Subversive Picture Books (Part 3): Scared of the Dark

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!

"As soon as the room was dark, I heard him creeping toward me."

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. 

"Runaway piglets are lost in the gloom."

(Ten Moonstruck Piglets, by Lindsay Lee Johnson, illustrated by Carll Cneut)
As a parent, imagining my piglets sneaking out to explore the moonl
ight 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!


  1. I have to tell you, sometimes the dark can get to me, too, especially if I'm alone in the house. Occasionally, if I'm heading up from the basement and close the light, I get that chill that feels like someone's lurking in the dark and I hurry up the few stairs. The thing is, I know better, but our imaginations are very powerful things!

    The only book that came to mind is one you listed: THE DARK That book actually gives me the willies! lol

    1. Yeah, it was funny going back through my original rating of The Dark on Goodreads. I think I wanted to love it, but I had to ding it because it frightened me so. I need to read it my kids now that they are a little older to see how they take it now. (and me too!)

  2. One book that I love is One Dark Night by Lisa Wheeler and Ivan Bates. Mouse and Mole venture out into the scary dark night, get lost, and then come across...bum bum bum...Bear! What will happen next!? It's an awesome rhyming story with a twist at the end. I call it a thriller for kids. :)

    1. Ah ha- this is a fun coincidence! I had One Dark Night in here because the dark creates so much tension, but I decided it fit more in mortal danger :) You'll see it next week.

  3. I like a little shiver in a PB, but I've definitely avoided long monster arms too. One that comes to mind is ON A WINDY NIGHT by Nancy Raines Day.

    1. Thanks for the reco - added to my Goodreads. *That made me shiver when you said "a little shiver."

  4. They sound brilliant! I need to sort out the kids being scared of closets but it might make the kids worse. Hmm..

    1. Just read "Shadow Night" by Kay Chorao. It's not a great PB, but it does have a little boy getting over his fear of shadows by making shadow puppets. I don't know if that's enough help to get over the closet fears. Heck, I ALWAYS close my closet doors at bedtime. It's just not worth the risk, just in case there is a monster in there:)

  5. Lauri, I was at Barnes tonight, for a couple of hours catching up on some new releases. Came across one and immediately thought of you! It's called SMALL BLUE AND THE DEEP, DARK NIGHT by Jon Davis. Very cute and totally about the wild imagination in the DARK! :)

    1. Ooh, that's in my to read list. Certainly sounds scary with Small Blue imagining lots of scary, warty, hungry things!

  6. Just came across this one, too:
    http: //greatkidbooks. blogspot. com/2014/10/scary-stories-for-beginning-readers.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+GreatKidBooks+%28Great+Kid+Books%29

    1. This looks like a great site - thanks for sharing. Love those librarians who blog:)


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