The Sleepover | Review
Written and illustrated by Michael Regina
Grade 5 and up
Young Matthew and his family returne from vacation to discover that their beloved nanny Ruby has passed away. Ruby was like one of the family and Matt takes it the hardest, withdrawing himself from his immediate family. He’s ignoring his younger sister Judy, as well as his trio of best friends. After a few weeks, Matt’s friends plan a sleepover filled with pranks, spooky movies, and snacks to cheer Matt up. Matt’s mother must go to work or risk being fired. A miracle comes to Matt’s mother’s door: Miss Swan, a raven-haired nanny who is ready and willing to watch Matt and his younger sister Judy. Miss Swan is happy to have the three other boys over to have the sleepover at Matt’s house.
At first glance Miss Swan seems like the perfect babysitter. She lets the kids stay up late and she leaves them alone for the sleepover. The boys can do whatever they like. They plan to eat plenty of junk food, make prank phone calls, watch spooky/sci-fi movies, and talk about girls. Everything feels almost perfect, but there’s something about Miss Swan that Matt doesn’t trust. Is Miss Swan really the local “Witch of the Woods” or is his imagination and grief getting the best of him?
A spooky and suspenseful tale for middle school readers, The Sleepover feels well at home with many 1980s and 1990s kids-vs.-the-supernatural/strange movies like The Lost Boys, The Goonies, Stand By Me, and the Netflix series Stranger Things as well as the “monster of the week” episode of the X-Files. It’s set squarely in 1990s, with frequent references to the 80s and 90s pop up to ground it during the time period, and it’s a lot of fun. Aside from trying to solve mystery of the Witch of the Woods, the boys discuss what Disney cartoon character they have a crush on and spend most of their time engrossed in horror/sci-fi pop culture of the time when X-Files was king of the late night and the great debate of what was the better space alien monster movie – Ridley Scott’s Alien or James Cameron’s sequel, Aliens.
Matt and his younger sister are the main protagonists of the book. Matt is lost in his grief and doesn’t want to forget Ruby. Judy is the lonely but kind younger sister who just wants to fit in with her brother and his friends and perhaps she’s starting to get a crush on one of Matt’s friends, the shy and nerdy Charlie. Matt’s other friends, Mario and Teo, are also important characters. All the kids have active roles in the book as they discover the mystery that is Miss Swan. Even the mysterious Miss Swan, with her possible connections to the Witch of the Woods, is not just a mindless monster of the week.
The characters’ fears, and their growth are all measurable. Matt’s love for the late Ruby has an ever-present role in the book. The book also serves a good message for all of us and how we all deal with the death and the loss of a loved one and how in life we can stand up to our own inner monsters (and the real ones too).
Highly recommended for fans who love a spooky monster story with a good dose of compassion, action, and nostalgia.
About Mike Pawuk
Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, and co-author of the follow-up book Graphic Book II both published by Libraries Unlimited/ABC-CLIO Publishing.
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