R.L. Stine's Mary McScary Analyzed Too Deeply

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Mary McScary by R.L. Stine and Marc Brown

The chillmeister behind the insanely successful GOOSEBUMPS franchise adds another entry to the kid lit shelves next August, and while it's not superficially scary, one might be horrified if one reads it too often and tries to make it political. Which is exactly what I'm going to attempt to do, so be prepared to be "woke" as the hip kids are saying these days.

MARY MCSCARY, illustrated by Marc Brown, is all about the titular little girl who lives to scare. Well, if your name was Mary McScary, wouldn't you? She scares her parents. She scares her pets. And she has access to the most amazing things to use for scaring, including (apparently) an entire zoo of wild animals at her disposal.

The thing that bothers Mary is that there is one person she cannot scare: her cousin, Harry McScary. Everything she throws at him he takes with humor and aplomb. It irritates her. Until finally she hits on the one thing she hasn't tried. Feigning defeat, she offers to make up with Harry -- with a kiss.

And that sends him screaming.

The pictures are adorable, and -- on its face -- the story is timeless. Little boys are always afraid of getting cooties from girls, so it makes sense, right?

And yet...

And yet what we have here is a strong female character who is at the top of her game in her chosen profession (scaring people), who has to resort to -- let's say "feminine wiles" given the age of the players -- in order to achieve her ultimate goal. Is that really the message? When all else fails, kiss up, flirt, and violate the Human Resources policies handed down at your company? STEM proponents and feminists, unite and fume: it's time to get triggered and march!

(I warned you where I was going when this started.)

Now, prying my tongue from my cheek, I'll say that MARY MCSCARY is a cute little read from Orchard Books (an imprint of Scholastic) that will make all little kids giggle throughout, and make them all cringe at the ending (for their own reasons, depending on gender). You'll probably want to pick it up -- and just in time for the influx of this year's Halloween titles, too!

4.0 / 5.0