My daughter and the scary book

Regular readers will know that my daughter is a huge Jacqueline Wilson fan. But she has read nearly all of her books now and is starting to get a bit old for them. So we’ve been looking for new books for her to read.

Last year, she read Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll. It is set in World War II (something she is interested in) and is a bit of mystery. She’d never read a mystery book before, but really enjoyed it. So she started broadening her horizons, and heading away from the 9-12 section of the bookshop and into the Teenage section. She picked up a couple of books that sounded intriguing – one with a mystery element and one set in a concentration camp during World War II – The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington.

My daughter had previously read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, so I had no concerns about her reading about a concentration camp, particularly given her interest in World War II. I even thought I might introduce her to The Tattooist of Auschwitz next.

The Red Ribbon is a very good book and we were both really enjoying it, in that strange way you do ‘enjoy’ a book about a concentration camp. We were three-quarters of the way through it and I was pretty certain the main character was going to survive. This is a children’s book, after all. But her best friend had died.

My daughter and I read books together. She reads a few pages in bed, then I read a few pages to her before she goes to sleep. She always struggles to get to sleep and having me read helps to settle her. We enjoy sharing books together.

During the Christmas holidays, she was going to bed a bit later and I had got into the habit of reading to her, then going to bed myself straightaway. I had finished reading to her, and was literally in my bedroom plugging in my phone in ready to go to sleep, when my daughter appeared.

“I don’t want to finish the book.”

But we’d nearly finished it! As an avid reader, the idea to me of not finishing a book is something I can’t even contemplate. I ALWAYS finish books, even ones I’m not enjoying much.

After reading it (and enjoying it) for several weeks, the friend dying was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She didn’t want to read it any more. She didn’t want to read about any more suffering or dying. The book was in her head and she couldn’t get it out. She knows it’s fiction, although based on fact. She knows it was a long time ago. She knows it couldn’t happen now, but she couldn’t stop thinking about it.

She was so upset that she was shaking. And she was so upset that she didn’t even realise for 15 minutes that she was shaking. When she did realise she was shaking, she got even more upset because she didn’t know why she was shaking or how to stop it.

We had to watch a big chunk of The Undateables Christmas special (which we’ve already watched loads of times) to calm her down. She went to bed, but was back out in seconds. The thinking and the shaking started again. She was in tears. Scared of the book. Scared of the shaking and scared of feeling scared.

By this time it was 11.30pm and, with my sleep problems, I couldn’t stay awake any longer, so she slept on our floor.

She was OK in the morning, but after a bit of time on her own, the shaking started again. She couldn’t stop thinking about the book, and a dream she’d had that we were all in a concentration camp. She needed to distract herself until the thoughts went away.

She found herself shaking and tearful several times during the day and was unable to sleep on her own again. I was concerned it was going to go on for several days, although I didn’t show it. She was worried too. Luckily, it only happened once very briefly the following day, and she was able to sleep in her own room.

I read more of the book, because I wanted to be able to tell her that the main character had survived, so that maybe she could get some closure on it. And it turned out that the best friend had survived too – she had been taken away from the camp on a train and hadn’t been gassed.

However, I think we need to steer clear of the Teenage section of the bookshop for a bit longer…

If anyone has any suggestions of books suitable for a sensitive 12 year old girl to read before bed (definitely no fantasy!), please let me know.

The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington, The Red Ribbon, My daughter and the scary book

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. That sounds really distressing for you both. I’m sorry I don’t have any great suggestions as my two are very into fantasy (both currently reading The Hunger Games trilogy).

    I hope you find something both wonderful and soothing for her to read next!

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    • Thanks very much! She’s currently reading a very uplifting and non-distressing book of mine. The Hunger Games trilogy was the last thing my younger son read, which was three years ago. He loved it, and so did I, but she doesn’t like any fantasy at all. She refuses to even read Harry Potter!

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  2. Maybe try some older ‘classics’? Little women, the secret garden, Anne of green gables, marrianne dreams, tom’s midnight garden etc. Has she read any Noel Streatfield books? She would probably love Ballet Shoes, Theatre Shoes, Dancing Shoes etc. Eva Ibbotsen books are good too, she’d probably enjoy Journey to the River Sea, the Star of Kazan and the Dragonfly Pool at this age but could also give some of her books aimed at slightly younger or older readers a bash too. x

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    • Thanks, I hadn’t thought of that. I must say that I’ve hardly read any of the classics myself, although I loved the whole Anne of Green Gables series as a young teenager. I think Eva Ibbotsen is amazing and have tried my daughter on a couple of her books, but she has found the language too hard to understand, unfortunately.

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  3. Definitely noel streatfield books. I used to love those as a child. I also used to read Sadness Wells series of books but not sure that’s in print anymore. I was probably a bit younger though. Otherwise Nancy Drew books. But I was a Dick Francis and Inspextor Morse fan by the time I was secondary school age.

    N has nightmares about soldiers going to world wars even though it was years ago. And that’s without reading any books.

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    • Poor N! It’s amazing what affects them. I was reading Agatha Christie before I even left primary. I pretty much went straight from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie, so I actually don’t know these books myself. Will definitely look out for them though, thanks!

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  4. Oh gosh, it’s difficult isn’t it? I usually make Libby read until a happy bit when a book has frightened her because that seems to be the best way to get it out of her head. That sounds like a really difficult book though, even for teenagers I bet it would be really hard going. When I was a bit younger than your daughter, I read The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. It’s a really long book, over 700 pages with tiny writing, but exciting in a very tame way, definitely not too scary. I have recently reread it and I love it just as much now as I did then, my husband is reading it now. That would be my recommendation as a book for your daughter to try.

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    • Thanks very much, I’ve never heard of The Dark is Rising Sequence. That would certainly keep her busy for a long time, as she doesn’t get through many pages a day. The Red Ribbon is actually a beautiful book and she was loving it for a long time, but it all got too much for her. I would definitely recommend it to older teenagers or anyone of a slightly less nervous disposition. x

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  5. Oh bless her, that is such a shame but it does prove how powerful books can be. It is so tricky at that age as they are ready to move to the next stage but that can mean the subject matter being a bit more grown up and difficult to manage.

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    • I hadn’t even thought about it until we came across this book. The only thing I wanted to avoid was books with a lot of sex in them, which seems to happen a lot in YA novels.

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  6. It’s so interesting how books can affect us all in different ways! Thank you for sharing with #readwithme

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  7. Oh dear. I have noticed that our school reading lists include some titles that I personally think aren’t really suitable #readwithme

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    • We’ve never had any school reading lists, but this definitely isn’t suitable for a sensitive 12 year old!

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  8. I really like the sound of this one for me – but I’m sorry it had such a huge effect on your daughter!

    Has she tried the Murder Most Unladylike series? It’s a bit like Agatha Christie books but for kids aged 9-12 or so.

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    • It is actually a really beautiful read and I was disappointed that we didn’t get to the end.
      She hasn’t tried Murder Most Unladylike yet, but they’ve been recommended by a couple of people. Her friend has them, so she was hoping to borrow them.

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  9. Aww bless her. KayCee (13) read a book a couple of years ago called Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur.
    She said it was one of the best books she has read and she’s since read it a couple more times.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks very much for the recommendation, I’ll look out for that one!

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  10. It’s amazing what a profound effect a book can have on a reader. It’s great that you finished the book so that you could reassure her.

    I would also recommend some of the classics, maybe The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Has she read the Moomin books or Mary Plain? I would be interested to hear what she decides to read next.


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    • She hasn’t read any of those. We’re currently reading On the Bright Side, which is one of my books and the first book for adults she’s read, but I know that it is entertaining and not disturbing in any way.

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  11. Gosh that sounds a bit distressing. Hope you can find some more cheerful adn enjoyable reading to recover! #readwithme

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    • It was very distressing! We’re currently reading one of my books which is for adults, but is very uplifting, warm and humorous – On The Bright Side by Hendrik Groen. Have bought her one more book and am looking for recommendations of others. I think we’ll give the YA section a wide berth for a bit longer.

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  12. That sounds so difficult for you both and unfortunately there aren’t always happy endings. It sounds like you handled it well though and I agree it’s a good idea to leave the YA section for a few more years.

    Has she read any books about suffragettes? I reviewed The Princess and the Suffragette by Holly Webb a while back, it’s a sequel to the classic The Little Princess. It has some descriptions of force feeding and time in prison but nothing too harrowing.

    Also, if she is still interested in the war then the trilogy of stories by Judith Kerr based on her own life experiences are excellent. The first book is When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

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