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Friday, October 23, 2020

Book Review: DON'T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz's SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

What a fantastic idea for an anthology! A tribute to one of the most iconic spooky short story collections for all ages. DON'T TURN OFF THE LIGHTS edited by Jonathan Maberry is presented by The Horror Writers Association and published by Harper Collins.

To say I grew up reading SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK is a bit of an understatement. My mom is a major Horror Hound and our home library was filled with adult, young adult, and middle-grade horror. I'm 5 and 8 years older than my two sisters so I read out loud to them pretty regularly and SCARY STORIES (all 3 of them) were in heavy rotation.





When I heard about this tribute anthology, I had to have it. Modern horror authors trying on the tone and style of SCARY STORIES that I cherished so much? A no-brainer.
The question in my mind was: Would this anthology be successful at capturing the essence of something that has endured for generations of young horror readers (that later grew up into adult horror readers that also review horror professionally)?
My enthusiastic opinion is YES!! Yes, a thousand times.
The dedication reads,
"This book is dedicated to Alvin Schwartz, for scaring the snot out of generations of young readers. And for making being scared a whole bunch of fun!"

When I thought about this dedication I wondered what it was that actually scared me. Was it the storytelling? Were those very short stories really that creepy to have such a lasting impact on me? The stories are great, for certain, but I honestly believe that the illustrations that accompany each tale are responsible for the nightmare fuel. There was one drawing in particular that my sisters made me promise not to show them (of course I always did):


DON'T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS has illustrations for every story too. Of course, I have to confess, they're nowhere near as scary but this doesn't hinder the reading experience one bit, as far as I'm concerned. Pictures are pictures and having them in horror is a special treat. There are a few exceptions, I don't want to post them here because it's more fun to discover the scary ones for yourself, but I will mention the stories they go with:
THE TALL ONES by Madeleine Roux
THE BOTTLE TREE by Kami Garcia
IN STITCHES by Michael Northrop (this one might be a contender to be on equal footing with that classic image my sisters were scared of)
THE GREEN GRABBER by D. J. MacHale
TAG YOU'RE IT by N. R. Lambert
JINGLE JANGLE by Kim Ventrella

These are all exceptional stories too! And to be quite honest, I didn't think there was a dud in the bunch which almost never happens to me. My favorite aspect is this book is true to the source material; a big variety of tone and style. Some of the stories push boundaries for young readers with some potential "big scares". Other stories play with dark humor and lighter themes. It's my opinion that stories with animals will be a huge hit with younger audiences, DON'T YOU SEE THE CAT by Gaby Triana and THE CRIES OF THE CAT by Josh Malerman stand out as favorites. THE GARAGE by Tananarive Due is an awesome gateway story into zombie fiction. THE GHOST IN SAM'S CLOSET by R. L. Stine reminds me of the more endearing ghost stories kids love. It starts out, "Ghosts have feelings too."
I like that some of the stories will lead grown-ups to have conversations with children after reading these stories together, for example, MUD by Linda Addison will certainly have curious children asking about, "What happened to grandma?" 

I love that.
I love this book.
I will totally Skype with my nieces and nephews and read some of these to them for a Halloween treat so that even if "Halloween is canceled" due to the plague of 2020, at least we can have spooky stories.






31 Days of Halloween Horror 2020