Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Banned Book Review: More Scary Stories

I can not even tell you how much I loved the Scary Stories books by Alvin Schwartz when I was kid. When I was first looking at books for Banned Book Week I was surprised that one of my beloved childhood books was at the top of the boards for challenged books. I had forgotten exactly what this collection of stories were all about but I remembered LOVING them. I began searching my personal library for any of the series I could find, and behold, I have found one beat-up, much loved copy of More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, author Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell.

I probably spent less than an hour total rereading this book and reliving my childhood. Okay, so yes, the stories and drawings are kind of gross and gruesome but I still kind of loved them. There are mentions of vampires and ware animals, things I am still in to in 20 years later! (See stories "The Window" and "The Cat's Paw.") But there are also morals to the stories, which I'm sure I didn't bother to notice in my youth. Take the story called "Sounds" and "The Curse" for example. You learn you shouldn't break into houses that are not yours. There will be blood and someone might die. In the stories entitled, "Clinkity-Clink" and "The Cat in the Shopping Bag" you learn you shouldn't steal things. A ghost WILL haunt you to get her money back or you will end up toting around a dead cat in a bag, so it is best just not to take things that don't belong to you. In "The Drum" you learn you shouldn't listen to random little gypsy girls about being hateful to your mother because she will pack up and LEAVE you if you are too bad. No drum is worth loosing your mother.
Seriously though, reading these stories this many years later have given me a fresh perspective. I don't have children and I don't think I would want an extremely young child reading this but I think kids around 9 or 10 would get a kick out of it. (Depending on the child, of course!) People are allowed to have a difference of opinion. Just because you don't like something doesn't mean you should be able to take away my choice to read it. Parents are free to censor their own children but it is not your job to sensor everyone else's kids too. If you are concerned about it, YOU read it first and then you make the choice for YOUR child. Not for me or mine. I think parents should take an active role in parenting their own children. Lead by example. And don't make blanket judgements on things you really don't know about or haven't even read.
Which leads me to my last point, a HUGE thank you to my mom. As I looked over the frequently challenged book list, I realized I had read or owned many of the books and acquired many while I was still under her supervision. For example, More Scary Stories was purchased at book fair in elementary school. My mom always encouraged me to read. I don't know if she always liked what I read (or am reading to this day) but she does her best to understand my extreme love of reading. (She also is a reader and I love searching for books I think she will like when I'm on book buying excursions.) The thing is though, I didn't know there was such a thing as Banned Book Week and as a tribute to her parenting skills, I didn't know there was need for such a thing. So thanks again Mama for helping create the reading monster you have here today!

By the way, I'm totally giving More Scary Stories 5 out of 5 stars. Maybe it's nostalgia but this is a book I've managed to keep with me for over 20 years and I still enjoy it. That's gotta count for something! Also, it is pretty cool how at the end the author, Alvin Schwartz, includes his sources. He didn't just make up random stories, these are based, at least to a degree, in documented folklore. Similar stories have been told for hundreds of years in many different languages around the world. I think that's pretty awesome.

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