Category Archives: Bedtime Stories
Bedtime Stories: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Philip Pullman is a renowned children’s and young adult author. He is known most notably for the His Dark Materials trilogy: The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass. These books have become lore in their own right. Now he brings us a fresh telling of his favorite fifty classic fairy tales of the brothers Grimm. We all know these fairy tales, painstakingly collected from numerous oral sources by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. They appear in a number of variations, from the grisly to the shiny Disney versions. Philip Pullman follows the traditional path without whitewashing the stories. But his deft knack with the pen makes these stories a little easier to read. If you’ve read fifty of the Grimm’s tales, you will know that they get pretty weird and the style of writing generally is pretty arcane. Where else will a modern translation still read: “verily, that is the way of the world”? Who says “verily” anymore? I mean, besides me. These new takes are true to the originals but with an easy to follow narrative style.
This summer will be the summer of fairy tales. We have a new bean-covered tepee and a fire pit in the back yard. Every night we will sit in the firelight and read a couple stories. My son is getting the real Cinderella, which is startling in comparison to the cartoon version, as well as off-beat personal favorites such as The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage.
Fairy tales are the perfect length for bedtime reading. The long ones clock in at three to four pages so you can seem super generous by saying, “okay, just one more” two or three times. Happy fireside reading!
Bedtime Stories: Teen Victorian Magic
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Gemma Doyle is a typical teenage girl in some respects. Frustrated at the lack of personal control over her life, irritated with her mother over minor things, annoyed she has to remain in Bombay while her brother and father are in exciting Victorian London. But while out on her sixteenth birthday, her mother is relayed a mysterious message about someone named Circe and sends Gemma home. Next thing she knows, Gemma is having a vision of her mother committing suicide, which, though unlikely, turns out to be true. Gemma is flung into a strange new world of visions, magic, and grief. When she returns to London, she learns she is to attend Spence Academy for Young Ladies, a finishing school near London. In grief, Gemma’s father has turned to laudanum and cannot care for Gemma.
At the Academy, which her mother had also attended, Gemma begins to learn more about her mother and about herself. Her mother was apparently a priestess in The Order, an ancient group dedicated to preserving the order of magic in the world. Along with her new friends Felicity Worthington, Pippa Cross and Ann Bradshaw, Gemma learns that she has her own unique powers, such as the ability to travel into The Realms, a magical land between life and death. It is a beautiful and dangerous place where your dreams may be realized but your nightmares can too.
Not an easy book to summarize! This is just the tip of the iceberg. Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray has done a fantastic job writing in a proper Victorian young lady’s voice, with all the snarky little asides one might expect from a teenager trying, not always successfully, to be a proper young lady. There are three books in the series so if you like magic, intrigue, and historical fiction, this will keep you entertained for a while.
Bedtime Stories: Beekle!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.
We just don’t read as many children’s picture books as we used to. My son constantly has his nose in a book these days so our reading together time has dwindled and is mostly limited to our bedtime chapter book reading. I was recommended this book and am glad I was. Beekle is downright adorable. He is a blobby, white little guy with a gold crown. He is an imaginary friend. Only, he hasn’t been imagined by anyone. All his friends that live in the imaginary friend land get imagined and sent to their new friends. But not Beekle. So he does the unimaginable: he takes matters into his own hands and heads out to find his match.
I love this book. I love a unique story that is lovingly illustrated (author and illustrator Dan Santat was an illustrator of other children’s books before writing his own). This one was awarded the Caldecott Medal, which is America’s highest honor for an American children’s picture book. One look and you will know why. Lots of richly colored and fun to look at pictures make the book a delight to read for kids 3-6 and discriminating adults as well.
Bedtime Stories: Relishing Immaturity
The Encyclopedia of Immaturity by Klutz.
I have an aunt who always made an impression on me by her ability to be utterly silly, to make ridiculous jokes, and have fun at everyone’s (including her own) expense. Now that I have my own child, I was both delighted and horrified when she presented him with The Encyclopedia of Immaturity. Brought to you by the editors of the Klutz books, this is the reference books for every child. This book is chock full of pranks, jokes, tricks, and neat little illusions.
Need to learn how to pretend to bonk your head loudly on a table? Do the old “removing your thumb” trick? This is the book for you! If you want to get in a lot of trouble, you can try the old “shaving cream in your napping dad’s hand” trick. Or how to explode a paper bag in a most disruptive fashion.
Upon receiving this book, my son was at first nonplussed. Little did he know the secrets buried within. rest assured, the “DO NOT ENTER LABORATORY” and “CAUTION NUCLEAR WASTE” signs are plastered on his bedroom door! He’s still working on the subtle art of trickery (he is only six, after all) but it has never stopped him from continuing to trick me!
I can’t say I recommend you buy this for your child. But for your nephew, niece, neighbor’s kid, absolutely. Just be sure to look over your shoulder if you find yourself alone with the kid.
Bedtime Stories: Sabriel Day!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Happy May 11! Today has been “officially” dubbed as Sabriel Day by Garth Nix, author of the wonderful young adult fantasy series. Twenty years ago today, Sabriel was published. I was wrapping up high school. I didn’t discover Sabriel, and the companion books in the trilogy, Lirael and Abhorsen, for many more years but they have stayed with me ever since. I have read the whole series (including his most recent companion, Clariel at least twice, and I’ve also listened to them all on audio, the first three read by the unparalleled Tim Curry!
The story of Sabriel is wonderfully unique and yet familiar. She is a young woman, still in school, south of the Wall, where magic has no grip. Her father lives north of the Wall, in the Old Kingdom. He is the Abhorsen, a necromancer whose job is to keep the dead dead and to walk them through past the Ninth Gate into death. You know how it goes. So when Sabriel receives a messenger from Death, carrying her father’s sword and necromancer’s bells, she knows there is trouble. Thus begins her journey learning about herself, about who her father is, and about life in the Old Kingdom where magic and monsters are part of everyday life.
This series has topped my list of favorite YA novels since I first picked it up. It’s fantasy that doesn’t feel like fantasy. There are no clearly made up magical names, no elves and goblins, and blessedly, no dragons. I don’t know why, but dragons is where I draw the line. If you’ve never read this series, this, the 20th anniversary, is the perfect time to pick it up. Celebrate Sabriel Day and see what you’ve been missing out on!