I recently went through a ghost stories phase that lasted for months. To share some of the knowledge I gained from that experience I wrote a post about trends in scary children’s literature, which you can access here. For each trend I gave a couple examples and ended up sharing over 10 book recommendations. That’s when I noticed something—I’ve read a lot of creepy kid’s books. But no matter how much fun I had reading all of them, only a few were actually excellent.
So what makes the difference between “fun” and “favorite”? When it comes to my library reads, I try to judge a book against some standard criteria before putting it on my favorites list. Here are a few of the things I look for when reading children’s books:
- The characters (whether they have special powers or not) act like actual children.
- The writing style is smooth and engaging.
- I can follow the first chapter without feeling frustrated by the introduction of too many unexplained characters or situations.
- The author knows how to add depth by including several dimensions to the central problem without being overwhelming.
- The motivations and reactions of the characters feel real.
- Descriptions add to my imagination’s picture rather than confuse me.
- If it’s trying to be funny, it actually succeeds.
If a book fulfills these requirements, then there’s a good chance it has some other great characteristics that will make it a favorite. So which of my scary reads made it on the list? Well I’ll give you one: CORALINE, of course! You may have seen that one coming, but if you haven’t read it yet, check it out. Neil Gaiman is a master of his craft. This book meets all of my criteria; plus, it’s freaky.
By Neil Gaiman