Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time Enough for Scaring

The back of this book asks "How scary can thirty seconds be!?" and now I know. Harper Collins has collected a ridiculous number of famous authors and asked them to pen very short stories for the young readers' anthology Half-Minute Horrors (edited by Susan Rich). Here's a glimpse at a small portion of the author list: Margaret Atwood, Avi, Michael Connelly, Neil Gaiman, Dan Gutman, Erin Hunter, Faye Kellerman, Gregory Maguire, James Patterson, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket and R.L. Stine. If these folks can't scare your tweens, I don't know who can!

The stories in this book run the gamut of topics from monsters under the bed to ghosts to demonic pets to the most terrifying thing of all ... clowns. Of course it's impossible to summarize any of these stories without, well, reprinting the entire things so here are just some mentions of the ones that stood out to me --

Kenneth Oppel wrote In Hiding, an amusing twist on the standard monster-under-the-bed story.

Jon Klassen drew the hilarious but disturbing The Legend of Alexandra & Rose. Klassen also worked on the Coraline film and if you are a fan of illustrators, I highly suggest checking out his website.

Holly Black wrote the most touching and sad story of the book, A Very Short Story.

Lisa Brown drew the amusing "The Turn of the Screw by Henry James as Told by Lisa Brown in Fewer Than 30 Seconds". This three panel series is a must-see for anyone who has read or is planning to read The Turn of the Screw.

I was the most traumatized by Ayelet Waldman's story, At the Water's Edge. I think this would have been the one that recurred in my nightmares as a child.

The collaboration that was the most terrifying was The Final Word by Brett Helquist (your favorite Series of Unfortunate Events illustrator) and Josh Greenhut. This story features the creepy story staple - The Ouija Board.

These stories are just the tip of the iceberg in this fantastic anthology. And the best thing is that the royalties go to First Book, a very worthy cause that supports putting books into every child's home. And on the Half-Minute Horrors website, you can submit your own story and read the other submitted stories. How cool is that?

This was a quick, fun and yet discomforting read and though it wasn't incredibly scary for me as an adult, it did remind me of many of the things that I found most frightful when I was a kid. Z is too young for almost all of the stories in this book (luckily he's not afraid of the dark and I don't want to change that) but he did take a look at the cover only to declare that "it's a bunch of beetles in people suits" before he started chuckling. He's got a very interesting sense of humor!

Briefly renewing my childhood habit of checking under the bed,

Support our site (and First Book) and buy Half-Minute Horrors on Amazon or find it at your local library. We bought our own copy.


  1. Well this just sounds way to interesting not to get! And it supports such a worthy charity! I would love it if you would share just one though!!

  2. Co-hosting a re-read challenge sounds great to me, Kristen! I'll e-mail you later this week or early next, after hearing back from what other people might think, about ideas. I feel like if we do it at the beginning of the year, it might be easier as not as many books are released at that time. But honestly, I have no real idea...

  3. I finished this book over the weekend and absolutely loved it! I was surprised that the stories were as scary as they were. It takes a great writer, I suppose! M.T. Anderson's freaked me out the most.

  4. Definitely adding this one to my list!!!