Beware of the Scarum Fair!

The Hand leads the way in this collection of silly-spooky poems for mid-grade kids, about an amusement park filled with monsters and creeps of all kinds.

Come ride on the Scary-Go-Round! 

How about a visit to Dr. Crunch's chiropractic tent?

Eat a bowl of cat hair stew. 

Take a nap in the werewolves' den. 

It's a thrilling, chilling adventure, and you can go home any time you like. 

Or can you?    

Where the idea for this book started:

Scarum Fair grew from fond memories of both Halloween and the Missouri State Fair.  My best friend Cath and I played at the nearby fairgrounds year round, trolling the deserted midway for treasures, patting the horses stabled there, and taking imaginary journeys on the old locomotive. During the fair in August, we never missed a horse show. When I was 25 years old, a gypsy read my palm, which inspired this poem about a

fortune-telling rat:

Scarum Fair

poems by Jessica Swaim

illustrator Carol Ashley

  1. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press

  2. Pub Date: Now Available!

  3. Picture Book, Hardcover, 32pp

  4. Ages: mid-grades

  5. ISBN-13: 9781590785904


Prepare for a deliciously scary and occasionally gross carnival experience. This collection of poems takes brave readers on a journey past “The Ghoul at the Gate” and treats them to “Devil’s Food Cake,” “I-Scream” and “Cat-Hair Stew.” Once fortified, there are activities to do—“Pumpkin Bowling” or a “Coffin Race,” anyone?—and freaky folks to meet. Other creature features include the “Head Louse”—“This tiny pest / requires no care. / She’s happy strolling / through your hair / and laying eggs / that quickly hatch. / So every day / you start from scratch”—and the “Poison Dart Frog”: “Witch Clara has a tiny frog / that plays the cruelest joke / on creeps who try to capture him, / ’cause they’re the ones who croak.” Ghoulish subject matter, rollicking rhythms, lots of wordplay and Ashley’s creepy cartoons, filled with interesting details, will keep kids turning pages. Pair with Frankenstein Takes the Cake, by Adam Rex (2008), or There Was a Man Who Loved a Rat and Other Vile Little Poems, by Gerda Rovetch and illustrated by Lissa Rovetch (2008), for some frightful fun. (Poetry. 7-12)

Publishers Weekly:

"A little bit silly, a little bit sinister, Swaim's poems introduce different denizens and attractions at the playfully twisted Scarum Fair. There's devil's food cake to eat, shrouds for sale, and a werewolf den to visit--'Like our friendly canine cousins,/ we're a cute and cuddly bunch./ Just think of us as puppies,/ and we'll think of you as... lunch.' Ghoulish images of eyeless fanged creatures of every sort make this a punchy treat for fans of the macabre. Ages 9 — 11. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

School Library Journal:

Clever writing pulls children into a creepy carnival of 29 humorous poems. In a series of mostly four- to twelve-line selections, children ride the “Teacup Terror,” “Scary-Go-Round,” and “Rattler Coaster”; taste a bit of “Devil’s Food Cake” and “I-Scream”; and attend “Count Dracula’s Wedding.” The first poem, “The Ghoul at the Gate,” warns one kid to “Turn back,/or you’ll regret it,” and a large green claw comes onto the page to pick up an unsuspecting red-haired boy. Although the poems all seem to be written about that one boy becoming trapped (“Hey, kid...I told you/not to come here./Did you listen to me? No!/You’ll never leave the Scarum Fair./The hand won’t let you go...”), readers do not see that particular boy throughout but rather a cast of Caucasian children. Dark background colors add a sense of foreboding as the cartoon children meet the ghouls illustrated in acrylics, graphite, and pen and ink. This book will require little hand-selling and will be especially popular among fans of Adam Rex’s Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (2006) or Frankenstein Takes the Cake (2008, both Harcourt) and Jack Prelutsky’s Awful Ogre’s Awful Day (Greenwillow, 2001).–Julie R. Ranelli, Queen Anne&rs

The Denver Channel :

Read the Mars the dog’s interview of Jessica at:

“Mars’ Dog Blog”

Cath (middle) and I (right)

on Halloween, many moons ago

Jessica reading Scarum Fair at Tattered Cover

Highlands Ranch, CO

all rights reserved. site content copyright © jessica swaim 2010-2014, copyright © for cover art and page spreads held by respective illustrators.

Site Design-Donna Farrell

Colorado Book Award Finalist
2012-2013 Texas Bluebonnet Association Master List

Colorado Book Award Finalist
2012-2013 Texas Bluebonnet Association Master List
click image above to download teacher guide
click image above to download teacher guide
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