Yes, all three books of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series are great. The stories consists of urban legends and creepy folklore collected by Alvin Schwartz, who did a great job in telling readers where he got the stories from. As scary as his stories were, anyone can tell you that Stephen Gammell's disturbing art, which somehow made it into a book for children, is the greatest part of these books. The way he draws mixes a bit of realism with grotesque depiction, abnormal features and undead/dead creatures bringing dread. His use of ink makes a lot of pictures appear to be dripping with blood.
Those pictures are the reason why I, as a kid, was so afraid to even own the books. Seeing the older kids read them when I was in the first grade, I was convinced these books were the scariest things I ever saw. At the same time, I was drawn to them, and loved being scared by them. Stories of a babysitting job gone wrong, a guy that grinds people up in a meat shop, and some monster that swallows people up in the sea all shook to me to the core.
Out of the three books, my favorite one was the second volume: More Scary Stories. My favorite story is in this volume, a tale about two sisters who happen to meet a gypsy girl with a drum. They will do anything for the drum, which, of course, leads to bad, bad things happening. I also think the creepiest picture Stephen Gammell did for these books is in this story, which shows the girls walking through a forest.
As a kid, I used to wonder... what the hell is that in the tree? It was some weird, random being that just happened to be there, and doesn't appear in the story. Adds to the creep factor of the story altogether, seeing some weird demonic figure lurking over the scene.
The art is the third and final book of the series, along with the stories, seemed more abstract to me (in a good way). There's pictures with floating geometrical shapes, dripping, of course, and amorphous figures. The main stories that stick out to me in the third volume are Maybe You Will Remember, a story of a mother and daughter on a vacation in Paris, and Harold, the story of a scarecrow. In this volume, the paranormal seems so strange and bizarre, beyond explanation and also extremely disturbing.
Unfortunately, there were newer versions of the book made with new art. The art isn't bad... but it's not THE art that makes this book so scary! Scary Stories to Tell from the Dark just isn't the same without Stephen Gammell's art, and the drawings are important in order to get the full effect of dread from the stories.
I recommend hitting YouTube and listening to different readers tell the stories from books. Many of them do a great job, and there have even been independent/hobbyist filmmakers that have made little movies of certain stories, too. I've also heard Guillermo Del Toro has been selected to do a movie on the series, and I can't wait to see how that'll turn out.
Thank you for reading this review. For the next one, I'll explore what is now my current favorite science-fiction book series, Otherland.