Scary Picture Books

Scary picture books?  Are those a thing?  Not in the sense that you and I think of scary because for the picture book crowd they also have to be safe.  For great examples of how this is done, check out Creepy Carrots and Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds.

In Creepy Carrots, carrot loving Jasper is stalked everywhere he goes by carrots.  He sees them reflected in mirrors.  He seems them in shadows there is just no escaping them.

In Creepy Pair of Underwear, Jasper who is now a big bunny is stalked by a pair of glow-in-the-dark green underwear.  Taking them off doesn’t work.  When he wakes up he is once again wearing them!   Cutting them up doesn’t work because they somehow reassemble themselves.

The key to a scary picture book is to make it just a touch ridiculous.  Carrots?  Carrots are not scary. Not only is underwear not terrifying, if you want a preschooler to laugh, just say underwear.  Now act like it is really scary.  Have all of the scary story elements happen.  This could include:

  • Following someone
  • Reappearing
  • Shadows
  • Reflections
  • Floors squeaking
  • Bump in the night
  • Buried but then it reappears
  • Scary footsteps
  • Mysterious phone calls
  • Voices in the night

Once you write it scary, you will have to trust the illustrate to back you up.  Peter Brown does that in these two books by creating a film noir black and white vibe.  Add just a touch of color with the scary things, carrots and underwear, and these elements pop.

These books also have elements just for the adults.  What do I mean?  Underwear creeping up on you.  Any one who has ever had a pair that crawls knows exactly what I mean.  Then there is the fact that Jasper is a Big Rabbit now.  Get it.  Big boy underwear.

These books are a silly scary experience for the youngest readers that give a gift in the form of humor to the adult reader who has to read them again and again and again.

–SueBE

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