reading: Creepover: Off the Wall

Back cover description: Ancient artifacts provoke fresh fear when a night at the museum goes from fun to freaky! Jane is ready for the time of her life. Tonight she and forty-nine other girls will be spending an actual night in a museum! At first, she’s making lots of new friends and having a ton of fun, but the stakes get raised when one girl, Daria, dares her to take a tour of the museum after lights out. The girls have heard that one of the mummies in the Ancient Egyptian exhibit comes to life when the museum closes. Jane accepts the dare. After all, there’s no way a mummy can come to life. Or is there? And are there, perhaps, other secrets that will be revealed in a museum at night? This surprising story is rated a Level 4 on the Creep-o-Meter.

off the wall

I am a sucker for all things Ancient Egyptian, from sensible scholarly non-fiction to the silliest Mummy movies, so there was little chance I wouldn’t enjoy this.

The story begins from Jane’s point of view. She’s at a sleepover at a museum (I envy city people their access to museums, and I REALLY envy city kids if they actually get to do things like this). She’s nervous, and thinking she’s got nothing in common with the other girls, which immediately makes me think she’s secretly the mummy. SPOILERS BELOW THE CUT.

Yeah, so, I was wrong. But she does know that the museum is supposedly haunted, even though she doesn’t know her address, or what a peanut butter cup is; the other girls charitably chalk this up to her having been homeschooled. They are way less suspicious than I am. She’s also recently moved to the area, so she doesn’t know anyone yet.

The other girls include Lucy, who attends EVERY museum event and is sometimes a point-of-view character; Daria, who is aloof and argumentative and dares Jane and Lucy to hunt for the walking mummy; and Megan, who is scared of everything and who sleepwalks.

Everyone else falls asleep, and Jane, Daria, and Lucy set out to find the mummy. Along the way they’re creeped out by a room of portraits, startled by a cat, even more startled by the sleepwalking Megan, and scared half to death by Daria, who wraps herself in toilet tissue and pretends to be the mummy.

They don’t see a walking mummy (as far as they know…DUN DUN DUN) but they do find an empty sarcophagus with no explanatory card in the wall-plaque thingy. People like me, who’ve read way too many spooky stories, will already be trying to figure out which girl is the mummy.

When they go back to the Great Hall to sleep, Jane notices Daria slipping away. The next morning there is no record of anyone named “Daria” having signed up for the sleepover, the chaperones don’t remember her, and the sarcophagus is no longer empty.  The sign, back in place, explains that the mummy is that of an unknown princess aged ten to thirteen, found with her cat.

BUT. There is an epilogue, told from Lucy’s point of view and set four years later. She hasn’t been back to the museum since the night of the sleepover, and she makes an interesting discovery in the portrait room…which I won’t spoil for you.


reading: Creepover: Read It and Weep!

I swear, I do read other things besides middle-grade fiction. But right now I’m binge-reading my way through this series.

One aspect I’m unexpectedly enjoying is the way these are marketed. I know marketing is often viewed negatively as an attempt to manipulate people, and that’s undeniably true, but I already KNOW I’m going to buy books. I budget “books” in as a monthly expense (one that would get cut if we needed to “retrench,” but mostly that doesn’t happen). So from my point of view book marketing is an attempt to attract my attention to particular books; it isn’t making me spend money I don’t want to.

And whoever put together this line did a really good job. I love the cover art, the cute house pseudonym, the creep-o-meter on the back cover, even the webpage. Someone, or maybe a group of someones, has put together a neat little package here.

Which is great, because that “I must buy all of these!” appeal has led me to discover a few truly creepy stories, and so far,  Read It and Weep has been one of the best. This is partly because the premise (finding a cursed tarot card–sort of a chain letter; it has to be passed on) in an old book is exactly the sort of adventure I always half-hoped I’d stumble into on my own trips to the library. The execution is perfect,  moving the story along briskly and framing it with a brief glimpse into the book itself, which eerily depicts the lives of its victims.

It’s not challenging fiction, but children don’t need every book they pick up to be somehow improving or educational; voracious readers deserve some pure pleasure-reading too.

read it and weep

reading: Creepover: No Trick-or-Treating!

In an effort to balance the huge collection of Goosebumps I’ve somehow amassed, I started buying the Creepover series a while back. I figured my daughter might eventually grow into them, and I’m trying to put together a bookcase of “junk food books” to balance out the Good Books we also buy them.

You know what they say: bad books make good readers.*

But of course that means I’ve been reading them myself. They’re pretty cute: gorgeous covers, slightly more conversation-and-character development than an R.L.Stine, and a persistent theme of “sleepovers” (also echoed in the house pseudonym, P.J.Night).

They mostly toy with scariness rather than becoming flat-out terrifying, but each achieves a few genuinely creepy moments. Right now I’m reading #9, No Trick-or-Treating!, which as a “superscary superspecial” is just a tad longer than the first eight. That gives it an edge, because it can develop the setting a bit more thoroughly (a small country town which mysteriously doesn’t celebrate Halloween) and let events unfold slowly enough to build up some real tension.

I’m a fully-functional adult (more or less), and I had to resist the temptation to peek at the last chapter to find out what happens. Ha. I would have loved these SO MUCH when I was the right age. I’m enjoying them enormously even now.

The white dress on the cover glows in the dark.
The white dress on the cover glows in the dark.

*The hours I spent reading Nancy Drew and Fear Street and Sweet Valley High weren’t wasted time, after all. Aside from the sheer enjoyment of series books, easy reading made the absorption of words feel as natural as breathing. A child who struggles with the mechanics of reading is hampered at the gate, long before they get to the higher-level functions of wrestling with theme or understanding difficult instructions. The easiest way to get the mechanics down pat is to read. A lot.