Thursday, October 25, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

Title:  Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Author:  Alvin Schwartz

Artist:  Stephen Gammell

Genre: Horror / Short Stories

Year Published: 1981

Year Read: 2012

Series: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark #1

Publisher:  Scholastic, Inc.

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 8+ (Frightening Imagery and Scary Situations)


I have always loved reading banned books because even though I am usually curious about the reasons why they were banned in the first place, it just makes me really want to read the books even more!  Well, I just picked up this spooky book for children called “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” by Alvin Schwartz along with illustrations by Stephen Gammell and it basically has several horror folktales collected over the years.  “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is definitely one horror collection that you just have to read during Halloween!

Basically, this book has a collection of scary stories that you can tell in the dark and they include:

The Big Toe:

In this tale, a young boy finds a large toe in the ground and digs it up and he and his family decided to eat the toe.  But, the young boy will soon realize that you should never pull anything out of the ground as something scary starts happening during the night!

Cold as Clay:

A farmer has a daughter who fell in love with a man named Jim, but the farmer did not like having Jim be around his daughter.  So, the farmer decided to send his daughter to live with her uncle to keep her and Jim apart.  Unfortunately, Jim dies of being heartbroken and the farmer feels guilty about it.  Then, a strange thing happens to the farmer’s daughter after Jim dies…

The White Wolf:

When wolves started attacking the cattle and sheep in French Creek, the state decides to post up a reward for anyone who can kill the wolves.  One man named Bill Williams ends up killing the wolves, but he will soon realize the folly of his wolf killing ways.

Wow! After so many years of reading books that have collections of horror stories that will chill you to the bone (and I have read plenty of books like that), this was one of the few horror books that actually chilled me to the bone!  Alvin Schwartz has done an excellent job at retelling these ancient horror folktales and each story was scary and intense at the same time as the characters involved in each story are either murdered or tortured to death by the dead.  I also loved the way that Alvin Schwartz provided some helpful hints in scaring anyone if you are telling these stories to other people in the dark such as in the “Aaaaaah!” section of the book, Alvin Schwartz provides various moments where the narrator can scream at the audience to give a dramatic effect to the stories.  Some of my favorite stories in this book were “The Big Toe,” “Cold as Clay,” “The White Wolf,” “A New Horse,” and “The Ghost With the Bloody Fingers.” Stephen Gammell’s illustrations were truly haunting yet effective at the same time as the monster images were truly frightening to look at.  Probably the most frightening image in this book was the image of the horse in “A New Horse” as the horse has a misshapen head and you can see a woman’s legs attached to the horse’s back legs.

After looking over the banned books list, I have often seen this book on the list a couple of times and I wondered to myself about why this book was banned in some states?  Well, even though this book is basically retelling scary stories, this book is surprisingly too dark and violent for small children.  There were many stories in this book where characters were killed and dead beings haunt the characters and to add to that, the illustrations are often frightening as there are images of dead beings being covered in blood and having sunken eyes.  Parents might want to read this book first before they read it to their children in order to prevent children from having nightmares if they cannot handle the morbid content of this book.

Overall, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is a brilliant collection of scary tales that you can tell in the dark while scaring people during storytelling time! I would strongly recommend this book for children ages eight and up since the morbid content is extremely scary for smaller children.

REASON FOR BEING BANNED: Unsuited for age group, violence

* 1987 Grand Canyon Reader Award

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