Rah Rah for RA!: Spooky Reads for Kids!

Occasionally we here at Library Ladies get an email asking for some Reader’s Advisory. Sometimes it’s a general ‘what should I read next?’, and sometimes it’s a specific genre or theme that the reader is asking for. We do our best to match the reader to some books that they may like based on the question they give us. 

Dear Library Ladies,

As a person who is occasionally asked for reading recommendations for kids/teens, I could use some advice. I’m not well versed in the scary/horror story genre, so I would like some suggestions for books for kids, middle grade, and teens. Since I can’t always interpret the scary-tolerance level of the people that ask, a range, or even a general guideline for people new to this genre, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Sincerely,

“Person who definitely did not fast forward through the Oogie Boogie Man song as a kid”

Hi, Person!

Good on you trying to expand your literary repertoire! It’s always good to have a nice bag of tricks when it comes to all genres. Given that horror can run a huge gamut, we’ll give you some titles that could be for those who need tamer works, and those who want to be super scared.

Picture Books:

7552359Book: “Zen Ghosts” by John J Muth

While this picture book does talk about ghosts and spooky folklore to an extent, the imagery and the themes are so gentle and muted that it probably won’t be too scary for any reader. Muth’s books in this series star a panda who gives zen teachings to children, and even in this Halloween themed book he addresses the spirit of the season as well as more thoughtful and introspective things.

363973Book: “The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything” by Linda Williams

This is another Halloween themed story, but it can work year round as well. This brave little old lady is normally not afraid of anything, but then something follows her home. It’s a story that shows that even brave people can be scared sometimes, and that sometimes confronting your fears can be hard, but rewarding.

760205Book: “There’s A Nightmare in My Closet” by Mercer Mayer

What child hasn’t been afraid of things hiding under their bed or in their closet? This story is about a boy who ultimately confronts that monster in his closet, and finds out that it may not be as scary as he thought. The empowerment of the main character is a nice touch to a story that teaches the readers that sometimes what we are afraid of can’t really hurt us. And Mercer Mayer is always a joy, with fun and sweet characters.

Middle Grade:

267972Book: “Wait Til Helen Comes” by Mary Downing Hahn

Mary Downing Hahn is one of the high queens of children’s horror, and “Wait Til Helen Comes” is probably her most well known. When Michael and Molly’s mother marries Heather’s father, the blended family goes through immediate growing pains. Not only is Heather a manipulative brat, but she is constantly talking about her new friend Helen… who happens to be a ghost with not so nice intentions. This book is both creepy, and also addresses some real life issues involving family and siblings.

22859559Book: “The Jumbies” by Tracey Baptiste

This book brings Caribbean folklore to the forefront as it sends thrills and chills down readers spines. Corinne and her father are non believers when it comes to
Jumbies, Haitian folk creatures that lure people into the woods to eat them. But when
Corinne’s father falls under the mysterious spell of a strange woman named Severine, she needs to enlist the help of her friends and a witch in hopes of getting her father back! With diverse characters and a mythology that may be new to readers, “The Jumbies” is a fun, spooky read!

125581Series: “Goosebumps” by R.L. Stine

Well, of course. R.L. Stine’s classic book series for kids may have started in the 1990s, but it remains a favorite of children who love to be scared. While the levels of horror and themes vary from book to book, there are so many different monsters and creepy crawlies that most horror fans will find a couple that resonate with them (Kate still thinks about “The Werewolf of Fever Swamp” on occasion). True, the stories can be repetitive at times, but the familiarity can be a plus for those who want to read more and more with an author they are comfortable with.

Young Adult:

18748653Book: “Daughters Unto Devils” by Amy Lukavics

Starting this section off with a book for hardcore horror fans. The cover alone is jarring and upsetting! When Amanda Verner and her pioneer family move from their home in the mountains to an abandoned house on the prairie, weird things start happening. Amanda, with secrets of her own, starts to wonder if the demon she thinks saw that past winter has followed her… With claustrophobic settings and an undercurrent of paranoia, this book will keep the reader up at night jumping at any sounds outside the window.

19364719Book: “Slasher Girls and Monster Boys” by April Genevieve Tulchoke

For people who want multiple scary stories that can be read in one sitting, “Slasher Girls and Monster Boys” may be the book for them! this collection of horror short stories takes various pop culture influences to make all new takes of terror. From multiple authors in the YA horror genre, this collection has something fun and scary for everyone! The scary factor also varies from story to story, some being tame and weird, others being deeply disturbing.

25263927Book: “The Girl from The Well” by Rin Chupeco

Fans of “The Ring” and “The Grudge” will be familiar with the premise. Okiku, a Japanese vengeance ghost, traveled the world hunting down child killers and rapists, giving them a death they truly, truly deserve. But one day she stumbles upon a boy named Tarquin, an American teenager with intricate and strange tattoos. They aren't just ordinary tattoos. There is something creepy and sweet about an onryō actually helping others instead of straight up murdering them…

So there you have it!! A list of horror for kids of all ages and all levels of freak out tolerance. If anyone else has any recommendations, leave them in the comments!

 

 

Rah Rah for RA!: Depictions of Mental Health

Occasionally we here at Library Ladies get an email asking for some Reader’s Advisory. Sometimes it’s a general ‘what should I read next?’, and sometimes it’s a specific genre or theme that the reader is asking for. We do our best to match the reader to some books that they may like based on the question they give us.

Dear Library Ladies,

Lately I have become more interested in learning about the experience of living with mental health issues, (diagnosed or otherwise) so I would love material that covers those topics. I am open to everything, fiction and non fiction, children through adult, provided the depiction is more or less realistic. Things that include the treatment experience would be especially interesting, though not mandatory. I am also open to more than just books, be it tv shows, podcasts, etc. Thanks!

Sincerely,
“It’s a lot more nuanced than that”
Hi Nuanced (we get that reference)!
It’s always good to expand one’s knowledge when it comes to relevant topics in today’s culture, and given that there is still a large stigma surrounding mental health it’s great that you’re trying to educate yourself. Here are some reads that we personally think may be useful, though as we are not mental health experts this is by no means perfect or comprehensive.
18075234
Book: “Challenger Deep” by Neal Shusterman
Publishing Info: HarperCollins, August 2015
Neal Shusterman tells us the story of Caden, who isn’t sure whether he is presently in school with his friends, or in the bowels of a submarine traveling to the depths of the Mariana Trench. As Caden tries to distinguish his actual reality from the hallucinations that he is experiencing, we get an honest, sometimes dark, but also hopeful story of a person who is struggling to pull himself from the brink. It’s important to note that Shusterman’s son had a hand in this, as he suffered from similar issues that Caden does. This gives the book an even deeper sense of realism, and while it doesn’t try to give too rosy of an end, it does show that mental illness isn’t insurmountable.
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Book: “Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen
Publishing Info: Random House (originally Turtle Bay Books), 1993
This memoir is a bit famous now, given that the critically acclaimed movie based on it starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie brought these actresses such attention. But Kaysen’s book still stands the test of time. Kaysen, after attempting suicide, was committed to a 1960s mental institution and diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. She is frank and honest about living with her diagnosis, and also provides some insightful critiques into the mental health system. Though a number of things have changed in the field since the 1960s, this book is still considered relevant when it comes to the stigma surrounding mental health in this country, and the unique stigma applied to girls and women.
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Book: “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson
Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, September 2015
Jenny Lawson is known to her fans as The Bloggess, and is also known for being incredibly witty and funny. In this book she writes about her experiences with anxiety and depression, and is STILL incredibly witty and funny. While some people might want to write about their own personal experiences with mental illness by giving a ‘how to get through it’ sort of story, Lawson kind of turns that on it’s head, and makes it more of a ‘so this is how you can do super well in spite of the hurdles you’re encountering’. Certainly not something that can apply to every situation necessarily, but her frankness and humor glitters in this book of admittedly upsetting topics.
28524058
Book: “Before She Ignites” by Jodi Meadows
Publishing Info: Katherine Tegen Books, September 2017
If you’re looking for portrayals of mental illness in genre fare,check out “Before She Ignites.” Fantasy world, lots of dragons, political maneuvering, all typical stuff to books like this. What makes this one stand out is its portrayal of the main character, Mira, who has grown up being told she is perfect and special and the one would brought together all of these different island nations. However, Mira suffers from crippling anxiety attacks and uses compulsive counting techniques as a way to self-soothe. In a genre full of “chosen ones,” this book stands out by presenting a protagonist who goes through the same “hero journey” as others, but who also lives with mental illness and must manage this aspect of her life throughout it all. A nice example that our strong young women heroines don’t need to all look/act/feel the same to still be strong young women heroines.
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TV Show: “Jessica Jones”
 As you asked for other recommendations beyond books, we’re throwing this Netflix Original into the mix. “Jessica Jones” falls in the ever-growing Marvel universe and could be easily dismissed as “just another super hero” show. But wait! You could even make the argument that the “super powers” aspect of this show fall to the wayside, and instead this is one of the most thoughtful and detailed portrayals of PTSD that I can remember watching in quite a while. As a subject, all too often PTSD shows up in one episode of a series and is limited to the most well-known aspects of the disorder (jumping at loud noises, for example). “Jessica Jones” addresses and re-addresses this topic throughout its entire run. Beyond that, it addresses PTSD driven by trauma other than warfare, which I think is also unique. The show can be a tough watch at times, but I can’t recommend it enough for those looking to get a better understanding of what survivors of assault go through, and how PTSD can present other than in the more expected ways.
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Podcast/Website: “The Mental Illness Happy Hour with Paul Gilmartin”
This is kind of the one-stop-shop for mental illness podcasts and is extremely popular, so excuse us if it’s already known to you! This is a weekly podcast that is done in an interview style, bringing in comedians, artist, and even doctors, every once in a while, to discuss various aspects of mental illness. It also includes topics on trauma and addictions since many of these challenges tend to overlap. Paul Gilmartin is an excellent host and this site is well-organized and easy to use, so if you’re looking for information on specific topics, you’re sure to find it here.
What books/TVshows/podcasts do you recommend that discuss living with mental illness? Let us know in the comments!

Rah Rah for RA!: Different Perspectives

Occasionally we here at Library Ladies get an email asking for some Reader’s Advisory. Sometimes it’s a general ‘what should I read next?’, and sometimes it’s a specific genre or theme that the reader is asking for. We do our best to match the reader to some books that they may like based on the question they give us.

Dear Library Ladies

Given the socially divisive climate of our world today, I’m looking for books that expose me to perspectives (suburban white gal) different from my own. I’d like to start with American since that’s where I live, but would also like a few international perspectives. I have a good amount of fiction on my to-be-read list so I’d like to start with non fiction, but will also take fiction suggestions. In terms of content, I’m in the middle of the spectrum of traumatized-for-a-good-cause to Disney-movie. Thanks for your help!

-Emma Watson Should Be The Patron Saint of Book Club

Hi EWSBTPSOBC!

First of all, brava for you seeking to stretch your reading experiences beyond what you usually may tackle. We’ll try to give you an array of reads that can fit your personal comfort spectrum.

30650040Book: “Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age” by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

Publishing Info: Simon & Schuster, October 2016

This is a memoir by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the founder of the website and blog Muslim Girl. She was a child living in New Jersey on 9/11, and experienced a backlash against her and her family because they are Muslim. They moved back to Jordan for a time to flee the Islamaphobia, and while there Al-Khatahtbeh had a personal and spiritual awakening she took with her back to the United States. This book talks about those experiences of being a Muslim child in a post-9/11 world in this country, and how she came to found her blog. It emphasizes her experiences, but also highlights her activism on speaking out for Muslim rights in this country. This is a pretty quick read at 134 pages, and it’s very enlightening.

25666051Book: “In The Country We Love: My Family Divided” by Diane Guerrero

Publishing Info: Henry Holt & Co., May 2016

Diane Guerrero is probably best known for her characters on “Jane the Virgin” and “Orange is the New Black”, but she has also written a book about being the child of undocumented immigrants. When Guerrero, who was born in this country, was fourteen, her parents were arrested and deported back to Columbia. Guerrero was left alone in this country to live with family friends, but the trauma of losing her family deeply affected her. While this does talk a bit about her path to her acting career, the bulk of it deals with visiting her parents in detention centers, trying to get through school and life without her family, and the emotional issues she had in the aftermath of her parents deportation.

25489625Book: “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Publishing Info: Spiegal & Grau, June 2015

Written as a letter to his son, this collection of essays by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a powerful and incendiary examination of race in America. It covers the subjugation of African Americans in American history, form the days of chattel slavery, to systematic discrimination, to the deaths of African American males such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown at the hands of police officers. This work is both beautifully written and personal, as well as eye opening and a difficult read because of the deep injustice spoken of. It is framed as a number of letters to Coates’ son, which makes it all the more emotionally resonant and impactful. It charts dark truths of American history and society, and forces the reader to examine them.

6493208Book: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

Publishing Info: Crown Publishing Group, February 2010

This book made the rounds on a bunch of “most read” lists back nearer its publication, but if you haven’t read it, it’s a definite go-to! This story details the history of race and medical experimentation, specifically the story of an amazing woman whose genes have been used for decades in all kinds of medical research from in vitro fertilization, cancer treatment, and vaccines. This is kind of a double-dose book as it features both race in America, as well as bio ethics and how much control people have on their own bodies. So if that’s a secondary subject that might be of interest, definitely check this one out!

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Book: “Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson

Publishing Info: Vintage, September 1995

This is a fiction suggestion! But it does cover a very unique time period and perspective in American history, the Japanese internment camps. It’s a beautiful story wrapped up in the memories of a community that is still dealing with its own rocky history with the happenings of WWII. It book also tells the tale of a bi-racial couple, a white boy and Japanese girl, falling in love during this time period. I don’t always love the “high literature” jargon that gets tossed around so much, but this is a book where the term “atmospheric” really does apply!

197753Book: “Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto” by Vine Deloria, Jr.

Publishing Info: Oklahoma Press, October 1970

An older book, but a must-read for a take on Native American relations in the United States. For such a touch subject, the book is also surprisingly humorous in its detailing of such things as U.S. race relations, federal bureaucracies, Christian churches, and social scientists. Deloria tackles many deeply ironic subjects, like the romanticizing of Native American culture with regards to nature and social structures. Of course, this book is now nearly 50 years old, so some background/context reading could be helpful with some of the specific policies and cultural happenings, but it still makes most list for readers wanting a deeper look into Native American life in America.