I’ve loved scary stories since I first learned to say ‘boo’ to a goose, and have done my level best to introduce my kids to the pleasures of a good bit of fear. We like to begin the season’s thrills with a pilgrimage to the village of Lacock and the house where Harry Potter lost his parents and gained a scar, a story they cheerfully re-enact with alarming levels of pretend violence, ‘Die baby Harry, die! Aaargh! My wand’s exploded my nose off!!’
Shirley Hughes isn’t someone you’d normally associate with scary stories. She’s best known for showing us the world through the eyes of very young children. Their dramas are the everyday, starting school, losing a soft toy, or getting locked inside the house with the grown-ups on the other side.
It’s Too Frightening For Me! is a story about two brothers unable to resist poking around a dark house. It provides the scares, but retains Shirley Hughes’ wonderful empathy for her young characters and readers.
You get a real sense of the boys fear as they try to put on a brave face, pushing themselves that bit further each time they return to the house.
The scene where Arthur plucks up the courage to follow his big brother in the shadowy house is particularly effective, the shadows and silence of the halls and stairway created through Hughes’ hugely atmospheric cross hatched inks.
The real scares exist in our own imaginations, and Shirley Hughes illustrates this in one of the book’s most effective moments – little Arthur clinging to his bedsheets surrounded by all manner of night terrors.
The brothers find themselves embroiled in the lives of the unusual residents of the forbidding old house.
A girl in a tower, a mad old lady and a dastardly plot all there to keep readers turning the pages.
Complete with comic book speech bubbles and an unmasking – or rather unwigging – straight out of Scooby Doo, there’s plenty here to appeal to children who are both scared of the dark and of reading.
Buy It’s Too Frightening For Me! from Hive.