Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Big Bad Wolf by Nancy Gray



Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf by Nancy Gray, Mid-Grade Horror, 112 pp.



Title: BIG BAD WOLF
Author: Nancy Gray
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 112
Genre: Middle Grade Horror


Jane is ecstatic when she gets the role of Red Riding Hood in her school play, but she didn’t realize that they’d be using the stuffed wolf prop as the Big Bad Wolf. That tattered old prop has always scared her and, lately, she has been having strange dreams about it that make it seem like it’s something more.

Jane will have to get help to save herself from the hungry spirit that has haunted her people and her nightmares before it consumes her, or worse, escapes the prison of the last creature it took to sate its horrible appetite.

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Chapter 1 - Casting

            “I can’t believe it!  I got the part!” Jane hopped up and down as she looked over the casting sheet one last time to make sure.

            Her best friend, Sophie, laughed, “I knew you would.”

            “I didn’t think so.  I did awful at the audition.  I tripped over my own feet.”

            “Mrs. Rose knew you were nervous because you wanted it more than everyone else.  You deserve it.”

            Jane sighed. “Are you sure that you have to go on that trip?  I want you to be here to at least see the play.”

            Sophie shrugged. “I know.  But, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen my cousin.  Besides, I like spending time on the farm.”

            “I’ll get my mom to tape the show.  We can watch it when you get back.”

            Sophie smiled. “That’s good.  Then at least I’ll get to see it later.  It should be pretty scary.  Well, I’d better go and you’d better too.  You don’t want to make a bad impression being late on the first day.  Good luck, Red Riding Hood.”

            Jane practically skipped to the stage and lined up with the other students that were chosen for parts.  She glanced down the row and frowned.  Patrick was grinning at her with his squinty green eyes and freckled face.

            She snapped, “What are you so smug about, Patsy?”

            He chuckled. “Well, Janey Jane, Let me guess, you were so excited you didn’t read the rest of the cast sheet, right?”

            Jane looked away, embarrassed. “Well, I didn’t want to be late.”

            He laughed harder. “I’m going to be playing the wolf, Red.”

            She ran a hand down her face and murmered. “I knew it was too good to be true…”

            Mrs. Rose walked up to the stage and handed out the scripts to the row of excited students.  Everyone sat down and began to page through their individual copies.  Patrick glanced at Jane with an infuriating grin, but she simply rolled her eyes at him one last time and then moved back to avoid looking in his direction again. 

            Mrs. Rose walked in front of them and said, “First of all, congratulations on all of your parts.  Since this is a Halloween play, I chose the rolls based on who could portray their parts in a suitably ominous way.  Remember, these are fractured fairy tales, so nothing is supposed to end well.  And, the common element in all of them will be the big, bad wolf.”

            Patrick stood up and gave a quick bow.

            Jane thought, “Show off…

            Mrs. Rose continued, “The main theme is Little Red Riding Hood, but as you can see, there will be elements from other stories incorporated.  While she’s going to grandma’s house, she’ll run into Snow White being chased by the woodsman, and themes from other stories as well, as she continues to get lost further and further in the woods.”

            A kid with round glasses and unruly hair spoke up. “Can I play with different colors of lighting depending on the fairy tale?  And can I use strobe effects?”

            “Well, probably no strobe effects.  We wouldn’t want anyone in the audience to have a seizure.  Still, I think different colors according to the story would be excellent.  Everyone, this is Kyle.  He just joined the club as our lead technician.” 

A few people clapped, but Jane clapped a little more than the others. “Thank goodness, someone finally volunteered to be techie, instead of all the backstage work being done by someone who didn’t get a part.  The lighting might actually be good this year. 

Kyle was in a few of her classes, but she never really talked to him.  He didn’t seem the type to be interested in the Drama Club.  He was always playing with his laptop or some kind of electronic device. 

            Patrick whispered in her direction, “I think someone’s in love.”

            Jane whispered back, “Bite me, Patsy.”

            Patrick said, “Maybe I will…AWOOOO!”

            Mrs. Rose tapped her foot impatiently. “Save it for the rehearsal, Patrick.”

            They both muttered an apology and quickly looked at the ground.

            “As you know, we don’t have a good budget this year, so I want all of you to look for old costumes and props that we can reuse.  The basement under the stage is a good place to start, as well as the various trunks backstage.  I believe, if we can get it working, the stuffed wolf would make a great prop too.  There should even be a speaker inside of it from our last play.  Kyle, see if you can reconnect it.”

            “Okay.  It should be pretty easy.”

            “Jane, you go with Kyle and show him the ropes.”

            She nodded. “Yes, Mrs. Rose.”





 




 Suitable for older grade school readers who are not afraid of things that go bump in the dark.
The main character is a young girl who has dreams of becoming an actress. Her parents are not thrilled with this choice. It seems her older sister had a similar dream and didn't choose the smartest path to get there. This is just about taking part in a school play though, isn't it? Where is the harm in that?

With references to spooky props, evil spirits that visit in nightmares, and a bit about how mean kids can be to each other when they think they are just playing harmless pranks, this story moves along at a quick pace. Jane has to use her wits and become brave to face the troubles that follow her. It made me wonder what decisions I might make if I were in her place.
When she is afraid that no one will believe her, but she desperately needs help, can Jane do what it takes  to make sure her stage debut is not her final curtain call?

I think brave young readers will howl for this book.




Nancy Gray has published a number of works including her middle grade series Spine Chillers. She also published her YA fantasy series Blood Rain. Her short story “Chosen” appeared in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Author Quest: a Penguin Special from Grosset & Dunlap. Her work also appears in various anthologies.

Nancy Gray has been writing for over ten years. Gray lives in South Carolina with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys books, video games, anime, manga, and horror.
Her latest book is the mid-grade horror, Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf.

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