Halloween Porch

We're off to Oklahoma to visit my mom!  Here's a look at our Halloween porch.  I thought Lucy down there was admiring my work, but now I see that Smudge, the other mama cat that we finally named, is under the bench there.  Lucy has made it her job to run Smudge off whenever possible.  Oh, kitties...

Happy Weekend!  Merry Reading!

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Halloweeny YouTube Things

A few seasonally appropriate video shorts, courtesy of YouTube.  

Kansas Barn Sale

One of my favorite fall traditions - for the last 3 years, at least - has been a visit to the Kansas Barn Sale!  Hosted by Beki at The Rusted Chain, this year's barn sale was amazing.  Look at the brand new barn!  (You can read all about that on The Rusted Chain.  I'm a city girl.  I found it very interesting!) It was quite chilly when we left.  The three of us bundled up, prepared to brave the cold, counting our blessings that at least it was dry compared to last year

And then the sun came out!  Big Sis and I took off our coats.  Little Sis did for a bit, before realizing she should have worn long sleeves...

The last two years, I came home with vintage items, including old books.  This year's list was of the homegrown and handmade variety:  a sugar pumpkin, fresh honey, pillow ticking bunting, stuffies, a shampoo bar, and a dress for Little Sis to wear on her birthday.

There are fabulous pictures on The Rusted Chain  and the Kansas Barn Sale Facebook page.  We were only there for a short time, before heading back south for some fun at the historical museum.  No time for boredom around here!

Are the leaves starting to change where you are?  I spotted a red tree yesterday!  My first this season!

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More Vampirina Ballerina!

Vampirina Ballerina [2012] and Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover [2013]
by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.  [Disney Hyperion]

One of our favorite picture books last year was Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by the wonderful LeUyen Pham.  (I did a brief post on the book here.)  I follow Vampirina Ballerina on Facebook, and was so excited to hear there would be a sequel this year. Our little vampire heroine hosts her first sleepover!  Too exciting!

The first book is about what one needs to do in order to become a ballerina.  It's really a simple testament to practice and hard work, but the illustrations make it something new, tee hee!  After all, Vampirina Ballerina and her family are a little different from the teacher and girls at the ballet school.  None of the other girls have to worry about turning into a bat...

The second book, Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover, is a how-to guide for planning a perfect slumber party.  The advice includes making your own invitations, introducing your parents to your guests' parents, plan a perfect meal (even if you wind up just ordering pizza), soothing any homesickness, and of course, DANCING!

As adorable as the first book is, Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover had us in stitches.  The juxtaposition between the frilly pink party guests and the gothic monster family is a hoot.  Plus the monster family is actually a very loving family, eager to help their little ballerina fit in with the rest of the world.  It's a Halloween book with a heart.

For more Vampirina Ballerina, head over to Pen Pals & Picture Books, because apparently, our blogs are psychically connected these days!

My little dancers love these books, and of course, they have a well-documented dark streak.  You would think Vampirina Ballerina would be a perfect costume choice for someone this year.  But no.  Because do you know what's better than vampires, at least in their eyes?

Zombies.  As in zombie cheerleaders.

And zombie ballerinas.

There may even be a book for that...

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Obsessive Halloween Nostalgia Disorder: Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn.
Houghton Mifflin, 1986.

I don't think I'll ever outgrown my excitement for Scholastic book club order forms.  I am just a big kid.  I remember combing through them, looking at the latest paperback offerings, cool if impractical school supplies, Dynamite magazine, and movie tie-in product.  Through the club, I read silly young readers' adaptations of Space Camp and The Karate Kid, Part II.  My best friend and I discovered The Baby-Sitters Club.  And I discovered my favorite ghost story.

A few days ago, I dug out my battered paperback copy of Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn.  I hadn't read it in years, but I remembered it well, probably because I read it about ten times as a fifth and sixth grader.

The story is narrated by twelve-year-old Molly, who moves with her family into an old converted church outside of a small town in Maryland.  Molly and her brother, Michael, are frustrated by the move and their family in general.  Their mom is a painter and Dave, their stepfather, makes pottery, and the two of them just want to move to the country and concentrate on their work.  They expect Molly and Michael to play babysitter to Dave's seven-year-old daughter, Heather.  Heather is a real pain.  Her mother died in a fire when she was only three, but it's hard to feel sympathy for her now.  She is constantly stirring up trouble, lying about how badly the older kids and their mother treat her.  She acts much younger than her age. Poor Molly is stuck watching Heather most of the time, as her brother skips out every morning to collect specimens for his nature collections.  To make matters worse, there is a very old graveyard on the property, and Heather is drawn to a tiny hidden grave marked only by her own initials.  She talks to someone, a girl she calls Helen, and Molly is convinced that Heather has been befriended by a ghost.  Of course, no one believes Molly, who seems jumpy and afraid of everything anyway.  (Not just the graveyard - the nearby cows make her jumpy, too.)

I loved this book as a kid.  As an adult, there are things that make me giggle now.  I recognize some of more stereotypical plot conventions:  old church and graveyard, ruins of an old house, etc.  Moreover, I wonder how these two artists can afford this move.  I want to scream at them to watch Heather themselves, instead of foisting her onto poor Molly and Michael, especially since Heather is such a monstrous little brat.  The ending of the book, especially Heather and Molly's relationship, seems too neat and simple.  But for a kid wanting to be spooked, this book is still rather perfect.  It's scary, but not too scary.

Mary Downing Hahn is best-known today for her ghost stories.  When I was a bookseller, the only books by her that lined the shelves in the Young Readers section were the scary ones, including this one with its latest cover.  (I placed a hold on the other book I remember from the late '80s, The Doll in the Garden. Hope it arrives soon!)  The only other book I own by Hahn is a non-ghost story, Daphne's Book, which I loved even more than this one.  It's sitting on the shelf in the reading nook closet, in fact.

I know some of you probably know this one.  What "scary" books did you love as a kid?

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