I love world mythology and folklore, so books like this are right up my alley. I super appreciate how Wendy Shearer and Teo Georgiev cover all the inhabited continents and draw out lesser-known scary stories from each corner of the planet, with a little extra bit about more famous tales to round out the experience for young readers.
And this is very much a book aimed at young readers. Any scares are inevitably blunted by a moral that often skews toward the traditional happily ever after ending. There is precious little examination of the plausible reasonings, anthropological or otherwise, that popularized these stories. And that’s fine! It’s a book for middle-grade readers, and just bringing so much diversity into one volume for that audience, no matter how sanitized, is already an accomplishment in itself.
While the stories themselves might be on the tame side, there’s no denying the wild grandeur of Teo Georgiev’s art throughout. His monsters are scary and his tableaux of their encounters with people suitably atmospheric. Whether depicting a Haudenosaunee woman fleeing a vampire skeleton with her baby in the snow or a band of Yanomami hunters crossing a rickety bridge while monstrous Aun Pana lurk in the waters below, his depictions are perfect for each tale, lending extra frissons of fear that may be missing from the story itself.
My only real quibble with the layout was actually the odd choice to use pull quotes as part of the flow of text, and not as separate emphases gracing, say, the pictures in lieu of captions. I’m used to skipping pull quotes as they almost uniformly repeat text, so it was weird having to catch myself each time and go back to read them in order to gain important information I wouldn’t find elsewhere in the book.
Anyway, this is a super pretty, not too scary collection of ghost and monster stories from the world over. It highlights lesser known tales and is worthwhile for that alone, but really ought to be appreciated for Mr Georgiev’s magnificent work.
Spooky Stories Of The World by Wendy Shearer & Teo Georgiev was published September 26 2023 by Lonely Planet and is available from all good booksellers, including