Friday Reads

Happy Friday, dear readers! Isn't this picture sad? I took it one week ago today, when Mr. B pulled down our wonderful fairy playhouse. Last Saturday, a guy came out to install the posts for our brand new chain link fence, and the fairy house was in the way. It was also attached to the big tree you see in the photo, which is actually in our neighbor's yard. Big Sis is still in mourning, despite the fact that her daddy has big ideas about how to make an even better fairy playhouse next year. He didn't help by declaring, "Goodbye, Fairy House. Hello, kindling!" Which he meant, by the way.

I don't have as many books to share with you this week. Only one week's worth, as opposed to a month's.

What Little Sis Read

 Once In A Wood: Ten Tales from Aesopadapted and illustrated by Eve Rice. Greenwillow, 1979.

I don't know if she read the entire book, but this is one she worked on with her daddy, earlier in the week. When I asked her about it, she shrugged it off, and the next day, she insisted on reading something else. Even though she picked this one out at the library, I don't think she cared for it.

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Candlewick Press, 2014.

And I picked this one. Score! She loved this book. She had some major giggle fits as we read this one together. I loved Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl, and Little Sis has been watching the four Ever After High episodes on Netflix over and over again, and Hale writes those books. She collaborated on this one with her husband, and the fabulous LeUyen Pham provides the illustrations. Princess Magnolia is having a very proper tea with a very proper but nosy duchess, when she receives a signal on her special ring. She finds an excuse to sneak to her broom closet, when she transforms into The Princess in Black! The Princess in Black is a superhero. Magnolia's pretty unicorn becomes a swift black horse, as she rushes into the countryside to save some goats from a hungry troll. Meanwhile, back at the castle, the nosy duchess is snooping around, trying to find any dirt she can on Princess Magnolia. Very funny, very cute stuff.

What I Read

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, illustrated by Kei Acedera. HarperCollins, 2011.

Okay, the big box bookstore where I worked for 11 years closed at the end of 2011. Sometime during that last year, I got a hold of the most beautifully packaged advanced reader's copy. It came in a lovely cardboard box, like a treasure waiting to be opened. I grabbed it, brought it home, and put it on the shelf with other "big kid books." (Big Sis was only in kindergarten at the time.) So early this week, I finally pulled the book out to read for myself. For all its fine packaging, my copy was definitely an Advanced Reader's Copy, missing some of the artwork, with the rest of the artwork having a sketchy, unfinished quality. But the story itself was wonderful. Liesl is a girl who recently lost her father. Her stepmother wouldn't even let her see him through his final illness, locking her in the attic. Then one night, a ghost and its pet appears to Liesl. The ghost cannot remember if it was male or female, but answers to the name Po. Its pet, Bundle, may have been a dog or a cat - there are no proper forms on the Other Side. Po is able to find her father on the Other Side, though, and with Po's help, Liesl escapes from her attic prison, determined to take her father's ashes home to the tree where her mother is buried. Meanwhile, a boy named Will has accidentally switched a box of powerful magic for a box of someone's ashes, and soon, he finds himself running for his life. I loved this book. I checked it out from the library a day or two later, just to be able to see the final artwork, which is much nicer than the sketches in my ARC. I've told Big Sis she should read it when she finally finishes Doll Bones, which should be soon. (She's already finished Loot at school.)

What I'm Reading Now

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann. Harper, 2014.

Look, Danzel's reading a grown-up book!  (It's been a while.) This is a nonfiction account of the murder of director William Desmond Taylor, in 1922. I love the Silent Era, and books about that time period. Because I'm a silent movie nerd, I already knew quite a bit about the Taylor case, and the suspects and stars mixed up in it. There is a 20-year-old website called Taylorology devoted to it, which was one of the first sites I bookmarked when my family got the internet in 1996. Taylor's murder is still considered an unsolved case, and Mann's book is hardly the first to claim to solve it. I've also read A Cast of Killers by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, which made the case for a different killer. Mann's book is very novel-like in tone, despite all claims that any dialogue or emotional states are pulled from actual sources. For his Mabel Normand stuff, I noticed he lifts from Betty Fussell's biography quite a bit, which is interesting. I know her grand-nephew, Stephen Normand, disputes much of what was in that book, and has been on a tear lately, trying to restore his aunt's reputation. (I'm a huge Mabel Normand fan, but she did die in 1930, so it isn't like she can tell her own story. Oh, look, I found a review by the person who runs  Anyway, it's been a fast read, so far, and seeing as how it's been a very long time since I read a film history-ish book, I'm having fun with it, although who knows what is or isn't true at this point. I need to get it back to the library soon.

Tonight is the Fall Festival at school. It used to be called the School Carnival, and took place in the spring. Tomorrow morning, we're heading to Oklahoma to visit my mother. It will be a one day trip, and I'm getting an audio book or two for the car ride. Let's talk about that, shall we? As you know, we've been listening to A Series of Unfortunate Events on road trips (checked out from the library), and we love them very much. I've liked many of Daniel Handler/Lemony Snickett's books. So can I just say how truly disappointed I was to read about/watch his stupid watermelon joke at the National Book Awards presentation the other day? Jacqueline Woodson won for Brown Girl Dreaming, and her win has now been overshadowed by an idiotic racist joke. I'm sure he was just trying to be "edgy," but really now. How freakin' uncomfortable.  I thought his apology was rather hollow (a sorry, not sorry sort of thing), but I was glad to read this this morning. Because we do need diverse books. 

Anyway, outside of that, we're planning our little Thanksgiving. Big Sis is still in Nutcracker rehearsals. Little Sis keeps drawing pictures and making us laugh. We need to do a major housecleaning before next Thursday. Such is life.

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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Thankful Thursday

Thankfulness through Instagrams, every Thursday in November.

Some of the little things I'm thankful for
this week include...

These are tiny things, of course, in the big scheme of things. What little things are you thankful for?

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My Brimful Book: Animal Stories

My Brimful Book: An All-New Collection of All-Time Favorites, illustrated by Tasha Tudor, Margot Austin, and Wesley Dennis.  Platt & Munk Co, 1960.

I have one last section of My Brimful Book to show you.  

The third part, "Animal Stories," is illustrated by Wesley Dennis, best-known for illustrating the horse novels of Marguerite Henry.

 I'm not sure who wrote these stories, but it's the paintings that are worth seeing.  The titles of some of the stories really seem to be illustrating the art, rather than the other way around: "What a Beautiful Cow and Calf!" and "Let Us Look at Beautiful Horses." Unlike the Tasha Tudor and Margot Austin entries, this chapter seems to have never been published as a stand-alone book.

I hope you enjoyed looking at the beautiful book with me! See Part One (Tasha Tudor) here, and see Part Two (Margot Austin) here.

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Who Comes to Your House? (A Little Golden Book)

Who Comes to Your House? by Margaret Hillert, illustrated by Tom O'Sullivan.
Golden Press, Western Publishing Company, 1973.

A new-to-me vintage Little Golden Book! This one features some beautiful 1970s-style illustrations, and some sweet poetry about people who might visit your house. Some would still be current - delivery people, plumbers, babysitters - and some are sadly of their time. I would have love to know you, milkman, visiting nurse, and bookmobile driver. (Is it too late for me to get a bookmobile?)

Oh, look a Disney book ad!

I thought I'd leave you with a behind-the-scenes look at this photo shoot. My morning light was best in the living room. Mabel was jealous. Did you notice her paw sneaking into some of the pictures?

Poor Mabel. Mama was busy!

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Obsessive Nostalgia Disorder Monday: A Spell Is Cast

A Spell Is Cast by Eleanor Cameron, illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush. Little, Brown and Company, 1964.

So, there was this book.

I thought I might have checked it out from the library in Shawnee, Oklahoma, while visiting my grandparents one summer. I couldn't remember much about it, except that it took place around Carmel, California, and there was a unicorn in it. Or a unicorn charm. Or maybe something to do with chess? I remembered it felt old-fashioned, but with a dreamlike quality. That was all I had to go on.

Which meant it took me years to find the name of this book.

One night, Google finally came through for me. Through some miracle, I finally found a combination of search words that worked.  Something like "book," "Carmel," "unicorn charm," "chess." And suddenly, I saw a title: A Spell Is Cast. I clicked on the title, and lo and behold, I remembered the cover! After over a decade of searching, at last I knew the name of this book.

Last month, I worked the Scholastic Book Fair at the girls' school. I've told you before that I went to this school, too, for exactly one year. It was an ordinary elementary school, not a performing arts and science magnet, like it is now. During a lull, I wandered over to the Cs to see if the school had a copy of A Spell is Cast, since the copies I found for sale online were a bit high.

They had three copies. And one had the blue cover, just as I remembered.

I opened it, and looked at the library card. I guess I didn't check the book out in Oklahoma. This must have been one of the books that the fabulous librarian, Mrs. Loper, had put in my hand. She was always trying to get me to read something other than Nancy Drew.

I'm pretty sure the little doodle face at the top of the card is my handiwork, too.

This is the second time I've found an old library card with my name on it. They must have gone to computers only a short time later. I'm trying to remember other books I checked out that year. I came up short on The Headless Cupid and two of the Nancy Drews.

Big Sis was a sweetheart and checked the book out for me. She had to re-check it a couple times - I had to get through all those Halloween books first - but I finally finished it.

The book is about a young girl, Cory, who has just arrived at the airport by plane. She is supposed to be staying with her wealthy uncle and grandmother, but no one is at the airport to meet her. She tries to phone, but the number is unlisted. Finally, an older woman who was on the same plane offers to give her a ride. As they head for the house, it begins to rain. They run into a local boy, Peter, caught in the rain and pick him up, too. The car runs out of gas. The rain has let up, so Cory is told to leave most of her luggage with the couple, and she and Peter head up to the house. Peter is a member of an Explorers Club, and convinces Cory to take a rocky shortcut. After more starts and stops, she finally arrives at her family's home.

There is an old Scottish couple who keeps the house. It turns out that Stephanie, Cory's stage actress adoptive mother, had told everyone that Cory was coming the next day!

There are secrets to be learned, such as the fact that Stephanie never actually adopted Cory.

Cory gets to stay in her mother's old bedroom, with the giant four-poster bed. There is a carved mask of Stephanie's face on the wall, hand-carved by her Uncle Dirk.

Cory becomes feverishly ill for a few days. This is the part of the book I remembered the best. She dreams about hearing sad, beautiful music, and finding an exquisite chess set, with unicorns for knights.

She makes friends during her stay. Peter invites her to meet the other explorers. She also makes friends with a woman named Laurel, who helps her find her unicorn necklace on the beach.

Cory, who has moved in and out of homes and schools all her life, begins to feel like she has finally found a home, even if it doesn't include Stephanie. She tries to convince her grandmother to let her stay.

There are more secrets that unfold near the end of the book, all working up to a neat resolution.

This is the only Eleanor Cameron book I've read. She is better known for her Mushroom Planet books. The great '60s illustrations are by the Krushes, who also illustrated the U.S. editions of The Borrowers by Mary Norton.

After I posted a picture of the book and card on Facebook, a retired teacher friend of mine was inspired to pull out her copy. She received the book as a gift when it was brand new! She re-read it and enjoyed it, as well.

Is there a book from your childhood that has stayed with you for years, but that you cannot remember well enough to locate? Have you read this book, or any other books by Eleanor Cameron?

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