Monday, October 30

Top Nonfiction to Scare Your Pants Off This Halloween

Happy Halloween! I couldn't help but share a special edition of my favorites of the month: the scary, suspenseful, and yetalso true! Behold, top nonfiction to scare your pants off...

Don't Read This Book Before Bed: Thrills, Chills, and Hauntingly True Stories
Anna Claybourne

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1426328411
Publisher: National Geographic
Date of publication: August 1, 2017
Age: Grades 5 and up
Genre: Nonfiction, Horror
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: paranormal, unexplained events, haunted places, curiousities

"Love to tell scary stories around the camp fire? Like to solve mysteries? Brave enough to hear the truth about some pretty freaky phenomena? Then cuddle up with this spooky spine-tingler, filled with delightfully frightful true stories of real-life monsters, doomed domains, menacing mysteries, strange disappearances, and so much more.

"Meet ghosts, ghouls, and zombies. Go inside haunted houses, hidden graveyards, and deadly secret passages. The Fright-o-meter rates each story for its level of scariness. Full of thrills and chills, this book will have you sleeping with a nightlight for sure. Read if you dare, but don't say we didn't warn you!"

Few times are there books that, when shipped to me, do I immediately start reading (ignoring the other half-read books on my desk). Of course, I do have a penchant for scary stories, so this particular book already had a leg-up in that regard. But still: true stories and reports of some of the scariest places and things on earth? All bundled up into one handy reference book? Yeah, this one was a big winner. Each page highlights a new a disturbing story in its spread. Its "Fright-o-meter" does indeed prepare readers for the amount of creepiness about to be shared (although, as it admits, it is pretty arbitrary—I, for one, find the Island of Dolls much more disturbing than sinkholes, but that's just me...). Altogether, this book does indeed promise thrills, chills, and plenty of goosebumps. Read with care!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

What Makes a Monster?: Discovering the World's Scariest Creatures 
(The World of Weird Animals)
Jess Keating, illustrations by David DeGrand

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0553512304
Publisher: Knopf Books
Date of publication: August 8, 2017
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: library book

Themes: animals, dangerous creatures, predators

"Some people think monsters are the stuff of nightmares—the stuff of scary movies and Halloween. But monsters can also be found right in your backyard. Animals like aye-ayes, goblin sharks and vampire bats may look scary, but they pose no threat to humans. Others, such as the prairie dog, seem innocent—cute, even—yet their behavior could give you goose bumps. What makes a monster? Read this book to find out, if you dare..."

Keating shares some of the coolest animal facts around, no joke. She has done impressive amounts of research to create this book (and the others in The World of Weird Animals series, including Pink is for Blobfish and the upcoming Cute as an Axolotl). Yet, it's still accessible enough to be enjoyed by young, early readers. A delicate balance indeed!

This monster book is also particularly thought-provoking. While it's easy to be creeped out by some of the animals spotlighted herein, it's the last animal Keating highlights that really brings it all together and makes one, indeed, ponder, "What makes a monster?" I'll not spoil it for you, but just encourage you to read it. Highly recommended, and I know kids will love it. (Heads up, though: there are some disturbing and frightening creature habits discussed that could be rather scary for the younglings. Maybe give it a full perusal before sharing it with your kids?)

Find it at your library or on Amazon

This Book Isn't Safe
Colin Furze

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0451478764
Publisher: Razorbill
Date of publication: September 12, 2017
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: engineering, crazy inventions,

"Colin Furze's bonkers and brilliant inventions such as a homemade hoverbike, DIY Wolverine Claws, an alarm clock ejector bed, and Hoover shoes have earned him more than 5 million YouTube subscribers and more than 450 million video views. Now Colin is on a mission to inspire a new generation of budding inventors with This Book Isn't Safe! Included are instructions on how to make ten brand new inventions with a basic at-home toolkit, alongside behind-the-scenes stories about some of Colin's greatest inventions and top secret tips and tricks straight from his invention bunker (aka a shed in his backyard in Stamford Lincolnshire)."

Okay, so this one isn't really scary, so to speak (unless you're the mother of a kid who wants to follow in Furze's footsteps). I will admit straight up that I hadn't actually heard of Colin Furze until this book was sent to me in the mail. So of course I end up watching 2 or 3 (or 10) of his YouTube videos and have come to this conclusion: this book is his videos in paper form. That is to say, it's loud, crazy, overwhelming, and completely awesome. This book will easily satiate his fans with his continued crazed inventing (because who wouldn't want concrete crushing shoes?).

Yes, there's a lot in this book. A lot of graphics, thought bubbles, exclamation points, photos, asides, colors, fonts—you name it. I was a bit overwhelmed (but like I said, it's an accurate representation of his videos and millions of people like those, so...). I wish that the actual inventions and instructions were a bit more obvious (organized, that is to say) amidst the other pages of bios, behind-the-scenes reports, and engineering tips (which are actually super helpful and a really awesome asset). Still, overall, a great book to add to your STEM collection. Kids will love it. Their mothers might be a bit more hesitant (haha).

Find it at your library or on Amazon

The Magician and the Spirits: Harry Houdini and the Curious Pastime of Communicating with the Dead
Deborah Noyes

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0803740181
Publisher: Viking Books
Date of publication: August 22, 2017
Age: Grades 6 and up
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: library book

Themes: spiritualism, Harry Houdini, death, debunking

"A century ago, the curious idea that spirits not only survive death but can be contacted on the 'other side' was widespread. Psychic mediums led countless séances, claiming to connect the grieving with their lost relations through everything from frenzied trance writing to sticky expulsions of ectoplasm.

"The craze caught Harry Houdini’s attention. Well-known by then as most renowned magician and escape artist, he began to investigate these spiritual phenomena. Are ghosts real? Can we communicate with them? Catch them in photographs? Or are all mediums “flim-flammers,” employing tricks and illusions like Houdini himself? Peopled with odd and fascinating characters, Houdini’s gripping quest will excite readers’ universal wonderment with life, death, and the possibility of the Beyond."

I was fascinated by Harry Houdini as a kid, and even read a biography or two. So I got pretty excited about reading this when I saw it at the library. Imagine how disappointing it was, though, to read but two pages of the introduction and already know it (spiritualism) was all a total sham. I think it could've been a bit more exciting had Noyes let the reader take the journey of discovery with Houdini. With every new medium introduced, Noyes conveys their impressive array of paranormal abilities followed quickly by the crushing truth: tricks of the trade meant to dupe the public. Perhaps, because of the Halloween season, I was looking more for a scare or dose of creepy than a history report.

But! That was a lot of harsh words for what really is a thoroughly researched and well presented topic. I mean, seriously: Noyes has journal entries, interviews, quotes, photos, and all sorts of primary sources that really delve into Houdini and his work debunking these mediums. The thoroughness of it all makes it easy for the reader to feel transported back in time. Truly, it's pretty impressive. Overall, the scholarliness makes a better read for older kids—a great recommendation for middle and high school history lovers.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. Just as an FYI the "Don't read this book before bed" has incorrect information in it! The page about Henry the VIII claims that Anne Boleyn was beheaded by guillotine- it was invented in 1789-- she was killed in 1536 by sword (in the French style)