by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview (Kirsten Miller)

Related Activities & Resources:

Author Information:
Jason Segel:

Kirsten Miller:

Look up Medusa and other mythical characters & learn about their world:

Charlotte’s house is purple. Look up the color of purple and its meaning:

Nightmarish snacks:
Create your own snacks using cookies, cupcakes, or other snack foods.Decorate with edible candies, sprinkles, icing, etc. How many different “nightmare” critters can you create?

Play Name that Nightmare. Each person has a label of a nightmare critter (aliens, spiders, giant octopi, the boogie man, etc.) on their back. Everyone then mingles, asking each other person 1 yes/no question in an attempt to figure out what nightmare critter they are.

Create a nightmare character. First, draw a nightmare. Be elaborate, include colors, and things that make it creepy. Then, create a 3D image of your nightmare character out of playdough or other materials.

Ghost tales:
Form a circle, choosing a story starter. The story starter begins with the phrase, “Last night I dreamed of ________.”  Then the person to the right of the story starter continues with a sentence.  The larger the circle and the more times the story circulates, the stranger it becomes.

Create a dream catcher:

Host a slumber party. Invite friends, bring copies of the novel, and discuss it, read it; act it out (readers theater), create shadow puppets, build a fort, but have fun.

Design and create a mask:

Make a 3D haunted mansion of your own

Make some ghosts to create a nightmarish scene:

Does Sasquatch exist in the real world or only in the Netherworld?:

Track Sasquatch:

What do you think Cypress Creek looks like? Create a map or a diorama of the town. Be sure to include the hill with the purple mansion.

Charlie is convinced Charlotte is a witch. Does the description match? Draw Charlotte and draw a witch matching the video’s description:

Be a comedian. Learn some nightmare jokes:

Build your own haunted house with your friends.

Create fog, a tornado and other nightmarish weather:

On the cover of Nightmares! is a full moon. Learn about the moon cycles and legends, then create your own moon:

Discussion Questions:

Charlie is fascinated with the purple mansion on the hill, which concerned his mother before she died. How does her attitude toward the purple mansion affect Charlie’s change in attitude about the house?

Charlie seemed eager to help Charlotte when she was moving in. What prompted his change in attitude toward her? Have you ever been afraid of losing something dear to you?

Charlie is convinced that Charlotte is a witch, and refuses to talk to her. How would his experience have been different if he had talked with her? How would this change his experience in the netherworld? Do you think he would’ve gone to the netherworld?

Charlie misses his mother tremendously. Have you ever missed someone that much?  How did you cope?

Charlie is very disrespectful to Charlotte. His father punishes him for that, but Charlotte is more forgiving toward his behavior. Do you blame Charlie for his feelings? Do you blame him for his behavior towards Charlotte? How would you handle a situation like this?

Charlie learns a lot about fear. How do you think those events will change him? Do you think he’ll be braver or not?

Charlie has a lot of anger. Who do you think his anger is directed towards? Do you think he’s angry towards his mother? His father? Jack? Charlotte? or even his friends?

Why do you think he’s angry with these people?

Charlie doesn’t seem to be angry with the witch. He seems more afraid of her, until she takes Jack. What do you think the witch represents?

Medusa is a figure from mythology. Charlie seems fascinated with Medusa. Why do you think that is? She has the power to turn him to stone, yet he asks questions and is friendly with her. Why?

Medusa keeps mirrors all over her house, yet looking directly into her eyes will turn, even her, to stone.  Why do you think she keeps mirrors?  What can make someone that vain?  

Charlie seems surprised to see some of his friends and classmates in the Netherworld.  Why do you think that is? What does Charlie seem to learn from that experience?

Charlie’s friends see the best in everyone, including Charlotte. Why does Charlie seem to resent that?  

Charlie is surprised to see his friends in the Netherworld. Would you be surprised to see your friends in the dreamworld?

Do you have nightmares? Do you think everyone has nightmares at one time or another?

How might one overcome their nightmares?

Charlie meets his mother in the Netherworld and he’s able to speak with her. How does this help Charlie? Do you think his mother was real or part of Charlie’s imagination?

Why does Charlie’s dad tell him that Jack needs a mother? Do you think Charlie also needs a mother?

Meduso tells Charlie about Medusa and Charlie is surprised she is still alive. Is the advice “to not believe everything you read” good advice? Would you take that advice if you were in Charlie’s position? Why or why not?

Why is it important for Charlie to tell his mother goodbye?

How has Charlie changed throughout this story?

Book Talk Teasers:

Watch these book talks; show them to the children before reading the novel:

Read Ch. 3, p. 21 through p. 23 “The whole town had fallen under her spell.”

Read Ch. 11, p. 119 through p. 121 “With Jack’s life at stake, he couldn’t run away.”

Read Alikes:

Fairy tale and folklore-inspired fiction, Fantasy fiction:
Gidwitz, Adam. In a glass Grimmly. Frog joins cousins Jack and Jill in leaving their own stories to seek a magic mirror, encountering such creatures as giants, mermaids, and goblins along the way. Based in part on fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. (NoveList)

Hale, Shannon. The unfairest of them all. In the aftermath of Legacy Day, Raven Queen, reluctant leader of the Rebels, and Apple White, head of the Royals, work together when an Ever After High student, Maddie, gets in trouble, threatening all of their Happily Ever Afters. (NoveList)

Selfors, Suzanne. Kiss and spell. Ever After High is a boarding school for the sons and daughters of fairy tale characters, and student Ginger Breadhouse, daughter of the Candy Witch, studies all the usual magic subjects–but what she is mostly interested in is making her cooking show, Spells Kitchen, a success by introducing happiness as the secret ingredient. (NoveList)

Shurtliff, Liesl. Rump: the true story of Rumpelstiltskin. Relates the tale of Rumpelstiltskin’s childhood and youth, explaining why his name is so important, how he is able to spin straw into gold, and why a first-born child is his reward for helping the miller’s daughter-turned-queen. (NoveList)

Vande Velde, Vivian. Frogged. When almost-thirteen-year-old Princess Imogene is turned into a frog, she puts into practice lessons from the book, The Art of Being a Princess, as she tries to become her less-than-perfect self again. (NoveList)

Fairy tale, Fantasy fiction:
Morrison, Megan. Grounded: the Adventures of Rapunzel. Rapunzel believes she is the luckiest person in Tyme, because Witch tells her so, but when Jack climbs into her tower to steal an enchanted rose, he hints that Witch is not telling the whole truth and Rapunzel, driven by her anger and fear, descends to the ground for the first time. (NoveList)

Fantasy fiction:
Barnhill, Kelly Regan. The witch’s boy. When a Bandit King comes to take the magic that Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, the stuttering, weak boy who villagers think should have drowned rather than his twin, summons the strength to protect his family and community, while in the woods, the bandit’s daughter puzzles over a mystery that ties her to Ned. (NoveList)

Loftin, Nikki. The sinister sweetness of Splendid Academy. In this twist on “Hansel and Gretel,” two middle schoolers find themselves in a new charter school filled with a mysterious abundance of food at mealtimes and sinister teachers up to no good. (NoveList)

Losure, Mary. Backwards Moon. When the magical veil that protects their valley from humans is broached and the Wellspring Water needed to repair it is polluted, it is up to two young witches, Bracken and Nettle, to save the coven. (NoveList)

Mould, Chris. Pip and the Wood Witch Curse. After running away from an orphanage, Pip arrives in the walled city of Hangman’s Hollow, where children must hide to avoid imprisonment by citizens or danger from evil creatures in the surrounding forest. (NoveList)

Soup, Cuthbert. Another whole nother story. Ethan Cheeseman takes his children, ages eight, twelve, and fourteen, and Captain Jibby and crew, to the year 1668 to end an ancient family curse and save the children’s mother, but damage to the time machine and the arrival of Mr. 5 complicate their return. (NoveList)

Sweet, J. H. Dragonfly and the web of dreams. When the Web of Dreams is destroyed, Jennifer and her friends once again need to transform into fairies so they can contact the Dream Spider who is on holiday. (NoveList)

Books to movies, classic fiction:
Barrie, J. M. Peter Pan. The adventures of the three Darling children in Never-Never Land with Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up. (NoveList)

Ghost stories, Fantasy fiction:
Stroud, Jonathan. The screaming staircase. Follows three young operatives of a Psychic Detection Agency as they battle an epidemic of ghosts in London. (NoveList)

Books to movies, children’s stories, classics, fantasy fiction:
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. The art of Camille Rose Garcia complements the complete text of Carroll’s classic story about a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole and discovers a world of nonsensical characters. (NoveList)

Humorous stories; Illustrated books; Short stories; Teenagers’ writings:
Pratchett, Terry. Dragons at Crumbling Castle: and other tales. An illustrated collection of fourteen short stories featuring “dragons and wizards, councilors and mayors, an adventurous tortoise and a monster in a lake, along with plenty of pointy hats and a few magic spells” written when the author was a teenaged newspaper reporter. (NoveList)

First person narratives; Science fiction:
Vande Velde, Vivian. Deadly pink. Fourteen-year-old Grace must find a way to get her older sister out of a princess-filled virtual reality RPG (role playing game)–before it is too late. (NoveList)

Diary novels; Fantasy fiction; Humorous fantasy; Multiple perspectives:
Coville, Bruce. Diary of a mad brownie. “Angus Cairns is a brownie, a magical creature with a fastidious nature. Alex Carhart is the messiest eleven-year-old in the United States of America. Together, this unlikely pair embarks on an unforgettable adventure”–. (NoveList)

Fantasy fiction; Humorous fantasy:
Van Eekhout, Greg. Kid vs. squid. Spending the summer after sixth grade at his great-uncle’s oceanside museum, Thatcher and local girl Trudy team up to help Shoal, one of the people of Atlantis cursed by a witch whose head still survives, and who has an army of monstrous creatures helping her. (NoveList)

Early chapter books; Fantasy fiction; Illustrated books; Translations:
Funke, Cornelia Caroline. Emma and the blue genie. Eight–year-old Emma and her little dog, Tristan, take a magic carpet ride to the distant land of Barakash to help a genie recover his stolen magical nose ring. (NoveList)


Book Reviews:

Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic.
By Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller. Illus. by Karl Kwasny.
2015. 368p. Delacorte, $16.99 (9780385744270). Gr. 5–8.
First published October 6, 2015 (Booklist Online).

Charlie Laird saved the Netherworld from certain destruction in the first volume of Segel and Miller’s Nightmares! series, and in this follow-up, the crisis hits a bit closer to home. A shop in neighboring Orville Falls is selling a powerful sleeping tonic that promises to cure horrible nightmares. In reality, however, it turns people into shambling sleepwalkers. Before Cypress Creek falls victim to the same fate, Charlie and his friends, both human and nightmare, hunt for the otherworldly source of the tonic and a mysterious pair, INC and INK, who have been tormenting dreamers for decades. Segel and Miller propel the story forward with tight pacing, and in between moments of spooky action, they compellingly round out the characters, especially Charlie and his stepmom, Charlotte, who worry about potentially losing their house. While the ultimate message is a touch schmaltzy, the comical antics, cartoonish spot illustrations, and creepy villains make for quite an entertaining read. New readers need not begin with volume one; this one stands easily on its own. —Sarah Hunter


Horn Book:
Segel, Jason and Miller, Kirsten Nightmares!
355 pp. Delacorte 2014. ISBN 978-0-385-74425-6 LE ISBN 978-0-37599157-8 Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-38403-2

(3) 4-6 Illustrated by Karl Kwasny. In actor/debut novelist Segel and veteran writer Miller’s imaginative fantasy, the same nightmare has haunted Charlie Laird since he moved into his new stepmother’s purple mansion. He journeys to the Netherworld where he and his friends must defeat their nightmares in order to save our world. This trilogy-opener contains scary creatures (tempered by the cartoon illustrations) and plenty of action while also full of emotional resonance. (Spring 2015 Guide)


School Library Journal:
Gr 4–6—Eleven-year-old Charlie Laird is absolutely convinced that his stepmother Charlotte is a witch. She dresses funny, serves seriously strange food (kale pancakes), and runs a store called Hazel’s Herbarium. Charlie’s dad, little brother, and friends all like Charlotte and think Charlie’s still grieving for his mom. He’s also suffering from terrible nightmares, and living in Charlotte’s crazy purple mansion isn’t helping. The evil witch who stars in those nightmares threatens to follow the protagonist into the real world and kidnap his brother. Instead, he is tricked into the Nightmare World, peopled with monsters and madness: gorgons, goblins, crazy clowns, scary bunnies, tests filled with gibberish, and the monomaniacal President Fear (who also inhabits the real world as the truly terrifying Principal Stearns). But all is not what it seems, and some of the scariest creatures turn out to be sympathetic—or even allies. There are lessons to be learned about facing fears and uncovering the real enemy in this tale. Pals Alfie, Rocco, and Paige are interesting and fairly three-dimensional; most of the adults (with the exceptions of Fear/Stearns and Charlotte) are merely background. The fear is as much psychological as anything, and there’s humor and a fairly high ick-factor, but relatively little violence. A good choice for elementary-aged scare-seekers.—Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library


The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Segel, Jason and Miller, Kirsten. Nightmares! Illustrated by Karl Kwasny. Delacorte / Random House, 2014. hb 9780385744256, glb 9780375991578, ebook 9780385384032, pb 9780385744263

Charlie Laird can’t sleep. Ever since his mother died and his father remarried and moved him and his little brother into the house of his stepmother, Charlotte, he’s been plagued by nightmares. His fear is enough to open a portal to the Netherworld in the tower room of Charlotte’s house. The open portal allows the sinister President Fear to freely come and go between the Netherworld and the Waking World, and he’s planning to overthrow the Waking World unless Charlie can face his fears. Braced by his three worthy friends and aided by some unexpected helpers in the Netherworld, Charlie braves its terrors and proves, once and for all, that facing your fears is a far better plan than running from them. While the plot has some unexpectedly deep symbolic resonances regarding the source of fear and the loss of faith in contemporary culture, this book also has all the classic elements of a benignly scary fantasy for middle-graders: a sympathetic protagonist, a dastardly villain, trusty friends, comical horror figures, a misunderstood benefactor, chase scenes, mild grossness, and explicit psychology. The deployment of these tropes is fresh, ranging from engagingly sad to funny; there are just enough imaginative hooks to induce some shivers, but the genre predictability of a happy outcome keeps things from being too scary, and spot art adds to the comic tone. Readers who shy away from celebrity authors will be pleasantly surprised by this solid entry from How I Met Your Mother’s Segel. Review Code: R — Recommended. Grades 4-7. Karen Coats (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, December 2014 (Vol. 68, No. 4))