Tuesday, April 3, 2012

In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories

Schwartz, Alvin. In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. Illustrated by Dirk Zimmer. Harper and Row, 1984. 63 pages. $3.99. ISBN 0064440907.


Ready for a good scare? Do you need a book to give you the shivers? This collection of seven stories and verses, retold by Schwartz, include the spooky, scary, and downright creepy, with a little bit of humor thrown in. In the Foreward, Schwartz says: “Most of us like scary stories/ because we like feeling scared./ When there is no real danger,/ feeling scared is fun.” The first story, “The Teeth,” features a young boy who is returning home in the dark. He asks a man on the street for the time; the man tells him and grins. When the reader turns the page, s/he is in for the same sort of scare as the young boy: a gruesomely grinning, very toothsome individual! The tension continues to build, as the boy hurries home and continues to meet creepy fellows with progressively bigger teeth. The illustrations are suitably spooky, with a funny detail on the final page of the story: as the boy runs home, there is a large billboard for toothpaste behind him. Other stories are humorous, such as the verse “In the Graveyard.”

Curriculum Connections:

Lots of children like scary stories for just the reasons Schwartz cites in his Foreward. These are perfectly leveled for early readers who are looking for something a little different from the usual Frog and Toad (Lobel) and Mr. Putter and Tabby (Rylant). These are all folktales and could make a good addition to a folk and fairy tale unit.

Personal Reflections:

Schwartz includes mostly “background-as-source notes” in the back matter of the book (“Where the Stories Come From”) (Horning, 2010). Though a few stories are attributed to a source, most are similar to this example: “’In a Dark, Dark Room’ is known in England and America.”


ALA Notable Children’s Book, 1985 (EBSCO Industries, 2012).

Age/Interest Range:


Ghost Stories, Scary Stories, Folktales


There are a couple of early reader folktale books, but not on the spooky theme: Digger Pig and the Turnip (Cohen) and Chicken Little (Jones).

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