The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jon Klassen (2015)

the-nest-9781481432320_hrA mind-bending horror great for reluctant readers.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages: 256 (for ISBN 9781481432320)

Genre(s) and keywords: horror, psychological

Tone/Style: spare, ominous

Pace: fast

Topics: wasps, new siblings, sick family members, anxiety, dreams

Themes: seeking perfection vs. accepting imperfection, accepting hardship, reality vs. imagination, coping with anxiety

Summary: In this beautiful, menacing novel, perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, an anxious boy becomes convinced that angels will save his sick baby brother. But these are creatures of a very different kind, and their plan for the baby has a twist. Layer by layer, he unravels the truth about his new friends as the time remaining to save his brother ticks down.

With evocative and disquieting illustrations by Caldecott Medal– and Governor General’s Award–winning artist Jon Klassen, The Nest is an unforgettable journey into one boy’s deepest insecurities and darkest fears. (from Source)

Who will like this book?: With simple text, lots of white space, and a quick pace, this is a great choice for reluctant readers. Horror fans, particularly those who like to have their heads messed with, will love this one.

Who won’t like this book?: It really is scary, so don’t suggest it to anyone who doesn’t enthusiastically endorse horror. Though not difficult to understand, the conflict is cerebral and mysterious, so readers who need clarity and airtight resolution may have trouble with this one.

Other comments: The reading level is low enough that upper elementary kids could read this, but it’s pretty scary so make sure they are okay with that (and really okay, not just saying it) before recommending it.

Sequel(s):

What to read next: The marketing is right on the money in recommending Coraline by Neil Gaiman, which has a similar horror level and shared theme of replacing family members. Kids who like really scary stories may also enjoy the work of Mary Downing Hahn.

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