The Little Scary Book by Kevin Duncan is a horror story collection, with ten stories for “anyone who was ever young.” This extremely brief description is surprisingly effective at summarizing the piece; the collection is meant for the slightly younger scare-fans out there, though with just as much for an older reader to enjoy. Slip back into the shoes of your younger self for a whole bunch of frights.
It’s very simple book in look and form, though frankly quite terrifying at first glance with its text-less black-and-white depiction of a warped skull. Even as an adult, readers could be forgiven for a slight shiver at the sight of the book, which is appropriate; this isn’t entirely your typical family-friendly set of cautionary tales, even if it has a lot of humor to it. It’s never woeful or gruesome, nor does it wax lyrical on the deepest human terrors; it’s simple relatable, enjoyable terror.
It is also just a little bit silly in the right amount, which usefully takes away from the sheer horror of some of the stories that do hold some Grimm-like qualities, especially stories like “Shreck.” This collection has got a homely feel to it that is both reassuring and a little more terrifying as it turns the familiar into all sorts of threats, from strange bat-winged monsters lurking in the dark to a sofa in the living room coming to life.
This isn’t a bad thing per se, as it ensures a little more upfront levity in the storytelling as a whole, and the book does contain one or two more clear-cut horror tales in there to even it out. It can’t be stated enough that an older reader isn’t the target for this collection, even though it’s certainly very enjoyable to approach it at an older age. The book has an intended reader level at around the 8-12-age mark and hits the perfect balance for that reader, with its older appeal as a side-effect. Certainly, for a parent reading with a child, you’re going to enjoy the experience together, but a real horror reader won’t find themselves comparing it to Poe any time soon.
For just slightly braver solo readers of a younger age, The Little Scary Book is a real step into the larger horror genre from the likes of the respectable, though still very fantastical, Goosebumps and so on. For adult readers, expect to have to change your point of view to that of a younger person to make these stories work fully, but also to be thoroughly entertained by the creativity of the collection nonetheless.
The Little Scary Book comes just as advertised: a brilliant well-positioned collection that doesn’t talk down too much its younger fans. It avoids base scares and goes into satisfying, genuinely quite creepy ideas at times that pull from comfortable, normal places into the dark, fully ensuring that the end product is an absolutely wonderful book worth checking out for an original and unusual experience.