won't come into his room. But he has to face the dark to get a critical weapon in dark-prevention: a lightbulb. In this book the dark is threatening and real and capable of speech. Good for kids with a fear of the dark, though it mostly just scared me and reminded me to always have a healthy stock of lightbulbs.
"That tiger looks ferocious, Felix thought."
(Dark Night, by Dorothee De Monfried)
Felix's walk through the dark goes from bad to worse to oh crap when he sees a wolf...who is scared off by a tiger...who is scared off by a crocodile! A helpful bunny shows Felix how to become scary to safely make it home.
I have to admit, these books always fill with relief - the dark isn't that scary! But once I close the books and kiss little foreheads and quietly close the door except for a crack, I still run up the dark steps as fast as I can and jump into bed to avoid the outstretched arms of the monsters under my bed.
Do you have other recommendations for books about the oh so scary DARK? Please let me know in the comments!