In Review: Mary McScary

The perfect book for little ones to see a dastardly little girl try to scare her cousin.

Mary McScary by R.L. Stine, illustrated by Marc Brown

Published by Scholastic on August 29, 2017. Hardcover of 32 pages at $16.99. Intended for readers aged 4 – 8. 

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: Two doors are opened by the title character, Mary McScary, who looks at the reader in eager anticipation of doing something very, very bad. This illustration by Marc Brown sets the tone for the young readers this book is designed for. She not’s scary looking here, but looks very bad, and every child longs to see how bad another child can be. The title and credits fall just below Mary’s feet. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the inside front cover, “Meet Mary McScary! She doesn’t say boo. She says BOOOOOOO! Mary scares everyone. But can Mary scare her fearless cousin, Harry? Mary pulls out all her scariest tricks. But nothing quite works — until Mary has a very scary idea…” This nicely sums up who Mary is and her goal. What cousin doesn’t want to frighten their younger family members? With Stine writing and Brown illustrating, I’m in! Overall grade: A 

The characters: Mary takes delight in frightening the tar out of her father, her mother, dogs, and even goldfish. Heck, she even scares balloons! Her goal is to scare everyone all the time. When cousin Harry is coming tomorrow and never been frightened by Mary before, she says to herself, “Today is the day I will finally scare Harry. I can’t wait to make him SCREAM!” What follows is Mary trying to scare her cousin in every possible way. There’s nothing ghastly involved the scares, just the typical creatures that kids, not to mention adults, are frightened of: spiders, snakes, gorillas, and hippos — Don’t ask how she got the last pair. Stine knows how to build suspense, even for these young readers, and the anticipation at Harry’s fright is great. Better are his reactions to the critters, which are hilarious. Overall grade: A

The conclusion: The lack of screams from Harry results in Mary having to do the most terrifying to get him to holler. It will make little ones howl in delight and make adults remember when such an action would make them scream as well when they were that young. A very funny story with the perfect ending. Overall grade: A+

The illustrations: If you never had the Arthur books read to you or read them to a little one, you’ve missed out. Marc Brown’s illustrations are gorgeous. His character and set designs are wonderful and the colors are gorgeously bright. Mary’s introduction to the reader is with her mouth open screaming her long BOO! Look at the cat’s reaction behind her to such clamor, the fun mouse peaking out of her pocket, and the delicious Halloween colors on the BOO. What Mary does at the table to scare her mother and father is more naughty than scary, but the visuals are enough to make a young one envious at her audaciousness. Harry’s introduction is an image that looks suitable on a postcard, making him the perfect victim. The creatures that Mary releases, especially the spiders, are the cutest things you’ve ever seen, though Harry’s reactions to the beasties are equally charming. The action that Mary takes to finally make the boy scream is hilarious. Brown’s images are the perfect match for the scares. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The perfect book for little ones to see a dastardly little girl try to scare her cousin. I can see this being a book that will demand repeated readings from children, so that they can live vicariously through this orange haired terror. This is the perfect purchase for Halloween. Recommended. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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