Title: Keep in a Cold, Dark Place
Author: Michael F. Stewart
Publication date: May 18th 2017
Genres: Horror, Middle-Grade
Reaching for her dream, Limpy unleashes a cute, fluffy, NIGHTMARE …
Keep in a cold, dark place. That’s what’s written like some ancient law on every bag of potatoes the family farms. And it’s where Limpy fears she will always remain.
It’s also carved on a box of spheres she discovers in the cellar. Spheres that hatch.
Cute at first, the creatures begin to grow. Then the chickens disappear. The cat is hunted. And something sets the barn ablaze. To survive, Limpy will need to face her greatest fear. The whole family will. Or they may end up in a cold, dark place indeed.
The majority of Michael F. Stewart’s intended middle-grade audience will not have seen the film Gremlins, whereas I was 7 years old when the film was released and I have watched it many times. There are several striking similarities between this movie and Stewart’s Keep in a Cold, Dark Place which unfortunately affected my enjoyment of the novel.
In Gremlins a young man is given an unusual fluffy creature called a Mogwai as a present. However, looking after this mogwai comes with very specific instructions: do not expose it to bright lights; do not get it wet and do not feed it after midnight. When all of this happens the evil gremlins are spawned and they cause mayhem in the town.
In Keep in a Cold, Dark Place Limpy finds eggs in a buried box, which is inscribed with a message she initially does not understand but later discovers means ‘Keep in a cold, dark place’. When the first egg hatches she keeps “Chup” as a pet but when the remaining three creatures emerge the trouble really begins. Limpy uncovers the mystery of these Chupacabra – “a legend. A mythical nightmare” – which originates from Puerto Rico.
Stewart is clever in the sense that Limpy’s discovery about the Chupacabra is not until the halfway point of the book. This means that he has given a reader time to acquaint themselves with his characters, in particularly Limpy, who we empathise with completely. Though only thirteen, Limpy is the kind of protagonist I enjoy reading about. She is strong and resourceful, even if her age makes her naive. Limpy lives with her father and two brothers on their failing potato farm. They are all haunted by the ghost pf Limpy’s mother, who died when giving birth to her. Stewart builds a bleak picture of Limpy’s life and we understand the dream she has of escaping, as well as the reasons she has for caring for Chup and wanting to believe he is something special to her.
Though Stewart does build Keep in a Cold, Dark Place to a climax which is tense and action-packed, I do think that he patronizes his middle-grade reader a little. The novel is categorized as ‘horror’ but in my opinion, he could have pushed the boundaries of his writing a little more and the story would still have been appropriate for a middle-grade audience.
My favorite part of Keep in a Cold, Dark Place is near the end and though I do not want to spoil the story for anyone I will say that it involves Limpy’s family coming together and facing their fears as a unit.
Keep in a Cold, Dark Place did not completely satisfy me as a reader, but I am sure there are many readers it will appeal to.
Michael F. Stewart is winner of both the 2015 Claymore Award and the 2014 inaugural Creation of Stories Award for best YA novel at the Toronto International Book Fair.
He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia, and New Zealand’s, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You. In addition to his award winning Assured Destruction series, he has authored four graphic novels with Oxford University Press Canada’s Boldprint series. Publications of nonfiction titles on Corruption and Children’s Rights are published by Scholastic and early readers are out with Pearson Education.
For adults, Michael has written THE SAND DRAGON a horror about a revenant prehistoric vampire set in the tar sands, HURAKAN a Mayan themed thriller which pits the Maya against the MS-13 with a New York family stuck in the middle, 24 BONES an urban fantasy which draws from Egyptian myth, and THE TERMINALS–a covert government unit which solves crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next.
Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he was the Ottawa Public Library’s first Writer in Residence. To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website or connect via Twitter.
Michael is represented by Talcott Notch.