By Kenneth Oppel
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Available now from Simon & Schuster BFYR
Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen are both titans of children's literature. Their first collaboration is a creepy confection sure to delight fans of CORALINE. I hate to make the same comparison as the marketing, but this is one of those cases where it is true.
Steve's baby brother is sick. It is a congenital problem, and he needs surgery, and he might not ever be completely normal. That's when Steve first dreams about the angels, the wasps, who offer to help. At first it seems like his dreams might just be a sensitive boy dealing with a tough time, experiencing his family's stress the only way he can. But the dreams are getting more sinister, and Steve is starting to suspect that he shouldn't have agreed to let the wasp queen help. Of course, no adults will believe him that they need to protect the baby from the wasps.
Klassen's art is a terrific accompaniment to the story. In black and white his distinctive style looks quite sinister. It's startling white shapes on black backgrounds and shadows on shadows. Although the illustrations look quite simple, each enhances the mood of the text.
Oppel's writing is in fine form. The text is rather large on the page, so THE NEST is even shorter than it seems. The words are as deceptively simple as the illustrations. Even a slower reader probably won't take to long to get through THE NEST, excepting for breaks to slow the creepy-crawlies. As short as the story is, it's the kind that burrows into you and makes you look at the world around you in a different way, as everyday things become sinister. It's also a well done portrait of childhood anxieties, both normal kid fears and trying to understand the fears of your parents which you can sense even when they try to hide them.
I expect this scary story will become a new children's classic. If it doesn't, that's a true shame.