Monday, September 27, 2010

In Honor of Banned Books Week 2010

In Honor of Banned Books Week 2010, I have decided to dedicate this entry to the topic of scary stories and folklore. Specifically, two authors that I really love who have written unique books in this field, one of whom has been on the top ten Banned Books list compiled by the ALA for several recent (and not so recent) years. These two authors are Alvin Schwartz and Daniel Cohen.

Alvin Schwartz has written many collections, including the often challenged Scary Stories collection as well as other collections on folklore, such as Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat. The Scary Stories are a three-volume set that includes Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and More Tales to Chill Your Bones. In the Dewey Decimal System, these stories are usually in the 398 range and let me tell you, this was a very popular section and these stories were almost always checked out. Not only are they unique and scary, but there are also some that are funny and strange. The illustrations do even more to scare you, and some stories are so short that it leaves you wondering, "What happened?" But that is part of what makes some of these stories so good. Probably the most terrifying for me is one titled "Harold." I won't go into detail and spoil the story for those who have not read it, but, well, you'll see when you read it.

When I first obtained the collection (I was so lucky and got a boxed set for only $7 dollars) I sat in my living room reading it the entire afternoon, and as the sun began to set and I advanced through the books, I did begin to feel chills and, I'll admit, I began to get scared. These stories are definitely worth checking out, not only because they are so unique in content and illustration, but because Alvin Schwartz really did a lot of work in compiling these stories. These stories were the #1 most challenged books for the 1990-2000 decade, and are still challenged today.

Daniel Cohen is also a folklore/horror writer, and also writes books on other subjects such as science. When I was in elementary school, I checked out a book by Daniel Cohen titled The Headless Roommate and Other Tales of Terror, and it scared me so much! The stories were so good, and I really wanted that book. Some of the stories in The Headless Roommate are ones we have maybe heard before, such as "The Babysitter" and "The Hook." Cohen's writing is not only interesting but also suspenseful, and the illustrations add to the suspense, partly because they are very realistic.

Some of the stories in the book I had never heard before, and have never heard since, so I felt that I really had to get a copy of the book before it became even more hard-to-find. Sadly they don't sell it regularly at stores anymore, but you can find it used usually on websites such as Barnes and Noble, eBay, or Amazon. (eBay has one right now that's $150, because the person putting it up for auction says it is a first edition 1980 copy). I actually recently bought a copy from eBay for a little less than $7 and although the seller wrote it was in "Acceptable" condition, I would definitely call the condition of the book "Good" at least. It is in really good condition, and I feel so lucky to have gotten it for that price.

While researching Daniel Cohen, I found that he has a book called Curses, Hexes, and Spells. Part of the book discusses legendary curses in certain families, including royal families. I LOVE reading about royal families, so I have been searching for the book since, and am hoping to be able to either find it at a library or find it online. Curses, Hexes, and Spells was the 73rd most challened book for 1990-2000.

Source for the image of The Headless Roommate.

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