________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 10 . . . . January 4, 2007


Don’t Open the Door! (Easy-to-Read Spooky Tales).

Veronika Martenova Charles. Illustrated by David Parkins.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2007.
56 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-88776-779-1.

Subject Headings:
Horror tales, Canadian (English).
Children’s stories, Canadian (English).

Grades 1-2 / Ages 6-7.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4                        

Reviewed from prepublication copy.


My mom came upstairs and said, “Time to get ready for bed.” We brushed our teeth and put on our pajamas. Then the doorbell rang. From downstairs, Mom called out, “I have to go next door to help for a minute. Don’t open the door! Not for anybody! I’ll be back very soon.”

“Let’s tell some scary stories,” I said.

“Me first,” said Leon.

“What is your story called?” asked Marcos.

“It’s called Smart Mariette,” Leon said. “Listen.”


Three young boys become storytellers while at a sleepover. They try to scare each other by sharing stories around the theme “Don’t Open the Door.” As the last of the three stories is being told, their imaginations jump to conclusions - conclusions that lead them to believe that being under the bed hiding is the best place to be!

     It’s not just the one mom in this book who warns the children, “Don’t open the door! Not for anybody!” This same phrase is repeated in the three stories being told at the sleepover. However, despite the warning, all the children in the three stories venture beyond the closed door. Mariette opens the door to her best friend’s look-a-like. Mariette starts to question her friend’s identity when she sees her bite down on a frog! The second story is about a boy who lives with a reindeer. It’s the reindeer that is the rescuer in this told story. The boy has been lured out of the house by singing voices he hears on the other side of the door. This boy opens the door out of curiosity. As with the first story, some form of trickery or deceit leads the children to open the door. In the last story, a woman and her daughter are looking for their lost lamb. This story ends with a cliffhanger. The daughter walks between two rocks to look for her lamb. Little does she know the stranger who lured her out of the house is not to be trusted. She won’t find her lost lamb between the rocks; instead, she’ll be put in danger.

     The illustrations of the zombie, the wooden maidens and the witch certainly are fitting for a spooky tales series. For example, the zombie has a mouthful of sharp vampire-like teeth overlapping her creepy smile. Her fingers are gnarled, and she looks to be in a constant state of prowling. In addition, making the maidens wooden adds to their creepiness. Although they are shrouded in long, black dresses, you can see their jointed limbs and their skeleton looking fingers. And their big block feet are reminiscent of Frankenstein’s feet!

     Although all the children open the door in the three stories, their resourcefulness gets them home safely. In the book’s Afterword, the author encourages the reader to finish the tale that ends mid-story. It is up to the reader to determine what happens between the rocks, and how the girl will be saved.

     The short, easy sentences will be useful for younger beginning readers. With a story from Peru, and the Guyanas, and a Bohemian folktale, Veronika Martenova Charles, an award-winning author and illustrator, reminds children that opening any door to strangers can be dangerous. “Don’t take food from strangers” can also be seen as a warning in the second story. The wooden maidens feed the boy junk food galore with the intention of roasting him when he’s of the right size.

     The boys at the sleepover are from diverse cultural backgrounds, and they tell stories from different areas around the world. There is a break from the sleepover setting of the bedroom to the different lands and times as the children tell their stories. David Parkins, an award-winning illustrator, did a good job authenticating the settings for these three stories with his black and white line drawings.

     Don’t Open the Door! is suitable for beginning readers who like a slight scare in their stories.


Tanya Boudreau is a youth services librarian and resource librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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