Sunday, September 27, 2009

Banned Book Week REVIEW: More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Schwartz, A.  (1984).  More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.  New York:  HarperCollins Publishers.


Enjoyment Rating:  !!!

Schwartz's Scary Story trilogy are collections of short American folktales meant to scare and entertain.  Shwartz is an actual folklorist, who collected and retold these narratives.  And his series has been immensely popular to bring on camping trips and also is one of the most challenged series of the 1990s.

Speaking from my own experience, these stories never scared me.  Not ever.  The writing is mediocre, characters are never introduced well, but there is often a sentence in most of the stories that reveals the twist or spooky aspect (which if fine).  The illustrations done by Stephen Gammell on the other hand...

...kept me up a few extra minutes before falling asleep when I was younger.

More Scary Stories is split up into parts, focusing on ghost stories and many creepy events that could really happen.  Some of the narratives are in first person, others in third.  Quite a few are set in the past, but only a small handful actually mention their setting.

Reasons Censored:

The Scary Stories series is most commonly challenged with the argument that it promotes the occult (and I suppose "A Ghost in the Mirror" chapter could lend support to this since it describes how to play the game Bloody Mary while looking into a mirror).  Other reasons given are inappropriateness for age group (the books are listed on the cover for being for ages nine and up) violence and insensitivity.

Potential Counter-Arguments:

Most of these stories are common oral tales that are a part of our culture. Ignoring them, we ignore stories about ourself.  These stories provide another perspective on ordinary places and events.  And honestly, you may as well allow kids to enjoy reading these tales, because chances are good they'll hear worse from their classmates or friends.

Another argument is to present these stories as light fun.  The last section contains humorous stories.  In all cases, the supernatural elements are preexisting, nothing that necessarily encourages a child to go out and research the occult.  Rather, a teacher could try to use these stories to get a child interested in folklore.

Uses in the Classroom:

Middle grade students would probably appreciate the option of hearing or reading some of these stories on a school camping trip or around Halloween.

Since some of the stories are based in history, (such as during The Civil War) a teacher could take those individual short stories as teaching moments.

These stories are an excellent way to share the concept of folklore.  But, overall, probably best as an elective read for individual children who want to pick up the series.  If it does spark interest with students, a teacher could also direct them to the Ghosts of America website which organizes people's ghost sightings by state and city.

Quotes of Note:

"These scary stories will take you on a strange and fearsome journey, where darkness or fog or mist or the sound of a person screaming or a dog howling turns ordinary places into nightmarish places, where nothing is what you expect."

"I will go away and take Arthur with me.  And you will get a new mother with glass eyes and a wooden tail" (p. 32).

"She saw two small yellow-green lights moving through the woods near the graveyard at the bottom of the hill.  They looked like the eyes of some animal.  But she could not make out what kind of creature it was.
Soon the creature left the woods and moved up the hill toward the house.  For a few minutes, Margaret lost sight of it.  Then she was it coming across the lawn toward her window" (p. 37).

1 comment:

  1. This series shouldn't be banned because if parents think that the book is inappropriate, then don't let them read it!



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