Title: Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror
Author: Chris Priestley
Publisher: Published 2008 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books (first published 2007)
Synopsis: This spine-tingling, thrill-packed novel has more than enough fear-factor for the most ardent fan of scary stories. Uncle Montague lives alone in a big house, but regular visits from his nephew, Edward, give him the opportunity to recount some of the most frightening stories he knows. As each tale unfolds, it becomes clear that something sinister is in the air. From the account of a curious boy who intrudes on Old Mother Tallow’s garden to a shy girl’s ghostly encounter during an innocent game of hide and seek, a pattern emerges of young lives gone awry in the most terrifying of ways. Young Edward begins to wonder just how Uncle Montague knows all these ghastly tales, and ultimately discovers that his mysterious uncle’s life has a darker side than he ever imagined. This cleverly wrought collection of stories-within-a-story by Chris Priestly is perfectly matched in darkly witty illustrations by David Roberts.
Somewhere along the line I have been led to believe that Chris Priestley is a very good author, so when I found one of his books on my classroom shelves, I added it to my TBR pile and took a very long time to actually read it. Now I have to confess that I’m a bit of a wussy, when it comes to scary book, so it took a lot of courage to just get past the front cover. And once you’ve read the book the cover is just that little bit scarier because you know!
Despite all this terror, the beginning of the book is actually quite funny.
“Good Lord,” said my father. “Stories eh? I heard a story once.”
In a few lines, Priestley has painted an image of the parents, so that the reader can fully understand Edgar’s life view. Edgar then innocently goes off to his Uncle’s house and I felt my spine go a little cold, that could have been a draft as I was reading it on the metro or it could have been the creepy wood and house he’s just described. Once Priestley has set the tone the stories begin. Edgar finds an object in the drawing-room and Uncle Montague tells a story. Throughout the afternoon Uncle Montague does a good job of convincing Edgar the stories are true and Edgar tries to convince himself they aren’t. I loved the way I found myself so engrossed in the book that I swung back and forth with Edgar. Priestley does a fantastic job of putting the heebie jeebies up you by tapping into things that children really are terrified of. Edgar’s trip to the toilet is priceless. There’s also this kind of old world feel to the book. It could be 1950’s it could be earlier, I was never quite sure of when the book was set, but this just added to the feeling of terror.
The final chapter is the climax of creepiness and I won’t tell you too much about it because I hate giving away endings, but really it was so satisfying.
Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that kids love scaring the bejesus out of themselves and this book can definitely do the trick. And what I really liked about it, is that there’s no blood and gore, it’s just plain, good old, terrifying. Priestley builds up suspense, let’s us off the hook for a bit and then WHAM! And he does it well.
So for those of you who have been singing Priestley’s praises, it was well-merited. Thank you for introducing me to a great author and I look forward to reading more. I give this book: