A World Full of Spooky Stories

A World Full of Spooky Stories
Angela McAllister, illustrated by Madalina Andronic
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

This collection of fifty traditional tales from all over the world is organised thematically into eleven parts – by geographical feature or location – and celebrates things spooky (but not terribly so). Some are very familiar: Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood being two from the ‘Into the Woods’ section, which comes first.

One witch I wasn’t familiar with is the Water Witch. In this tale originally from France, William the hero goes to the bottom of an enchanted lake to find riches so he can afford to marry his beloved, a dairymaid, but is tricked by the witch, transformed into a frog and thrown into a fish tank. All ends happily I hasten to add, though maybe not for the witch.

Readers are more likely to know Baba Yaga who resides in the house that stands on a pair of chicken legs: she’s the one Vasilissa the Beautiful gets the better of when she goes into the forest, in a Russian tale of the same name.

If you follow a mountain path it might lead to a man-eating ogre. This fearsome being is found in the mountains of Tibet and he tricks a girl into believing he is her mother and thus is able to carry her off to his cave. Do you think he eats the girl? Possibly, but it’s also possible that a fox helps the girl’s mother and in so doing causes the demise of the old ogre. Also feared for consuming humans is the Chenoo that features in a North American Passamaquoddy story. This giant creature had once been a man but on account of his wickedness, his heart had turned to ice. Can that ice perhaps be melted again and with it the wickedness? …

Certainly there are spooky elements in all the stories, but very few are really spooky and one or two are even humorous. Helping to bring the tales to life are boldly coloured folk art style illustrations by Madalina Andronic. Yes, this could be a book for reading while snuggled up on chilly autumn and winter evenings, but equally, folk tales are entertaining whenever you encounter them.

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