by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller
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.
What Charlie doesn’t know is that his problems are about to get a whole lot more real. Nightmares can ruin a good night’s sleep, but when they start slipping out of your dreams and into the waking world—that’s a line that should never be crossed. And when your worst nightmares start to come true . . . well, that’s something only Charlie can face. And he’s going to need all the help he can get, or it might just be lights-out for Charlie Laird. For good. (Goodreads)
Okay. I love Jason Segel. Him and Paul Rudd are, by far, my favorite contemporary comedians, and basically all the movies they’ve done together have been my absolute favorites. So when I heard he had written a series of children’s books, I spent a few good minutes running around the house screaming “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD” at my cats while they stared at me in boredom.
And magically, this past weekend at a used book sale, the book gods smiled upon me as I came across a brand new copy of the first book in the series! I immediately sat down and tore through it, and I’m glad to say that it did not disappoint!
Though I wasn’t immediately hooked, that soon changed within the first couple of chapters. It’s creative and engaging while teaching the importance of standing up to your fears and not letting them rule your life. It’s definitely a book I would have loved as a kid.
And the artwork! I’m such a sucker for illustrated books, and Karl Kwasny does such a great job of adding to the feel of the story with his artwork. It’s just a nice little treat when you turn the page and find bugs crawling up the page or a witch’s tower looming out into the edge of the text. There’s even little spiders hanging from the page numbers, and the length of the web changes on every page — that’s the kind of detail I love!
I mean, why don’t books for older audiences get the illustrated treatment as well?? I’m not talking like a full-on picture book, but something as simple as some neat chapter art would keep things interesting. Just cause we’re adults doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy some good illustrations with our books!
Importantly, the messages in Nightmares! go deeper than the title topic suggests. At the start of the book, we learn that Charlie’s mother passed away when he was eight (he’s 12 when we meet him), and, not surprisingly, he’s taking it hard. Though Charlie repeatedly blames his “stepmonster” for everything wrong in his life, it’s clear that depression (often referred to as his “darkness”) plays an awfully large part in the shaping of his problems.
Segel shows us in a more physical sense how powerful depression can be and how easily it can affect our day-to-day lives. As Charlie suffers with his grief over his mother’s death and his reluctance to let her go, he becomes plagued with terrible nightmares and poor moods that begin affecting his friendships and familial relationships. Soon, dark and dreary days take over the town, despite the weatherman’s promises of sun. His grief bleeds into the real world, escaping the confines of his mind to affect every part of his day and every day of his life. Charlie creates his own nightmare-ish life by allowing himself to sink further and further into a depressive state, refusing to accept what he cannot change.
Even as an adult, I feel like the lessons in this book are worth remembering. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve got a pretty bad case of constant anxiety, and I know the only way to push past that is to face it head-on. Whether it’s social anxiety or driving on the highway (don’t even get me started on Atlanta traffic) or going mountain climbing for the first time, ya gotta do it to get over your fear of it! Cause let’s be honest here: kids aren’t the only ones with nightmares.