Welcome to the tenth installment of Brightly’s Book Club for Kids, where we provide young readers with engaging books and book-inspired activities to enjoy together. Our next book pick takes facing your fears to a whole new level. If our hero doesn’t do battle with his nighttime demons, he won’t be able to rescue his little brother, three best friends, and the entire school of kids. It’s an enthralling adventure filled with ghoulish fun and great lessons that you won’t be able to put down. Get ready for Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller.
This Month’s Selection
Best For: Kids ages 8 – 12
What It’s About: Charlie is afraid to go to sleep because of the all-too-real nightmares haunting him now that he’s living in his horrible stepmonster’s purple mansion. When the nightmares steal Charlie’s little brother, Charlie bravely steps through the mansion’s portal into the nightmare realm. There he learns that facing his fears is the only way to defeat the nightmares and save his brother … and himself.
Major Themes: Friendship, feeling your emotions, facing your fears, dealing with grief, and adjusting to family changes.
Why We Picked It: Nightmares! deftly illustrates the perils of ignoring your emotions as well as the value of facing your fears. It’s an entertaining adventure with enough spookiness and intrigue to keep kids on the edge of their seats the entire book.
You can watch a trailer for the book here.
A Word of Caution for Sensitive Readers: Nightmarish creatures terrify the main character, Charlie, and play a major role in the story. Some of these creatures have good intentions while others do not. They include: witches, gorgons, zombies, clowns, the dark, and carnivorous bunnies. Additionally, Charlie is grieving the death of his mother whom he later sees in the nightmare world.
Suggestions for Younger Readers:
What You’ll Need for Book Club
Put on your favorite pajamas then grab the book, decorations, snacks, printable discussion questions, and supplies for the group activities. Turn the lights down low and you’ll be ready to go!
- Charlotte makes green waffles for breakfast. Why not try green waffles for book club?
- Ice cream is a favorite snack for the kids in Cypress Creek. Make or buy your own and use as a waffle topper.
- Face your fears by eating them! These chocolate-covered pretzel monsters should do the trick.
- Pay tribute to the purple mansion with this tasty purple fruit punch and purple-colored candy apples.
- Easy Decorations: Decorate in purple and black. Hang purple crepe paper, blow up purple and black balloons, use a black tablecloth, and find purple plates and napkins. Add fake spider webs, plastic spiders, candles (floating if you can), and fairy glow jars.
- Harder Decorations: If you want to go all out, add on to the decorations above with a nightmare village and a dry ice cauldron.
The Book Club Discussion
Nightmares! takes the childhood experience of having nightmares and magnifies it. After reading the book, use these discussion questions to prompt further thinking and understanding of the story’s themes. As a group, unpack what nightmares are. Wrestle with the big concepts of fear and bravery. Consider grief and feeling uncomfortable emotions. Overall, take a look at how the story impacted you as a reader — did it change you or your thinking? Here are questions to get you started.
- Everything and everyone seems sinister to Charlie. Describe all the things Charlie sees as sinister at the start of the story.
- Charlie’s feelings of anger mask another emotion. Which emotion is he is masking? Does this happen to you or people you know?
- Charlie avoids sleeping to avoid his nightmares. What finally motivates Charlie to face his fears? Why do you think it is so hard to face our fears?
- What was Alfie afraid of? How did he conquer his fear? What about Rocco and Paige?
- What was Charlie’s biggest fear? Why do you think that was?
- In the old days, some people were afraid of bathing. What are people afraid of now? What are you afraid of?
- The witch in Charlie’s nightmare looks like Charlotte. What makes Charlie eventually change his mind about Charlotte being a witch?
- Friends play a big role in this story. What does the author want you to understand about friendship?
- Meduso says, “You can’t skip the hard stuff. Try to solve a problem the easy way and it will only get worse.” Share an example from your own life when this was true.
- This book has a sequel called Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic. Do you think you’ll read it? Why or why not?
After the Discussion
- Make Your Own Terror-tory: What does your terror-tory look like? Imagining how your nightmares could take shape might be helpful to confronting your own fears. Depending on your supplies, either draw this with colored pencils on a blank paper or create a diorama using play dough, Mr. Potato Head accessories, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners.
- Use Shadow Puppets to Tell a Scary Story: Using this free download, make your own spooky shadow puppets. Use them with flashlights to invent your own nightmare stories.
- Create a Crazy Creature Combo: Charlotte likes to draw the nightmares. Draw your own nightmare creature combo. Think of two or three creatures that would look nightmarish when combined. Then write the names of these creatures at the top of a blank piece of paper. Pass the paper to your neighbor who must draw the creature and give it a combo name. Example: A chicken bear could be named a chickear or a bearicken. Alternatively, play the folded drawing game of Exquisite Corpse.
- Play a Nightmares! Game: Pick a scrabble letter title. Everyone must use that letter to write words for the following list of topics. Whoever has unique words wins a point.
- A nightmare creature
- Something scary
- Something purple
- A common fear
- A nocturnal animal
- A characteristic of a witch
- Something from the fall season
- A scary movie
- The Random House website has even more Nightmares! book club activities and ideas here.
What to Read Next
In this a fast-paced and mysterious thriller, Serafina witnesses a black-cloaked man kidnap a little girl and use his magical cloak to vanish. Serafina realizes that she and her new friend, Braeden, must venture into the dangerous forest for answers before Braeden is taken next.
Sophie’s parents catch, refine, and sell dreams, a slightly illegal business. When her parents are kidnapped for these skills, Sophie and her best friend Monster decide to trust Sophie’s new school friends with their secret — and their new big problem. Will they find out what happened to Sophie’s parents?
A ghost wrangler accidentally zaps Garth into the afterlife where Garth discovers three things: he has powers, he can’t escape, and the Ghostopolis ruler is after him.
When Bod’s family is murdered, he toddles to the graveyard. There, he’s adopted by the ghosts and other creatures who keep him safe. Even as grows and is taught life lessons from the graveyard denizens, Bod always keeps his first family’s murderer in mind. Because sometimes the worst terror is a living creature.
This school, run by a crazy old beauty queen, purports to force students like Madeleine, Theo, Lulu, and Garrison to face their biggest phobias — in kooky, unpredictable ways that are hilarious to readers.
Charlie may have conquered his nightmares, but things aren’t quite back to normal in the Waking World. Rumor has it that there may be zombies roaming the streets of nearby Orville Falls. A new adventure awaits Charlie and his friends in the second book in the Nightmares! series.
Charlie is having nightmares again, only this time they’re someone else’s. But whose? And how? And why? Find out in the third installment of the Nightmares! series.
What did you think of Nightmares!? Let us know in the comments below.