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Keep in a Cold, Dark Place Paperback – March 7, 2017
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"With its tyrannical parents, moronic siblings, goofy monsters, and dark humor, the book summons the works of middle-grade master Roald Dahl. Young readers interested in less cuddly fare should enjoy this offbeat story of curses, creatures, and lessons on finding satisfaction in one's place in the world.
A darkly funny rural tale with a scary bent." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Keep in a Cold, Dark Place is horror genre writing at its best, going the extra mile beyond the circumstances of horror to probe the psyches, motivations, and lessons learned by all involved. It's very highly recommended for young readers who will relish Michael F. Stewart's close attention to detail and atmosphere." D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
About the Author
Michael F. Stewart is the winner of the 2015 Claymore Award and author of the Assured Destruction Series (a Foreword Book of the Year Honorable Mention, Library Journal's Best Self Published Book 2015: runner-up, semifinalist in the 2014 Kindle Book Awards, and winner of The Creation of Stories: Best YA Award at the Toronto International Book Fair). He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia and New Zealand's, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You. He has authored four graphic novels with Oxford University Press Canada's award winning Boldprint series. Publications of nonfiction titles on Corruption and Children's Rights published by Scholastic Education as well as early readers and three forthcoming novellas with Pearson. Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he was the Ottawa Public Library's first Writer in Residence and runs free writing workshops.
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At school, she supplements her ordinary education with Internet research. If only the local art academy will accept her project, a fabric-art portrait of the town where she attends public school, she can escape.
The farm is poor; Limpy's materials are limited to potato bags, twine, and her own boundless imagination. But sewing time is always being stolen from her. Bullies at school eat into her library stitching schedule, then punishments at home rob her of time to work on her art project, and she worries she won't be able to finish by the impending deadline. It doesn't help that the farm is being foreclosed on, or that the deadline comes right in the middle of harvest time.
The last thing Limpy needs on top of all that is a high-maintenance pet like Chup, a fluffy yellow critter who hatched from an egg she found buried in the cool, dark soil floor of the potato cellar—let alone six more trouble-making hatchlings that begin as needy youngsters, but rapidly become monsters. At first, seeing this novel presented in the Kindle Scout list, I was reminded of "Gremlins" Gremlins [Blu-ray]. Cute critters, fuzzy, turn into monsters... Yeah, those elements are all there. But Stewart's novel is no comic-book tale of cutesiness-turned-evil, it is deeper than that. Limpy's need to face her fear that she will fail is about to be woven into the fears of all around her, family and friends, even previous owners of the potato farm.
The story is engaging, and Limpy herself is delightful. As for Chup and his brother-fuzzies, you won't believe what they turn out to be. But finding out for yourself won't take long; like many such delicious tales, it is a quick read. You won't want to put it down until you know if Limpy escapes the farm and her fate.
The story begins harmless enough, introducing our female main character, Limpy, and her really not so nice family, easily having us sympathize with her dream about leaving her father's potato farm in order to visit art school. When Limpy discovers a strange box with even stranger eggs in it beneath the potato sacks in the storage cellar, this triggers an avalanche of weird events. At first, Limpy is delighted about the fuzzy furry big-eyed creature hatching from one of the eggs. She adopts the little buddy, names him 'Chup' (loved that hint) and vows to care for him like a mother.
However, not long after Chup's siblings hatch from their eggs, and the little guys start playing tricks. Limpy tries to cover for them as best she can, but soon things get out of hand and it's not just harmless little tricks anymore. With the help of an unexpected friend, Limpy learns that Chup and his pals are growing into some very deadly ancient creatures which are bound to kill her and her family if she doesn't stop them...
The second main theme of this book, apart from the obvious creature feature, is family - its ups and downs, its cruelty towards each other, but also its bond of loyalty and sense of belonging, whether we like it or not. In this regard, the ending does have a slightly corny taste, but it works so well that it didn't bother me at all.
Featuring my favorite kind of creature, combined with a likable coming-of-age story and a well-balanced mixture of humor and horror, this book was a perfect read for me. I would love to see this made into a movie...or, skip the movie and go straight for the merchandise so that I can get my own little Chuppie!
(Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for a copy of the book, all opinions are my own)