And we’re back with another summer adventure to add to our list of Old Favorites. Normally, I don’t enjoy talking animal stories as much as other types of fantasy, but the Bunnicula series is definitely an exception to that rule. Who can resist a cat who thinks he’s the feline Sherlock Holmes, or a dog who thinks with his stomach? While Harold and Chester talk to each other and to other animals, communication between humans and animals is more realistic.
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Nighty-Nightmare, by James Howe, was originally published in 1987. It is the fourth book in the Bunnicula series, which consists of Bunnicula, Howliday Inn, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, Nighty-Nightmare, Return to Howliday Inn, Bunnicula Strikes Again and Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow. There is also a picture book series– Bunnicula and Friends. Puppy Howie has his own early chapter book series, where he tells his own stories in Tales from the House of Bunnicula.
As you can tell from the titles, the books are mysteries. They feature the Monroe family (Mr. and Mrs. Monroe and their sons, Pete and Toby) and their pets. The books are “narrated” by Harold, a lovable sheepdog and Chester, a semi-neurotic cat who thinks he’s a detective. The animal cast of characters include Howie, an excitable dachshund puppy who thinks Chester is his “Pop”, and Bunnicula, a rabbit with a bad habit of draining vegetables dry. Several other animal acquaintances make their way through various titles.
In Nighty-Nightmare, Mr & Mrs Monroe decide to take Pete and Toby camping. Overnight. In the woods. When Chester figures out that it’s Saint George’s Eve (the one night a year when evil spirits come out at midnight to prey on pets) he’s sure they’ll all die. But being left behind? That would be so much worse.
It turns out that camping isn’t as easy as it sounds, and the Monroes soon find themselves with a big problem. They’re lost, their improvised tent has issues, and they find themselves at the campfire of Bud and Spud, two rather scary brothers, and their dog, Dawg. Chester wants the family to move on, but no one listens to a cat.
Harold now has to keep an eye on Dawg, comfort Howie, make sure there’s enough food, and stop Chester from doing something drastic. When Dawg leads the pets on a hike away from the family, does he have a sinister motive? Lost in the woods at midnight, far from their people, will the evil spirits of St. George’s night find them? And the Monroes are alone with the creepy brothers! Are they in danger? Who are Bud and Spud, and do they have anything to do with Bunnicula? Will Harold, Chester and Howie ever see the Monroes again?
Only Harold and Chester can figure out the answers to these questions and save their family!
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I just love the Bunnicula books…there’s something in them for everyone. Nighty-Nightmare is a particularly good one to read aloud, as the guest characters have accents that are fun to imitate. The spooky chills all turn out to have a practical explanation. Chester’s story about Bunnicula’s origin is straight out of an old-time monster movie, and may be even more fun for adult readers than for kid readers. (So kids…share this one with your parents!)
Even though this is the fourth book in the series, the books really don’t have to be read in order. Each book has a foreword by the author, telling the reader what he or she needs to know. The books are good for readers in third through fifth grade, and are fun to read aloud to kids as young as first grade. (If they don’t mind a few scares.) If you’re a fan of mysteries, talking animals, and a little (maybe misplaced) horror, you should try these books!