Today Kim and I bring you a double review of the Scary Stories trilogy by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Kim also gives her thoughts in a movie comparison of the new movie by Guillermo del Toro!
Books in the Trilogy:
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones
The iconic anthology series of horror tales that’s now a feature film!
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a timeless collection of chillingly scary tales and legends, in which folklorist Alvin Schwartz offers up some of the most alarming tales of horror, dark revenge, and supernatural events of all time.
Book 1: 4 stars
Book 2: 3 stars
Book 3: 4 stars
I LOVED the Scary Stories books as a kid and I remember being freaked out by those drawings! When I found out Guillermo del Toro was going to be doing a film version I became excited, I had to get those books again (with the original drawings!) In 2011 the books were re-released with new drawings that were more ‘kid friendly”….. NO WAY…. You MUST read these books the way it was intended and that is with the original drawings by Stephen Gammell! The books were changed back in 2017 with the original illustrations. I was lucky enough to find books one and two at my local used bookstore and then lucky me found MY original book three from when I was a kid!!! Score: I had all three books again!
These books are based off old folklore and are written for kids. Some of the stories tell you how to scare your friends while reading the story to a group. As I was reading them now I remembered some of the stories and illustrations. Those drawings just stay with you… My favorite of the three books was the third and final book, and it was probably my favorite as a kid since I still had it! I don’t have many of the books left from when I was a kid, so this one must have been important to me. I even circled some of the story titles in the table of contents.
If you enjoyed these books as a kid, you will surely enjoy them as an adult and get a sense of nostalgia.
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Ivan and I went to see Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in the theater when it came out. We saw the preview and were intrigued so we watched it. I enjoyed it enough that I decided to get the books and read them. I think they’re such good books to introduce horror to kids! Obviously, it varies from kid to kid, but these books definitely work on the creepy side without being ridiculously scary. I read thru all 3 books in about an hour and found them engaging and chilling. I won’t go so far as to say that they scratched the horror itch, they were too mild for that. But, for the audience they were written for, they’re perfect. The illustrations also added to the reading and made it even more fun. I absolutely recommend these books to read to your kids when they want to be scared. Excellent story collection!
Here is a sample of the illustrations by Stephen Gammell:
Here is Kim’s Movie Comparison Thoughts:
**Please note that the Hill House comparison she references will be coming soon, even though she filmed it first**
Author: M. Verano
Published: September 19, 2017
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
All Melanie wants is a blank book to keep a journal of her private thoughts. One day while browsing in a used bookshop, she finds the perfect blank book—smooth black leather with strange symbols in gold embossing. But once she gets home, Melanie finds herself too intimidated by the heavy vellum pages to write her trivial thoughts on them. Her Wiccan friend Lara tells her it’s better suited to be a magical spell book, called The Book of Shadows.
Melanie doesn’t know much about that stuff, but Lara, her boyfriend Caleb, and his friend Lucas, get her started by writing their own made up spells inside the book’s tempting pages. What they didn’t expect was a new spell showing up inside the book—and in handwriting none of them recognize.
Soon they discover that the spells suggested by The Book of Shadows itself do work—but not without wreaking havoc on the lives of the four teenagers.
Why do authors always insist on putting politics in their stories?? I would have totally given this book 4 stars and put it as a good, slow burn scary book, but then he ruined it with all his condescension and virtue signaling! What’s so sad is that the story was overshadowed by it all. Everyone goes on and on about tolerance but of course that applies to everyone EXCEPT Christians. I get that people don’t want their religions criticized and judged so people have been all about inclusivity and diversity and fine. But again, all that applies to all groups, all religions, except Christianity. It just annoyed me. Plus, why politics have to be thrown in, I’m not entirely sure, but ok.
The story itself was actually pretty good. As I said before, it was a slow burn and Verano has a great way of building up tension to a breaking point. And the breaking point is intense! I also like the formatting of this Diary of a Haunting series; a paranormal expert laying out stories sent to him by others. I look forward to seeing where this series goes! The characters are pretty good, if a little flat. There are too many stereotyped people and this seems to limit development. I was very happy with the ending. It was chilling and totally appropriate for the story! Overall, this is an ok scary book, that will scratch the itch without being too crazy.
Author: Armando Lucas Correa
Published: May 7, 2019
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
BERLIN, 1939: The dreams that Amanda Sternberg and her husband, Julius, had for their daughters are shattered when the Nazis descend on Berlin, burning down their beloved family bookshop and sending Julius to a concentration camp. Desperate to save her children, Amanda flees toward the south of France, where the widow of an old friend of her husband’s has agreed to take her in. Along the way, a refugee ship headed for Cuba offers another chance at escape and there, at the dock, Amanda is forced to make an impossible choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Once in Haute-Vienne, her brief respite is interrupted by the arrival of Nazi forces, and Amanda finds herself in a labor camp where she must once again make a heroic sacrifice.
NEW YORK, 2015: Eighty-year-old Elise Duval receives a call from a woman bearing messages from a time and country that she forced herself to forget. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise is shocked to discover that the letters were from her mother, written in German during the war. Despite Elise’s best efforts to stave off her past, seven decades of secrets begin to unravel.
I’m so sad about this book. I wanted to love it and I’d been looking forward to reading it for quite a while. I know that reviewing WWII/Holocaust books can be tricky, especially when the review isn’t completely positive. The premise for this book held so much potential. The characters also had great range of emotions and I easily sympathized with them. However, the main thing that didn’t work, and I hope no one misinterprets what I’m saying, is that everyone was so melodramatic.
Some books don’t convey the horrors of war or of the Holocaust and I try to call them out on it. But this book almost had a parallel, yet still opposite effect. It wasn’t like reading a history book, it was like watching a soap opera version of WWII/Holocaust stories. I tried to see the emotions underneath everything, but if the writing had its nose up in the air any higher, it would have drowned when it rained. I sincerely doubt that those who were arrested by the Nazis spent so much time poetically identifying their feelings. It all just felt so over the top, in a not good way at all.
Plus, I felt like a whole half of the story wasn’t being told. I wanted to hear about Viera’s life in Cuba. Everyone else got to be so emotional, why didn’t she? I wanted so badly to love this story and the characters, it just all fell flat. However, I will say that it did hold my attention, and for such lofty writing, it was very easy to read. Overall, this is not my favorite WWII/Holocaust literature, but I don’t want to write it off completely. It was by no means a bad book, it just isn’t for me.