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>Futures trading for writers

>While I keep hearing about books about zombies, what I keep seeing are books about post-apocalyptic survival. Which makes me wonder if there’s less of a future in e-books than people are saying.

I got a reminder of simpler terrors this morning on the subway, where I was listening to the new audio edition of Mary Downing Hahn’s Wait Till Helen Comes. The narration was not great, sounding kind of like an irritating fifth-grader who insists on reading aloud for a period longer than her audience has patience for, but it made me wonder if the stark frights of this book are best conveyed from the page directly into the reader’s head, no batteries required. As it was, I was still scaring myself silly. Too many children’s-book-ghosts are funny, or misunderstood, but not the one in this book. And I can’t think of another children’s book that actually has its heroine confront fears of mortality and existential obliteration. (Well, there is that scene in Seven Little Australians where the girl dies screaming about her fear of death. No Beth March, she.)

The fact that Helen so consistently wins children’s-choice awards across the country gives me hope for the future: kids who can handle it are exactly the kind I want around to take care of things when the lights go out.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Anybody besides me remember John Bellairs’ novels? With the exception of the Lewis Barnavelt books, which always seemed a bit too madcap to me, most of these juvenile horror stories took terror pretty seriously. I forget the title of the one where the heroes brought in a priest to do some sort of Catholic ritual to banish evil and no one was really sure it was going to work. That the the characters’ faith in Catholicism was being tested at the same time that their belief in the power of evil was being affirmed seemed pretty subversive to me.

  2. >I’ve never really got into any “horror” books as such – although I recently read Dracula for the first time and loved the gothic atmosphere that Bram Stoker managed to portray through his writing.

    In my opinion in general, books on zombies don’t really give you the fear factor that other subjects can give you – they are a visual part of horror. On the other hand, some aspects of horror simply cannot be beaten in the books. What sort of zombie books have you heard about? The only one I can think of off the top of my head that comes close is “I Am Legend” which is more vampires really…

  3. Sarah Miller says:

    >I LOVED that book as a kid, mostly because the ghost was real, and angry, without some kind of Scooby-Doo style letdown at the end.

    Thanks for the audio heads-up. I’ll have to check it out.

  4. >I LOVED John Bellairs. I recommend those everyday to one or another student in my library when they ask for horror stories.

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