Our Collection

Halloween 2020: Folktales & Children's Books

Every year, Library staff members with a taste for horror recommend scary reads for Halloween. This year, Events Assistant Marialuisa Monda recommends four collections of fairy tales and folklore sure to provide some frightening thrills; the Library's Head of Conservation, Christina Amato, highlights the folk-inspired work of Angela Carter; and the librarians from the Children's Library, Randi Levy and Susan Vincent Molinaro, recommend a whole host of books for young readers. Finally, we asked our Instagram followers for their favorite Halloween books, and those are also listed below. 


Grimm’s Tales for Young and Old: The Complete Stories (translated by Ralph Manheim)  

When I think of twisted fairy tales, the Brothers Grimm collections are my go-to. Many of them are gruesome and frightening, with a few sweet, witty ones in between. Yet, all of them are fantastic. There is a story for everyone - children and adults alike. One of the most well-known is "Hansel and Gretel," a story that is perfect for Halloween. You have two parental figures who abandon their children in the woods. You have a cannibalistic witch with a house made of gingerbread, cake, confection, sweets, and many other treats and pastries. You have one child enslaved while the other is other prepped to be eaten. Absolutely ghoulish. Of course, the siblings save themselves and live happily ever after, but yikes! 

Tales of Moonlight and Rain | Ueda Akinari (a study and translation by Anthony H. Chambers)

Here are nine unique, gothic Japanese ghost stories. The stories reveal the fascination for the uncanny and unexplained by the people of the time set in the middle of the Edo Period (Age of the Samurai).  One of my favorite tales is "Book Four: A Serpent’s Lust." It is a tantalizing tale of seduction and mayhem due to perceived love. Plot: The male protagonist, who is impoverished, falls in love with a mysterious yet very beautiful woman. She is the protagonist’s dream come true, the perfect woman in every way. And yet…well you will have to read it and see. 

The collection was first published in 1776, and inspired Mizoguchi Kenji's brilliant 1953 film Ugetsu.

Duppy StoriesDavid Brailsford (Illustrated by John Stilgoe) 

I have a personal fondness for this book as it was given to me by my mother. I remember devouring these Jamaican tales from my mother’s native homeland every night. Many are hilarious, and many of them are pure sinister. The stories come from all over - from Old Harbour in St Catherine to Porous (a village in Jamaica) - ranging from myths to true tales, including the Kendal Crash, a tragic rail disaster in 1957. Background: Duppies are a type of ghost in Jamaican culture. They are beings of pure mischief to destructive powers who love to prey on the unsuspecting. Whenever you would smell something foul, and it was burning, a duppy is cooking. Rolling Calf is one of the most dangerous and feared - it has the habit of wrecking evil whenever it goes. It has eyes so red they glow like blazing fire, and one-touch from its hair would cause serious illness or death.

Outfoxing Fear: Folktales from Around the World | Kathleen Ragan, editor (with an introduction by Jack Zipes)

In current times, Halloween is known, mostly, for trick or treating and scary movies. Originally, Halloween, and many of its related (and more ancient) observances, were about warding away terror as well as celebrating the Harvest to honor the seasons of life. This collection has a similar sentiment - embrace our fears to empower ourselves. Even in the older days, folktales were a creative response to deal with our many fears and uncertainties. The book opens with an illuminating, sensitive essay on how editor Kathleen Ragan and her family emotionally responded to 9/11, especially her young children who endured shocking violence to their innocence and childhood. This collection brings together comfort and nurture in a way to overcome our fears without denying them.

—Marialuisa Monda, Events Assistant

Burning Your Boats | Angela Carter

Speaking of folktales and fairy tales, Angela Carter (1950-1992) is perhaps best-known as a master of using the old traditional stories as source material, of "extracting the latent material," as she once described it. The gothic, ornate, and otherworldly tales collected in Burning Your Boats are perfect for this particular season. Sink into these wild, dark, and magical vignettes like a deep velvet couch.  A predecessor to authors such as Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, and J. K. Rowling, Angela Carter stands the test of time, and multiple re-readings. Burning Your Boats contains the complete contents of four previously published collections of Carter's short stories: Fireworks (1974), The Bloody Chamber (1979), Black Venus (1985), and American Ghosts and Old World Wonders (1993), plus three early stories and three previously uncollected stories. Carter is also the editor of The Virago Book of Fairy Tales (1990) and The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales (1992), collected in one volume as Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales.

Christina Amato, Conservator

Some notes on searching and browsing the Library's collection

Most of our folklore collection—including collections and studies of folklore—is in the call number range 398, in stack 3. But there are relevant books shelved throughout the stacks in various call number ranges. An effective way to search the online catalog is by keyword, combining the search term "folklore" with a geographical location or subject ("bears," "women," etc.). Or, simply start with a subject search for folklore and see the various ways the subject is sub-divided. In our catalog, the heading fairy tales is subdivided by geographical location. To find single-author collections and anthologies of ghost stories, search the subject headings ghost stories and ghosts. To broaden your scope, try a keyword search for "ghosts and stories." We also use the heading Paranormal fiction


This Halloween season, look no further than the Children's Library collection for your fill of all  (literary) things supernatural, monstrous, or creepy. Two favorite books of our young chasers of chills: Unexplained--haunted houses, crop circles, and UFOs within--and Encyclopedia Horrifica--true stories of encounters with vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. For further tingling down your spine, pick up Frightlopedia, which covers all things terrifying, from being buried alive to Xylophobia. For the monster-enamored reader we offer a selection of delightfully/creepily illustrated works. The Big Book of Monsters, features monsters of folklore and literature from Frankenstein to Grendel to the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Do you know why you should bring a cucumber with you when swimming in Japan? Pick up The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters to find out!  Finally, for the true monsterphile, don't miss the detailed Monstrous: the Lore, Gore, and Science Behind your Favorite Monsters

Randi Levy, Head of the Children's Library

Halloween is my favorite holiday, so if spooky books are what you're seeking, look no further than these creepy reads. 
  • The Diviners, by Libby Bray, opens a quartet of occult-based mysteries centering around a group of rag tag teens in 1920s New York.
  • Christian McKay Heidicker's Scary Stories for Young Foxes contains the kinds of adventures and thrills you love to listen to beside a campfire in the dark of night.
  • Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoodsby Hal Johnson, speaks to an earlier time in American history, when the woods were indeed dark and deep and filled with mystery.
  • In Lish McBride's Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, Sam discovers he's a necromancer, but fortunately he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee shops.
  • The stories featured in Scream and Scream Again! feature wicked ice-cream trucks, time-travelling heroes, witches and warlocks, and of course, haunted houses. This collection was edited by R.L. Stine and presented by the Mystery Writers of America. 
  • Thornhilla beautifully illustrated graphic novel by Pam Smy, will keep you turning the pages until the end when it will make you gasp!

—Susan Vincent Molinaro, Children's & Young Adult Librarian

Responses from Instagram