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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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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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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