Reading List

Children's Weird

Stories for children with a particularly uncanny atmosphere, that don't fit anywhere else

The Dark is Rising sequence (1965-1977) - Susan Collins

Book | Unread. Children's book series that incorporates British lore and folklore, and a classic of children's literature. Really looking forward to this

Over Sea, Under Stone (1965) - Susan Cooper


Book | I disliked this book; it's for children and unlike some authors, there's little here to appeal to adults - all "fantasy", no "weird". I'm fed up of posh children in books, and this text is an especially egregious example because all the rural locals are baddies, and it's inexplicably racist too - finding ways to bring in evil Arabs and the joys of colonial expansion. It's sort-of on a par with Box of Delights and Narnia (and owes not a little to Enid Blyton); and one is suddenly aware of why Garner was so angry when he wrote the Owl Service, which is the answer to books like this in which the mumsy housekeeper and rural lad who speaks strange are not permitted subjectivity. So yes, notionally ✪ - a story of Arthurian secret buried in Cornwall - but I would only recommend this to parents of children (age 7-10), and then only with the caveat that surely this tale could have been told without getting weird about race.

Red Shift (1973) - Alan Garner

Book | Unread; and I'm putting it off.

The Weirdstone of Brisengamen (1960) - Alan Garner


Book | Garner is a legend of this tradition, but this book didn't do it for me; I have taken snippets out for my Lore however.

✪ Wind in the Willows (1908) - Kenneth Grahame


Book | Notable for That Chapter, and a very good example of landweirdiness threading through our lore; a key psychedelic touchpoint, and part of the pastoral tradition. Not in itself the best thing you could read, but its very incongrousness IS important, the fact that this would surface as if out of nowhere in a book for a child. Part of the turn of the century Pan trend. Solar (cosy, bucolic, food and shelter, friendship and community), trending Solar-Stellar (golden afternoons, haze, the aforementioned chapter). Just lovely. I re-read it at the behest of a friend recently, who asked "aren't the weasels poor people?" - to which the answer is quite clearly yes; this vision of cosy feudalism is a really common theme of British pastoral writing, and worth keeping a constant eye out for. My childhood Wind in the Willows was the 1984 puppet film by Cosgrove Hall, which I remember fondly.

Winnie the Pooh (1926) - A.A. Milne


Book | Broadly speaking, the Disney adaptations are not to be recommended – they’re good films, but don’t have that uncanny charge. Milne is in my "not quite but almost" category – this still may be the best place for him. I don't get a very strong Landweird off these books - although I do have spiritual thoughts about the figure of Christopher Robin. Still unsure if this is part of the trend.

Marianne Dreams (1958) - Catherine Storr


Book | Found through a Bob Fisher recommendation - not really rural, but definitely creepy. Adapted as Escape into Night. Learn more

Escape into Night (1972) - Richard Bramall


Serial | Unsettling serial based on the book Marianne Dreams, and in turn the film Paperhouse. A disabled boy and girl start meeting one another in their dreams. Non-essential, but worthwhile and I enjoyed it a lot. Scary.

Worzel Gummidge (1979) - Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall


Serial | My mum remembers this as terrifying her when she was a child. I've only seen one episode so far, and can see why. It's marvellous and peculiar, about a scarecrow who comes to life and makes friends with some children, filmed by a production team who seemingly have no awareness of why what they're making is weird. Brown and bizzare, I doubt you'll need to watch the lot, but I certainly am because I'm really enjoying it. And it's bringing up an awful lot of unexpected feelings about class as well, there's quite a lot of implications about Gummidge (who, as well as being a scarecrow, is kind of an unwanted tramp, and kind of an older rural working class person who's out of step with the modern day, and keeps reminding me of my grandparents). The revived 2019 series is exceptional.


Book | CS Lewis. Dark Materials. Swallows and Amazon missed the cut (I've not read any), but I considered it due to Mike Oldfield's "Homeward Bound" – another example of 70s experimental musical culture drawing from children's and fantasy fiction as part of their dreaming and hope. Oldfield is part of my Landweird. Beatrix Potter also just (just!) felt insufficiently weird to be notable. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is certainly strange - but not British (but how important is Britishness to all this?); it's on my to-read list. What about the Neverending Story? Possibly. Five Children and It/The Phoenix and the Carpet? Not read it yet. The Secret Garden - maybe yes; Tom's Midnight Garden, probably not. The Water Babies? The Water Babies is damn weird. Landweird? I don't...think so, but frankly, I don't know what that book is. Wikipedia says it fell out of favour due to racism, but given how many other old books have survived that charge I suspect it's because it's batshit and incomprehensible. What about the Snowman? The opening clip of the man walking across the field that only exists in some versions is Landweird, but i'm not sure about the rest.