Eerie Tales from the School of Screams

First Second. Jul. 2023. 368p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781250195043.
Gr 6 Up–Oscar-nominated Annable brings readers into an uneasy, adventurous world with his latest graphic novel. The book opens in the classroom of Ms. Nomed, who is encouraging her students to tell spooky stories at the front of the room. Students seem reticent as they introduce tales of dismembered bodies, spiteful fish-men, alien possession, and more. Dynamic paneling emphasizes frightened expressions, foreboding tableau, and “it’s right behind you!” moments. Annable employs a muted palette primarily of brown and green hues with chalk-style linework reminiscent of ChalkZone and Captain Underpants—but these stories shift quickly from whimsical to sinister. The unassuming cartoon style couches frightening concepts in sweet art, and the final entry gives way to a delightfully upsetting twist with a grim, unresolved conclusion. Most illustrations aren’t too explicit or violent (though one story has depictions of physical and verbal child abuse), but some scary-gross faces and dark themes mean younger readers may benefit from adult consultation first.
VERDICT No blood, minimal gore, but these effectively unnerving tales will stick with horror fans long after the book’s end. Highly recommended for juvenile graphic novel collections.

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