Oh man. Shannon angry.
Yesterday the Summer Reading Club chidlers got to pick a free book as props for cracking the covers all summer long. While herding the chidlers and handing out stamps and "Congratulations!" and "Awesome!" I noticed something truly horrifying in the selection of books:
What the crap!?!
It seems that Brett Helquist is re-illustrating the three Scary Story collections compiled by Alvin Schwartz and originally (and brilliantly) illustrated by Stephen Gammell.
HarperCollins, I love you. Brett Helquist, I love you too. But there's no excuse for this.
Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell are like peanut butter and chocolate. Or Jay-Z and Linkin Park. Or James Marshall and Harry Allard. Together, they are perfection.
I don't know how on earth I missed this. It seems that More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was re-released at the end of August, right when I had a terrible case of food poisoning. In hindsight, my body was likely reacting subconsciously to this loathsome event. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was re-released at the end of July. I don't know what I was doing then, but it must have been important. Scary Stories 3 will be re-released in January 2011. I'll need to find a tree to chain myself to or something.
I've book talked the three Scary Story books more times than I can count - both to groups of kids and in the stacks. Gammell's illustrations always sell it. The thing is, when you tell kids you've got something scary for them, they just don't believe you. I think it's because kids have come to learn that a trusted adult's version of scary usually equals lameness.
But Gammell's style perfectly straddles "safe scary" and "creepy scary." Actually, cancel that. They're just a bit too scary. But just the right amount of a bit. You can't take your eyes off his work. Each drawing is like a perfectly disastrous car crash - you are physically unable to look away. And when you read one of Schwartz's tales out loud to a group, and then reveal Gammell's deliciously scary visual interpretation, the result is gold. We're talking audible gasps, mouths agape, the whole nine.
I'm not saying that Helquist isn't talented. He's mad talented. But in my opinion there was no reason to mess with perfection - even if Stephen Gammell said, "You can't use my pictures anymore. They are too awesome for you to use." If that happened (and maybe it did - what do I know?), there should have been a worldwide moment of silence for these books before they went out of print.
I know there are probably people out there who are in support of this and think it's good to give the ol' books a facelift. I'm sorry, but I am too blinded by anger to hear you out right now. Maybe after I've mellowed out with several glasses of wine and some George and Martha, we can talk.