The final book in the You Read to Me Series, You Read To Me, I’ll Read To You, Very Short Scary Stories to Read Together, turned out not to be the final book…. To date we have finished one more – due out late Fall 2010, about Aesop Tales, and another under contract for 2011-2012 on Tall Tales. But Scary Tales is one of the books that means a lot to me because it was done because it was written “for me”. It was one day Mary Ann and I were sitting around, I think it was in San Antonio, Texas, by the river, not in the town, but outside, where the mansions are, and we were talking about what to do next and I just thought – Monsters. Teeth. Horns. Ugly.
I had done trolls for her. Apes. Wolves. Alligators. Bears. Even tough looking dogs… but I wanted a whole book of these
things to draw. It may be the little boy in me or just the freedom monsters give to your imagination. Whatever, I asked for them, she delivered. I also asked for something else
that day but it never ending up inspiring her to write anything – Toy stories. Not the Pixar one, just poems about toys, or take-offs on toy stories, like the Tin Soldier, Winnie the Pooh, the Nutcracker, The Mouse and his Child. But mostly I was thinking about poems/stories about stuffed animals, dolls, doll houses, wind-up tin toys, sleds, cars, trains, …Anyway, I got my monsters.
The theme of identity or specifically hiding it, runs throughout this book (and also features heavily in the follow up book about Aesop Tales). Masks and Costumes hide identity, and give freedom. For example, the opening sequence, depicts two kids in Halloween monster masks at the start of the poem, that gradually end up becoming “real” monsters by the end of the poem.
The “Trick or Treat” poem, shows little monsters dressed as more human demons or evil clowns (the scariest!). The adult “people” answering the door are wearing masks that hide their true identity as well. One of these turns up in the “Zombie” poem, in which the two zombies don human masks to go out in public, but they are really quite obviously freaky and frightening even as they try to hide who they really are.
Most of the poems as well, whether because of the short length and dialogue format, or Mary Ann’s personal touch, are usually about two characters trying to explain who they are. Often it’s because they are meeting the other for the first time. We are good, bad, happy, sad, weird, scary, goulish, frightened, hungry.
“People scatter When they see us, Not a person Wants to be us.
We are hated, We are feared, Well, admit it, We are weird.”
And I like the subversive tone monsters and Halloween allow –
“A ghoul robs graves in dark of night.
– That must be a scary sight.
It gets worse! Why I grow fat, by eating corpses.
– Think of that!”
“Eat you? Never! What a waste! Well-fed tots are to my taste.”
And one of my favorite lines, from one of my favorite uglies in the book – “the Ghoul” –
— “It’s tastier with something dead.”—