Nightmares – Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller
Imprint: Corgi Childrens
Extent: 368 pages
Charlie Laird has several problems.
1. His dad married a woman he is sure moonlights as a witch.
2. He had to move into her purple mansion, which is NOT a place you want to find yourself after dark.
3.He can’t remember the last time sleeping wasn’t a nightmarish prospect. Like even a nap.
Charlie is eleven years old and not very happy. In fact, he’s exhausted and constantly terrified by the awful nightmares he has night after night. Ever since his mum died and his dad remarried, Charlie’s life has become worse by the day – or so it seems to him. Even at school, there seems to be no escape because despite the fact that his long-time friends still stick by him, they are all being menaced by the horrendously scary new principal.
Gradually, Charlie discovers that it is not just his dreams that are being taken over and in fact, the whole of Cedar Creek is in danger of becoming lost to the real world forever.
Facing fears is never easy but Charlie does this with the help of not only his Cedar Creek friends but also some newly acquired Netherworld friends when he crosses through the portal between waking and dreaming for real.
Spooky enough to be exciting, but not in any sense graphic or nasty, this is a super book for children to respond to about their own fears. The humour throughout moderates the suspense and the reader is able to explore themes such as friendships, support and solidarity, grief/loss, being judgemental and accepting differences.
Aside from the obvious aspect of frightening nightmares, it is also a wonderful opportunity to examine the ‘fear’ of a new step-parent and changes in the family dynamic. Charlie could not have been more wrong about his ‘step-monster’ Charlotte and discovers for himself that sometimes it is easy to misinterpret the actions and appearances of others.
Multi-talented Jason Segel says he also had nightmares as a child and this was one of his motivations for writing this novel for middle-school kids – the first in a proposed trilogy.
Highly recommended for readers of about 9 years and up. Visit the Nightmares website here for activities, videos and more information.