Friday, October 17, 2014

More Halloween Reads

Happy Friday, my dear readers!  It's reading round-up time here on Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes, which means more seasonal reads.  We like Halloween around here, what can I say?  Little frights can be fun.

What Little Sis Read

In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories (1984) and Ghosts!: Ghostly Tales from Folklore (1991) by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Victoria Chess.  I Can Read! series, Level 2, Harpercollins.

Little Sis has been reading chapter books to me. Sometimes we alternate pages.  We've read a Junie B. Jones book, half of the first Nancy Clancy book, and we just finished a Magic Tree House title.  The catch is that I make her read them out loud, because otherwise, she starts skimming, skipping pages, etc.  I'm convinced she needs more practice, using smaller books, but she wants to read big books like her sister!  If I can find a beginning reader, though, that piques her interest, I feel like I've struck gold.  Being able to read an entire book on her own, and quickly, makes her feel more confident.  She loved reading Thank YouAmelia Bedelia, and she enjoyed both of these spooky titles by Alvin Schwartz.  Schwartz is best known for his Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, but these are not so chilling.  Like the Scary Stories, the tales and poems in the I Can Read! books are gathered from various sources, mostly folklore and urban legends, but they are more funny-scary than scary-scary.  And instead of the nightmarish illustrations by Stephen Gammel, you get cute cartoony illustrations by Victoria Chess.  Little Sis read each book in about 20 to 30 minutes.  No nightmares, no fear, just the occasional giggle or shrug of the shoulders:  "Eh, not really scary."

What I Read

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black.  Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown isn't a Halloween book, but it definitely fits into the horror genre.  It's another teen vampire novel, but well-written, suspenseful, and quite entertaining.  It's set in an alternate universe, much like the very adult Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, if you're familiar with those.  [I gave up on them, but yeah, I used to read them.  Don't judge.] In Coldtown, vampirism exists as an infection.  If you are bitten, or if you're a vampire, you are sent to a Coldtown, a rotting city behind high walls, and it is there you will remain forever.  The inhabitants of Coldtowns use the web to communicate with the outside world, often becoming TV or internet celebrities.  When Tana, our protagonist, wakes up one morning in a farmhouse bathtub after a crazy teen party, she doesn't expect to discover the other guests lying in pools of blood, murdered by vampires. Entering a back bedroom, she finds her ex-boyfriend chained to a bed, a vampire infection beginning to creep through his veins - and a vampire chained beside the bed.  It's a pretty wild ride, and made for some great late-night reading.

By the way, Big Sis is reading a Holly Black book, too: Doll Bones, which I blogged about last summer.  We bought it last week at the Scholastic Book Fair, which I helped work at the school. She started it a couple days ago, and last I heard, she was on chapter three.  We love our scary doll books - be expecting another doll post soon!

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday. Egmont USA, 2014.

Of Monsters and Madness is the first book in a new series, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, with a twist of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  (Check out the author's website.  LOVE her main page right now!)  The main character, Annabel Lee (tee hee) travels from Siam to Philadelphia. Her mother, a gifted healer, has died, and Annabel is off to live with the father she never knew. Philadelphia is as different from Siam as you can get, and Annabel doesn't know how to fit in. She hates the dresses and lessons in decorum, and when she tells her father that her dream is to become a surgeon, he becomes colder than ever. Her grandfather is kind to her, however, and she becomes friends with her young lady's maid. There is also Allan Poe, her father's research assistant, an aspiring writer and dashing presence.  But her father has another assistant, Allan's look-alike cousin, Edgar, who Annabel is warned to avoid. There is also a murderer loose in Philadelphia, and the murders seem to getting closer to home.  The last chapter of the book seemed to come out of nowhere, an obvious cliffhanger launch for the sequel, and it made the book feel very rushed.  That is my main complaint.  For the most part, however, I thought it made for another fun, late-night read, and the references to Poe's stories and poems made me smile.  As a teenager, I adored all things Edgar Allan Poe, and if today's teenagers are anything like my 1990s self, I'm sure a few of them would enjoy this book.

And now, I'll leave you with some Poe-ish things to watch:

There are quite a few musical versions of the poem "Annabel Lee." 
The one by Sarah Jarosz a favorite. 

Here is "The Raven," as read by James Earl Jones.

UPA adapted "The Tell-Tale Heart" into an animated short film in 1953.

And finally, here is something a bit longer: Vincent Price's starring turn in 

[By the way, I have a whole Pinterest board called Poe Love, devoted to all things Edgar Allan Poe. I have several Halloween boards, too, devoted to vintage Halloween, Halloween crafts, kid stuff, and decor and entertaining.  I also have a board called Holiday Books for Children, which is where my Halloween kids' books get pinned.]

Little Sis's pumpkin patch field trip was canceled yesterday. In fact, I think Halloween has been canceled, as far as the school is concerned.  Even fall parties.  (I feel an Obsessive Nostalgia Disorder post coming on...)  Tomorrow is dance class and a book signing for a friend of mine at Watermark, then I do believe a trip to the pumpkin patch is in order.  We may go see a silent movie in the evening.  I'm playing it by ear.  So much Halloween, so little time?

Merry Weekend, Friends!  Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma

Look who has a Halloween book now!  It's Lulu, aka Ladybug Girl!  

We've loved the Ladybug Girl books since 2008, when the first book was published.  Back then, Big Sis was 2 1/2, and had her own pair of well-loved ladybug rainboots.  Now, Little Sis is nearly 7, and she read this book out loud to us herself!  Lulu is a great little heroine, the stories are so sweet, and the illustrations are always beautiful.  I would love to live in her world for a bit.

Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma by David Soman and Jacky Davis.
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014.

It's Halloween.  Lulu's big brother asks what she's dressing up as for trick-or-treating that night. "Ladybug Girl, of course!" she replies.  "Again?" he scoffs.  Lulu begins to panic.  Maybe he's right.  Maybe she should dress up as something different this Halloween.

We see Lulu scramble to put several costumes together.  My favorite is the "silent movie star."  I must convince Big Sis to be Charlie Chaplin for Halloween sometime.  It's just too cute!

By the way, if you head to the Ladybug Girl website, you can find a sweet dress-up game.  I do love Lulu's creativity!

The family is going apple-picking, so Lulu sets aside her costume pieces.  I must say it again: I want to live in Ladybug Girl's world.  It looks so lovely there.

On a hayride to the corn maze, Lulu chats with a younger little girl, who tells her she's going to be a princess for Halloween. She suggests Lulu do the same, but although Lulu is polite, she knows she doesn't want to be a princess.

In the corn maze, Lulu concentrates on what her costume should be.  Then she hears a noise behind her.  Someone needs help.

Someone needs Ladybug Girl!

Big brothers don't know everything.  Maybe they're wrong.  Maybe it's okay to just be yourself!

Especially if being yourself means dressing in cool boots, a tutu, wings, and antennae.

So, fellow Halloweenie friends, have there been any dress-up dilemmas in your house lately?  My daughters were set for over a month, then last week, there was a change.  Big Sis still plans on being a vengeful Little Red Riding Hood, but Little Sis switched from Albert Einstein (oh, how I was looking forward to that!) to her hero, Amelia Earhart.  I suppose we should get started soon.

Seventeen more days til Halloween!

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Halloween Reads

I would say "Happy Friday, my spooklies," but it is now after midnight, so "Happy Weekend" will have to do.  The girls were out of school these past two days, and weather and tantrums and visitors and laundry do tend to get in the way of my blogging.

It feels so very fall now.  The leaves are starting to change, and today was chilly and rainy. We've decorated the house, inside and out, and I've been cooking and baking, and of course, reading.  

Earlier this month, I posted a list of new or newish books for the season.  Here are three of those books.  These are middle-grade books, suited to older elementary school and middle school kids.  I've put them in order from least to most scary.

The Elevator Ghost by Glen Huser.
Groundwood, 2014.

If you're looking for a mild story for Halloween, one with ghosts but minimal scares, The Elevator Ghost would be a great choice.  The protagonist, Carolina Griddle, is wild, colorful, and funny.  She is a strange sight to behold when she arrives at the Blanchford Arms apartment building.  Despite her eccentricities, she becomes the most popular babysitter in the building, able to soothe a child with her fanciful stories, most of which have to do with ghosts and other traditionally scary things.  It becomes clear that Carolina (and her pet tarantula) are not alone when she returns to her room.  Carolina has moved into the Blanchford Arms for a reason, and that reason has to do with a ghost or two - especially one who just might be haunting the elevator.  The publisher recommends this one for ages 10-12.  I think a younger kid with sharp reading skills could handle this one.  It isn't very long, and it isn't very scary.  (I thought it was rather cute, actually.)

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.
Amulet Books, 2014.
If you or your kiddo like scary stories set in mysterious country houses in Victorian England, then - ta da!  Here's one for you.  The Night Gardener is about a young Irish girl and her little brother.  After losing their parents on the voyage from Ireland, the children travel to a secluded manor house to work as maid and gardener.  The house is a mess, and a huge, twisted tree is growing into its walls.  The family is very strange and not always friendly, but the children have nowhere else to go.  The worst part is the strange, sinister figure that feeds the tree each night, and the horrible nightmares that plague their sleep.  There are some interesting twists, and a few things I sort of saw coming, but I liked it.  It put me in the mood for the season.  And the book contained one of my favorite characters in recent memory, an old beggar woman who sells stories for a living.  (Recommended for kids age 9 and up.)

The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister 
by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull,
Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne.
Greenwillow Books, 2014.

The Cabinet of Curiosities is a collection of short stories, compiled loosely by topic.  The authors share letters as "Curators" to each other, each story an exhibit in the cabinet of the title.  I was very impressed by the book.  The stories ranged from slightly creepy to scary-for-a-kids-book.  There were stories about vengeful fairies, ghosts, aliens, the price of luck, even retellings of fairy tales.  [I loved Catmull's retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," called "The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces."  One of the least frightening tales, but such an interesting perspective on what made the sisters dance.]  The black and white illustrations, by Alexander Jansson, are eerie and perfect.  Emma Trevayne wrote Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times, which I read and enjoyed this summer, but I was unfamiliar with the other three authors.  I must remedy that soon.  As for the intended age group:  I would recommend this for older kids, at least 10 and up.  Some of the stories are fine for younger readers, but there are a few that older kiddos would better understand.  Great for trying to scare the wits out of each other at sleepovers.

Merry Weekend!  Happy (or Spoooooky) Reading!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Kansas Barn Sale 2014

An autumn tradition for the girls and me, these past four Octobers, is to attend the Kansas Barn Sale in Hesston, KS.  The first year, 2011, my girls were six and not-yet-four.  The event was smaller, the barn was old and unsafe to enter, but we picked up some good deals and the girls and my Grandma ate a nice Mennonite lunch.  I didn't have a blog yet. I found out about the sale by seeing comments by "Kansas Barn Sale" on The Farm Chicks' Facebook page, if memory serves.  The second year we attended was rainy and cold.  We didn't stay too long.  Last year's sale was on a lovely day, with a brand new barn to check out and many more vendors.  

This year's event was GINORMOUS.  There were even more vendors and so many people.  The organizers have truly made their sale a huge regional success.  We didn't arrive until well after lunch, when the weather was a bit warmer.  We lucked out in that no one needed to go to the bathroom while we were there - I read lots of complaints about there not being enough port-a-johns.  The booths were a bit congested, but we weren't in a hurry.  We saw everything everyone had to offer and left with a few treasures.

Inside the barn.  Isn't it lovely? 

Mini pumpkins were three for a dollar!  We left with 6.
We received a bigger pumpkin after giving a charitable donation, too.

These flowers were beautiful.  The butterflies agreed.

Sooooo many people.

I love, love, love these.

Meet Caroline Coraline, Little Sis's new ragdoll.

We had a cider and lemonade break, bought some homemade fudge,
Mom got coffee, and look at that piano-turned-awesome furniture piece!

We parked a little ways down the dirt road.  We made it back to the car only to discover my keys were missing.  I couldn't see them in the car.  This meant I lost them somewhere at the sale.  We walked back, looking at the ground the entire time, just in case.  At the entrance, I asked if anyone had turned in a set of keys.  They told me, yes, one set had been turned in, and they took them to the side of the barn, where the musical performances were held.  We walked across the yard to the barn.  Sure enough, right there on top of the speaker, were my keys.

This year, besides our edible treats, doll, and pumpkins, we left with some homemade pumpkin bread soap and some lip balm from Foam on the Range, and a couple of vintage books.  The first book we bought was a second edition copy of Scuffy the Tugboat and His Adventures Down the River (so much more text than the version I'm used to!) and My Brimful Book , a lovely oversized collection of poems, rhymes, and stories, illustrated by Tasha Tudor, Margot Austin, and Wesley Dennis.  I plan on blogging more about the books next month.

Thank you, Kansas Barn Sale people.  Congratulations on your success!  We always have a great time.

And that was our Saturday afternoon!  Back to spooky books tomorrow!

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Grandpa's Ghost Stories

Grandpa's Ghost Stories by James Flora.
Margaret K. McElderry, 1978.

Hello, spooklies, ghosties, and regular readers!  I have a vintage treat for you today.

Over the summer, I checked out a few books by and about James Flora.  While Mr. Flora wrote and illustrated several children's books (see a couple of them here), he is best known for his graphic design, especially his cool album cover art.  Little Sis fell in love with the art books.  I even managed to find a Benny Goodman album on eBay for cheap, featuring his art, and when Little Sis saw it, she told me it belonged to her!  (Mr. B framed it.  Not my choice, because you know, Benny Goodman...)

One of the books we checked out over the summer was so crazy and so freaky, I knew we had to re-check it this month.  And so we did!

Grandpa's Ghost Stories begins with a terrible storm.  The narrator, a boy, finds himself jumping onto his Grandpa's lap.  From there, Grandpa begins to spin a yarn about what happened to him as a boy, lost in the woods during a storm.

The book is divided into three tales from this point on: "The Bag of Old Bones," about a skeleton who comes to life and wants to eat him; "The Cave of the Warty Witch," about a witch who turns him into a spider; and "The House of the Ghastly Ghost," which is where he ends up after being whisked away by a giant disembodied hand.  There, he gets picked up and babied by a giant she-ghost, who makes him watch creepy ghost TV on channel 4 1/2!

Funny, freaky stuff!  Unfortunately, this one hasn't been reissued, and copies of it seem to fetch a lot of money.  I have to request it from our library system's storage basement, which makes me sad.  If you can score a copy, or if your library has it in stock, do check it out if you like creepy kids' books!

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Books To Get You in the Mood for Halloween

It's that time of year!  Time for Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes to celebrate all things spooky, all things pumpkin, all things autumn, all things ghostly, all things October - we love Halloween!  I have a stack of books lined up for you this year, along with a few other things.  Today, our Kansas weather is rainy and dreary, and tonight, my daughters and I will deck the house in Halloweeny splendor.

I thought I'd give you a (highly pinnable) sneak peek at some of the books I'm sharing this month. Most of these are new to 2014, and are written for older middle-grade readers or teens. One is a graphic novel. These are not the only books I have on the horizon - there are picture books and vintage treats, too - and I still have library bags full of non-Halloween titles.  I'm a little crazy, but you already knew that, I hope!

Pictured Above, Top Row:  The Elevator Ghost by Glen Huser. Groundwood Books, 2014;  The Doll Graveyard by Lois Ruby. Scholastic, 2014; The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier. Amulet Books, 2014.  Middle Row:  The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachman, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne. Greenwillow Books, 2014; Ghost Doll and Jasper by Fiona McDonald. Sky Pony Press, 2012. Bottom Row: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013; Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday. EgmontUSA, 2014; Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block. HarperTeen, 2014. 

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Oh So Tiny Bunny & Oh So Brave Dragon

Today is the first day of OCTOBER, the start of my favorite time of year.  (That would be October through the beginning of January, folks.)  Normally, I would be starting my month-long Halloween celebration, but we won't get to put our decorations up until tomorrow (no dance classes after school = TIME), so I decided to wait one more day before turning things ghoulie.  Besides, I have two darling books to share with you and I don't want to wait until November!

Are you or your little ones Miss Spider fans?  The books by David Kirk are so beautiful, and when my girls were very small, they loved to watch Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends on Noggin Nick Jr. (I'm just kidding.  It changed from Noggin to Nick Jr. a year before we got rid of cable, but in my mind, it will always be Noggin - Moose and Zee Forever!)  We haven't watched it in so long, that when Mr. B found a clip on the internet the other day, Big Sis started tearing up, sad because she said it reminded her of when she and her sister were little.  She's 9, folks.  I'm raising a first-rate sentimentalist.

Anyway, we checked out two new books by David Kirk, this week.  The first, Oh So Tiny Bunny, came out last year.

Oh So Tiny Bunny by David Kirk. Feiwel and Friends, 2013.

Oh So Tiny is very little, but he has very big dreams.

Dreams about being big.  Dreams about big food.

However, in his dreams, he becomes so big that he becomes very lonely.  Just as the loneliness is about to consume him, he wakes to the gentle nuzzle of another bunny.  So sweet!

Oh So Brave Dragon came out this year.  (Did you see Oh So Brave's cameo in the bunny book?)

Oh So Brave Dragon by David Kirk.  Feiwel and Friends, 2014.

Oh So Brave may be small, but he is super-brave!  He is a gloriously ferocious little guy.

Until he hears a big roar.  We know it is his own roar, but he is certain it must belong to a monster.

He roars again to frighten the monster, but once again, he scares himself, never believing the roar could be his own.  He rushes about, asking all the other forest creatures if they heard the monster, too.

Finally, he gathers all the other forest creatures up, promising to protect them.  Maybe if they all roar together, they will frighten the monster once and for all.

It's been nearly three years since my last bookstore storytime, and these would have been wonderful read-alouds for my little customers.  We could have roared together!  These days, I read occasionally in our elementary classrooms, and sometimes, Little Sis has me read books and do crafts at her birthday parties.  She misses our old Saturday mornings, even though she was pretty little back then. My sentimental babies...

Of course, while we may lament Mom's lack of employment, there is nothing stopping us from having an old-fashioned storytime at home!  Complete with printable crafts!  I visited David Kirk's Treehouse and clicked on "Playroom."  There, you can find lots of printable goodies, coloring pages and puppets and stuff.

As the storytime lady at the bookstore, I loved it when publishers and authors provided printables. (Because sometimes, I just wasn't creative enough to come up with a suitable craft on my own...)  These were especially cute, too.  Little Sis colored Oh So Tiny, then colored his pajamas.  We cut them out, and dressed him!  Big Sis made a dragon puppet.  She plans to work on the little finger puppet critters next.  There are teacher materials on the website, too.

Stay tuned for Halloweeny and Autumn goodness, starting tomorrow!  I can't promise to blog five days a week, but I do have lots to share.

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