Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Leo: A Ghost Story

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson.
Chronicle Books, 2015.

Getting back to the non-scary stuff, here is a sweet new picture book for the season. Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson are two of the best picture book makers working today, so you know this one will be special.

We first meet Leo in the house he has called home for many years. He is alone.

When a family finally moves into the house, Leo is delighted. As they are unpacking, Leo brings them a tray of mint tea and honey toast. They see only a floating tray. As they cower in the bathroom, Leo hears them say how much they hate ghosts. They hold a seance to banish him, but sad little Leo has already taken the hint.

Leo decides to be a wandering ghost and heads to the city. It is much different from when he was alive, and no one can see him. That is, until Leo meets Jane. Jane can see Leo! She invites him to play. They have a wonderful time, but Jane thinks he is just an imaginary playmate. He is afraid she will no longer want to be friends if she learns he is a ghost.

That night, a robber breaks into Jane's house. Of course, the robber can't see Leo, but our hero comes up with a plan and saves the day.

Jane asks Leo how he could catch a robber if he's only imaginary. "Jane, I told you a lie. I am a ghost. I said I was your imaginary friend, but I'm not. I am just your real friend."

'"Oh!" said Jane. 'Well, that's even better.'"

It's really just a sweet story about friendship and being yourself. And Leo is too adorable to resist anyway.

You can find a Leo activity kit on the book's website at Chronicle. It includes such printables as "Color In the Bowties," "Pin the Tail on the Dragon," "Design Your Own Coat of Arms," and "Draw with Jane."

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Lair of Dreams (A Diviners Novel)

The Diviners series by Libba Bray.

Three years have passed since I stayed up way too late, frightening myself with Libba Bray's The Diviners. 

The Diviners by Libba Bray.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012.

It was my perfect October read: set in the 1920s, with appealing characters and loads of atmosphere, it was also one of the scariest books I'd read in ages. I knew it was the first of a series, and couldn't wait for the next one to come out.

Three years. It seemed like an eternity.

Lair of Dreams (A Diviners Novel) by Libba Bray.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015.

I should have re-read the first book, as I really had to rattle my brain to remember all the characters and incidents. However, in the end, I loved Lair of Dreams.


It would be difficult to top the creepiness of The Diviners, and to be honest, I didn't find Lair of Dreams nearly as scary, but it made up for it in its atmosphere.

We catch up with Evie, flapper heroine of the first book. Evie is now a radio star, "The Sweetheart Seer."

She and her Uncle Will are on the outs. When Will goes away on a trip, his Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult is left in the hands of stoic, mysterious Jericho, and wisecracking pickpocket Sam. They plan a Diviners exhibit to help with business. Evie is avoiding Jericho, unwilling to hurt her best friend Mabel, who is helping Jericho sort things for the exhibit. Follies girl Theta and poet healer Memphis continue to quietly see each other.

We also meet a new character, Ling, who is able to talk to the dead in dreams.

Our introduction to Ling comes after a scene in which the first New York subway, the Beach Pneumatic Transit System, is unexpectedly unearthed. Something terrifying wakes in the dark. A mysterious sleeping sickness hits New York, beginning in Chinatown. "Dream with me," says a voice. "Promise."

Read more here.


Theta's best friend Henry is dreamwalking one night, on a quest to find his lover Louis, left behind when he ran away from his family in New Orleans.

For the first time, he feels close, as he can hear the sound of Louis's violin. He finds Ling, the first time either one ever encountered another dreamwalker in sleep. The two find themselves on a strange, old-fashioned street, as a woman in a blood-splattered veil runs past them. Like the sleep-sick people all over the city, they hear an antique music box.

Henry and Ling meet another dreamwalker, a young woman traveling on a ship from China to marry in New York. This dreamer can mold dreams at will. Soon, Henry and Ling are spending more and more time in their dream world, while all around New York, people are disappearing near the subways, and others are falling asleep, never to wake up.

There is an arc to the books, and if there are supposed to be four in the series, we must be halfway there, dangling from the top. We're learning more, but barely: The King of Crows, Project Buffalo, Sam's mother, Theta's past in Kansas, how older characters connect. Why are the powers of the Diviners getting stronger?

I'm so excited for the next book. My guess is that I'll be waiting a while. Sigh.

I don't want to give too much away, for obvious reasons. If you haven't read The Diviners, grab it, then grab this one, too. 

You can read an excerpt from Lair of Dreams at Entertainment Weekly. There are previews of both at The Novl, as well. See more photo and video inspiration on my Diviners pinboard

And to leave you on one last creepy note: this is my 666th post. OoooOOooo...

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Monday, October 5, 2015

History Tours and Barn Sales

This week has been a bit less hectic, in terms of doing things we have to do. We still stayed busy, but we were free to move at our own pace. Mostly. I had a project to finish for the school PTO (done!) and the girls had some major room-cleaning to do (mostly done - picking my battles...)

 Last Monday, the day after Little Sis's play closed, I decided to switch things up a bit, by taking the girls to a park to do their homework. But not a normal grass and playground park. We headed downtown to see the new ICT Pop-Up Urban Park.

We had to park down the street a bit, so we stopped by the older Chester I. Lewis Reflection Square Park first. This lovely urban park was built on the site of an old Woolworth's building.

 The sculptures are my favorite part, especially "The Lunch Counter." A few buildings away, there was a Dockum Drug Store. One of the first successful sit-ins in the United States took place there. "The Lunch Counter" is a beautiful tribute.

The new Pop-Up Urban Park is a really cool addition to downtown. It was built to replace a big construction site pit. Yup, a big hole. (Cue the Parks & Rec jokes.) The park is temporary. I read that it will last a few years, until the developers are ready to build whatever they're planning for the space. There are strings of lights hanging overhead, art (including three "Keepers on Parade"), cool tables (and yes, the girls did their homework), even a ping-pong table. As of last Monday, the paddles were still there. 

Saturday, the old Carnegie Library building celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was the city's main library until the late 1960s, when a new building opened across the street. [Here's a great photo of people lined up to pass books across the street!] It's owned by a bank now, who restored it to use for offices. When I was a kid, it was the home of the Omnisphere, a planetarium.

There was a 1920s-style bookmobile parked out front, and they gave away free Puffin editions of The Wizard of Oz.

 After the party, we headed north to Hesston, Kansas, for the 2015 Kansas Barn Sale. We didn't purchase as much this year, but we had a great time roaming around. We left with homemade bath stuff, fudge and cookies, mini pumpkins and gourds, a little Christmas banner, and a Peppa Pig hair barrette.

And yesterday, we paid a visit to the McCormick School Museum. It's the oldest school building still standing in Wichita, and it now houses a small education museum. The girls got a kick out of the old Apple IIe on display, and the old textbooks. I even found the 1980s textbooks I grew up with! Big Sis rang the bell. Little Sis had her drawing pad.

 We took our time coming home. The McCormick School was designed by Proudfoot & Bird, who also designed the old City Hall (now Historical Museum) and the Scottish Rite (where Little Sis performed this). I drove to Friends University so the girls could see one more Proudfoot & Bird structure, the Davis Administration Building.

Believe it or not, they weren't bored by this. They love old buildings and history - for now. Someday I'm sure they will roll their eyes and call me boring, but for now, I'm rolling with it!

Here is a sneak-peek at Little Sis's batch of mini pumpkins. The girls finished their fabulous display last night. When my porch is ready, I'll share the rest!

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Teeny Tiny Tingly Tales

Teeny Tiny Tingly Tales by Nancy Van Laan, illustrated by Victoria Chess.
An Anne Schwartz Book / Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010.

As I searched the library website for books for yesterday's post, I stumbled upon this one. It is illustrated by Victoria Chess, who illustrated the Alvin Schwartz books Little Sis read last year.

Teeny Tiny Tingly Tales is not a scary book. It is far more silly than spooky. Perhaps it would serve as an introduction to semi-creepy things for very young children.

Each rhyming tale opens with its own title page, depicting a child reading in chair. The first story is the weirdest.

Old Doctor Wango Tango has a nasty long red nose. He doesn't take care of himself, nor does he feed his pets. One day, while riding his sorry horse up a hill with the rest of his menagerie, a loud chilly wind blows them all away. The end. Really.

The story of "Old Doctor Wango Tango" isn't all that scary, but that nose! Flashback to the Thingumajigs! I was curious as to the origins of the story. Apparently, it's based on a folk song. Burl Ives recorded it in the 1950s, but I don't know any of its history beyond that.

The second story seems more familiar, although I can't place it.

"It" is pretty simple. Different body parts rolls down the stairs. The legs are dancing, the head is bouncing. Once all the parts hit the landing, they fuse together to make "It." "It" heads to town. The end.

Now the last story is the most familiar one, although changes have been made.

"The Hairy Toe" is a variation of "Teeny-Tiny." A little old lady, working in her garden, spies a hairy toe. She buries it in the dirt. (Thank goodness she doesn't save it for soup!) She goes inside her house. A voice blows on the wind: "Give me back my hairy toe!" She jumps into bed and pulls the covers over her head. She hears the voice again, as well as the sound of something creeping across her floor. Frightened, she jumps out of bed, runs to the garden, digs up the toe, and throws it in the direction of the voice.

The creature isn't the scariest of beasts.Kind of on par with the Gruffalo, or the not-so-scary gremlin from the original Twilight Zone episode "Terror at 20000 Feet.


[I love that episode, but the gremlin makes me giggle. Maybe because I
grew up watching Twilight Zone: The Movie as a kid.]

Well, that was a tangent. I think the girls and I need to watch some more Twilight Zone this month...

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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