There’s a Nightmare in My Closet

There's a Nightmare in my ClosetSummary: The pesky nightmare in the closet won’t stay in there at night, even with the door closed all the way. When he gets out, what do you do? Comfort him and put him to bed, of course! The ultimate afraid-of-the-dark story has helped generations of kids deal with the nightmares in their own closets.A perennial favorite.

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There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, by Mercer Mayer 7.0

Inspired by having read my blurb for ‘Sketch Monsters, vol. 2‘, a friend of mine asked me if I had ever read one of her favourites,  ‘There’s a Nightmare in My Closet’, by Mercer Mayer.

I had actually never heard of the book before and, after clearing up the fact that it wasn’t by the author of ‘Where the Wild Things Are‘, I decided to request the book from the library.

Far be it for me to miss out on a childhood classic!

‘There’s a Nightmare in My Closet’ tells the story of a young boy who is afraid of what hides in his bedroom closet. He has never seen it, and doesn’t plan to: he always closes the door before going to bed.

One night, however, he decides to confront his fears: he puts his plastic helmet on, arms himself with his toy gun and lies in wait. It isn’t long before he is faced with a scary monster called Nightmare.

The book was released in 1968, five years after ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, and critics apparently unfavourably compared it to the former. Despite that, it was a hit and it remains popular to this day.

It’s a brief book, with only few pages and very little text. It takes place in the boy’s bedroom and over the course of as little as five minutes; it was by far my breeziest read in years.

I really liked that Mayer’s intention was to teach children that they should confront their fears, and that the unknown is likely far less daunting than we think. These are good lessons to learn.

And in this format, as an easy-to-read book, I imagine that it reached younger audiences more easily – either as they began to learn to read, or via bedtime stories with their parents.

Having only just discovered it, though, I kind of wish that I knew what its impact has been through the years. I know that it’s been reprinted many times, but how deep do its roots go?

I mean, I’ve often heard people reference ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, but never this one. Why is that, given that Mayer is a well-established author, with over 300 published works?

You’d think ‘There’s a Nightmare in My Closet’ would have the same stature. Perhaps the critical response doomed it from the onset, making it a popular but not well-regarded book?

I wish I knew…

On that same topic, it was interesting to see why there was confusion about the author of this book: although the art is less sophisticated, it has a similar quality as Maurice Sendak’s work does.

There was also a monster (or two!) in it, and the creature design would have fit in relatively well with Sendak’s bunch of “Wild Things”. So it makes sense that the two have been mixed up so often.

It’s not ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, though. While I may be biased, having read Sendak’s book many times as a kid, there’s a richness and depth to it that I can’t seem to find in Mayer’s book.

Still, ‘There’s a Nightmare in My Closet’ is a fine starter book for young audiences – and their parents, naturally. But it’s far too easy a read to sustain the interest of more demanding intellects.

Especially those who are no longer afraid of what might be in the closet.

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