Friday, October 31, 2014

The Wyndcliffe

Sometimes you take a chance on a 25 cent book at the thrift store and it's a gem indeed!

Louise Lawrence 1975

A beautiful ghost story about a girl named Anna moving with her family to an old stone house in the English countryside.  While navigating her relationship with her older brother and sister and trying to find her way in a new school, she grows lonelier and lonelier.  Then she meets the ghost of a young man- a Romantic poet from centuries ago whose own tragic history is tied to Anna's house.  Filled with teenage angst and longing, Anna begins to lose herself in her mysterious bond with the young man.

Anna shivered and crawled behind the sofa.  The metal radiator was warm.  She clung to it in the small dark space breathing in the dry heat.  She didn't want to be anymore.  She wanted to stay a nothing, warm and hidden, protected.  She wanted to stay for the rest of her life in this warm, dark, sheltered corner where no one would come.  She wanted never to be herself again but stay nonexistent and forgotten.

This is a well written YA book that captures a dreamy teen girl's emotions (and I was that dreamy teenager!) within a haunting mystical sort of story.

His was the same world, the Wyndcliffe under the same sky.  But now Anna looked on it with unclouded eyes.  The Wyndcliffe was only a small part of something bigger.  She gazed on strange and distant horizons, brilliant and indescribable, where there were colors she had never seen before.  John's world.  She drifted through its clearness, its misted depths, its shadows, colors, sounds and movements.  It was a dream landscape, a magic place, and this little piece of it belonged to them, the Wyndcliffe, windswept, sunstruck and beautiful.  Its intensity touched her with a delight that was almost pain.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Skeleton books

Here are two fun books about skeletons to get you in the Halloween spirit.  

The Skeleton Book
An Inside Look at Animals 
Madeleine Livaudais

I love this vintage nature book all about the skeletons inside animals.  The photographs of actual skeletons on a simple black background are quite beautiful.  I almost wanted to frame some of the pages!  All sorts of animals are shown, from a small frog to a giant whale.  You are invited to notice the similarities and differences and what their bones might reveal about how they live.  Good stuff!

Rattle Your Bones
Skeleton Drawing Fun
David Clemesha 

Once you've had your curiosity piqued by The Skeleton Book, now try your hand at drawing skeletons!  This instructional book has easy to follow directions and fun illustrations to copy.  Charlotte and I made several skeleton drawings based on the ones we saw here.  It was pretty fun!  A few pages give examples of skeletons found throughout history in art and there's plenty of humor throughout.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Through the Woods

Emily Carroll 2014

This is most definitely NOT a children's book.  But my teenagers loved it, especially Madeleine who is drawn to graphic novels.  The artwork is wonderful and appropriately grotesque at times.  The stories themselves are perfectly creepy, like folk tales gone disturbingly wrong.  Though Madeleine and I disagreed on which ones were scarier ("His Face all Red" gave me the shivers and "Our Neighbor's House" was the most haunting).  For those with macabre tastes this is a must read for Halloween.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Boy Who Tried to Cheat Death

 The Boy Who Tried to Cheat Death
Charles Mikolaycak 1971

I'm a fan of the illustrator Charles Mikolaycak so imagine my delight when I found this recently at the thrift store.  
It's a Norwegian folk tale in which a young man is given a barrel of beer for his wages.  When he shares a drink with an old man who is Death he strikes a curious deal.  Death will give his beer the power to heal sick people and save them from dying.  But if the young man sees Death at the head of their bed then nothing will save them and Death will have his way.

When the King's daughter becomes seriously ill, and Death is at the head of her bed, the young man finds a way to trick him and save the young woman.  In the end though, the young man finds that  Death can't be cheated forever.

Other books illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Abandoned Houses

 I love to poke around old abandoned properties.  We've climbed in through windows or basement doors, inched across rotting floors, crept quietly around dusty, empty rooms.  Abandoned houses all smell like mold, damp earth, and animals.  Sometimes a houses' past lives are left behind.  Books, photographs, birthday cards, furniture, letters, dishes in the sink- it can feel like stepping back in time.  I love the remnants and the buildings themselves- some as old as the 18th century- but also the nature that surrounds them.

One house (Madeleine called it the "shoe house" because we kept finding old shoes around the back yard) was surrounded by stinging nettles and a large Plane tree leaned on the porch.  Ivy crept through windows and moss grew below the fallen roof.  There's something so beautiful about such dilapidation.

This book describes perfectly what happens to a "ruined house", left on its own and how nature claims it.

Mick Manning 1994

 The first page says, "This is my favorite house.  I like it because it has gone to rack and ruin."  Yes!
It goes on to describe how you get to the house (you climb a fence into what used to be the garden) and the wild plants that have taken over.

And how the house slowly became what it did... First the rain dripped down the chimney.  Everything turned damp.  Fungus spread over the woodwork and all the rooms began to smell of mould.  Insects moved in, and ferns sprouted from cracks in the stone.  The weather broke through the windows.  The plaster and the floorboards rotted away, and slowly the house began a new life.

This is what I do- wonder about who lived in these houses, collect the leftover bits, piece together stories.

Peeking in.
I brought home a raccoon skull found in the basement of this old house.  The building is demolished now.

An empty attic

Ted Kooser
illustrated by Jon Klassen 2012

And then there is this book.  So beautiful and lyrical in its story of the life of a house.  Once built and lived in and loved.  But time and life march on and roofs fall in.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Night of the Gargoyles

Eve Bunting
illustrated by David Wiesner 1999

There's something slightly creepy about the idea of gargoyles coming to life at night.  Although Eve Bunting's gargoyles are not malicious or evil, they do tend to cause some mischief.  Bunting's lyrical words and Wiesner's illustrations are a perfect pair.  It makes for a just spooky enough October bedtime read.