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Tales to Keep You Up at Night

by Ben H. Winters ; illustrated by Adam F. Watkins

Age Range: 7 - 12

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8431-7194-5
Publisher: Price Stern Sloan

Novelist Winters (The Mystery of the Missing Everything, 2011) applies his pen to create 30 rhyming, slightly shivery poems.

The subtitle claims this poetry aims to “keep you up at night.” And if it does not, surely most of Watkins’ wonderfully creepy illustrations will, often hinting at dreadful outcomes not indicated in the text. In “How I Check for Monsters Before I Go to Sleep,” the verse visits each place the narrator thinks a monster may be hiding. “I turn on the lights in the bathroom, / and once all the shadows are gone / I check that there’s no growling fiends / in the tub or on the john.” The tone is light, but the accompanying illustration reveals something more sinister—waiting in the closet is something with a sinuous tail and muscled forearm leading to a hand with ultralong, black fingernails. And so it is with the rest of the book, with uneasy experiences taking place in “The Attic,” “The Deep End” and while “Hiking.” The breezy, witty voice on display does not seem to entirely jibe with the illustrations, which alone could be the cause of a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.

That said, the quality of the poetry is quite worthy of sharing around a campfire or at a slumber party; in the classroom, use it to demonstrate the wide range of forms creative verse can take. (Poetry. 7-12)