Mark Pellegrini of Adventures in Poor Taste reveals that publisher HarperCollins has replaced Stephen Gammell’s quite literally unforgettable illustrations from Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. (Via Rob Sheridan and io9.) The reason this is a terrible idea is quite easy to grasp: These are the best chlidren’s book illustrations I’ve ever seen. My wife and I are in our mid-30s and came across these books well over two decades ago, yet Gammell’s art (and Schwartz’s strong prose, too, but mostly the art) are so effective that she and I were still discussing them in reverent, slightly panicky tones just a few days ago, well before I’d heard about this ill-advised bowdlerization. When I pulled my Scary Stories Treasury off the bookshelf to show her a particular illustration, she literally made me put it away. That’s how freaked out a grown woman was by Gammell’s art. Which, I suppose, is why HarperCollins is getting rid of it — but it’s also why the books are rightfully considered classics, why they’re worth re-publishing 30 years after their initial release to begin with. I hate to think of generations of children robbed of one of the most intensely pleasurable frightening experiences they’re likely to ever have, in favor of pleasant but toothless “spooky” stuff.
I reviewed the Scary Stories Treasury a couple years ago, and discovered that it had lost none of its power. I advise you to get your hands on the original versions by any means necessary lest you lose the ability to make that same discovery.