Friday, October 31, 2014

Middle-Grade Review: Nightmares!

I don’t usually read books by celebrity authors, especially since it’s become “the thing to do” for celebrities to publish kids’ books. But I was looking for a good spooky audio book for October, and I’d heard Jason Segel talking about his new middle-grade novel on the Today show. It sounded perfect for the season, so I gave it a try. Nightmares! By Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller surprised me. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this spooky middle-grade novel and thought the authors did a great job of portraying kids and getting into their heads (and their dreams).

Charlie Laird is twelve years old, and he and his little brother, Jack, have lived in Cypress Creek their whole lives. Their mom died three years ago, and Charlie is having an especially hard time adjusting to life without her. His father recently remarried Charlotte and moved the whole family into the giant, purple mansion that has been in Charlotte’s family for generations. It’s the creepiest place in town, and ever since they moved in three months ago, Charlie’s had such terrible nightmares that he’s hardly slept at all.

In fact, Charlie’s nightmares don’t even feel like dreams; they seem real to Charlie. To make matters worse, he is starting to suspect that his new stepmother might be a witch. Charlie’s best friends – athletic Rocco, brainy Alfie, and dainty Paige – can see that Charlie’s not doing well, and they’re worried about him. But Charlie would feel silly admitting what’s really going on – that his bad dreams feel real and he might be living with a witch. When Charlie’s nightmares begin to take over his life and become more real, he needs all the help he can get from his friends to save not only his own life but also the whole town.

I loved the imagination in this novel, as well as its perfect depiction of the lives and anxieties of typical middle-school age kids. Segel and Miller have absolutely nailed the real-life aspects of being a kid (no surprise since Segel also recently wrote and starred in a Muppet movie!). Just as Segel explained on the Today show, the book is just the right amount of scary for readers this age – creepy and spooky without being too frightening. As is appropriate for this age, the kids are victorious in the end and overcome their fears.

I just looked at the paper book online (see the Amazon link below), and it looks great, with lots of fun illustrations, but I absolutely loved listening to this one on audio. Jason Segel reads it himself and, as a professional actor, does a spectacular job with all the voices, kids and villains alike. Overall, it’s a thoroughly entertaining, spooky novel perfect for middle-grade readers and would be great to listen to on a family trip…and especially this time of year!

368 pages, Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Listening Library

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