Wait Till Helen Comes, by Mary Downing Hahn
Wait Til Helen Comes, by Mary Downing Hahn: When I was in my preteens, my mom took us to the library at least once every couple of weeks. Between listening to Harry Potter and Goosebumps on tape, I found myself wandering through the middle school reader “ghost story” section quite often. I think this was when my curiosity and interest in the macabre/ghost stories began. While I always sought to find something new in this section, I was always happy to find this title. For years, the book never lost my interest. Simple, yet captivating, I liked that the protagonist was the one who was not necessarily haunted but sought to protect her willful and angry stepsister from this malevolent spirit all the same—despite her own fears of the ghost and her own distrust in her sister. Bonus: I guess in 2017 they made it into a movie! Who knew?
“The Highwayman” Poem, by Alfred Noyes
This poem always cropped up throughout my life. I remember being introduced to it during my Anne of Green Gable movie phase. Sitting there listening to Megan Follows recite such a morbid, yet entrancing poem, I instantly became curious about it. Who wrote it? What was it truly about? Was it a true story? But I wouldn’t learn more about it until eighth grade when we would read it in class. This sounds awfully familiar, I thought, and then remembered where from. I didn’t think I could be captivated anymore by the words, cadence, and tragedy of the poem until my teacher played Loreena McKennitt’s musical adaptation of “The Highwayman”. After that class, whenever I was struggling for writing ideas or wanting something in the background while I wrote my gothic/ghost tales, I played this song or another one of McKennitt’s poetic adaptations. Fast-forward to 2015. During my eighteen months serving as a missionary for my church, I met a man who painted scenes from the bible and the Book of Mormon and also a series of paintings revolving around—of all things—the poem “The Highwayman”. This is one poem that will always continue to pop up because it is one of those timeless treasures.
Horror at the Haunted House, by Peg Kehret
A girl gets a job at a “haunted house” for Halloween to scare suspecting visitors, but of course she soon finds out that this house really is haunted and there is something far more nefarious afoot than scaring paying thrill-seekers. I don’t know what it is about this book, but it wasn’t the type that was a one-read-and-done kind of story. Being someone who wasn’t a big fan of reading at the time, it was a quick read that made me delighted to finally finish a book. Especially one that held a mystery, an engaging protagonist, and, of course, a ghost.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
This is the book that first piqued my interest in the Salem Witch trials and my interest in books by Elizabeth George Speare…maybe even my interest in the genre of historical fiction, too. Reading it left me with more questions: Did this really happen? Who were these people and why was there such fear about those who were innocent? What would I have done in this situation? Finding out that stories like these were based off of true events boggled my brain and I wanted to find out more!
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd
There’s something about the prospect of floating inanimate objects following me that never fails to creep me out. And this book definitely paints the perfect picture of it, literally. I don’t think that the author and illustrator meant to creep readers out this much, but I sure was as a kid. However, I love the story about a stubborn old lady who bested such creepiness and how the authors invited readers to involve themselves in the story by “clap clapping” and making the sounds of the objects while reading the story. I’ve also always been a fan of illustrated books who hide little Easter eggs here and there at the beginning that will be showcased later in the book like this one does. Overall, I appreciate this book because it shows kids how to be brave in scary situations…especially when you are scared. For those curious children’s book readers, there’s a read-a-long version here.