As a kid, I loved spooky stories; not much has changed. I’m still a horror fanatic. I still like grim tales with ghosts or monsters, and I especially love to be surprised by a smart, creepy thriller. Enter Graham Annable and his new middle-grade horror graphic, Eerie Tales from the School of Screams—this year’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. This is the horror comic of my childhood dreams…or maybe nightmares?
Reminiscent of Alvin Schwartz and Edward Gorey while remaining wholly original, the tales here are built around the framework of a classroom where children are bid to tell their eeriest tales. It opens with an overly cheerful teacher—Ms. Nomed—encouraging each of her students to tell “the eeriest story you have!”.
Siblings Davis and Emily are reluctant—and here, Anable does a fantastic job showing a range of emotions from glee (Ms. Nomed) to fear (Davis and Emily) on each of his googly-eyed characters’ faces. Instead of coming forward with their own stories, the siblings eye their teacher suspiciously as classmate after classmate volunteers to tell another tale. The stories range widely in horror subgenres. Readers are treated to folk horror, sci-fi horror, and more in the School of Screams.
Each child’s story is paced to build on our mounting unease around what is really happening in Ms. Nomed’s strange classroom. The use of color is minimal, mostly two-toned, giving the whole book the feel of a classic creature feature.
Annable is a cartoonist and animator with multiple award nominations under his belt, including an Oscar nomination in 2015 for The Boxtrolls. It makes sense that his stories would feel cinematic. There is no actual gore on the page but plenty of spooky images to haunt readers long after they shut the book: dismembered heads that talk, tentacled aliens, and upside-down headed demons.
Davis and Emily’s classmates and the characters in their stories appear racially diverse. Trigger warnings for the second story, ‘The Face in the Forest’ which features emotional abuse and implied physical abuse.
Recommended for kids who like their stories a little weird and scary, but not too scary. The publisher’s recommended reading age is 8-12 but kids who are easily spooked should be cautioned—this book has some truly unsettling stories and illustrations that will stick with you.
Eerie Tales from the School of Screams Vol.
By Graham Annable
Art by Graham Annable
Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)