Tell the Story To Its End, by Simon P. Clark

I had not heard of Tell the Story To Its End, by Simon P. Clark (published in the UK in 2014 as Eren, published by St. Martin's Griffin in October 2015 in the US) until it was nominated for this years Cybils Awards and ended up in my category of Elementary/Middle Grade fantasy.  It is a strange and spooky story, one of the most memorable books I've read this year, and I have found myself in the last day or so writing English class essays about it in my head....

12 year old Oli's mother has abruptly uprooted him from London and taken him to stay with his aunt and uncle in the old house in the country where she grew up, and where he's never been before.  She's being awfully unforthcoming with answers to his questions-how long they will be there, when is his dad coming, why haven't they ever been before.  But he's a bright boy, and during the next few weeks he learns the answer to the biggest question of why his father isn't there.

But that's not all that happens...the heart of the book is the story of the bat-like creature up in the attic, who hungers for stories.  Oli is fascinated as the creature shares with him memories of ancient stories tellers from long lost prehistory, but he is repelled at the same time.  There is something off about Eren (apart from the fact that he's a giant bat creature in the attic), and as the creature's insatiable demands for Oli's own story continue, Oli realizes that telling the story to its end might in fact be the end...

And in the meantime, Oli has made friends with two local kids with stories of their own, and tales of this place, which give him an anchor in the real world.  As he works through the lies his mother has told him, and thinks hard about stories, he clings to the hope that somehow he can twist his tale to escape from Eren's mesmerizing power over him, before he is sucked dry of words.

The ending leaves some hope, but I would have liked more of it.

It's on the older end of middle grade, not just because of the horror element and the unresolved ending, and the situation with Oli's father, but also because there are a few swears of the "hell" variety.  Not enough to raise my eyebrows, especially since this is an English book (I think that light swearing is less Shocking across the pond).  But it's not YA--Oli's only 12, and he's very much dealing with middle grade concerns of friendship and family, and having your soul sucked dry by a story vampire bat creature is not an age-specific problem (?)

There is tons and tons of food for thought about stories and the nature of reality and the telling of things...and the writing offers lots for the mind to play with in terms of metaphor and meaning.  In the essay I've been writing in  my head, I've explored images of roads, gates, and windows as offering both commentary on the facts of the situation and hope that there will be escape....

So though its not a comfort read, it sure is strange and magical.  Any one interested in stories and story telling, who likes fairy tale-esque twistedness of reality, will find it worth reading.

And lo, Kirkus agrees--"Savvy readers and would-be writers will love this exploration of story as an art form, a panacea, and an endless part of life."


  1. Wow! this looks really good...will pick it up...thx for sharing...ps. I include your posts quite often on my ya/mg book blog...just fyi.

  2. Ooo, well, I do love creepy books! I suppose I've missed my window for reading creepy Halloweeny books, so I'll toss this on the docket for the winter season. Winter is a good time to read shivery-chills books too!


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