Monday, 12 August 2019

Review - Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Trilogy

If you grew up in the 1980, then mostly likely you would remember the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell.

There are three titles in the series - Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (pub. 1981), More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (pub. 1984) and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones (pub. 1991). As of 2017, the books have sold more than 7 million copies; though that number is probably a bit higher thanks to recent release of the PG-13 film adaptation.

All three books have "retellings" of folklores and myths, but they're all written in a kid-friendly way. However, the American Library Association has challenged the books several times over the years for stories featuring nightmarish topics such as disfigurement and murder. Plus, there has been criticism over the creepy drawings by Stephen Gammell. Besides from us horror fans, the American Library Association and the The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Book have defended the books.

I remember my mother ordering all three Scary Stories books from Scholastic book flyers - you know the ones you get from your elementary classes - back when I was a little bitty kid. Many of the stories are interactive and I have fond memories of my mother reading several of the stories to me. Never once did she believe the stories were harmful. They're just stories!

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark features 29 stories: The Big Toe, The Walk, What Do You Come For?, Me Tie Dough-ty Walker!, A Man Who Lived in Leeds, Old Woman All Skin and Bone, The Thing, Cold as Clay, The White Wolf, The Haunted House, The Guests, The Hearse Song, The Girl Who Stood on a Grave, A New Horse, Alligators, Room for One More, The Wendigo, The Dead Man's Brains, May I Carry Your Basket?, The Hook, The White Satin Evening Gown, High Beams, The Babysitter, The Viper, The Attic, The Slithery-Dee, Aaron Kelly's Bones, Wait till Martin Comes, and The Ghost with the Bloody Fingers.

More Stories to Tell in the Dark features 28 stories: Something was Wrong, The Wreck, One Sunday Morning, Sounds, A Weird Blue Light, Somebody Fell from Aloft, The Little Black Dog, Clinkity-Clink, The Bride, Rings on Her Fingers, The Drum, The Window, Wonderful Sausage, The Cat's Paw, The Voice, Oh, Susannah!, The Man in the Middle, The Cat in a Shopping Bag, The Bed by the Window, The Dead Man's Hand, A Ghost in the Mirror, The Curse, The Church, The Bad News, Cemetery Soup, The Brown Suit, BA-ROOOM!, and Thumpity-Thump.

Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones features 25 stories: The Appointment, The Bus Stop, Faster and Faster, Just Delicious, Hello, Kate!, The Black Dog, Footsteps, Like Cat's Eyes, Bess, Harold, The Dead Hand, Such Things Happen, The Wolf Girl, The Dream, Sam's New Pet, Maybe You Will Remember, The Red Spot, No, Thanks, The Trouble, Strangers, The Hog, Is Something Wrong?, It's Him!, T-H-U-P-P-P-P-P-P-P!, and You May Be Next....

Final Thoughts

I don't know when it exactly happened, but I lost my original copies of the Scary Stories trilogy sometime in the late '90s. Mostly likely, I probably had let a relative or a now ex-friend borrow the books and that person never returned them. Like many of my other childhood reads, I rediscovered these books at a thrift store at a fairly cheap price. I now own two copies of the original book - the 25th Anniversary Edition and the reillustrated 30th Anniversary Edition with drawings by Brett Helquist. The latter didn't go over very well with Scary Stories' fans and it's now out-of-print. As for books two and three, I own the original paperback releases.

Probably like many other fans, I reread the Scary Stories trilogy last week because of the release of the feature film, which I haven't seen yet. The books are fairly short at around 100 to 115 pages. Add in all the freaky drawings, the books are even shorter. The horror in the stories are slightly beyond the level of Goosebumps. However, when you factor in the scary illustrations, these stories are really terrifying! Warning: there's a good chance young readers will have a few nightmares from reading these tales.

Overall, I had a nostalgia blast rereading the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. While the stories are no longer scary to me, Stephen Gammell's drawings still gives me the chills!

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