Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones

Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your BonesScary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stories in this third volume of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series are definitely a step up from the second volume, and include a handful of stories that are on par with the first. They’re a little more advanced, too — a little longer and a little more complex, but still great for kids. My favorite is “Maybe You Will Remember,” a story about a girl on vacation with her mother in Paris when her mother falls ill and the girl is sent by the hotel doctor to fetch medicine for her. But when she returns, no one at the hotel recognizes her, no one, including the doctor, remembers her mother, and the hotel room they were staying in looks completely different. There’s an air of Robert Aickman’s “strange stories” to this one — that is, until Alvin Schwartz posits a rational explanation involving a city-wide conspiracy, which saps all the fun. Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are more on point than ever in this volume, perhaps the best he’s done for the series. Some of them are truly frame-worthy.

I’m very glad I finally got to read these books, even if I came to them forty years too late. It’s a treat to read the stories that were so formative for so many of my friends. On a more academic level, it’s interesting to see what scares young readers compared to what scares adult readers. There’s not a lot of atmosphere or detail to these stories, for example, but there are lots jump-scare climactic surprises and recurring tropes like cemeteries, unexplained noises, and vengeful spirits looking for items that were stolen from them. I will leave what this might mean up to greater minds than my own. All in all, I found reading Schwartz’s trilogy to be a charming and rewarding exercise.

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More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

More Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkMore Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found the stories in this second volume of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories series to be less memorable or interesting than the stories in the first. Still, one story stood out above the rest for me, and maybe even above the stories in the first volume: “The Drum.” It’s about two little girls, sisters, who find another little girl in the middle of a field playing with a drum, out of which come a little mechanical man and woman. The sisters are so taken with this drum that they ask if they can have it. The girl tells them she will give it to them only if they act really bad at home, which they do, drawing on the walls, breaking dishes, even beating the dog with a stick (monstrous!). Their mother begs them to stop, threatening to abandon them to “a new mother with glass eyes and a wooden tail” if they don’t. But the girls don’t stop, the other girl never gives them the drum (“I never meant to give it to you. It’s just a game we were playing. I thought you knew that.”), and of course waiting for the sisters at home at the end is their new mother. There’s something so eerie about the dream logic (or really, nightmare logic) of this story that it got under my skin and stuck with me.

As for the other stories, they’re easily read and quickly forgotten, at least by this reader, who is admittedly way too old to be reading these books. But as a friend of mine pointed out, the books are really about Stephen Gammell’s beautiful, creepy illustrations. If I were a small child, those illustrations would scare me a lot more than the stories would. Anyway, on to the third and final volume!

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Scary Stories, #1)Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised to find that SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK was a collection of folk tales and campfire tales from around the world rather than the original stories I was expecting, but that turned out to add to my enjoyment whenever I recognized a story. For example, I read Helen Creighton’s BLUENOSE GHOSTS in college, so I recognized the story “The Thing” right away.

The stories are very short, so they (often amusingly) get right to the point. Consider this opening line from “Me Tie Dough-Ty Walker!”: “There was a haunted house where every night a bloody head fell down the chimney.” They don’t write ’em like that anymore! But while the extremely short lengths make them perfect for small children, they make it difficult for adult readers like myself to become invested in the stories. Granted, I should have read this book 40 years ago instead of now!

Still, this is a charming and fun book. On to the next volume!

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Summer Appearances 2019

Here is where you’ll be able to catch me this summer:

July 18th – 21st, Necon. I will be appearing on panels along with Writer Guests of Honor Linda Addison, Grady Hendrix, and John Langan, Artist Guest of Honor Reiko Murakami, and Toastmaster Kristin Dearborn.

August 2nd – 4th, Scares That Care Weekend. This is a charity horror convention where I will be one of the author guests, selling and signing my books, appearing on panels, and doing a reading. Click here to see the other author guests. Click here to see the celebrity guests.

August 22nd – 25th, NecronomiCon Providence. I don’t know yet if I will be on any panels or doing a reading, but I will be there either way. Click here to see the Guests of Honor.

I hope to see you at any or all of these events!

Please note that I will not be appearing at two of my usual haunts this summer/fall, Readercon and the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, due to previous commitments.



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