Horror is a genre that I've pretty much avoided for my entire life [with the exception of Goosebumps and the odd Stephen King novel] and that is because horror genuinely scares me. I've only seen five horror films [and no that is not an invitation to anyone who knows me] and if I close my eyes I can sometimes still see Pennywise the clown from IT smirking at me. And that is a terrifying image. Yet, despite my aversion to Horror as a genre, I do actually enjoy Halloween. I don't like the gory aspect of it, or the extreme books and films typically associated with it, but I do like the decorations, and the and the license to dress up, and the sense of bonhomie that Halloween usually creates. So if like me you like Halloween, but you're still a bit scared of it, then these are the books for you:
1. Halloween Merrymaking by Diane C. Arkins
This book takes a lovely look at Halloween traditions, decorations and costumes from the past, and includes recipes and instructions for games as well as discussing the history of Halloween. If you're planning to throw an old school Halloween Party [and I wish someone would!] this book should be your guide.
2. The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
Before Harry Potter, there was The Worst Witch. This series about a haphazard witch isn't scary in the slightest, but it is entertaining and very cute, and follows in the great tradition of boarding school fables and is reminiscient of Enid Blyton in style. These books are so addictive; I can't think of a better way to spend Halloween than holed up in bed reading about Mildred Hubble and her friends.
3. The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tom Diterlizzi and Holly Black
Again this isn't a particulary scary book, but its appropriate for Halloween as the series tells the tale of three children who move house only to discover the grounds are full of magical creatures, most of whom are unpleasant. The children come across a guide telling them how to identify and deal with the creatures, but the more involved they become, the more trouble they get into.
4. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Don't let the awful film version of this fool you, this is one of the darkest children's novels I have ever read, and this is by far the most chilling title on this list. This novel is all about delusion, lies, truth, sanity and madness. Through a series of fantastical events, the protagonist Bastian starts to lose his sense of identity, to the point where he can't even remember his name or his origins. One of the great traits of this book is that it makes the reader question what is real and what isn't, what is sanity and what isn't, and those are big questions for a child to have to ask, which is what makes it so disturbing. In addition, the reader is hunted by an unknown monster throughout the book, and you really have the sense of being watched as you plunge through it.
5. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
Poe may well be one of the founding fathers of Horror, but by today's standards, his poems aren't really that frightening - I find the formal language prevents me from feeling too scared. Nevertheless, The Raven is a great study of a man's descent into madness and it contains many of the tropes that we now associate with Halloween and Horror, and so if you're a traditionalist then you'll enjoy this poem, especially if you listen to one of its renditions on youtube.
Have a Happy [but not too scary!] Halloween.