The stories in this third volume of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series are definitely a step up from the second volume, and include a handful of stories that are on par with the first. They’re a little more advanced, too — a little longer and a little more complex, but still great for kids. My favorite is “Maybe You Will Remember,” a story about a girl on vacation with her mother in Paris when her mother falls ill and the girl is sent by the hotel doctor to fetch medicine for her. But when she returns, no one at the hotel recognizes her, no one, including the doctor, remembers her mother, and the hotel room they were staying in looks completely different. There’s an air of Robert Aickman’s “strange stories” to this one — that is, until Alvin Schwartz posits a rational explanation involving a city-wide conspiracy, which saps all the fun. Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are more on point than ever in this volume, perhaps the best he’s done for the series. Some of them are truly frame-worthy.
I’m very glad I finally got to read these books, even if I came to them forty years too late. It’s a treat to read the stories that were so formative for so many of my friends. On a more academic level, it’s interesting to see what scares young readers compared to what scares adult readers. There’s not a lot of atmosphere or detail to these stories, for example, but there are lots jump-scare climactic surprises and recurring tropes like cemeteries, unexplained noises, and vengeful spirits looking for items that were stolen from them. I will leave what this might mean up to greater minds than my own. All in all, I found reading Schwartz’s trilogy to be a charming and rewarding exercise.