New York Public Library
A fine collection of short tales to chill the bones of young and old with interesting notes for folktale buffs.
Divided into five sections, this collection of American folklore has a little of everythingbut not enough of anything. The opening chapter, "'jump stories' to make friends JUMP with fright," is varied but uninspired. In the opening tale, a big toe is discovered, brought home, cooked, and eaten. Are you entertained so far? The allegedly scary bit is when the storyteller accuses a listener of possessing said toe. The best offering is "A Man Who Lived in Leeds," a creepy, catchy rhyme of nonsense . . . or is it? The second section's theme is ghosts. The first selection involves two friends chased by a skeleton; a year later, one of the friends dies . . . and "looked just like the skeleton." The following story, "Cold as Clay," is a strong, spine-tingling one. The rest range from pointless to gruesome: "the flesh was dropping off her face . . . She had no eyeballs . . . and no nose." Chapter three is particularly rife with nightmarish, disturbing images. Chapter four consists of stories that "young people tell about dangers we face in our lives today." The only outstanding entry is "High Beams," in which a teenage girl is stalked by a car. It turns out that the bad guy is already in her car and the "stalker" was trying to warn her! The final chapter is devoted to tales meant to amuse rather than frighten. Only the first two succeed. The black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott winner Gammell are outstanding; next to them, the stories, not the readers, pale. A twenty-fifth anniversary edition. 2006 (orig. 1981), HarperCollins, and Ages 10 to 14.
Naomi Milliner <%ISBN%>0397319266
Horn Book Magazine
“This new edition is handsome and accessible; now young readers have a choice of how scared they want to be—just a little, or a whole lot. ”
Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. Schafer
Ghosts, monsters, and creepy creatures beckon for readers' attention and stretch their imaginations in this folklore collection that offers a satisfying smorgasbord of stories which will startle, repulse, and bemuse, causing people to squirm, with their spookiness and grotesqueness. Adapted from folktales, some which have been told and revised by generations of storytellers, stories contain familiar horror archetypes, particularly vanishing hitchhikers and hooks clinging to car doors. Illustrations capture ghastly imagery, complementing the text. The introduction emphasizes the importance of sharing eerie tales aloud, referring to advice in William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale how to lure listeners closer while telling frightening stories. The first chapter, "Aaaaaaaaaaah!," features six jump stories which incorporate sudden exclamatory endings intended to alarm people so much they physically react. "The Big Toe" and "What Do You Come For?" involve malevolent body parts. Ghosts haunt five tales in the second chapter, "He Heard Footsteps Coming up the Cellar Stairs..."Vengeance motivates "The White Wolf" ghost. Another ghost promises to reward a preacher who assures her murderer is punished in "The Haunted House." The third section, "They Eat Your Eyes, They Eat Your Nose," describes supernatural animals scaring people in "Alligators" and "A New Horse." Urban folklore inspires four cautionary stories in the fourth chapter, "Other Dangers," addressing courtship hazards and predators in familiar places, including strangers lurking in cars and homes. The final chapter, also titled "Aaaaaaaaaaah!," presents six darkly humorous items. Provides source notes and bibliography. For papers or projects, readers can identify versions of these stories told in their communities or adapt favorite tales for unique retellings. Reviewer: Elizabeth D. Schafer
Read an Excerpt
Something Was Wrong
One morning John Sullivan found himself walking along a street downtown. He could not explain what he was doing there, or how he got there, or where he had been earlier. He didn't even know what time it was.
He saw a woman walking toward him and stopped her. "I'm afraid I forgot my watch," he said, and smiled. "Can you tell me the time?" When she saw him, she screamed and ran.
Then John Sullivan noticed that other people were afraid of him. When they saw him coming, they flattened themselves against a building, or ran across the street to stay out of his way.
"There must be something wrong with me," John Sullivan thought. "I'd better go home."
He hailed a taxi, but the driver took one look at him and sped away.
John Sullivan did not understand what was going on, and it scared him. "Maybe somebody at home can come and get me," he thought. He found a telephone and called his wife, but a voice he did not recognize answered.
"Is Mrs. Sullivan there?" he asked.
"No, she is at a funeral," the voice said. "Mr. Sullivan was killed yesterday in an accident downtown."Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Copyright © by Alvin Schwartz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.