MOWMT Day #18: Jennifer Buchet Explores Spine-Tingling Giggles
Mixing Spine-Tingling Giggles and Wickedly-Good Laughs
By Jennifer Buchet
WARNING: This post may have you looking over your shoulder for unusual noises while smiling in the face of dread.
Fear and farce? Shrieks and snickers? Let’s face it, people love to laugh! And most enjoy a good scare every now and again.
Books offer a terrific spot for us to be scared. They allow us to face our fears from a safe place. Plus, we learn how to manage our emotions and even overcome our nightmares. Laughter allows us to acknowledge our fear without actually saying the words, “I’m scared!”
Want to elicit kidlit laughs while creating some sort of spine tingling thrills? Here are just a few tips and mentor texts to get you on your way.
Spooky or Silly Settings
Childhood monsters lurk everywhere! From closets, bathrooms and under beds to just about anywhere dark or unfamiliar. Use places, both the ordinary and extraordinary, to your advantage!
In Laura Lavoie’s Vampire Vacation, the setting is actually the goal as young Fang tries to convince his parents to take a beach vacation. This entertaining story turns the vampiric stereotype inside out as we follow Fang’s efforts and inevitable frustrations on his quest for a sandy vacay. Micah Player’s cheerful and colorful illustrations add a humorous flair as they are the very antitheses to these stereotypical brooding night creatures.
Curious and Scary Nature
If you’ve ever watched a nature documentary, you’ll understand how nature can be downright terrifying. For littles, bugs are often fearsome beasts. Plus, they’re something they all recognize. Have you been near a small one when they stumble across a hapless insect? Not beautiful butterflies or cute lady bugs, but hairy, leggy, buzzing bugs—the shrieks of terror are as real as the noise levels concealing their curiosity.
Doreen Cronin takes a bugs’-eye-view of several creepy bugs in her series, including “Diary of a Spider” and “Diary of a Fly.” Her books address the weird and often icky facts about life as a bug, providing loads of laughs from their buggy point of view. Instead of swatting at the next spider that scuttles by, you may be inclined to leave it alone after reading these!
On the other hand, Bugs in My Hair (David Shannon) will have you scratching your head while simultaneously laughing out loud. This picture book takes a realistic yet super-comical view of head lice by blending facts with larger-than-life illustrations, a key reminder to leave room for our fabulously funny illustrators.
Fear as a Tool
Can being afraid actually solve a problem? Anything’s possible in kidlit! In Tara Lazar’s comical “The Monstore,” the protagonist’s younger sister constantly interrupts him and horror-of-horrors, plays with his toys! In a brilliant twist, Zack uses fear as his solution. He tries to scare her away with a variety of monsters only to have his plans go monstrously awry.
Admitting one’s fear can be challenging. In the rib-tickling informational book “I’m Trying to Love Spiders,” (Bethany Barton) the narrator is clearly trying to get over their fear of spiders. The conversational text and illustrations give everyone good reasons to cringe and yelp! At the same time, the book highlights unique features about our eight-legged friends that may or may not help readers to see spiders in a different light.
We want our readers to root for our main character, be it a child, animal, monster or a surreal combo of all three. In recent years, historically scary monsters have become multi-dimensional, with feelings and desires that often do not match their monstrous appearance.
Zombies Don’t Eat Their Vegetables (Megan & Jorge Lacera), is a parody of typical zombie culture that entrances readers with lovable characters. Little Mo isn’t a fan of his family’s traditional zombie meals. So he grows a secret veggie garden and tries to make his family eat more greens despite the odds. Mo is a well-rounded character that adults and children can relate to on different levels. Silly and spooky, this story embraces picky eaters of all kinds (and I’m personally rooting for Mo’s “no more brains” philosophy!)
When I drafted my first picture book, Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, I didn’t want to scare away my audience. First, there are snakes—adorable, loveable, fangless snakes but still (see paragraph above on Nature!). Secondly, I was writing about one of the most famous villains in history! Rather than scare them completely away, I decided to make my readers laugh. I made my Little Medusa a descendant of the original mythological meanie, thus allowing me a lot more wriggle—and giggle—room.
If spine-tingling chills and laugh-out-loud thrills are calling to you, start with a list of what scares you, whether it’s mysterious knocking in the night, ghostly apparitions or slithering snakes. Then dig deep and see if you can laugh in the face of those fears!
Jennifer is kindly offering a signed copy Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma (shipping only within continental United States) or a free picture book critique up to 600 words. To be eligible to win, comment below with what creature feature scares you the most and why!
Then share this blog on social media, tagging both Jennifer & our fantastic blog hostess, Lynne Marie.
Jennifer Buchet loves to laugh and scream, often at the same time! She’s an award-winning author, a feature contributor for Faces magazine and pre-kindergarten educator who tries saving even the creepiest of bugs that dare enter her classroom. She’s whipping up new picture books and chapter books, several of which include spine-tingling giggles.
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