With two of my favorite things around the corner–Banned Books Weeks and Halloween–I have been looking through all of my own books to make sure I personally own everything that I’m not supposed to be reading. I couldn’t resist picking up Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark again.
I read it every year, and even though it’s been over a year since I reviewed it, I felt like I’d been away for too long.
The reason is that I find so little visual art that moves me–I consider this a result of my not knowing how to look at art, not a reflection on the artist–and Stephen Gammel’s illustrations in the Scary Stories books moves me in a big way. It moves me to shiver and fixate on how terrible corpses actually look when they get up and start walking around.
Or how a mutated dog is not that adorable.
Or how a room full of disembodied eyeballs is not something that provokes laughter.
The reason I am so fascinated by this is that, without the illustrations, the stories aren’t that frightening. The books are mostly compilations of urban legends, scary/silly limericks, and many of the traditional ghost stories we all know. Think the babysitter getting the phone call in the house, or the hook on the handle of the car’s door. In other words, totally suitable for children I’d say. The kind of stories that come up for fun on a camp out.
But coupled with these horrific drawings, suddenly the stories aren’t that fun. And of course, the subject matter of the stories is not fun either–it’s just that we are so familiar with these stories that they lose the ability to scare us. Well, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark is a way to put the dread back into these familiar tales–if that’s what you want.
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