Sunday, September 06, 2009

haunting shorts

I never got a chance to read Carl's short story post from last Sunday until Friday morning, but when I did, well, I was instantly itching to pick up a couple volumes of scary short stories and hide away in the library for the day. But we had a trip to the local zoo on slate for the day, so that just wasn't an option.

But...I did the next best thing I could think of...I grabbed Scary Stories Treasury to take along with us. This is actually a collection of three books, books in which Alvin Schwartz has collected and retold numerous scary stories from folklore. The stories are rather short, and we all took turns reading them aloud (well, except for Rich, as he was driving). It was really great fun! And we managed to finish the first two sections of the first book. Schwartz called the stories in the first section "jump stories," the kind of stories you can tell your friends and make them jump. Our collective opinion--they were o.k. But the next section contained ghost stories, and these ones we all loved! There was a story about a ghost wolf (Annie's favorite, of course), a story about a mysterious house, a story about a mysterious creature and the aftermath of getting too close to it, a story about lovers torn asunder, and my favorite, a story about a ghost seeking justice for her murder.

The art in this book is by Stephen Gammell. And it is fabulous! Fabulous! It's beautiful and haunting and sometimes downright creepy. But don't take my word for it:

One slight problem. I knew all along that this would be a book we needed to read during the daytime, for no way would Gray ever be able to sleep if we read these at bedtime. Well, turns out the whole "just read them in the daylight" strategy wasn't enough...guess who's had to sleep in the boys room with them the last two nights. Oh well.

Last evening, I decided I really wanted to dive into a nice RIP short just for myself. So I grabbed The Best of Roald Dahl (thanks again, Ana!) off my nightstand and finally cracked it open. But I'm afraid to say that the first story, "Madame Rosette," was a disappointment. In fact, I didn't really like it al all. But it wasn't really fitting for RIP anyway. So today I started the second tale, "Man from the South." Holy was sooooo good!!! And so very, very fitting, with all its delicious creepiness, for RIP. It drops this little bomb near the beginning, and this left me squirming inside and out throught the rest of the story. I was reading as fast as I could to find out how it would turn out, yet by the time I got towards the end, I was afraid to turn the page for fear of what might happen. And no, the ending did not disappoint!

And finally there's Pemba's Song: A Ghost Story by Marilyn Nelson and Tonya C. Hegamin. Which really isn't a short story at all. But I swear that's sort of how it felt. In fact, when I listed this book as a possible RIP read, Eva commented that she wished this book had had more complexity to it. After reading it, I know exactly what she meant by that. I wish this book had been three or four or five times as long as it was. And I wouldn't say that if I didn't like the story. But I did...there was a lot I liked a great deal about this book.

Pemba, a teen forced to move from Brooklyn to the small town of Colchester, CT, is having a tough time. She's had to leave her best friend and her boyfriend behind, and she's not particularly happy with her mom about it all. Pemba feels very authentic to me, and frankly, I adored her. And I felt for her. Because, as if things weren't bad enough, strange things start happening to her. She wakes up in the dusty old attic of their new house and has no clue how she got there, she starts getting horrible headaches, she sees someone else's reflection in an old mirror. And she's afraid to talk to her mom about these things because of what happened after her father died.

I don't want to give away any of the story, so I'll stop there, but I will say this worked well for RIP. It wasn't actually scary, but well, as the title says, it's a ghost story. :D


Amanda said...

My 8 year old has asked to pick up those scary stories by Alvin Schwartz but i know he would be a wreck afterwards so I haven't let him. He already had a hard enough time with Coraline.

Amanda said...

Oh, but I did pick up The House with the Clock in its Walls at HPB today, with Edward Gorey illustrations, to read with the whole family in October.

Chris said...

I used to love the Scary Stories books. they're all so good :) And you're right..the art is amazing! I miss those. Sorry you've had to sleep in the boys room :/ Hope they're at least making it comfortable for you!

And Pemba's Song sounds interesting. Don't know if I'd love it or not...may still try it out though.

I'm wanting some RIP short reads myself...maybe I'll dig into my Du Maurier short story book that someone AWESOME gave me for Christmas :)

Nymeth said...

I love those illustrations, and the book sounds awesome!

And eek, I'm so sorry the first Dahl story was a let down :( I can't remember it at all, which probably says something :P I DO remember Man from the South, though :D It's likely that there are a few other duds I've forgotten about, but the good ones are SO good. I wholeheartedly recommend Lamb to the Slaughter, The Way Up to Heaven, and The Landlady, for starters :P

Debi said...

Amanda,'s my 8-year-old that's having the problems! Really, I should have known better. :(
I so hope you all enjoy The House!!!

Oh, oh, go grab the du Maurier short stories! They are sooooooooooooo damn good!!!!! I absolutely LOVE that book!!!!!

The first one was about these soldiers on leave, who go and "free" these girls who've been forced into prostitution. Only problem is that seems like you're supposed to be cheering on these soldiers, who while they do free the girls from their madame, they made sure they stay available for all the future soldiers on leave. Or maybe I read the whole thing wrong. :/
But the second story was just so, so, so, so, so, soooooo good that I am just dying to read more, more, more!!!! Thanks again, Ana...I can just tell this book is just perfect for the season!

Megan said...

Aw, I used to love Roald Dahl when I was a kid. I'll definitely have to check out that collection!

Staci said...

We read these a few years ago when my nieces and nephew came up for a visit. Loved them!!!!

I can't read really scary stuff before I go to bed either...if I did I would have to call you so you could hold my hand until I dozed off!!

Eva said...

That artwork is AWESOME. I'm so glad you feel the same way about Pemba's Song. :) And you're so right-we wouldn't want a longer story if we didn't enjoy it! Why don't I think to say things like that?!

Nymeth said...

Debi, I don't think you read it wrong. That sounds like something he would write :S It's like I said on my post on The Witches: there's A LOT about Dahl that's..questionable. But the good stuff is so good I can't help but love him.

Carl V. said...

Great review of your short story experience, Debi. I have to admit that I was thinking of you and your family when I wrote my review this morning of my Short Story Sunday experience yesterday. I think you'll understand if you get a chance to read it.

Love those illustrations in the Scary Stories collection. I've meant to pick those up in the past and see now that I really need to.

And yay, you're reading Roald Dahl's adult short stories! He is so talented and his short stories really are a delight.

I'm so glad you all had a family experience with R.I.P. reading this weekend...though I'm sorry for the effects it had on Grey. :)

Vivienne said...

I am wondering if the Roald Dahl ones were the stories that were made into The Tales of the Unexpected. They used to be really spooky to watch on a Saturday night when I was a kid.

I love the artwork from the book. Very spooky!

dolcebellezza said...

There's nothing like Scary Stories...every year I buy a copy for my classroom, and every year it gets stolen. The kids love them, although I'm worried about giving them nightmares. The pictures alone are enough to give you creeps, and the stories certainly live up to 'scary'.

Memory said...

I remember those Scary Stories books from when I was little! The illustrations scared the bejeebies out of me when I was eight or nine. I was also terrified of the vampire that came and peered in the girl's window.