Too Frightening for Kids? – Halloween Forest by Marian Dane Bauer. Illustrated by John Shelley. Book Review.

Whoa! This is one scary picture book. It starts out with the child leaving home with his or her trick-or-treat sack on his back and heading out to the forest in the dark. All Alone! The forest is made completely of bones. There are bones of cats and rats and bats all staring at the child. The tree becomes alive with skeletons of dogs and hogs and frogs. They scream at the child, “Take care! Beware! Despair! You can bet you’ve just met your worst nightmare!” The child seems intimidated until she responds by frightening the bones with a shout and dancing in her skeletal costume. She then demands candy.

While this certainly shows that children can face their fears, I’m not sure the message of going off into a bone filled forest at night by yourself is a good way to recommend it. I think you really also have to know your child’s anxiety levels. Sharing this with too young a child could definitely trigger nightmares.

The hardcover book is 8 x 10. The illustrations are full-page, color glossy spreads. The bone forest is extremely creepy. The child is deliberately androgynous. A child who is old enough to handle the spookiness of this story will wonder where did the bone forest get candy to give to the child? It’s just an odd book.

An aside: when the child goes past the zoo we see an elephant, a lion, and a giraffe in tiny cement boxes too small for them to even take a step. Do we really want a child to think that is an acceptable way to treat animals?

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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