Vagabond Librarians Day Last: Scary Stories to Tell IN THE LIBRARY

(Ed: In honor of the imminent end of our own scary story Attack of the Mold! we present this discussion of a frightfully frequently banned book)

Warning: Creepy images ahead!

The Scary Stories series, written by Alvin Schwartz, has been creeping out kids with its spooky stories since 1981; which officially makes it older than me. The books are a collection of creepy urban legends that often end violently. But the real draw of the books is the grotesque illustrations by Stephen Gammell).


Isn’t she a pretty lady?

The books took the top spot on the ALA’s list of the most frequently challenged books from 1990-1999, and seventh place on the list of most challenged books 2000-2009.

In 1990, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” was challenged in the Livonia, MI schools because the poems were thought to frighten first grade children. Written by Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, “Scary Stories” was followed by “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones.” All three titles have been challenged due to objections about the content and illustrations for children. (ALA’s amazing Banned Books Timeline)

Miriam Downey, a retired librarian, faced a parent challenging Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark in her elementary school library.

The superintendent came to me again, took me into the back room of the library and tried to reason with me. He told me that there were thousands of books in my library; why would I risk my career over one book. I told him that this was a book that could face down a challenge because of its provenance, and that I was willing to defend it. (The Cyberlibrarian Reads)

Recently, Scary Stories celebrated their 30th anniversary. The publisher chose to mark the milestone by putting out a new edition – with new illustrations by Brett Helquist (who you may know as the guy who did the art for A Series of Unfortunate Events).

Remember our friend from before?


Yeah, her. Well, now she looks like this:


And you have to wonder how much the publisher was influenced by the series’ frequent bannings – due in part to the weird, wonderful, and horrifying illustrations.

To end, here’s a video of a librarian reading The Viper from Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark:

-Signing off, Mr. Gette (who needs to go check out what that scratching noise is by the window)

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