For Ages
8 to 12

Nightmares! is a part of the Nightmares! collection.

"Coraline meets Monsters, Inc. in this delightfully entertaining offering from actor [Jason] Segel and co-author [Kirsten] Miller."—Publishers Weekly

The hilariously frightening, middle-grade novel Nightmares! is a Texas Bluebonnet nominee and the first book in a trilogy about a boy named Charlie and a group of kids who must face their fears to save their town.

Charlie Laird has several problems.
1. His dad married a woman he is sure moonlights as a witch.
2. He had to move into her purple mansion—the creepiest place in Cypress Creek.
3. He can’t remember the last time sleeping wasn’t a nightmarish prospect. Like even a nap.
What Charlie doesn’t know is that his problems are about to get a whole lot more real. Nightmares can ruin a good night’s sleep, but when they start slipping out of your dreams and into the waking world . . . well, that’s something only Charlie can face. And he’s going to need all the help he can get, or it might just be lights-out for Charlie Laird.
For good.

Praise for the Nightmares! Series:

Nightmares! (Bk 1) is a Texas Bluebonnet Nominee

"Charlie Laird, who learns fear will eat you alive if you feed it, makes an impression, and...readers will want to accompany him again."—The New York Times Book Review

"A touching comical saga...about facing things that go bump in the night."—US Weekly

"Comical antics, cartoonish spot illustrations, and creepy villains make for quite an entertaining read."—Booklist

"Succeeds at scaring and amusing in equal measure . . . Sweet, charming, and imaginative."—Kirkus Reviews

"An engaging and creative story...woven with a generous amount [of] humor."—VOYA

"There's humor and a fairly high ick-factor."—School Library Journal

"Cleverly crafted...This novel presents just the right mix of 'scary and humorous.'"—ILA Literacy Daily

An Excerpt fromNightmares!

It was five minutes past midnight, and a boy was gazing down at Cypress Creek from the window of an old mansion on the town’s highest hill. It was an odd-looking building. The front porch was overrun by a jungle of potted plants. Thick green vines crept up columns, and lady ferns and blood flowers fought for every patch of moonlight. An octagonal tower sprouted straight from the house’s roof, and the entire structure was painted a dreadful shade of purple. Anyone who saw it might assume that the mansion’s occupants were a bit on the strange side--and yet the boy at the window appeared perfectly normal. He had sandy blond hair and no visible tattoos, scars, or hideous warts. But judging by the miserable expression on his face, something was terribly wrong.

His name was Charlie Laird, and he’d lived in Cypress Creek all twelve years of his life. He and his little brother, Jack, had grown up in a house just down the street. In fact, Charlie could see the old place from his new bedroom window. A different family of four owned it now. Every night, Charlie watched the lights in his former home go out and imagined the kids snuggled up nice and safe, tucked into bed by their mother and father. He would have given almost anything to trade places with them. It had been three months since he’d moved to the purple mansion on DeChant Hill with his brother and father. And it had been three months since Charlie Laird had gotten a good night’s sleep.

Charlie took a step back from the window and saw his reflection in the glass. His skin was the color of curdled milk, and dark bags sagged beneath his red-rimmed eyes. He sighed at the sight and turned around to start his night’s work. Thirty-eight heavy boxes sat in the center of the room. They were filled with video games and comic books and Little League trophies. Charlie had unpacked nothing more than a few changes of clothes. The rest of his belongings were still stowed away in their cardboard boxes. And every night, before he lay down in his bed, he would move them. Nineteen boxes were used to block the door to the hall. The other nineteen were pushed against the bathroom door, though that often proved quite inconvenient.

It would have seemed ridiculous to anyone else. Even Charlie knew the barricades couldn’t stop his bad dreams. But the witch who’d been visiting him every night for three months wasn’t like other nightmares he’d had. Most dreams faded, but he couldn’t forget her. She felt just as real as the nose on his face. So when the witch swore that one night soon she’d come drag him away, Charlie figured he should take her threats seriously. He just hoped all the boxes could keep her out of his room.

She’d already gotten as far as the hallway. The first time he’d heard someone sneaking through the house, Charlie had just woken up from a nightmare. The sun’s rays were peeking over the mountains, but the mansion was still and quiet. Suddenly the silence had been broken by the creak of rusty door hinges opening. Then the floorboards groaned and there were thuds on the stairs. The footsteps were heavy enough to be an adult’s. But when Charlie worked up the nerve to investigate, he found his father and stepmother still asleep in their bed. A few nights later, he heard the same thing again. Creak. Groan. Thud. His father said that old houses make noises. His brother thought the place might be haunted. But Charlie knew there was no such thing as ghosts. He’d been searching for almost three years, and if they’d existed he would have seen one by now. No, Charlie Laird had far bigger problems than ghosts.

The thirty-eight boxes were waiting. Charlie stared at the daunting task in front of him and wondered where he’d find the energy to complete it. His nightmares had gotten worse--and every night he fought a losing battle against sleep. Now his eyelids were drooping and he couldn’t stop yawning. As usual, he’d stood by the window until midnight, waiting for his father and stepmother to go to bed. He didn’t want them to hear him sliding the boxes across the floorboards or grunting as he stacked them against the doors. But staying up was growing harder and harder. He’d tried taping his eyes open, but Scotch tape was too weak and duct tape pulled out his eyebrows. Pacing just made him dizzy. And while he’d heard that a full bladder could keep sleep at bay, every time he tried chugging water at bedtime, he ended up frantically shoving nineteen boxes away from the bathroom door. So a few weeks earlier, when all else had failed, Charlie had taken his first trip to the kitchen for a cup of cold, leftover coffee. It always made him gag, and sometimes he had to hold his nose just to get it all down--but the coffee was the only thing that kept him awake.

Charlie tiptoed to his bedroom door, opened it slowly so the hinges wouldn’t squeal, and took a peek outside. He was relieved to see that the hallway was dark. He preferred it that way. The walls were lined with old paintings that were far creepier when the lights were on. He listened closely for signs of movement and then sock-skated awkwardly toward the stairs. Past his brother’s room. And his father and stepmother’s. He was almost outside the last door on the hall when he heard it--a high-pitched laugh that nearly sent him sprinting back to his bed. Behind the last door lay the stairs to the tower. And at the top of those stairs was a room known in the family as Charlotte’s Lair. The door was open a crack, and Charlie heard the sound of a fat cat’s paws padding down the wooden staircase. A pale golden light leaked out into the hall.

His stepmother was still awake.

Under the Cover