I'm certain, that most of us, if not all, began to develop our love of the more macabre aspects of life and the arts at a very young age. If we haven't met before or you have just started frequenting my parlor, allow me to tell you my story.
I was fortunate enough grow up in a place, (Los Angeles), and have not only my immediate family but my extended family - who were all costume designers, makeup artists and special/creature FX artists, provide a fertile ground in which to cultivate my adoration of creepy things. One of my favorite "toys" at home was a large, covered basket full of dismembered limbs, once used in some 70's era horror film. I saw aliens by he dozens being built, watched sets and clothing being doused with blood, and watched incredible monsters come to life.
As I grow older, I see more and more children being stripped of experiencing anything deemed by the adult mind as "scary" - we've taken what was once regarded as classic literature and folklore, like the world of OZ or faeries, and swathed them in glitter. Children need monsters - we all do. We all need an opportunity to be courageous, to fight and to win, to outsmart and to face our own monsters that live within us.
In honor of the special relationship between children and monsters, here are a few favorites to share with the kids in your life...or just for you. I'd love to hear your favorites as well.
1) Faeries - Brian Froud
A book about faeries, Merricat...really? Yes - really. Don't let Disney and all that cutsey, or slutty BS fool you. faeries are clever, menacing and some are downright scary. To a healthy child, who already finds the world and everything in it a place of wonder and magic, this book also makes the world exciting! To think that ordinary grass is really hair growing out of a creature's back, or perhaps that the reason you wake up every morning with tangled hair is because something was in your bed tying it in knots, or that the small pool of water on the way to school may be home to a hideous hag-like faerie, waiting to pull you under that dark filthy water and devour you?
It makes life...thrilling.
9 + FYI there is some nudity
2) One Monster After Another - Mercer Mayer
There are so many of Mayer's books I could mention, all lavishly illustrated, but this one is full of monsters and fun! One of things things I especially love about his art, which very much applies to this book, is there are numerous stories taking place in the art, relevant, yet separate from the actual story. It kept me busy for hours.
3) Return To Oz - movie 1985
Beautiful, lavish, creepy and bizarre this film is a must see.
4) The Father Thing - Phillip K. Dick
Thanks to this short story, which i read when I was around nine or ten, I spent one of the most memorable and terrifying nights of my life. I kept a close eye on my father after this and did not sleep at all that night. To this day I still don't like to take out the trash...
5) The Thief Of Always - Clive Barker
I cannot say enough about this book - it is special. It is among my favorites and I have easily read it ten times already - last summer to a twelve year old boy. The opening paragraph is also a favorite:
"The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive. Here he was, buried in the belly of that smothering month, wondering if he would ever find his way out through the cold coils that lay between here and Easter."
What happens when you get everything you want? Do anything you want? When every night is Halloween and every week brings a new Christmas and your heart's desires? Do what you want, when you want....sounds perfect! However, there are rules, and unseen things lurking, listening. A boy named Harvey Swick must do battle with monsters - but it's the one that lives within that robs him of everything he truly wants.