Thursday, September 4, 2008

Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep (1976)

"Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep" (1976, Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel) is a book of 12 poems on witches, werewolves, vampires, haunted houses, and all things scary. Each poem is illustrated with one or more full-page black and white drawings in a style reminiscent of Edward Gorey. Pelutsky has written several books of poetry for children, but this particular one is out of print as of this writing.

UPDATE 4/13/10 Appears to have come back in print recently in a library-binding edition! Buy it new right now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

One of the poems, "The Ghoul", stands out among the others in its sheer gruesome explicitness. It actually kind of shocked me when I first read it as a child, to the extent that it stuck with me long after I'd returned the borrowed book to the public library.

Here is a sampling of the illustrations and interior pages, with the complete text of "The Ghoul" at the end:


"Shadows from the dim hereafter
hang from every creaking rafter,
laughing disembodied laughter
in their ghostly glee."
-excerpt from The Haunted House






The gruesome ghoul, the grisly ghoul,
without the slightest noise
waits patiently beside the school
to feast on girls and boys.

He lunges fiercely through the air
as they come out to play,
then grabs a couple by the hair
and drags them far away.

He cracks their bones and snaps their backs
and squeezes out their lungs,
he chews their thumbs like candy snacks
and pulls apart their tongues.

He slices their stomachs and bites their hearts
and tears their flesh to shreds,
he swallows their toes like toasted tarts
and gobbles down their heads.

Fingers, elbows, hands and knees
and arms and legs and feet -
he eats them with delight and ease,
for every part's a treat.

And when the gruesome, grisly ghoul
has nothing left to chew,
he hurries to another school
and waits...perhaps for you.


V_Translanka said...

Yes! I felt the same way about The Ghoul! Nightmares was a book I had constantly checked out from our school library (I've heard it's on some places ban list! I guess that sort of makes sense, but it's so good!)...The book has a sequel as well, The Headless Horseman Rides the Night: More Poems to Trouble Your Sleep.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to find this book for so long. I used to read this book as a child over and over again. I couldn't remember the title but I did remember the cover of the book and the pictures. I went to Barns and Nobles to look for it and drove the lady crazy and looked at me as I was explaining the type of book like They actually let children read these books. Thanks so much to your blog I have finally been able to find this book. I loved it. It is a great book for those who love horror stuff. I read the ghoul poem, which was my favorite poem of the collection, to my girlfriend and she looked at me and said "no wonder you are a weird person."

.buckethead. said...

Arnold Lobel and Stephen Gammell are responsible for me being as screwed up as I am today. I would sit there, absorbed by their drawings for hours.

Tracy H. said...

That is fantastic! And you're so right: The artwork looks amazingly like Gorey's.

Eric Johnson said...

This doesn't even come close to 1981's Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. Check it out on Amazon or your local bookstore. Talk about creepy!

Unknown said...

It seems as though there is an EXTREMELY good reason why this book is no longer in print.

Captain Morgan said...

Stellar find! Hopefully it'll go back into fashion due to this massive Twitard mania.

MJ said...

I loved that book. I had totally forgotten about it until I saw the pictures.

Chris said...

I became obsessed with this book in the fall of my 4th grade year, 1980. No one at school had seen this book, but we were doing these sort of mini book reports where you actually read the book to the rest of the class. I still remember the kid, Bo, in my class brought this book in and we were all hooked. No one else had discovered that it was in our school library, tucked away somewhere, and we couldn't believe a book like that was in there. I think every one of my friends borrowed that book at one time or another from there on out that year, and we all gathered around it many times. I remember the kid that found it and did it for the book report right before it was Halloween so it was great timing. I think I went as a ghoul that year for Halloween.