Maurice Sendak, R. L. Stine, Stephen King: The Books Briefing

Although Stephen King didn’t write specifically for young readers, the same ethos propels his work and explains his devoted teenage audience. King novels turn unsettling truths about the darkness of human nature into literal monsters, then let adolescent protagonists defeat them, granting teens a power that they may not find in other aspects of their lives.

Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.

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What We’re Reading

(Associated Press)

Maurice Sendak scared children because he loved them

“His lush visual idiom managed to evoke the strange—and sometimes malign—intensity of real childhood, as fey, unruly protagonists sparred with adversaries (fanged monsters and imperfect parents). All his work demonstrates a strong desire, and uncanny ability, to capture the eerie vividness of youth and its crucibles.”

📚 Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

📚  Bumble-Ardy, by Maurice Sendak

📚  Outside Over There, by Maurice Sendak


(Tim McDonagh)

The everlasting joy of terrifying children

“Horror is an escape, of course, but it is also a kind of homecoming for a small child—an affirmation that goblins and mayhem aren’t merely relegated to the dark corners of imagination, but that they occupy entire worlds that can be visited and inhabited.”

📚 Goosebumps series, by R. L. Stine

📚  Fear Street series, by R. L. Stine



Why I write scary stories for children

“I’m not interested in stories that sear terrifying images or monsters or villains into young minds—enough of those exist in the real world, and plenty of others will grow in children’s imaginations without any help. I am interested in telling stories that help prepare living characters for tearing those monsters down.”

📚 Outlaws of Time series, by N. D. Wilson

Evangeline Lilly's creepy Squickerwonkers characters scare—and teach—children


The importance of scaring children

“Scaring and disturbing children is essential—but it has to be done right. It’s not about scaring the crap out of them, it’s letting them explore a world that only horror can introduce, and opening up that genre to find out what is truly scary, what is creepy, and even what is downright funny to them about these stories.”

📚 The Squickerwonkers, by Evangeline Lilly

📚 Here Be Monsters!, by Alan Snow

illustration of a page in a novel containing a quote from Steven King's "It," that reads: "Your hair is winter fire, January embers. My heart burns there, too."

(Doug McLean)

‘Stephen King saved my life’

“In the same way that King’s supernatural creatures speak to the ugly realities of human nature, King’s non-adolescent adolescents may offer a different kind of truth, a deeper one, about what it means to grow up.”

📚 It, by Stephen King

📚 Carrie, by Stephen King

📚 Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King

📚 ’Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King

📚 The Shining, by Stephen King

📚 The Stand, by Stephen King

About us: This week’s newsletter is written by Kate Cray. The book she’s reading next is Middlemarch by George Eliot.

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