On the American Library Association's list of the 100 most-challenged books of the 1990's, Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is number one with a bullet. The first volume in Schwartz's three-part Scary Stories series is, in film terms, the Citizen Kane of books that parents have tried to get pulled from libraries.
Why? Because kids love it to death. Before they can demand that a book be purged from their local branch or school library, parents must first know that a book exists (trust me, it's physics). And the way that they find out is because their kids found it for them. Schwartz's bold, clear writing and Stephen Gammell's unforgettable black-and-white drawings are catnip for young minds hungry to step outside of their comfort zone and into some form or another of murky, just-before-nightfall, dusk-related zone.
Keep in mind, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark lives up to the first part of its name. Schwartz adapted the stories from American folklore, and, from the looks of it, he did little to tone them down in the interim. "The Satin Dress" ends with a girl dying after dancing all night in a dress soaked in embalming fluid, "The Hook" features a boy and girl who survive an awkward date only to have a run-in with an escaped killer, and the collection also features songs that are pure gore. Scary Stories is strictly for kids who are old enough to get their toes wet in the dark side (not to mix metaphors).
A word must be said about Gammell's drawings. For all of their nightmarish qualities, there is something strangely nostalgic, even melancholic about them. Gammell's drawings are like watching zombies destroy your hometown through a window streaked with rain on a quiet November afternoon.
Reviewed by CH.
Themes: FOLKLORE. SCARY STORIES.
A READKIDDOREAD CLASSIC
Suggested Ages: 9 and Up