MAKE SPOOKTOBER GREAT AGAIN!!!!
this middle grade horror book is a hundred and a half times better and darker than anything i read during my own middle grade years.
it’s a framed tale of seven fox kits who, one chilly autumn night, are hungry for scary stories—far scarier than the babyish ones their dear old fox mum knows.
in what may very well be a br’er rabbit anti-warning, she plants a seed in their little fox heads:
“Sorry to be a disappointment,” their mom said, lying down. She paused and looked at the kits with all seriousness. “But you must promise that no matter what you do tonight, you will not go to Bog Cavern.”
The kits’ ears perked.
“What’s…Bog Cavern?” the alpha asked.
“That’s where the old storyteller lives,” their mom said. “If you go there, you’ll hear a story so frightening it will put the white in your tail.”
so, obviously, as soon as she falls asleep, the skulk of foxen set straight off for bog cavern, where they do indeed meet the storyteller, who proceeds to tell them not one but seven terrifying stories over the course of the night. in-between each story, we witness his audience dwindle as, one by one, the kits slink back to the safety of their den until only the littlest fox remains to hear the final tale.
so the book is structured with a setup-introduction that leads into the seven stories, broken up by brief chapters (on black pages!) of the foxes’ reactions to or commentary on to the stories, followed by a perfect ties-it-all-together conclusion that is equal parts chilling and heartwarming.
the stories may not be suuuuper scary to a grown woman, but they are certainly dark, and certainly terrifying to the fox kits as they are trick-or-treated to tales of unfortunate fox succumbing to nature’s myriad perils: rabies, snakes, hunger, cold, rivers, badgers, rival foxes, as well as to the threats of man: traps, and—inexplicably—beatrix potter, who scoops up assorted woodland creatures to use as unwilling art models until she can draw them well enough to trap their souls in her paintings, before using their lifeless bodies in her whimsical taxidermy projects.
the illustrations are beeyootiful, creepily offsetting the harshness of the stories’ situations
and now i learn there’s going to be a SEQUEL next august??? in my BIRTHDAY MONTH? too good to be true.