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Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed gives us the ultimate booklist for Halloween AND Black History Month. Here are her 13 picks to chill and thrill kids and teens - all by Black authors.
Ghouls? Ghosts? Witches? All things scary? What about something with a bit of suspense? I have always loved a good scary story, and growing up I also had my fair share of tales told to me by friends and older cousins. They thrilled and excited me, but also kept me up late at night worried about what could be lurking in the dark or under the bed.
Nigeria – my country of birth – has its own fair share of scary stories. One being Madam Koi Koi - with her red heels making clicking sounds that go koi koi koi - going from boarding school to boarding school to capture kids late at night. Supposedly, if you lay still in bed and don't make a sound, you might be lucky, and not be noticed.
Of course, there are more, and with it being Halloween and the last day of Black History Month in the UK, here are thirteen spooky tales by Black writers to frighten (and also excite) your kids*
For 4-8 years old
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
Corinne La Mer claims she isn't afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They're just tricksters made up by parents to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest, and shining yellow eyes follow her to the edge of the trees. They couldn't belong to a jumbie. Or could they?
Dhegdheer by Marian A. Hassan (Author) and Betsy Bowen (illustrator)
In this hair-raising tale, the Hargega Valley is plagued by the monstrous Dhegdheer, who gobbles up anyone unlucky enough to cross her path. A widow and her young son try to escape her. Will they be Dhegdeer's next meal or will their virtue save them and help bring an end to Dhegdeer's reign of terror?
Anancy and the Haunted House by Richardo Keens-Douglas (Author) and Stephanie Jorisch (illustrator)
Anancy was the biggest and strongest spider in the whole town. He had travelled far and wide, climbed the highest mountains, and, yes, scared the most famous people. He loved to boast about his adventures, which, according to him, were bigger and better than anyone else's.
...until the day he swaggers into the haunted house at midnight. Just as his friends warned him, inside Anancy encounters a large rooster that dances on the table. The rooster invites Anancy to show off his talents, too, and with all his friends watching, Anancy can't refuse. Suddenly, the rooster pounces and Anancy is pinned to the table. But just before Anancy becomes the rooster's next juicy meal, he is saved by the heroic efforts of his little friends.
La Diablesse and the Baby by Richardo Keens-Douglas (Author) and Marie LaFrance (Illustrator)
Eerie and colourful tale of the legendary creature - half human, half demon - that roams the Caribbean night, and how a brave Grandma outwits it.
Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia C. McKissack and Onawumi Jean Moss (Authors) and Krysten Brooker (Illustrator)
When Precious is left home alone with a stomachache, she's got nothing but a warning from Mama - "Don't let nothing or nobody into this house" - to keep her company. You see, "nothing or nobody" could turn out to be something awful: the Boo Hag! The Boo Hag's got a voice that rumbles like thunder and hair that shoots out like lightning. And she can disguise herself to look like anything. So when the Boo Hag comes calling, will Precious be clever enough to outwit even the trickiest trickster?
Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor (Author) and Mehrdokht Amini (Illustrator)
What would you do if you woke up one night to find the shadow of a giant chicken passing your bedroom door? Go and investigate, of course! When Anyaugo follows a giant chicken into her kitchen one warm night in Nigeria, she embarks on a fun-filled adventure where nothing is quite as it seems. Is the mischievous giant chicken a friend or a foe? More importantly, will Anyaugo be able to save the food for the New Yam Festival the next day?
For 7-12 years old
The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown (out November 2019)
On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel - only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her. Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing...
The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Patricia C. McKissack (Author) and Brian Pinkey (Illustrator)
Inspired by history, folklore, and the mystery of nightfall, this is a collection of ten tales of supernatural activity centred on African American experiences in the South - from slavery to the Underground Railroad, emancipation, and activism in the 1960s.
The Three Witches (collected by Zora Neale Hurston) by Joyce Carol Thomas (Author) and Faith Ringgold (Illustrator)
The three bad witches are HUNGRY! "Let's eat these children," they say. They may have teeth that are no longer than their lips and they may wear high heels, but they are NO match for two smart children, their brave grandma, three hound dogs, and a fast-running snake.
Kingdom of Souls by Rena Brown
Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for mafic of her own. But each year she sails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval. There's only one thing Arrah hasn't tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom's children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.
She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees...unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.
Temper by Nicky Drayden
In a land similar to South Africa, twin brothers are beset by powerful forces beyond their understanding or control in this thrilling blend of science fiction, horror, magic, and dark humour.
Auben Mutze has more vices than he can deal with - six to be exact - each branded down his arm for all the world to see. They mark him as a lesser twin in society, as inferior, but there's no way he'll let that define him...So what if he's envious of his twin Kasim, whose single vice brand is a ticket to a better life, one that likely won't involve Auben.
The twins' strained relationship threatens to snap when Auben starts hearing voices that speak to his dangerous side. Auben needs to rid himself of these maddening voices before they cause him to lose track of time. To lose his mind. And to lose his...TEMPER
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chencellorsville - derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities - and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It's a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society's expectations.
But that's not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston's School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn't pay much mind to the politics of eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore City begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.
The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith
Twelve-year-old Simon is obsessed with aliens. The ones who take people and do experiments. When he's too worried about them to sleep, he listens to the owls hoot outside. Owls that have the same eyes as aliens - dark and foreboding.
Then something strange happens on a camping trip, and Simon begins to suspect he's been abducted. But is it real, or just the overactive imagination of a kid who loves fantasy and role-playing games and is the target of bullies and his father's scorn?
*original book blurbs
Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed is the founder of the African literary blog, bookshy. When she isn't reading or writing about books, she works as a Gender & Development Specalist. FInd more from Zahrah here : www.bookshybooks.com/