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Eerie places

A creepy space can go a long way toward creating the tone for a scary story. These novels all transport readers to places that are likely to give them the willies.

lindelauf_nine open armsA building is the main character in Benny Lindelauf’s Dutch import Nine Open Arms. A family of nine moves into the titular rundown brick house in 1930s Holland and tries to figure out its mysteries, including the tombstone in the cellar, a forbidden room, and the homeless man who moves into the hedge. Halfway through, the tale travels back to a doomed 1860s love story and starts to reveal the origins of the steeped-in-sadness Nine Open Arms. In a return to the main narrative, kindness, courage, and truth-telling partly redeem the house’s tragic past. This is a strange, somber, and oddly compelling narrative. (Enchanted Lion, 9–12 years)

milford_greenglass houseIn Kate Milford’s Greenglass House, protagonist Milo expects a quiet winter holiday week with his adoptive parents at the “smugglers’ hotel” they run. But then strange visitors begin to arrive, and a mysterious document Milo finds is stolen before he and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, can figure out what it means. Smugglers, folktales, stolen objects, adopted children, and ghosts each play a part in this eerie (but not scary) tale. Milford cunningly sets up clues and gradually reveals their importance, bringing readers to higher and higher levels of mystery. (Clarion, 9–12 years)

zafon_marinaIn Spanish import Marina, Carlos Ruiz Zafón takes readers to the outskirts of late-1970s Barcelona, where fifteen-year-old Oscar investigates what he thinks is an abandoned home and finds himself entangled — with its inhabitant Marina — in a series of events set in motion at the turn of the twentieth century. The quickly paced adventure involves an eccentric scientist and his quest to unravel the mystery of mortality through the reanimation of dead tissue, his doomed romance with a famous but damaged actress, and ultimately his descent into madness. Zafón weaves a twisted tapestry of gothic horror with frequent allusions to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (Little, 10–14 years)

bachmann_cabinet of curiositiesFour “curators” — authors Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne — travel to bizarre lands and send back objects of wonder and the often unearthly tales behind them in The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister. The table of contents lists the “rooms” and “drawers” of the Cabinet of Curiosities museum, each with a theme (cake, luck, tricks, flowers) and four or five tales to explore. The stories are remarkable both for their uniformly high quality and for their distinctness from one another; the abundant atmospherics, including occasional stark black-and-white illustrations by Alexander Jansson, provide a unifying sense of dread. (Greenwillow, 10–14 years)

From the October 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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