Image: Four girls stand, frightened, in a dark forest. Behind them looms a shadowy purple figure with glowing white eyes and wearing a horned crown. Text: "Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand. Kat Shepherd."

KidLit Book Review: Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand by Kat Shepherd and Rayanne Vieira


Synopsis

The typical babysitting job just got a whole lot scarier!

Rebecca Chin is understandably freaked out when something begins haunting her babysitting charge, Kyle. Ever since a powerful thunderstorm, strange handprints have appeared on the walls, shadows prowl his room, and the baby is not quite himself.

After investigating, Rebecca and her three best friends discover that a sinister, paranormal villain known as the Night Queen has taken Kyle and replaced him with one of her minions. To stop her, they embark on a chilling journey into the woods to outwit the Night Queen and her creepy creatures—or risk being trapped in her realm forever!


Details

  • Title: Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand
  • Series: Babysitting Nightmares #1
  • Author: Kat Shepherd
  • Illustrator: Rayanne Vieira
  • Cover Artist: Rayanne Vieira, art; Eileen Savage, design
  • Publisher: Imprint
  • ISBN: 1250156963
  • Publication Date: June 5, 2018
  • For Ages: 8-12
  • Category: Middle Grade
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? ☠️ Scary.

Review

Babysitters are a horror mainstay for a reason. They are nighttime guardians, standing between the innocent and the beasties who would do them harm. Babysitters are often adolescents, meaning they’re caught between childhood—a time when monsters are very real and nothing seems impossible—and adulthood—a time when you’re seen as an authority figure whether you feel like one or not. An adolescent, then, is someone who is still young enough to see (and believe in) monsters but who is old enough to try and do something about them.

Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand is the first entry in a series about a group of adolescent girls who discover that their town is a hotbed for supernatural activity. Our monster-fighting babysitters club consists of four friends: Rebecca, who is sweet and responsible; Clio, who is bookish and cool; Tanya, who is practical and scientific; and Maggie, who is bratty and awful. (Seriously, Maggie irritated me to no end. Kids may like her, though, or at least view her as a realistic peer. Just speaking personally, however, I found her to be gratingly selfish, immature, and cruel. I’m hopeful that her character will develop a bit more and/or grow on me in future books.)

With the assistance of Clio’s incredibly cool Aunt Kawanna (who I really hope is taking applications for a new best friend—she loves horror movies, runs an awesome costume shop, always has delicious baked goods on hand, and has INCREDIBLE fashion sense), the girls discover that Rebecca’s favorite babysitting charge Kyle has been kidnapped by the fearsome Night Queen and replaced with a demonic changeling. The fun, exciting, and eerie story follows this Scooby Gang as they read some arcane texts, come up with a plan, and head out into the night to rescue baby Kyle. Each girl’s talents and strengths (yes, even Maggie’s) aid them in their quest to defeat the Night Queen, and it’s a joy to see a group of girls work together in a compelling but realistic way to fight supernatural evil.

Changelings are a terrifying subject ripe for all kinds of literary exploration, but they’re not as commonplace in popular culture as certain other folkloric monsters, so I was very pleased that author Kat Shepherd chose a changeling as the monster for this first book in her series. Inserting a creature that appears at first glance to belong in our supposedly safe and normal world but turns out to be so fundamentally wrong is a canny way to explore the idea of boundaries: boundaries between the natural and the supernatural, between childhood and adulthood, and between good and evil. The girls grapple with these boundaries throughout the story and seem destined to grapple with them in future installments as well. If those arcane texts are to be believed (and they always are), there will be no shortage of spooky adventures for this group of friends, and I look forward to reading all about them.


Rating

I’m serious, Kawanna! Call me! I give this book 4 out of 5 coffins.

4 Coffins


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