Monday, August 15, 2022

MMGM- Tales to Keep You Up At Night

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

We've been back at school for a week, and things are promising.
Sustained Silent Reading is now scheduled for 20 minutes after lunch for each grade which means that students flooded into the library looking for books (checked out 350 just on Friday!) AND all the grades have the same bell schedule. Whew. Makes life much easier.

Went to Cover to Cover bookstore in Upper Arlington on Saturday and heard Debbie Rigaud talk about her writing, including the new A Girl's Guide to Love and Magic! Saw Leigh Lewis, a graduate of my school who wrote Pirate Queens there as well. It's good to get back out and meet writers again. 

Looking forward to another great week at school, even though the first month back tends to feel exhausting. In the summer, Pongo does not ask me five questions every minute and I'm not on my feet eight hours a day!

Poblocki, Dan. Tales to Keep You Up at Night
August 16th 2022 by Penguin Workshop
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

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?
Strengths: 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. 
Weaknesses: I personally struggle with the story-within-a-story format; I just wanted to find out what happened to Amelia, so tended to rush through the scary stories, which are not my favorite thing to read, either! My students will not feel this way and will relish the deeply creepy tales. I also wanted more information about what happened to the grandmother and grandfather and sort of hoped they would reappear. 
What I really think: I'm a long time fan of Poblocki's work, but prefer his books that verge on Young Adult, like Liar's RoomThe 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.


  1. I don't do scary. I just can't read them, but I have young friends who would probably like this one. It's good to know about. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Thanks for the post. I have an elementary library and it is true that Shadow House goes through periods where it is really popular and then lags a bit. This one might be needed in that section as well.