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#1 2011-02-21 13:36:20

RDGardner
Moderator
From: West Lindsey
Registered: 2007-04-10

Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

Not the ones that you came across when you shouldn't have done - I don't know how I came to be reading 'King Solomon's Mines' when I was still in primary school, but it got hidden behind my parents' wardrobe because I couldn't endure to be in the same room with it after reading the passage where the witch doctress Gagool meets her thoroughly deserved sticky end - but the supposedly age-appropriate ones that nonetheless contained a live wire of electric horror, that still spits a few sparks when it comes to mind.

Catherine Storr's 'Marianne Dreams' is probably first on my list. Between her malevolent, mobile monoliths and that story in the Orange Fairy Book where a wizard tries to steal treasure from under a standing stone during its annual trip to the river to drink, I have never really been able to look a standing stone in the face since, which is a considerable handicap when you're an archaeologist. The sparks fly again every time I put my foot down to get through the traffic lights before they change: I think of Marianne and Mark desperately putting on speed to get past a stone Watcher before the light moves on and it opens its eye.

It's also driving that strikes the sparks off Joan Aiken's 'Midnight is a Place' (a gripping and thoroughly grimy guided tour of the underbelly of the Industrial Revolution). The press coming down while the child factory worker was still underneath caused a few nightmares at the time, but what brings it back now is the sound of an unexpected siren at a busy junction. While I'm looking around trying to work out where the noise is coming from so I can take avoiding action if I'm going to need to, I'm thinking of the hero, Lucas, and his sinister tosher master, down in the sewers of Blastburn listening to the squealing of the feral pigs that rampage through them, realising that they have to run on, past the side passage the pigs are already coming down, in order to get to the nearest manhole ladder and escape.

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#2 2011-02-21 14:02:46

Catherine Edmunds
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From: North East England
Registered: 2007-04-04
Website

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

'The Speckled Band' (Conan Doyle). Okay, Sherlock Holmes wasn't written for children, but virtually all the stories are perfectly suitable for children of say, nine and above, to read. Not so this one. I remember exactly where I was when I read it, which I can't honestly say for any other book or story. The thought of it still makes my blood run cold.

I was reading Lovecraft at a tender age and thoroughly enjoying the thrill of the terror of it all, so I was no scaredy-cat when it came to fiction. But that story... *shivers*

I was also upset by some scenes in Black Beauty, but not scarred by them. I found them shocking, but steeled myself to re-read, and quickly grew to love the story.

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#3 2011-02-21 14:09:47

RDGardner
Moderator
From: West Lindsey
Registered: 2007-04-10

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

Mmm, I sympathise... I was introduced to William Hope Hodgson in my first, or possibly second, year at secondary school by a classmate who was addicted to those low-budget paperback ghost story anthologies with the black covers - there were dozens of them, and I'm hanged if I can remember now who produced them. The one she lent me contained 'The Whistling Room', and I was petrified. Never noted the name of the author at the time, but when I was nineteen, I came across 'Carnacki the Ghost-Finder' on somebody else's bookshelf, opened it at random, found 'The Whistling Room' and literally screamed and threw the book across the room!

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#4 2011-02-22 11:57:25

RDGardner
Moderator
From: West Lindsey
Registered: 2007-04-10

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

More serious horrors: Russel Hoban's 'The Mouse and his Child', in which the two wind-up tin toys take a journey across a stretch of American countryside that knocks Frodo and Sam's trek across Mordor sideways. The section dealing with the villainous Manny Rat and his workforce of enslaved toys is particularly horrific, but the whole journey is steeped in mud and rust and violence and decay. I'm far from sure that this was ever written as a children's book, for all it's widely assumed to be one - the ferocious parody of Pinter in the chapter with the travelling theatre company rather gives it away - and I would strongly recommend reading it yourself and thinking twice before giving it to a child (particularly one like me, who watched Camberwick Green from behind the sofa and wept at the thought of an unwanted hot-water-bottle thrown out of bed and left to get cold on the floor all alone).

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#5 2011-02-22 12:49:36

Kay Green
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From: Hastings, UK
Registered: 2007-04-03
Website

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner was the first claustrophic-panic-in-caves-inducing book I came across. I've since discovered there's a crawling-through-underground-tunnels scene in about 80% of all thrillers but that was my first so I still run out into the garden and climb a tree whenever I accientally think of it.

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#6 2011-02-22 13:20:04

RDGardner
Moderator
From: West Lindsey
Registered: 2007-04-10

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

Oh, my word, yes... I'd forgotten about 'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen' because my copy went missing in our last house move but one, but there are some right nasty moments in that. Yes, it was that scene in the Earldelving that came back to me during the last house move, when we got our sofa jammed sideways in the corridor.

Another great fear-in-the-dark-underground story is 'Annerton Pit' by Peter Dickinson: what makes this one outstanding is that the hero is blind, and you follow him through the abandoned, haunted mine by what he can hear and feel.

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#7 2011-02-22 14:09:06

RDGardner
Moderator
From: West Lindsey
Registered: 2007-04-10

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

Oh, and speaking of Alan Garner... the 'Stat' chapter in 'Elidor' has made me perpetually slightly nervous around domestic appliances!

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#8 2011-02-22 14:11:41

Catherine Edmunds
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From: North East England
Registered: 2007-04-04
Website

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

I know I found The Owl Service much scarier than the Weirdstone of Brisingamen. No idea why now, as I can't remember a word of either book.

The Bandar-log are scary in the Jungle Book, much more so than Shere Khan or even the nastier inhabitants of the village. And of course I'm talking  Kipling here, not *spit* Disney. And talking of Kipling, what about 'The Mark of the Beast'? Seriously scary. I'm sure I wasn't supposed to be reading stuff like that at age eleven, but I loved it.

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#9 2011-02-22 16:01:18

Kay Green
Admin
From: Hastings, UK
Registered: 2007-04-03
Website

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

Stop being weird our Cathy! I was going to say 'The Owl Service' but deleted it and put the Weirdstone instead because I realised I've never actually read 'The Owl Service'.

Yours, perplexed of Isitstillmondayland.

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#10 2011-02-22 16:15:07

RDGardner
Moderator
From: West Lindsey
Registered: 2007-04-10

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

The Jungle Book story that really frightened me was 'Red Dog' - is that one in the Second Jungle Book? The dholes ravaging their way across the district were terrifying, and the dreadful risk Mowgli has to take to defeat them, rousing the cave full of wild bees, and their eventual horrible fate make hair-raising reading as well. They seem to be kin to Yellow-Dog Dingo in the story of Old Man Kangaroo - 'grinning like a coal-scuttle, never getting nearer, never getting further', but I never read the Just So Stories when I was little, so I avoided nightmares there.

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#11 2011-02-22 17:39:38

Catherine Edmunds
Admin
From: North East England
Registered: 2007-04-04
Website

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

I read the Just So stories very, very young, and absolutely adored them. I think there's a big difference between scary - even terrifying - on the one hand, and likely to cause nightmares on the other. Kipling does scary, does moving - does all those wonderful things - absolutely brilliantly because he's such a natural and believable story-teller. He can put horrific scenes into stories (eg Kotick witnessing the baby seals being clubbed) but he writes with such humanity that this doesn't produce nightmares so much as a cathartic horror followed by relief and cheering when the young hero somehow manages to find a solution to the devastation.

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#12 2011-02-22 17:46:45

Kay Green
Admin
From: Hastings, UK
Registered: 2007-04-03
Website

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

That is something I'm constantly trying to explain when people say to me, "if you're too precious to like this, why are you recommending this."

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#13 2011-03-02 10:44:22

RDGardner
Moderator
From: West Lindsey
Registered: 2007-04-10

Re: Scary books for children: which ones scarred you for life?

I'm not sure I even want to admit this, but when one of Pickleblossom's distant aunties included a beautiful hardback copy of 'There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly' among several books in a present, it got picked out and popped into the charity shop bag without Pickleblossom ever seeing it. I found this rhyme so distressing in my primary school days that I still couldn't have it in the house!

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