Image: A small house sits in the woods at night. A full moon shines above, forming the eye of a howling wolf with large fangs. The wolf's fur fades into the clouds above the house. Text: "Tales from the Fringes of Fear. Jeff Szpirglas. Illustrated by Steven P. Hughes."

KidLit Book Review: Tales from the Fringes of Fear by Jeff Szpirglas and Steven P. Hughes


Synopsis

Most kids don’t have to stress about things like exotic insects with a taste for human flesh when they go to class. But students at this school have to be ever vigilant. You never know when a supernatural pastry or a clay monster bent on revenge might be lurking just around the corner. Even a simple field trip to a local animal sanctuary can have ssserious consequences.

Dragged fresh from the grave and pulled out of the haunted corners of a school locker, these thirteen new stories are a nod to the storytelling style of Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone. They are guaranteed to make you laugh like a hyena, shake your head in wonder, or tremble with fear.


Details

  • Title: Tales from the Fringes of Fear
  • Author: Jeff Szpirglas
  • Illustrator: Steven P. Hughes
  • Cover Artists: Steven P. Hughes, art; Dahlia Yuen, design
  • Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
  • ISBN: 145982458X
  • Publication Date: April 21, 2020
  • For Ages: 9-12
  • Category: Middle Grade
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? ☠️ Scary.

I’d like to thank Orca Book Publishers for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.


Review

Tales from the Fringes of Fear is a stellar middle grade horror anthology filled with spine-chilling short stories and illustrations that manage to be age-appropriate while still frightening readers of all ages. With squirm-inducing body horror, dystopian science fiction, clever monster tales, and tightly crafted ghost stories, this anthology is a terrific addition to any horror fan’s bookshelf.

Image: A black-and-white illustration shows two boys sitting down with the light from a TV screen illuminating them from the front. A man stands behind them; the top half of his body is distorted like a staticky VHS tape.

The stories range widely in subject matter, with fresh takes on a variety of popular horror subgenres, but there’s a strong consistency of tone and quality. Author Jeff Szpirglas maintains a delicious sense of dread throughout and displays an affinity for ironic Tales from the Crypt-style endings. The illustrations are sparing, with just one full illustration per story, but they are effective: the black-and-white art gets under your skin and brilliantly enhances the terror of each story. Artist Steven P. Hughes achieves incredible light effects, creating stark contrast between the eerie glow of a television set or a computer screen and the inky shadows where unseen doom awaits the protagonists (and possibly the reader as well!). Hughes even works in a clever reference to John Carpenter’s The Thing, which older horror fans will appreciate.

Image: A black-and-white illustration shows a man in half profile; part of his body seems to be made up entirely of snakes with glowing eyes.

I’m eager for more spooky stories from both Szpirglas and Hughes; luckily for me, this collection is billed as a companion volume to Tales from Beyond the Brain, which I plan to check out very soon. Tales from the Fringes of Fear will have readers of all ages looking for monsters under the bed, in the hallways at school, behind the walls, and even inside themselves. This frightening, darkly fun anthology is perfect kids’ horror.


Rating

This is what I look for in my middle grade horror. I give this book 5 out of 5 coffins.

5 Coffins


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