Friday, October 30, 2015


A cold and starry darkness moans
And settles wide and still
Over a jumble of tumbled stones
Dark on a darker hill.

An owl among those shadowy walls,
Gray against the gray
Of ruins and brittle weeds, calls
And soundless swoops away.

Rustling over scattered stones
Dancers hover and sway,
Drifting among their own bones
Like webs of the Milky Way.

-Harry Behn

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Halloween Tree

The ravine, filled with varieties of night sounds, lurkings of black-ink stream and creek, lingerings of autumns that rolled over in fire and bronze and died a thousand years ago.  From this deep place sprang mushrooms and toadstool and cold stone frog and crawdad and spider.  There was a long tunnel down there under the earth in which poisoned waters dripped and the echoes never ceased calling Come Come Come and if you do you'll stay forever, forever, drip, forever, rustle, run, rush, whisper, and never go, never go go go...

I don't know how I could have gone through so many Halloweens and never read this book.  It's absolutely stunning.   A group of boys, dressed and ready for trick-or-treating are led on a spooky trip by a mysterious character named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud.  Part history lesson, part magic, part adventure story, the writing is pure poetry and magic realism at its most glorious.  On a crisp October night, make some hot cider, tuck your legs under a blanket, and read this book.

Eight boys, bedecked in Halloween costumes, letting the sheer exhilaration of being alive and out on this night pull their lungs and shape their throats into a yell and a yell and a... yeeeellll!

Ray Bradbury
illustrated by Joseph Mugnaini
(The cover artwork is by Leo and Diane Dillon)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wicked Jack

Adapted by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

We've come across several variations of this story about a character so mean, even the devil himself can't beat him.  There's something about the pictures in this one that caught my fancy.  It might make for some good Halloween reading.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What Goes Around Comes Around

Richard McGuire 1995

I actually found this book rather hilarious.  Simple graphic designs show the journey of a doll who somehow was dropped out of a window.  In the most absurd ways, it bounces across the world only to  return and payback a certain naughty brother.  A bit like Peter Newell for the modern reader.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ghost Eye

Why not read a book with both cats and ghosts for Halloween.  One that's illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, even better!

Marion Dane Bauer
illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman 1992

Purrloom Popcorn is a cornish rex show cat with big ears and velvet fur.  He's entirely unhappy that his show days are over and he now has to live in a big old house with a lonely little girl.  But Purrloom has a special feature, one blue eye that as he comes to find out, lets him see ghosts!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Night House Bright House

Monica Wellington 1997

Rhyming text that lickety-splits off your tongue and bold bright pictures make up this great read-aloud book.  This one was in heavy rotation when Madeleine and Henry were toddlers and I had almost forgotten about it on our bookshelf.  Mischievous mice frolic through the house while all sorts of intimate objects put in their two cents. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nurse Matilda

Christianna Brand
illustrated by Edward Ardizzone 2005

If you've ever seen the movie "Nanny McPhee" these are the stories, written in the 1960's that the movie was based on.  Mr. and Mrs. Brown have a large family.  So many children in fact, that they are never all completely named in the stories.  And they're terribly naughty!  After going through dozens of nurses and governesses and maids, the Browns are at their wits' end.  Everyone keeps telling them that they need "Nurse Matilda", a magical sort of character much like Mary Poppins but with a mischeivious streak.  She agrees to teach the children 7 lessons, "To go to bed when they're told," she said on the first step.  "Not to gobble," she said on the second step.  "To do their lessons," she said on the third step.  "To get up when they're called," she said on the fourth step.  "To close doors after them, to wear their best clothes when they have to; and not to run away," she said on the fifth, sixth and seventh steps.

She's described as rather ugly with a nose like two potatoes and a big front tooth that sticks out like a "tombstone".  But she endears herself to the children, and each time they learn a lesson it seems like she is less unattractive and has a beautiful golden glow.  And of course, the deal she has with the family is that "When you didn't need me- but you did want me:  then I must leave you."

Full of funny British humor and the amusing hijinks of naughty children (which Charlotte always finds amusing!), this was a great read.  I particularly love how the Brown parents are never convinced that their children are truly naughty.

Mrs. Brown was very sweet, but she really was rather foolish about her darling children and never believed that they could possibly be naughty.

Even though they were doing things like:

Francesca had filled the Tiny Baby's bottle with baby-food and was feeding the dogs with it.  
Little Quentin had drawn flowers all up the walls and was watering them from the big, brown, nursery teapot.
Antony was filling up the nursery ink-wells with runny red jam.
Nicolas had collected all the Little Ones' dolls and was lining them up for execution.
Sophie was shampooing Henrietta's hair with glue.
All the other children were doing simply dreadful things too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Brothers of the Knight

Recently Chris and I have taken up swing dancing.  We took classes through Swing Kat and we try to get to their dances on the weekends which are held at an old ballroom on High Street.  There's great music, girls in swirly dresses and lots of fast, fun Lindy Hop and jitterbug (a little of which Chris and I can do!).  It's easy to see how you could dance the night away like this!

And that's just what the Knight brothers do in this modern retelling of the "12 Dancing Princesses" story.  In this version, Reverend Knight lives in Harlem with his 12 sons and their constantly worn out shoes.  Every housekeeper he hires just can't keep track of them until a mysterious woman named "Sunday" shows up on their front steps.  She puts the brothers to work cleaning, makes delicious food  and outwits them at their own dancing.  But best of all, she brings the Reverend and his boys together as a family.  You can almost feel the rhythm and music in the boisterous pictures and I loved the happy ending!

Debbie Allen
pictures by Kadir Nelson 1999