When are scarecrows truly creepy? When it is close to Halloween! And– when they stalk children and seem to have been making people disappear for over a hundred years. But I get ahead of myself. Eleven-year-old Ollie finds a distraught woman threatening to throw a book into a raging river. Ollie saves (steals) the book and leaves the woman shrieking to “avoid large places at night… keep to the small!” The book, a slender, hand-written volume titled Small Spaces, was written in 1895 by a woman for her daughter. It’s full of sinister references to small spaces, the Smiling Man, and very dark doings. As Ollie reads the book in bits and pieces, a spine-chilling story emerges, and her 6th grade class goes on a field trip to a local farm. What’s that to do with anything? Well, the bus driver is a scary man, and the owner of the farm is none other than the weeping woman from the river (whose behavior has become even more bizarre). The farm is full of very frightening scarecrows, all with garden tools for hands. The bus breaks down unexpectedly in the rain on the way home, and when night falls, the scarecrows come for all the children. Ollie and her two friends, warned by the book of the horror to come, barely escape. They spend two terrifying nights running from or hiding from the scarecrows (only active at night) and discover the hair-raising fate of their classmates. Determined to rescue the other kids and their kindly teacher, the kids risk their lives, and maybe more, to solve the mystery and return to their “real” world. Intrepid heroine and sidekicks, friends to rescue, a mystery to solve, and a formidable, supernatural baddie with his terrible minions… What’s not to like in a scary book? Suitable for ages 9 and up.
–Ruth Ann, Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, OR
Find books that are seriously creepy yet age-appropriate, whatever your age and scare-level, at Paulina Springs Books and other independent bookstores. (And yes, the author is the same Katherine Arden who wrote The Bear and the Nightingale for grown-ups!)