Wednesday, October 31, 2012

That Terrible Halloween Night

Losing power during Hurricane Sandy has been part fun adventure, part annoying inconvenience!  Just got word that our township has even postponed Halloween until Saturday.  

James Stevenson 1980

This book always makes me chuckle.  It's Halloween night and two kids want to scare their grandpa.  But grandpa doesn't scare easy all because of that one Halloween Night he survived years ago.  He tells them the story (more ridiculous than scary) and the amusing ending will strike a chord with any grownup.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe

No October reading would be complete without Edgar Allan Poe.  I went through a fierce Poe faze when I was in high school.  I read all of his stories and poems (my best friend even gave me the big blue bound 'complete works' that still sits on my bookcase).  So it's no surprise that we took advantage of an early school dismissal to visit the Brandywine River museum where they were hosting a special exhibition-  "Picturing Poe:  Illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe's Stories and Poems".  Some of the artwork is amazing (the detailed black ink drawings of Harry Clarke were my favorite).  The show is up until November and I definitely recommend seeing it if you're in the area.

(exhibition catalogue)

Along with a paperback collection of stories (with a particularly attractive cover), we also have this collection of poems with dark and beautiful illustrations (the original of this book was on display at the Brandywine).

art by Edmund Dulac (reprint 2001)

Harry Lee Poe 2008

For biographical information (and Poe has a pretty sordid life history) this book has all sorts of pull out notes and pictures and tidbits. I love the over all design, artwork and layout of this book- I felt like it really kept to the spirit of Poe's era and works.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Halloween Play

Felicia Bond 2008

Felicia Bond's adorable pictures make this book awesome. A class of mice practices and performs a Halloween play for their family and friends and Roger has the best part of all.

(I love these guys!)

Too Many Pumpkins

Linda White
illustrated by Megan Lloyd 1997

One day an accident scatters pumpkin seeds in Rebecca Estelle's yard. She hates pumpkins (because that was all her poor family ate when she was a young girl) so she tries to pull them out and then ignores them. But they grow all summer long and when they take over her front yard she realizes something has to be done.

Her solution includes sharing her magnificent bounty with all her neighbors and friends. By the same illustrator as The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, the illustrations are a cozy homage to Halloween season.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Charlotte Sometimes

Then all, to Charlotte, seemed like a dream.

Penelope Farmer 1969

I admit, I think I partially love this book because of the Cure song that was inspired by it.  Plus, Charlotte is just such a wonderful name!

A really beautiful, haunting story about time and death, a girls boarding school and foggy nights.  It's one of those stories that is a simple read but afterwards you can't get it out of your head. 

Perhaps we never look at people properly, Charlotte thought.  And she remembered looking in a mirror once and trying to draw herself; how, after she had been staring at her features for a little while, they seemed no longer to make her face or any face.  They were just a collection of eyes and nose and mouth.  Perhaps if you stared at anyone like that, their faces would disintegrate in the same way, till you could not tell whether you knew them or not, especially, of course, if there was no reason for them not to be who they said they were.

And, she thought, uncomfortably, what would happen if people did not recognize you?  Would you know who you were yourself?  If tomorrow they started to call her Vanessa or Janet or Elizabeth, would she know how to be, how to feel, like Charlotte?  Were you some particular person only because people recognized you as that?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The House of Dies Drear

Virginia Hamilton 1984

 I couldn't decide if I loved this book or not.  The premise is great- an African American family moves to an old historical house that was part of the Underground Railroad but has a tragic story.  The father of the family, Mr. Small, is a historian and it's interesting to experience the cultural references and the perspective that they have.  Personally I thought the writing was inconsistant, sometimes it was really really good, but sometimes I was slogging through it and felt like it was going nowhere.  As a story about ghosts and hidden treasure and secret passageways it also wasn't as exciting or scary as I expected.  But still, a worthwhile read with an interesting plot for older elementary kids.

Here's a scene from the church that Thomas and his family visit one Sunday:

It seemed to Thomas that Pesty's voice slid down from the ceiling, down the hot walls and into Mac Darrow's hands.  It seemed to him that Mac Darrow's hands were inside the sound of the choir, holding on to Pesty's voice and then letting go of it when it became too strong for them.  Her voice was like no other Thomas could remember hearing.  It was pure and strong, not like a child's, and it was sweet and good, like a girl's. 

Later Thomas and his father explore the land around the house one night.

Thomas knew where to follow.  Moving blindly, he would suddenly have the sensation that his father had left behind part of his spirit like a hand print in the air.  Thomas would stumble upon this unsettled space and would know his father had passed there.

At one point the family takes part in a ruse to trap some mischief makers.  They dress as slaves and hide in the woods waiting to appear as ghosts.

Mr. Small was dressed much like Thomas, in tatters and rags, with chains about his wrists and ankles.  The chains were read and quite heavy;  Mr. Small hugged the ground in the way Thomas did.  During the long period of time he lay there, he began to feel as though he were a slave hiding and running.  Somewhere in the back of his mind was emptiness and fear;  loneliness, the way a desperate slave would feel.

And from Old Pluto:

Halfway through the waiting, the staring, he had become afraid.  The night settled around him; the minutes hung inside him in even lengths of cold.  He felt his mind getting further away from him.  He became frightened that he might see the real ghosts of old Mr. Drear and the two slaves, as he had seen them before when he was sick and tired with despair.  There had been a time when what he saw was just the Darrows walking stealthily behind him, never too near and never too far away.  They had followed him down the years, as had those ghosts, so that, oftentimes, he couldn't tell which he was seeing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kate Culhane A Ghost Story

Sometimes when we get new books I might skim them but then read them for the first time with the kids.  Thank goodness I didn't do that with this one!  I brought it up to bed with Charlotte and read it to myself quickly while she was looking at other books.  I really liked it (and so did my teenager) but it's definitely not for my four year old! 

Michael Hague 2001

The illustrations are wonderfully creepy, and the story is quite gruesome. It's an Irish legend that was copied down in the 1800's. 

Kate's mother dies and then her luck gets worse as her farm starts to fail and she accidentally steps on a freshly dug grave. The dead man inside that grave forces Kate to dig him up and carry him on her back into town. He can only enter a house that does not have holy water protecting it. When they find such a house he has Kate make him a ghoulish meal of oatmeal made with the blood of the house's inhabitants.

As the tale closes, Kate manages to outwit him in true folktale heroine fashion and all ends well.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hist Whist

E.E. Cummings
illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray 1994

 E.E. Cummings' poem is perfect for this time of year.  This book just begs to be read aloud with plenty of spooky words plucked and whispered.  We read it once outside around the fire and then again in bed so as not to miss out on the ghostly watercolor illustrations by Ray.

Here's the poem in its entirety:

hist      whist
little ghostthings
tip toe
twinkle toe

little twitchy
witches and tingling
hob a nob      hob a nob

little hoppy happy
toad in tweeds
little itchy mousies

with scuttling
eyes     rustle and run      and

whisk        look out for the old woman
with the wart on her nose
what she'll do to yer
knobody knows

for she knows the devil      ooch
the devil     ouch
the devil
ach     the great




Monday, October 8, 2012

Follow the Dream

Another book about Christopher Columbus before "Columbus Day" comes to an end.

Peter Sis 1991

 This one by Peter Sis has really interesting illustrations. They are full of details and symbolism that compliments the story of Columbus' life. Sis writes in the beginning that he was inspired to make this book because he grew up behind the Iron Curtain and he liked the idea that the "wall" of fear didn't hold Columbus back.

Another wonderful feature of this book is the page that provides some thought provoking questions about the pictures and why they were drawn the way they were.

Other books about Christopher Columbus: