Tales to Keep You Up at Night

 
4.7 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
106 0
Tales to Keep You Up at Night
Author(s)
Age Range
10+
Release Date
August 16, 2022
ISBN
978-0593387474
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Amelia is cleaning out her grandmother's attic when she stumbles across a book: Tales to Keep You Up at Night. But when she goes to the library to return it, she's told that the book never belonged there. Curious, she starts to read the stories: tales of strange incidents in nearby towns, of journal entries chronicling endless, twisting pumpkin vines, birthday parties gone awry, and cursed tarot decks. And at the center of the stories lies a family of witches. And witches, she's told, can look like anyone...
 
As elements from the stories begin to come to life around her, and their eerie connections become clear, Amelia begins to realize that she may be in a spooky story of her own...

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Story-within-a-story for the horror crowd
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Amelia and her brother Winter are bored hanging out at their grandmother's house while their moms clean it out and ready it for sale. Amelia loved her grandmother, and she feels that not keeping the house is admitting that her grandmother, who disappeared a year ago, isn't coming back. It's odd that no one talks about the fact that her grandfather had also gone missing under similar circumstances. When Amelia finds an old library book in the attic, she decides to return it. At the nearby public library, she meets Mrs. Bowen, the librarian, who says the book isn't from that library, but invites Amelia to read. Amelia has vague memories of her grandmother with the book, but also remembers a scrawled note at the front telling her not to read the book, but that is gone. When she gets a few stories in, she realizes that one of the families in the book is Bowen, but when she asks the librarian, she finds she was mistaken, and her name is Brown. The tales, starting with Moll's Well, about a woman whose healing powers are considered witchcraft so she is put to death and her accuser takes her property, outline the retribution that Moll's family took on different people who had mistreated them. And they are creepy tales, indeed. A girl who babysits is surprised that the family's grandmother is upstairs, and takes her a drink of water, only to find when the parents return that there is no grandmother. A group of teens summon "Baby Witch". Tarot cards go terribly wrong. The more stories Amelia reads, the more she starts to realize that elements of the stories are coming to life in her world! When Winter comes to the library to be read to, this becomes even more apparent, and I am now never going to grow pumpkins in my garden! Amelia finds out some clues to the past, and tries unsuccessfully to get rid of the book. Is the book her destiny? Is she going to be the one who writes more stories? Most importantly, will there be a sequel that tells us more about her grandmother?
Good Points
The formatting of this book really helps. The chapters detailing Amelia's story start with a charming page decoration, and are in a modern font while the chapters of Tales to Keep You Up at Night have a creepy border, older style font, and a darker paper, so its easy to keep the two separate parts clear. The tales of Moll's descendant's retribution are very skillfully woven into the threads of Amelia's life. The format gives Poblocki a lot of space to explore many different tales and ways of telling them, including one story in second person. It's hard to find examples of that perspective! Winter is a good addition and grounds Amelia in the real world even as the supernatural crowds into her life. This is another winner from Poblocki, and cements his status as an established middle grade horror writer.

The grandmother and grandfather were really rather interesting, and I just wanted more information about what happened to them. I sort of hoped they would reappear.

I'm a long time fan of Poblocki's work, but prefer his books that verge on Young Adult, like Liar's Room, The Ghost Hunter's Daughter, and The Ghost of Graylock. This new title is more like the Shadow House series and would be a great addition to an elementary library as well as middle school ones, especially where story-within-a-story books like Nance's Daemon Hall, Kerr's The Most Frightening Story Ever Told, and West's Long Lost are popular.
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There are many ways a story can echo through life.
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The story centers around an old, tattered library book titled Tales to Keep You Up at Night that Amelia finds in her grandmother’s attic. The book contains a collection of eerie stories beginning with Moll Bowen, a 90-year-old woman using a stiff, leather-bound book with yellowed pages to help her neighbors. Moll’s Well is said to have the purest, sweetest water anywhere, and she uses it to complete the recipes within the book’s pages, although Judge Turner sentences her to death for practicing witchcraft. This event becomes the catalyst for future tales surrounding the book and the well. Adding to the mystery, Amelia’s last name is Turner, and the librarian’s last name is Bowen.
Much of the book is comprised of creepy short stories that seem to be unrelated. However, the names in the stories should become familiar, and Amelia finally discovers connections, even though they’re very improbable. The stories describe witches that can appear as anyone, giant golem-like creatures wandering the forest, pumpkin vines seeking to kill, and other dangers that lurk in the night. The variety of tales will keep readers engaged and wondering where the plot is headed. They create a riddle to be solved with clues that will tingle your spine, and readers may not like the many possible solutions. Young readers may fear the dark after reading these stories!
The format of the plot is a bit unusual since most of it is introduced through the short stories. Brief chapters about Amelia, the main character, pop up throughout, but they mostly share Amelia’s actions between readings. She’s deeply distressed about her grandmother’s disappearance last year, and she’s extremely upset that her mothers have chosen to sell the old house. Amelia wants to learn what really happened to her grandmother, and that spurs the opening of the plot. She eventually uncovers what happened, but it’s not something she ever expected.
What didn’t work as well:
The early stories are unrelated, so understanding an overall conflict or plot is more challenging. You might imagine where the narrative should be going, but the stories don’t easily fit that idea until Amelia discovers how they tie together. They’re woven into a heart-pounding, ominous adventure.
The Final Verdict:
There are many ways a story can echo through life. The ghoulish tales will keep readers up at night, and the format of the narrative will keep readers thinking. The overall book successfully presents a chilling plot that will highly entertain middle-grade readers. I highly recommend you give it a shot.
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