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Supernaturally good scares

From a collection of ghost stories-within-a-ghost-story to classic tales of the macabre reimagined for a new format, these new books offer a fresh take on the usual suspects of supernatural horror.

Graphic novelist Gareth Hinds adapts three of Edgar Allan Poe’s poems (“Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and “The Raven”) and four stories (“The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”) in Poe: Stories and Poems. Hinds’s retellings incorporate Poe’s original language while increasing accessibility for modern readers and allowing the pictures to carry much of the narrative. His varied illustrations are a good match for Poe’s atmospheric blend of horror and mystery — dark and shadowy with striking imagery and judicious accents of color. (Candlewick, 11–14 years)

At the start of Jeremy de Quidt’s The Wrong Train, a boy hurriedly boards a train only to realize that he doesn’t recognize the passing countryside. He gets off at the next stop. Before long an old man sits down beside him, and as they wait for a return train, the man begins to tell a series of creepy stories. De Quidt gradually escalates the tension as the boy becomes increasingly disturbed by the tales. Finally, the man cajoles the boy into picking his “favorite” story just before the train arrives — setting up one last, gut-wrenching twist. (Scholastic/Fickling, 11–14 years)

Pam Smy’s Thornhill intertwines the stories of two desperately lonely girls. Spare diary entries relate twelve-year-old orphan Mary’s heart-wrenching experience at the Thornhill Institute for Children in 1982. Alternating with Mary’s narrative is another one told entirely in atmospheric black-and-white illustrations: in 2017, Ella moves with her father into a house overlooking the now-abandoned Thornhill. Ella’s investigation into Thornhill’s past gradually reveals Mary’s fate, leading to a conclusion that is both devastating and fitting. The suspenseful ghost story and the highly visual format make for an undeniable page-turner. (Roaring Brook, 11–14 years)

Magia, protagonist of Sara Lewis Holmes’s The Wolf Hour, wants to be a woodcutter like her father, but her mother wants her to be a singer. During a lesson, Magia discovers the eerie bone flutes her music teacher has been using to ensorcel the townspeople. Afterward, nothing goes right for Magia and her family, and improving their circumstances comes at a high price. With its vivid Eastern European–flavored setting, dreamlike internal logic, and hopeful ending, this re-casting of traditional folklore will captivate readers. (Scholastic/Levine, 11–14 years)

From the October 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.


Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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