Eighth Grade Bites

Posted October 23, 2014 By JS Daly

8th Grade Bites

Eighth Grade Bites

By Heather Brewer
Penguin, 2007
192 Pages
Young Adult


Guest Post by

Kristin Grady
Vladimir Tod is just like everybody else. He gets picked on by bullies, he has a best friend named Henry, he has a crush named Meredith, and an aunt named Nelly. The only difference is: he’s a vampire. He is living a normal life until a new substitute teacher starts asking questions that are a little to close for comfort, and it doesn’t help that a vampire hunter has shown up in his small town. Now Vladimir has to figure out who this teacher is… before he gets killed.
This was a funny and suspenseful book that I give 5/5 stars. Although this is a small book, it was really fun to read and I greatly enjoyed it. I loved the author’s take on vampires and the different personalities of all the characters. I had to run out and get the next book right after I finished this one. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!



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The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

Posted October 16, 2014 By JS Daly

Treehouse of Horror

The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror Comics

Bongo Comics & HarperCollins
Young Adult

For those of us who tune in faithfully the Sunday -after- Halloween (thank you NFL playoffs…) for the annual Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror Halloween special episode but just can’t get enough, Bongo comics also publishes a comic book companion to the thrilling comedy creepfest!
Considered the Simpson’s comics annuals, they are filled with decidedly adult humor, but no more innuendo and violence than you might find in Mad Magazine. The frightful holiday episode even has numerous companion sets of toys.


Although it isn’t out of the realm of imagination to collect all of the original issue comic books, reading copies can be found at most local libraries (here in the US anyway). Each issue usually has four or five major features, often movie parodies, each illustrated by a different artist, with bizarre gatefolds and schtick advertisements stuffed in between. Shorts like those found in other Simpsons Comics are packed in-between. The features include guest artists like Jill Thompson, Dan Brereton, Ted Naifeh, & Sergio Aragones, and “guest stars” such as Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, and Rob Zombie.

The Collections:

Heebie-Jeebie Hullabaloo

1999 – Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror: Heebie-Jeebie Hullabaloo
(Collects #1-3)

Spine-Tingling Spooktacular

2001 – Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror: Spine-Tingling Spooktacular
(Collects #4,5,6)

Fun-Filled Frightfest

2003 – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror: Fun-Filled Frightfest
(Collects #6,7)

4-Hoodoo Voodoo brouhaha

2006 – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror: Hoodoo Voodoo Brouhaha
(Collects #8,9)

Dead Mans Jest

2008 – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror: Dead Man’s Jest
(Collects #10, 11)

Beyond The Grave

2011 – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror from Beyond the Grave
(Collects #12, 13)


For a more detailed breakdown of each issue:
Simpsons Wiki
Simpsons Archive





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25 Best Horror Movies for Kids

Posted September 18, 2014 By JS Daly


With the grown-up content of so many horror movies these days, scary films you can watch with your entire family on Halloween are precious.
This list will safely entertain the whole brood on any dark and stormy night! No chainsaws, no flesh-eating zombies… but we can’t promise no nightmares!
So bring out the Butterworth’s and dim the lights!


25. Little Monsters
(1989) PG

If Howie Mandel was the monster under my bed, I would run for my life! He’s a far cry from Tom Arnold’s Huggly.
Fred Savage (from The Wonder Years) leads a frantic chase to return to the human world (from under the bed) before sunrise… or he’ll become a monster himself!


24. The Little Vampire
(2000) PG

Despite the silly cuteness of the actors in the advertising, this is actually a gripping thriller. When a boy befriends a vampire child, he must then fight the descendant of Van Helsing in order to protect him.


23. The Corpse Bride
(2005) PG

Another Tim Burton Halloween special!
Not to be confused for a follow-up to The Nightmare Before Christmas, this tells the story of a poor groom who must marry the wrong girl. Be careful whose finger you put a wedding ring on.


22. Hotel Transylvania
(2012) PG

An animated comedy about a vacation spot in rural Transylvania, catering to monsters.
Dracula’s daughter longs for the real world, and ends up falling in love… with a human. (The most savage of all the members of The Monster Club!)


21. Arachnophobia
(1990) PG-13

John Goodman (Norm from Cheers) takes on the job of spider exterminator.
…because there are millions of them…


20. 20. The Addams Family
(1991) PG-13

A modern take on the Addams Family TV series.
Though this spawned two sequels, the first is the best. It should be followed up by watching some of the original episodes!


19. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
(1943) G

The ruins of Castle Frankenstein are explored and the Monster is discovered encased in a tomb of ice!
A black and white monster classic! This story takes place before the events of House of Dracula, and establishes an enmity between the Monster and Larry Talbot.


18. The Haunted Mansion
(2003) PG

A spin-off from the ride at Disney World, Eddie Murphy explores an old plantation house. Can he break the curse before the clock strikes thirteen?


17. Twilight Zone: The Movie
(1983) PG

Do you want to see something really scary…?

Four vignettes remaking some of the classic episodes.
“Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!”
They are better enjoyed if you are familiar with the original episodes, so be sure to watch them, too!


16. The Monster Squad
(1987) PG-13

“The wolfman’s got nards!

Cheesy, but fun! If you like this one, The Goonies will be a hit, too!


15. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
(2009) PG-13

There is a war brewing within the vampire world just as poor Darren gets caught up in the life of the undead. His best friend becomes a victim of the war as well.
An adaptation of Darren Shan’s novels about a circus of freaks and monsters. If you like this, go read the books! It only gets better from here!


14. House of Dracula
(1949) G

Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and Dracula all in the same movie! One of Universal’s most climactic thrillers brings The Monster under the control of the Lord of the Vampires! Can Lawrence Talbot stop his nefarious scheme?


13. Frankenweenie
(2012) PG

A child loses his dog. Wouldn’t you do everything you could to bring back your beloved pet? Tim Burton. ‘Nuff said?


12. Monster House
(2006) PG

A thriller from the creators of Coraline. You’ll be hanging on the edge of your seat at the ending, when the house itself comes to life!
Another intelligent mystery about a crotchety old curmudgeon who chases kids off his front lawn, and also an unforgettable love story.


11. Coraline
(2009) PG

An adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s early foray into children’s fantasy books.
An amazing fantasy. The “other mother” will leave even the adults looking under their beds at night.


10. The Witches
(1990) PG

A witch’s convention gets hungry for the taste of children in this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s imaginitive book.


9. 13 Ghosts
(1960) PG

Treasure hunting in a house that’s really haunted! This old black & white movie is a lot like a visit to Mayberry, with a dash of murder!  
(Not to be confused with the 2001 remake that is definitely NOT for kids!)
A William Castle classic originally filmed in 3-D Illusion-O vision!


8. Young Frankenstein
(1974) PG

Bette Midler and Gene Wilder’s parody of Frankenstein.
Imagine the father from Everybody Loves Raymond dancing to Astaire’s Puttin’on the Ritz, dressed as Frankenstein’s Monster!


7. Paranorman
(2012) PG

Norman can see dead people, so it falls to him to save the town when its witch-burning past comes back to haunt them!
Paranorman is one of the most intelligent of the computer-animated horror films I’ve seen.


6. Gremlins
(1984) PG

If an antique dealer cryptically warns you not to feed the Magwai after midnight, LISTEN to him!


5. Beetlejuice
(1988) PG

Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Another Tim Burton classic!
A mischievous spirit indoctrinates a newly deceased couple into the afterlife. The soundtrack even includes Harry Bellafonte!


4. Something Wicked This Way Comes
(1983) PG

An excellent adaptation of the book by Ray Bradbury, this is a study of the innermost desires of an all American town and a boy’s desire to connect with his father.


3. Hocus Pocus
(1993) PG

Three witches run Amok! Bette Midler and her crew raise the dead in this hilarious Halloween romp!


2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
(1993) PG

Tim Burton’s all-time classic that explores Christmas through the lens of Halloween!


1. Ghostbusters
(1984) PG

The movie that brings you unforgettable quotes like these:

“Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say ‘YES!'”


“Don’t cross the streams.”
“It would be bad.”
“I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, ‘bad?'”
“Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”
“Right. That’s bad. Okay. Important safety tip. Thanks.”


Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
The dead rising from the grave!
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

–The funniest horror film you’ll ever find.


What are your family’s favorite spooky flicks for a dark and stormy night? Stay tuned for our William Castle special!


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Gravediggers: Entombed

Posted September 10, 2014 By JS Daly


Gravediggers: Entombed

by Christopher Krovatin
HarperCollins, 2014
320 Pages
Mid-Grade (Ages 9-12)

I wondered where Krovatin would take his team of young zombie hunters next, and true to form, he kicks it up a notch by landing the three team-mates in the City of the Dead. The story starts with a bang– O’Dea, their Warden, has been kidnapped by Dario Savini, an enemy who had escaped from the Isla Hambrienta!
The Council of Wardens meets with the Gravediggers, and are complete jerks who claim that the Wardens have never truly needed the services of the Gravediggers, and are so rude they anger Kendra (who “has the blood” of a Warden, so it seems,) so intensely that she accesses her special powers and trashes the conference room. (The three partners began to develop new abilities in Terror Cove.) The Council are clearly a hostile force and will offer no help in retrieving O’Dea, who is expected to take her own life rather than allow a containment breach.
The Gravediggers are left with nowhere to turn except their old “friend,” Danny Melee. Together they solve the mystery of where O’Dea has been taken, but it’s not good news. Kudus is in Malaysia, and is the last remnant of a lost civilization, a place known in whispered legends as The City of the Dead, and for good reason.
Before they leave, it becomes evident that Ian is beginning to have feelings for Kendra. To top it all off, Josephina, O’Dea’s protegee, is having visions, ominous dreams about PJ in a cave posing a great danger for him, and she predicts that something bad will happen soon. But of course, there wouldn’t be a story if we all just heeded the warnings of the local gas station attendant not to go up to the haunted mansion on the hill…
Danny flies the Gravediggers to Borneo and equips the venture, (though, sadly, Ian finds he has to run away from home in order to get there.) Once there, the trio goes spelunking and soon unearth the gateway to Kudus.
Kendra is now showing signs of having much stronger powers; even more than those of the other Gravediggers. She can see the magic of sigils carved in the walls glowing as though she were a warden, and receives visions of the lives of the dead. Her visions allow us to learn the history of the ancient fallen city that was once invaded by an evil tribe, and then then horribly cursed. It became so overrun with the undead that the entire city was collapsed by the wardens of that time to lie forgotten below the earth.
At Kudus they encounter a new type of zombie– animated corpses that have dwelled underground for hundreds of years and have evolved adaptations to the darkness! They can smell human blood (unless you smear yourself with gore) and they can crawl on the ceiling, an entire army of pale zombies with fungus growing out of their spines on all sides! Remember that the fungus is what makes the zombie in Krovatin’s series– the body exists to spread the spore, and a head shot wont kill them like in the movies, these hunters must rip out or crush a zombie’s spine in order to take it out.
What they find in the sewers of the lost city is gross, spine-crushing, zombie cannibalism!

The whole blob of merged human corpses rises up around us like a garden of death, like a swelling lasagna of dead people sloshing up around us in festering waves. The basic laws of zombie nature have gone horribly wrong here, the conjoined dead deformed beyond reason– there are zombies with three arms, two torsos, four people’s worth of intestines spilling out of them. They all come pouring from the horrible pool of reanimated flesh around our feet.

Soon they find Dario’s father, a zombie, and watch Dario kill him. How cold; Dario is a ruthless Gravedigger bent on loosing the zombie population upon the world in order to teach everyone what life shared with zombies was once like, to make people appreciate the gift that is the Gravediggers. Besides unleashing the zombies from Kudus, one of his aims is also to destroy all Wardens. Gravediggers and Wardens, both sides seem to feel like there is no real need for the other.

They’ve never known what to do with us, because we have the power. Wardens need to be trained. Their blood has the potential for magic, but they need to be… whittled out of a person. Gravediggers are like diamonds… We have an inherent power behind us, an ability.

A skilled soldier, Dario offers at one point to help train the young gravediggers, but that is before they cross him. Dario’s father’s corpse had been holding a carven horn, what Kendra recognizes as the city’s seal. The kids nab it and run from Dario, but he soon catches up and gives PJ and Ian a beat down. Then he carries Kendra away. Eventually, the boys find O’Dea, who is upset that they came down into the tunnels and risked turning the tides of the magical containment. They were supposed to let her kill herself in order to protect the world. She had been kidnapped because in order to overcome the seal, Dario needs a Warden’s powers. Without O’Dea there should be no problem. Except he does have a Warden now. Kendra.
The team terrifyingly discovers the very source of the zombie contagion in Kudus and confronts it head on! Krovatin outdoes himself creating a horror at the center of it all that can viably threaten humanity itself, the raging spores of undead infection that may sweep the face of the planet. Not only will the Gravediggers have to defeat Dario the professional mercenary, but the fungal death itself… and then make it back to the surface alive to face the Council of Wardens.
Even better than the first two books in this series, the cover art on this edition is sweet! It promises darkness, terror, and zombie hordes, and Krovatin’s story delivers! There is no way to fully describe in words the alien flavor of ancient Southeast Asian architecture, so for a taste of what Kudus may have looked like, here are pictures of similar lost cities nearby. Wait a minute… could this sunken zombie-holocaust site be real?

Ancient Architecture:
Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Bagan, and Sukhothai

The Sarawak Chamber

Just as the feelings between Ian and Kendra are beginning to simmer and the tensions between the Gravediggers and Wardens are coming to a head, the Gravediggers Trilogy comes to an end! I am holding out hope that the story will continue in a new format. Necessarily a new format, because the ending of this adventure leaves the makeup of the Gravediggers fundamentally altered, and the characters forever changed.

Related Posts:

INTERVIEW with Christopher Krovatin
Gravediggers: Entombed
Gravediggers: Terror Cove
Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones
Heavy Metal and You



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Interview: Christopher Krovatin

Posted September 3, 2014 By JS Daly

Awake at Midnight welcomes Christopher Krovatin, author of the Gravediggers series, Venomous, and Heavy Metal & You.

Christopher Krovatin


Awake at Midnight:
First, can you trace the journey that would inspire a singer for a New York City-based death metal band to write children’s books?

Chis Krovatin:
Well, the band came after I’d released my first book,
Heavy Metal & You, but I’ve always been a diehard metalhead. Reading–in general, but horror especially–is something I’ve loved from an early age, because it took me to new places and let me live out my fantasies. The only thing I loved more was telling stories, because that lets me direct these daydreams and emotions, lets me act them out in a world where I’m in control and my imagination is the limit. Metal does that in many ways too– beneath the satanism and the rock star mentality, there’s an energy to metal, a driving emotional strength that lets you tap in to parts of your heart often unexplored. So it’s not as much of a strange union for me as many might think. I wasn’t some stone-faced death metal dude who one day decided to write for kids, I was a goofy young-at-heart headbanger who maintained a vibrant inner life and decent memory of the things that made him feel amazing when he was young.

Your description of Indonesia in Entombed is very rich. What goes into choosing the exotic locations for the zombie outbreaks the Gravediggers encounter?

Terrain is important– I want Ian, Kendra, and PJ to have different challenges every time, from cliffs to quicksand. But culture is also vital when you’re dealing with magic. In Entombed I wanted the Gravediggers to interact with an ancient civilization that was rich and strange. So I sat down and did research into old-world cultures with interesting, creepy histories, and came upon this one. My thought process went a little like this: “Let’s see, we’ve had Inuit magic, we’ve had islander magic… where else? Where did headhunters come from? Borneo? I know nothing about Borneo. Let’s get reading.” It would’ve been easy to take the kids to Haiti, birthplace of voodoo and the zombie myth, but I’ve read a million books about zombies in Haiti, both in my research and as a casual reader. Besides, my vision of the living dead uses all magical traditions as reference points. There are Norse Wardens, Tibetan Wardens, Australian aboriginal Wardens. So I figured I’d take these Gravediggers to a place they’d never dreamed of to fight zombies they couldn’t possibly imagine.

Horror films have obviously had a big influence on your work; were there specific movies that influenced your latest novel and the series in general?

I don’t want to give too much away with references, but one that’s worth mentioning is Day Of The Dead, the last of Romero’s original zombie trilogy. It’s always been my favorite of the three, because I love the whole cave-dwelling aspect of it (not to mention Tom Savini’s absolutely mindblowing zombie make-up and effects). Caves scare the Hell out of me– they have their own strange and somewhat unknowable ecosystem. There’s no light, no heat, very little sound. It’s like being in a giant coffin, except you’re not alone. Romero really nailed that with Day Of The Dead. His influence looms over the whole series, obviously, but in this one I wanted to capture that claustrophobic terror of the cave.

What horror books do you remember from your childhood– what were your favorites, and what scenes stuck with you?

Hrm. Well, my favorite book has for a long time been The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, and Jack Prelutsky’s two books of children’s horror poetry, Nightmares and The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight, remain two favorites for me. The novel that really got me into horror as a kid was Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. That book scared the bejeebus out of me, but I loved it. There’s one scene in particular– it ends with “It became unspeakable” –that I think truly instilled in me the power of fear. But for Entombed, two of the people I thank in the acknowledgments are people I read a lot as a child– H.P. Lovecraft and Mike Mignola. Obviously Lovecraft’s weirdness greatly influenced me, but Mignola’s reimaginings of old legends also inspired me to take the magic and traditions of ancient cultures and mold them to my own liking. Hellboy’s presence was huge in my youth.

You’ve changed the standard zombie mythology to center on the spread of a contagious fungal infection rather than a virus. An easy head-shot won’t save you anymore. Are there essential characteristics of the undead that you won’t stray from?

Ah, but let’s not forget that the fungal infection is controlled by dark magic! It never has to be one thing or the other, you see. The three things I think remain important about the zombie in my mind are the following: one, they’re reanimated corpses; two, they kill the living; and three, they are without human feeling. You can have zombies talk, or run fast, or dance around hilariously. They can be viral or demonic or fungal or clockwork. But to me, a zombie is a walking corpse with murderous intentions that has no discernible sensations, physical or emotional. The zombie is remorseless, inevitable, unstoppable. It is humanity’s shell, physically and mentally.

You’ve created characters with depth, all of whom begin to grow out of their stereotypical shells as they grow closer to one another. Which kind of kid were you growing up? Did writing any of these characters cause you to stretch into a different way of thinking?

Man, I was all of these kids growing up. I had Ian’s ADD and energy, Kendra’s know-it-all steel trap mind, and PJ’s love of horror movies and total cowardice. What was a stretch was taking these aspects of myself and turning them into fully-formed characters or one type or another. But that’s why it’s fun to have them all together– they learn from each other, and learn that people different from them have strength of their own. If I had to pick one, I guess I’d go with PJ, just because I spent a lot of my youth watching horror movies and reading Fangoria.

The series has gone from standard cabin-in-the-woods zombies to water zombies, and then in Entombed we are introduced to a terrifying new cave zombie. What other versions of the undead are out there waiting to be unleashed upon the Gravediggers?

Right now, we’re capping the series as a trilogy. That satisfied me at first, but the longer it goes since I’ve written about the kids, the more I want to write more of the books (obviously, sales matter too, but honestly, if my publishers came to me today asking for Gravediggers Part Four, I’d probably say yes). But come on, I can’t tell you what the next incarnation of my zombies would be! That’s half the fun of reading these books– seeing what kind of disgusting dead-alive monsters are coming next! What kind of zombies would you like to see?


With each book, the mythology of the Gravediggers and Wardens deepens. The Gravediggers’ powers develop, and we learn more about the delicate and sometimes hostile relationship between the two factions. In fact, the conflict seems to be just warming up, (not to mention another relationship that is warming up between Ian and Kendra.) Do you have an over-arching plan for the series, or is this truly the end?

Here’s what I’ll say: in my mind, the next arch of the Gravediggers saga is mapped out, and honestly, it’s pretty cool (man, my editor is going to bust my chops when she reads this). The conflict between the Wardens and the Gravediggers continues, and comes to a head. And the zombies… well, if the book series continues, you’ll see. It’s pretty sweet, though.

Where do you think the line is that divides adult, full-splatter horror and the type of zombie story that can be read by a more general audience, like the game Plants vs Zombies allows for? Have you ever had to go back and dial-down a scene because you thought it might be too intense for your readers?

It’s a hard line to draw, for sure. For Gravediggers: Terror Cove, my editor Claudia came back telling me I needed to up the zombie gore. After reading the next draft, she came back saying, “Okay, now we need to reel it in a bit…” But with zombies, splatter is a necessity. It’s just about making it work for you. As much as I love really dark, grotesque horror, I’ve never been a massive gore guy. With a movie like Zombie, I always loved the zombies more than the murders. But bloodless zombies are boring. Zombies in their very nature are about man as meat. So it’s about making the gore a frightening part of the story without making it gratuitous or unnecessary. There’s a part in Terror Cove where a character mentions that the zombies eat every part of their prey, and he says, “They ate the teeth.” That right there is more unsettling and grotesque than a metric ton of bloody guts.

What new projects are you working on currently?

Oh no, I’m not falling for that one.

Related Posts:

INTERVIEW with Christopher Krovatin
Gravediggers: Entombed (Coming Next Week!)
Gravediggers: Terror Cove
Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones
Heavy Metal and You

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