Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz: Book Review

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Cover of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

4 Stars

Anytime kids gather together in the dark, scary stories are inevitably told. Alvin Schwartz gathered a good selection of the most popular and published them in this anthology.

I kind of think this scared me when I was little but I don’t actually remember ever checking it out from the library. My theory is that I knew it would scare me so I steered clear. I do remember all my little classmates rushing to check out the one copy we had in our school library though.

Reading this now, the stories aren’t particularly scary. The author chose to divide the book into sections, with the first being “Jump” stories, where the teller gets to the climax and gives out a blood-curdling scream to scare the wits out of the listeners. I can see that they would be scary in person but on the page they were actually a little silly. The others were a little more fulfilling if you’re looking for a frightening read. There are sections about ghosts and urban legends and even a few songs. (How’s this for a coincidence? I read “The Hearse Song” here, “The worms crawl in, The worms crawl out, The worms play pinochle on your snout” and then came across it again in my very next read, Blubber.) It was interesting to me as an older reader to recognize basic elements here that I’ve come across in other books that were published later. I can’t help but wonder if the later books got the idea from this one or if they are all just referencing the same old folktales and legends.

The illustrations by Stephen Gammell are downright creepy and perfect for the book.

Young readers who like a good fright should find what they’re looking for in this collection.


According to the Marshall University library website, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was “Retained in the Greater Clark County (KY) elementary school libraries despite a grandmother’s request to ban the Scary Stories books written by Alvin Schwartz. She wanted all four or five volumes in the series banned because, she said, they depict cannibalism, murder, witchcraft and ghosts, and include a story about somebody being skinned.” Granny probably did have the children’s best interests at heart. What she says is true as far as it goes. All of that is in here but I didn’t find it to be terribly graphic, maybe just a bit gruesome. Some kids love that kind of thing though (as evidenced by all my classmates fighting over who got to check it out each week). The title should clue in any parent or guardian who is paying attention and might object. She could have taken it away from her grandchild and left it at that. It was the next step, trying to remove it from the reach of all children, that was not okay.

Read an excerpt.

Buy Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark at

photo credit: Old Books by Petr Kratochvil

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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