Stephen King is not exactly a warm and fuzzy guy. Unless we’re talking mold. Growing on a corpse. In the sun. So no, I don’t see him writing beautiful tales of princesses and princes. Though he came close with The Eyes of the Dragon, a fairy tale written for his anti-horror daughter, he isn’t the king of sugarplums and fairies. He’s not even the prince. Or the courtier.
But having a knack for horror and things that go bump in the night doesn’t preclude King from being, wait for it, a writer for little kids. In fact, it makes him rather well suited for the picture book crowd.
When you think about it, little kids are well acquainted with horror and fear. Between Snow White and Sleeping Beauty they have seen their fair share of wicked witches and evil stepmothers. It isn’t such a leap then for Stephen King to take his vocabulary down a few notches, rhyme up some good words, and crank out a tale that’s scary enough for the kiddies without traumatizing them completely. Maybe not a clown in the sewer but a clown in the closet. You know, that waits with the other monsters.
It wouldn’t even be that original. King would be in good company. Edward Gorey’s famously evil Gashlycrumb Tinies is technically a picture book. Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls is a pretty creepy tale for young kids. And don’t even get me started with Grimm. Picture books would not be too far off from what Stephen King is used to.
Politically correct moms with their tiara-wearing princesses and freshly pressed J. Crew wearing princes would probably not want to admit that their kids would be far more interested in Goodnight Zombie than Goodnight Moon. Just take a look at the recent kid films that came out this year: ParaNorman, Frankenweenie, Hotel Transylvania. Are you seeing a trend? Kids get monsters and demons. They can deal with them far more efficiently than any grown-up, that’s for sure. There are so many real fears that moms fill their kids with – the stranger next door, the food coloring in the PEZ, the test to get into the Gifted program – that by comparison King’s horror scenarios are so thankfully fake. I doubt kids would even find them scary.
King as picture book author might never happen, but it is definitely something I think he could handle with finesse. Horror stories prey on our childhood fears. Even though there are no books about those monsters in the closet, we know they still exist. We knew it when we were kids. It’s about time someone wrote a kid’s book that validates those fears a bit.
And who better than the King?