Half-Minute Horrors, edited by Susan Rich, is a compilation of over 70 snippets of creepy, gruesome, ghoulish, spine tingling fun with a website the encourages readers to submit their scary stories. I wish I could list every contributor here, but it would take up the whole review. Authors and illustrators are all listed on the back of the jacket and in the brilliant index that lists page numbers for both authors and themes. Everything from animals, basements, beds (under and around) and betrayal to zombies, water, summer camp and siblings has an entry. Best of all, this book is published in partnership with First Book, an organization that provides new books to children in need, addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy: access to books.
Besides the short stories, including Jenny Nimmo's two sentence entry, "Soup," there are poems, haikus (or "Horroku," as Katherine Applegate titles it) and cartoons. Contributing authors and illustrators include award winning children's literature greats, such as Jerry Spinnelli, MT Anderson, Jon Scieszka and Gail Carson Levine and illustrators like Brian Selznick, Lemony Snicket, Lane Smith Cason Ellis, Brett Helquist, Vladimir Radunsky, Adam Rex and, my favorite among favorites, the three panel cartoon, "The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, as novel as told by Lisa Brown in Fewer than 30 Seconds," which had me laughing out loud. Contributing writers from the world of adult literature, some of whom have crossed over into kid lit once or twice before, include Neil Gaiman, James Patterson, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Francine Prose, Ayelet Waldman and Michael Connelley.
As the title suggests, there are indeed horrific acts and imagery that occur in this book and it obviously is not for the younger, more easily upset readers. Again and again, I felt a bit like I was re-reading the opening to Neil Gaiman's magnificent Newbery winner, The Graveyard Book in which a family is murdered by a knife wielding, supernatural being. Several of the stories have children as the protagonists, which by nature makes them children in peril. However, one of my favorite stories by Kenneth Oppel, author of the wonderful series of books about Shade, the Silverwing bat, is titled, "In Hiding," and is told from the perspective of a son and his father who are waiting silently in a tight, dark space. Are they waiting for a menace to leave without finding them or are they the menace? There are more than a few stories in the collection that make you go back and read them again, trying to unravel the mystery of the tale. Fortunately, it only takes a minute or two to do this!
For parents who would like to preview some of the book, the first 19 pages can be read on the website. You will be treated to stories by Lemony Snicket, Jerry Spinelli and Neil Gaiman as well as the brilliant, one page picture/story by Jon Klassen titled, "The Legend of Alexandra and Rose." The "legend" of the title refers to the map legend in the lower left hand corner of the picture which, with its numbers marking spots on the illustration, tells the story of the sisters and their fight for the best bedroom....