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SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

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SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

 

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK is a collection of scary folktales retold by Alvin Schwartz. In forward called “Strange and Scary Things,” Schwartz gives a little history of scary stories, explaining that “telling scary stories is something people have done for thousands of years, for most of us like being scared in that way.” He goes on to explain that the best way to tell a scary story “is to speak softly, so that your listeners lean forward to catch your words, and to speak slowly, so that your voice sounds scary.” I’m sure these hints have captured the imaginations of young people and have helped to scare the daylights out of their friends!

 

The rest of the book is filled with almost thirty scary stories and songs, most of them short, which are divided into categories. The first group is called “AAAAAAAAAAAAH!” and includes stories that make you jump with fright. The last group has the same title and is intended to be scary stories whose ending makes you laugh. Two of the other groups are about ghosts and dead bodies in their various ghoulish forms. All of the stories in this book have been passed down, in one form or another, for generations except for one. This group is from more recent times; most adults will remember these stories from when they grew up. For example, the story of a couple on a date in their car. They’re parking in a lonely spot and hear on the radio about an escaped killer who has a hook for his left hand. She’s scared and talks him into leaving. When he goes around to open her door upon arriving at her house, there’s a hook hanging on the door handle.

 

The spooky stories are embellished with creepy drawings by Stephen Gammell. Some of the drawings are scarier than the stories! For example, the drawing of the ghost whose “hair was torn and tangled, and the flesh was dropping off her face so he could see the bones and part of her teeth. She had no eyeballs, but there was a sort of blue light way back in her eye sockets.  And she had no nose to her face.” The description is gory enough, but the drawing is downright scary! Gammell perfectly captures the mood of a story in his drawings:  the dancing skeleton looks almost gleeful and carefree and the isolated cabin looks perfectly creepy.

 

Schwartz includes twenty pages of notes and bibliography in this book, which tell a little of the history and variations of some of the stories. Children might not enjoy reading this section; but the history is interesting, and there are many more books of scary stories listed, if you dare to read them!

 

Children who love scary stories will love this book.

 

Schwartz, Alvin. 1981. SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, COLLECTED FROM AMERICAN FOLKLORE. Illustrated by Stephen Gammell. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN: 0397319274.

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