About a year ago, my eldest daughter brought a book home from the school library called Tell Me A Scary Story… But Not TOO Scary!. We read it at home and really enjoyed it. It was truly a scary story — but not TOO scary for even my youngest. And when I discovered that it had been written by Carl Reiner, a 12-time Emmy-winner, writer, producer, director, comedian, and actor… I was suitably impressed!
Writing for kids isn't as easy as it sounds. And engaging their imaginations seems to be the key. Reiner seems to have found that secret — telling the kids just enough to let their minds fill in the rest. That's really the trick to any good scary story in my mind.
The first Tell Me A Scary Story… was in the spirit of a classic Sesame Street board book with Grover called The Monster at the End of This Book written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smolin. Grover begs the reader not to turn the pages, for the monster may be too scary — but the kids have to find out who the monster is, of course!
As with all things, eventually we forgot about the book. But now there's a sequel coming! Tell Me Another Scary Story… But Not TOO Scary! picks up right where the last one ended, with a little boy heading off to visit his neighbor — Mr. Neewollah. Mr. Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards) makes scary masks and costumes for scary Halloween movies and was making a special scary costume for the little boy this year.
The boy is a bit older this time, and Mr. Neehwollah calls him on the phone and asks if he could come to his house for a hamburger and to show him the scary Halloween costume he'd made. And that's when the scary story begins… And Mr. Reiner gives plenty of chances for youngsters who think it's too scary to turn back and close the book. My two daughters just smiled and said, "Let's keep reading!"
Unlike the last book, which was focused on having kids see that not everything that appears scary is scary, this one has a slightly different lesson. As the young protagonist discovers, remembering the three numbers 9-1-1, when dealing with a real-life scary situation, can be the difference between life and death. Though I agree with the lesson, I had to wonder if it was a bit heavy-handed for a Halloween book meant for young preschool and early elementary-school kids.
James Bennett, the illustrator, did another amazing job on the artwork for this book. His exaggerated expressions, from horror-movie angles, and entertaining close-ups really made this a fun book to look at, not just read. And included with the book is a bonus CD with Reiner reading his story with a few special effects added for good measure. Again, the audio version is scary — but not too scary — for everybody involved.
Tell Me Another Scary Story… But Not TOO Scary! by Carl Reiner will now most likely become a yearly tradition at my house, at least until the girls outgrow it (hopefully not too soon). It arrives on bookshelves on September 29, 2009 — in plenty of time for Halloween reading in homes around the world. This book is a perfect choice to sit down and read with your kids. Who knows? You might enjoy it just as much as they do!