Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 126
Story-within-a-story for the horror crowd
Overall rating
Writing Style
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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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