In a Dark Dark Room

Dania Chavez, Brimstone Reporter

‘In a Dark Dark Room,’ as the song goes. Is it an early reader book? Early readers are mass-produced children’s books that are specifically written to help children learn to read independently. They come in various levels for children to progress through, and they follow specific formatting rules to help a child along. These rules may include how long or short a line of text should be, the font size, the amount of white space around the text, and the book’s pictures, rather than simply complementing the text, actually need to mirror it.

If you’re a bookseller, librarian, or teacher, you know how quickly this collection can outgrow its shelf space because new books keep coming out, and older titles are still very useful for young readers, even if many of them become a little outdated over time. It’s just my opinion, and it’s just that because of how many books are produced and the format rules, there are relatively few stories and authors that stand out as impactful memorable stories. Of course, Dr. Suess pioneered the practice of making early readers more fun to read, and other standout authors include Arnold Lobel and Mo Willems, and you probably have some favorites as well.

The goal is to create an early reader that is both fun and functional for a child, but back to ‘In a Dark Dark Room,’ Alvin Schwartz managed to translate some pretty scary folklore and urban legends into this format, and he made it age-appropriate for early elementary kids. With the help of his wife, who was a teacher at the time, he followed the rules of an early reader format, but this simplified format is still a wildly successful scary story collection, and to me, it stands alone as a true horror book.

There are gently spooky early readers in this format, but a lot of them are Halloween riffs on popular characters like Amelia Bedialla or the Berenstain Bears. There isn’t much out there for a youngster who enjoys a genuinely strange and truly frightening story, which is unfortunate because spooky stories make excellent narrative sense for an early reader. Every tale in ‘In a Dark Dark Room’ has a strong narrative pull that entices the reader to keep reading, which can aid a novice or developing reader in pushing through the difficult portions. ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ may be Schwartz’s legacy, and it is well deserved, but I believe his masterpiece is ‘In a Dark Dark Room.

“The Green Ribbon”, a short story in the Dark Dark Room, has had a very strong impact on many people. Many youngsters read this book since they are early readers. Schwartz’s talent of transforming dread into children’s literature is also a factor. You were either traumatized or affected as a result of it.The Green Ribbon” is a story between a guy and a girl that begins with a charming love story. Jenny is her name in the Alvin Schwartz adaptation, and she wears a green ribbon around her neck at all times. Alfred, her suitor, is perplexed as to why she wears the green ribbon all the time. She refuses to inform him and says she will when the moment is perfect. Jenny and Alfred marry and have a lovely life together as time passes. The green ribbon remains permanently attached to her neck. Jenny is on her deathbed when Jenny and Alfred are both quite elderly. Alfred wonders whether he can finally figure out why she wears her green ribbon all the time. She claims that he is capable of removing it. When he does, her head falls off.

It’s a delectable story. Many individuals have distinct recollections of this terrifying story scaring and delighting them as children including myself. As one fellow student recalls “It was horrifying! I had to read it in school…”. Given the scary season, this could be the ideal moment to revisit the narrative, relive the anguish this story may have inflicted on you as a child, and experience some good ol’ deja vu.