20 Bad Books To Give To Young Kids

5 of 21

Illustration by Stephen Gammell for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Image via Harper)

17. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and its predecessors were exchanged almost like currency in my elementary school. Library copies of the book were almost always checked out, and you could count on seeing at least one kid reading it somewhere on campus. I myself read the stories over lunch, which turned out to be a poor decision. To this day, I’ll never look at baloney the same way again.

I refer specifically to the editions illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Though the tales collected and adapted by Alvin Schwartz are plenty terrifying on their own, the pictures accompanying them elevate the whole affair to something truly frightening.

I’m aware that more recent editions do away with the Gammell illustrations. Those version are okay, I guess, but you need the originals to get the full effect. The surreal images almost seemed as if they were lifted directly from my nightmares. Many others who read these books at a formative age would agree.

The three books in the Scary Stories series are among the most challenged books in the U.S. While I’m generally against banning books in any form, I can empathise with the challengers to these collections. If I were a less creepy kid, or one that was more prone to nightmares, my parents might have complained, too.