A new collection of original short chillers just right for sharing with unsuspecting middle graders.
Brown, a prolific composer and performer, expertly folds such familiar terror elements as malign ghosts and snatchers from the shadows, sudden fogs or storms, premonitions, and eerie local legends into contemporary American settings. Arranged beneath five rubrics, from “Something’s Not Safe at School” to “Better Not Mess with What’s Best Left Alone,” the 33 tales usually feature young people vanishing or coming to sudden ends through carelessness or not minding their elders. There are enough exceptions, though, for variety. There’s a vampire lad who attends a “Costume Party” disguised as a human boy (“No necking, now,” says his so-funny undead dad), an author and self-described “Bookworm” who eats her fans after a reading, and a solitary college grad who survives a home invasion thanks to a ghostly “Warning.” The author’s invention lags a bit in some entries toward the end, but her sober, matter-of-fact narrative style is just the ticket for keying up suspense. Even in the most gruesome tales (as in the one about an oversized bullfrog that delivers just deserts to a trio of frogs’-leg harvesters) she steers clear of explicit reference to gore and ichor. She seldom provides physical descriptions of her human victims, but their names suggest at least a bit of diversity.
“Mom, there’s an eye in the sink.” Read on if you dare. (Horror/short stories. 10-13)