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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: In a Dark, Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz

Halloween is almost upon us! And like every year, Kate is always challenging me to come up with some classic scares. This year, we’ve seen Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark adapted to the silver screen. Seems only natural to then pull out what I would consider to be Schwartz’s other scary classic for kids. And, oh joy, it’s part of the I Can Read series! What I had not counted on was that in 2017 Harper Collins re-illustrated the series. What to do? Well… why not do both versions? Original illustrator Dirk Zimmer originally hailed from Germany while current illustrator Victor Rivas lives in Barcelona. Who is scarier in the end? Will this be like that time Harper Collins re-illustrated Scary Stories with Brett Helquist instead of Stephen Gammell and the world went mad? Guess you’ll just have to find out for yourself.

Listen to the whole show here on Soundcloud or download it through iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, PlayerFM, or your preferred method of podcast selection.

Show Notes:

  • Here is the book I handed to Kate. I had a feeling she’d dig it.
  • With her natural inclination towards felines, Kate noticed the black cat in the original Zimmer illustrations immediately. Alas, Rivas included only a single kitty in his book, and it’s of a significantly less than realistic variety. Compare:
  • “Boop!”
  • In the course of attempting to determine relative scares, Zimmer may have won this round with the story “The Teeth” if only because a stubbly guy in a trenchcoat is always going to strike you as more sinister than a dandy with a jolly cane.
  • However, on the subject of corpses, Rivas wins this round hands down. Zimmer’s poor fellows just look like they’ve had an awful night on the town and need to catch up on their sleep.
  • For Kate, the scariest part of the story “The Green Ribbon” wasn’t the whole decapitation element. It was the unnamed dolly at the start.
  • “So . . . you’re not going to feed me? Is that the situation here? I’m just making sure.”
  • Ghost V. Ghost . . . aw, heck. It’s not even a contest, is it?
  • However, Zimmer wins the next round. Turns out, what you cannot see can sometimes be scarier than what you can. Particularly when you’re dealing with pirate ghosts:
  • A toast to the man who loved backmatter long before it was cool.

Here are Kate’s Grown-Up Things she liked:

  • I am serious. I LOVE the American Writers Museum of Chicago. No lie. When you all come to Chicago next (and for some of you that will be the next American Library Association conference in June) you must visit it.
  • Finally, here’s is a glimpse of all the books I received from Sourcebooks that I reference at the end of the show:
About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. The Zimmer version both terrified and obsessed my daughter when she was five. Yeah, the head dropping to the floor is a real shocker—doubt that’d get in a picture book today—but the stone-cold bonechiller for wee Odette was that set of large and very YELLOW choppers. Not to mention those red eyes glowing under the fedora’s brim. A real bookslammer page. Do not read this book at bedtime.
    The dead head remains most in my bones, though. A real cake-taker. That was one industrial-strength ribbon, right?