Easy to read but definitely not easy to forget.

SHADOW IN THE WOODS AND OTHER SCARY STORIES

From the Mister Shivers series , Vol. 2

Five more spooky shorts from the haunting Mr. Shivers.

Yet another box is found at the pseudo-author’s doorstep along with a note that promises “strange and scary stories.” This time, the box contains a rusty padlock, an owl’s feather, a flashlight battery, fingernail clippings, and a tuft of red hair. Each item correlates to one of the ensuing tales, all told in the third person. Hugh walks home late from school one night and encounters an owl—or is it a monster? Ruby drops her flashlight while looking for a creature under her bed. Tommy, a habitual fingernail chewer, starts using his teeth on other people. Sophie writes a message on the wall of her new room and gets an odd reply. Finally, there’s something—“SCRATCH-SCRATCH”—behind Emma’s locker. Brallier effectively repeats the screamworthy formula established in Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories (2019) to add a sense of familiarity to the foreboding. Rubegni’s full-color cartoon illustrations depict racially diverse schoolchildren. A combination of spot, panel, and full-page illustrations helps add drama to the pacing. The abrupt, disquieting endings mix the creepy and weird with the genuinely terrifying, creating a nice balance as readers jump bravely between stories. Each page has around 50 words or less, with longer paragraphs broken up with ample leading and spacing. The final page includes drawing instructions and a short creative writing prompt.

Easy to read but definitely not easy to forget. (Early reader/horror. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-61541-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Simplified spooks for the we-want-it-just-scary-enough crowd.

BENEATH THE BED AND OTHER SCARY STORIES

From the Mister Shivers series , Vol. 1

A series debut with five screamworthy short stories.

Acquired from a strange box left at pseudo-author Mr. Shivers’ doorstep, the tales are initially introduced via a note to readers. Presented in a mix of first- and third-person narration, the tales run the gamut of eerie episodes. Classmates dare siblings John and Beth to visit a haunted house at night. A child feels a hair in the bottom of their stomach. A creepy statue draped with a tattered quilt haunts a living room. Oliver leaves his toys outside in the rain, but when he looks outside they’ve moved. Lucy hears scraping at the window at night, but mom and dad say it’s just a tree. Brallier’s (The Last Kids on Earth and the Cosmic Beyond, 2018, etc.) strong horror chops translate well into this Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark–lite package for early chapter-book readers. Rubegni mixes high-contrast spot and full-page illustrations, positioning sharply outlined characters against smudgy charcoal backgrounds. The atmospheric, full-color illustrations also aid in decoding. Each page contains fewer than 10 sentences; longer sentences are broken up in multiple lines with ample leading. Occasional words are set in boldface for emphasis and add a little extra thrill factor to the well-paced plots. The final page includes instructions on how to draw Oliver’s teddy bear as well as a few simple creative prompts.

Simplified spooks for the we-want-it-just-scary-enough crowd. (Early reader/horror. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-31853-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Acorn/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Parenting skills come in handy even for immense, green, fire-breathing monsters.

GARGANTUA (JR!)

DEFENDER OF EARTH

A little kaiju yearns to join its mom in saving Earth and other good deeds.

It seems the narrator’s mom at one time was “a little…wild” (“Where did you even find that?” she exclaims, rolling her eyes at a collection of clippings with headlines like “GARGANTUA STRIKES AGAIN”). But now she helps out by resetting knocked-over buildings, tickling rampaging space robots into acquiescence, and blasting the occasional giant asteroid before it hits with her fiery atomic breath. “I want to grow up to be just like my mom,” proclaims the cute little narrator—who chafes at being allowed to cheer her exploits only from a distance. The diminutive lizard-monster therefore determinedly sets out to prove that it’s not a baby any more. Fortunately, Mom comes through in the clutch. After saving her overly ambitious mite from being smooshed beneath the condemned skyscraper it manages to knock down, instead of meting out punishment she cannily suggests that maybe they should work together from then on. “And that’s just what we do,” the dinky dino concludes, adding a pint-sized blast to its mom’s roaring exhalation. Only carping critics will complain that Sylvester models his round-headed narrator and its smiling, much bigger single parent more on Godzilla and Godzilla Jr. than the Gargantua of film in his cartoon pictures. They are missing out on terrific fun.

Parenting skills come in handy even for immense, green, fire-breathing monsters. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-182-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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