Monday, October 3, 2016

October's Book of the Month--The Nest

Welcome! October’s Book of the Month is the wonderfully creepy mid-grade book, THE NEST, written by Kenneth Oppel, with occasional (and also wonderfully creepy) illustrations by Jon Klassen.

There’s something wrong with Steve’s baby brother. No one really knows what, although it’s pretty certain he won't develop normally. When Steve first has the dream, he thinks he’s seeing an angel who tells him she has come to help with the baby, and this makes him feel better.

The dream seems so benign at first. Angels want to help fix the baby. Such a hopeful dream. But dread slowly builds, as a swarm of strange grey wasps make their nest outside the baby’s room. The Queen begins to manipulate Steve, begins to change her story. Slowly, Steve comes to realize that her kind of help may not be the kind his family needs.

This book has some important things to say on dealing with illness in families, on how hard it is for a kid with OCD to feel normal, and on how so many “normal” people may actually be broken, too, in their own ways. “No one’s perfect,” the babysitter, Vanessa, says. At times Steve feels “shattered and all in pieces,” but slowly he takes responsibility for doing what he can, and learns a lot about love and family along the way.

I love the way dread slowly builds. Each chapter begins with the corresponding number of wasps—each has one additional wasp, and this oh-so subtly, yet effectively, adds to the growing horror. By the climax, there is one especially striking page with no words. And the ear—look for the illustration of the baby’s ear!

Yes, this book is creepy, yes it’s a bit frightening, but I remember being fascinated as a kid with ghost stories and movies about all things ghoulish. I liked to be scared, and I liked feeling the horror. I think kids will like THE NEST.


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