It’s a sad fact that horror fiction aimed at children does not get the same attention as horror fiction aimed at adults. In FRIGHTS FOR TYKES, I will delve into this oft overlooked subgenre by introducing some of the more well-known and lesser-known horror titles written for young people.
For the inaugural edition of the column I would like to feature a book for which I have many fond memories: HOWLIDAY INN by James Howe (published by Avon Books). HOWLIDAY INN is the second book in the BUNNICULA series and, interestingly enough, doesn’t include the vampiric rabbit who sucks the life out of helpless vegetables. Bunnicula, along with Harold the dog, Chester the cat, and the family they live with, were co-created by Howe and his wife Deborah in the first book in the series.
Unfortunately, long after BUNNICULA was published, Deborah passes away, making HOWLIDAY INN the first in the series to be solely authored by James. As an aside, I met the author a few years ago at a children’s book convention and he was exactly as I imagined him; kind, intelligent, witty and imaginative.
HOWLIDAY INN follows the adventures of furry Sherlockian sleuths Harold and Chester as they explore the mysteries that haunt “Chateau Bow-Wow” a kennel for pets whose owners are away. There’s a great deal going on in this little book, including werewolves, kidnapping and (gasp!) even murder. Chester is convinced that werewolves live inside the walls of “Chateau Bow-Wow” and that Louise, the saucy French dog who goes missing shortly after their arrival, has not only been kidnapped, but also killed by someone who might howl at the moon.
Like all of the BUNNICULA books, HOWLIDAY INN entertained me with its perfect mix of humour, mystery and the macabre. Even with the omission of the title character, the book continues to be my favourite in the series. I reread the book for this column and can say that I still enjoyed the read immensely. Harold and Chester are just as funny, and maybe more so now that I’m an adult. What’s more, the chills still linger; they may be small, but they’re there. I highly recommend that you pick up this little book and add it to your fright fiction library, or the library of some small person in need of a good laugh to go along with a shiver.
I hope you enjoyed this inaugural edition of FRIGHTS FOR TYKES! Check back soon for other noteworthy titles in children’s fright fiction.