Teaching terrifying books?

Flavorwire recently posted a list the 10 of the Most Terrifying Children’s Books From Around the World. Three of the books (shown below with must-read plot summaries courtesy of Flavowire) were written in English (including two by authors who my wife and I routinely read to our daughter).

So here’s a thought:

Perhaps I could design a series of lessons for my students centering on some the most terrifying children’s books ever written in English.

Maybe I could even write one or two of my own.

I know it sounds strange, but kids love novelty and subversion. I guarantee that if I stood in front of the class on a Monday and said:

“Friends, this week we are going to be reading and analyzing some of the most terrifying children’s books ever written, and perhaps you’ll have a

chance to write your own terrifying story as well. What do you think?”

…I would barely be able to contain their enthusiasm.

Even the most reluctant of readers would be thrilled about reading these books, and this should tell you a lot about the causes of reluctance in readers. Oftentimes it’s not the attitude or ability of the student that’s keeping him or her from reading as much as it is finding that student the right book.

Of course, I’m not sure what these lessons might do in terms of my reputation as an educator in the community, but I promise you that the kids would love them.


In Brave Mr. Buckingham by Dorothy Kunhardt (the author of child classic Pat the Bunny!), the brave Native American man Mr. Buckingham is slowly dismembered — losing one foot to a buzz saw and another to a fish before his arm is sliced off by a gardener and he gets hit by a truck — as he tries to prove to little Billy that it won’t hurt to pull on his loose front tooth. That’s him there, just a head left.

In Death and Burial of Poor Cock Robin, circa 1865, the sparrow kills Cock Robin and then all the other terrifying creatures of the forest talk about how they’ll bury him. An excerpt: “Who saw him die? I, said the Fly, with my little eye, I saw him die. Who caught his blood? I, said the Fish, with my little dish, I caught his blood.”

We had to include Outside Over There, by Maurice Sendak, of course. This scene depicts ghostly French horn-playing Ida’s baby sister being stolen by goblins, who leave a terrible ice replica in her place.