Favorite Standby Booktalks

As a librarian, I am always trying to find new books to entice kids to read, something fresh to lure kids into picking up a book. However, I have my favorite books that I pull out to recommend, ones I read as a child, or even that my parents might have read when they were young. While I discard old copies, with dated covers, I gladly plunk down money over and over for new versions, with fresh covers. Today I’m going to tell you two of these books I pull out regularly to recommend for kids who ask for scary stories.

The updated cover is really nice and spooky, but it is only paperback and inexplicably the prebound edition is the 1980's verson.

Vintage 1980s cover

Another classic cover

Ghost stories are perennially popular, and my first recommendation is usually Wait Til Helen Comes, by Mary Downing Hahn, mistress of spooky tales.

When Molly and Micheal’s mother gets married they, along with their new step sister Heather, move into the countryside into an odd old house. Not only is the house way out in the countryside, leaving them stuck with their bratty new stepsister, but it is super creepy–a converted church, with all kinds of surprises, such as a graveyard in the back yard. If that’s not enough, Heather starts talking about her new friend Helen, a ghost. Molly and Micheal are not sure what to make of this, are ghosts real? Maybe in a spooky place like their new house. But the biggest question of all is: if Helen is real, a real ghost, what does she want from Heather, and how far will she go to get it?

Now many of the kids have already read this one, and if they liked it (most kids still really love it) I recommend another spooky classic, by another master of the children’s gothic genre. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. There are some similarities between these two, and both have had an assortment of different covers. This one actually has more as it is older and a Newbery honor award winner.

We still have this one on the shelf--kids do check it out even with this cover!

We also have this one on the shelf, I'm not sure if it really conveys the mood of the book.
Like in Wait Till Helen Comes, this book features a spooky old house, a new step sister and possible ghostly going guests. When the Stanley children’s father remarries they gain a new step-sister and move into a spooky old house. Amanda, the step-sister, is a 12 yr old who seems mysterious and who claims to have studied witchcraft and have powers. She wants to teach the four children, but when the cupid’s head in the hall is removed the children have to face the fact that these powers might be real or there might be other forces at work. Is Amanda a witch, or is there some other force at work in this spooky house? Read The Headless Cupid to find out!

I’d love other spooky recommendations, whether old or new to share with my ghost loving patrons.


One response to “Favorite Standby Booktalks

  1. It is interesting to see how covers change over the years. Thanks for the recommendation.

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