Mary McScary takes her name very seriously, but will she manage to scare her unscarable cousin Harry?
The cover illustration embodies Mary’s personality: flaming red hair in braided pigtails, an obviously unique sense of style, and quirked mouth and slanted eyebrows signaling her determination. Even the white girl’s stance speaks volumes: arms flung out to open a set of double doors, legs widely spaced. The thought of tangling with Mary might bring to adult readers’ minds the boy from O. Henry’s “Ransom of Red Chief.” Indeed, Mary lives to scare, and she practices her art on her family members and pets at every opportunity. But she has yet to scare Harry, who has come for a visit. Will her hairiest monster costume work? A gorilla or jarful of spiders? What about snakes or a hippo? All fail. But just when Harry believes Mary’s pronouncement that she’s quit, she turns to him to admit defeat and puckers up. That sends him running away screaming! Brown’s illustrations just may be the bane of parents everywhere, as they are a trove of ideas for mischief-making young readers. Mary’s cat is especially expressive, and adults will chuckle at some of the artwork on the wall.
Readers should indeed heed Stine’s repeated refrain and “Beware of Mary McScary!” (Picture book. 3-7)