May 27, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Ghosts, Ghouls, and Gaiman: All Hallows’ Read Campaign Marks Fourth Year

Got any exciting Halloween plans this year? If you’re like the members of UW-Madison SLIS’s Library as Incubator Project (LAIP), your celebrations this week include giving away or recommending scary books through the All Hallows’ Read campaign. The brainchild of author Neil Gaiman, All Hallows Read is marking its fourth year with book lovers around the world making lists of their favorite scary titles, creating free spooky downloadable materials, and arranging contests and book swaps.

“When I found out about All Hallows’ Read, I was so excited. Giving someone a book? That’s one of the best things you can do, and doing it with a purpose and passing on the tradition is even better,” LAIP’s Holly Storck-Post, UW-Madison SLIS, says. “Scary stories [are] a perfect way to celebrate.”

Adds LAIP’s Erinn Batykefer, Madison Public Library (WI), “Stories are like other worlds you can step into; a book’s covers open a fissure between worlds, where reality and mystery collide. By reading, we enter a liminal space, neither here nor there, in which anything is possible. And isn’t that just the sort of thing this time of year is made for?” Beyond the promotion of reading, “I [love] the idea of giving someone an experience, rather than sugar shock, for Halloween,” Batykefer says.

According to Gaiman’s FAQs on the campaign’s site, All Hallows Read’s origins can be traced “as far back as this blog post” that he created back in October, 2010. Alongside candy and other sweet treats, the Halloween season is “a great excuse to give someone a book,” he says. And if you give a kid a scary book, “make it a kid-appropriate scary book.” He adds, “If you do not know what scary book to give someone, talk to a bookseller or a librarian. They like to help.”

To that end, School Library Journal has several recommendations. For young readers, try Joy Fleishhacker’s “Bewitching Tales | Great Books for Halloween” roundup. For older kids, Kelly Jensen’s “Killer Books: Horror in YA Lit is a Staple, Not a Trend” is packed with fascinating titles.

The All Hallows’ Read site itself also offers book recommendations directly from Gaiman, his publisher HarperCollins, and from other publishers and media sources.

“After looking at some of the recommended reads, I [am] reminded that ‘scary’ isn’t always ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night,” Angela Terrab, LAIB member and new grad, UW-Madison SLIS, tells School Library Journal. “’Scary’ can be looking at the world from just far enough away that you realize that the commonplace isn’t as innate or as harmless as it seems, as in stories I love by Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, and even Edgar Allan Poe. At its base, ‘scary’ is about challenging assumptions—and that is something I will always support.”

Laura Damon-Moore, Eager Free Public Library (Evansville WI), agrees, noting that “scary” can have different meanings. “When someone asks me for recommendations of scary books, I start to talk with my hands a lot more; I plunge into the stacks with them, run my fingers along the spines of authors like Bradbury, Straub, Gaiman, Chaon—and of course, those gems in the folklore section,” she says. “We talk about the kinds of ‘scary’ they enjoy, what a truly creepy reading experience is like for them.”

Halloween—and the fall season in general—Damon-Moore says, is the perfect time to connect patrons with all sorts of spooky and scary books. “Does any other time of year really pull you to read a certain type of book, the way that Halloween does? All Hallows Read simply puts a name on what we seem to have known for a long time: as the season changes, books and stories offer us comfort and security. A book that makes our heart pound a little faster just reminds and confirms that we are alive, no?”

Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson ( is a former News Editor ofSLJ.