Category Archives: Bedtime Stories
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.
Ah, Shel Silvertstein. Few are so multi-talented and appealing to such a wide range of audiences as he is. Was. Known primarily for his children’s poetry and that depressing book, The Giving Tree, Shel also wrote naughty comics for Playboy, did several music albums, and wrote a hilariously wicked book called Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book. Little-known fact: Johnny Cash’s hit song “A Boy Named Sue” was written by Shel Silverstein.
I used to own Where the Sidewalk Ends; in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve owned it more than once. But now all I have is A Light in the Attic. That is also a great book of poems but not the original. So when I saw it on the shelf at the library, I had to get it. My son loves his poems. We read from A Light in the Attic often and listen to his audio versions a lot. Some of them are accompanied by music which is fantastic. “Twistable, Turnable Man” is particularly catchy. The best part about getting our hands on a copy of this is that I could finally read the poem that complements the picture at the back of all his books of a naked man with a long, long beard.
We read a couple poems each night before bed. Two poems always becomes three or four or ten. I never argue because I am really enjoying revisiting these poems again. They’re funny, kind, naughty, sweet, thoughtful, and shocking. I’m pretty sure Shel was exactly the same.
Pick up a copy today! If you have it and haven’t read it for a while, you should revisit it. If you have read it recently, good for you!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have discovered Terry Pratchett. It’s possible that there are one or two who have “discovered” him before me. Maybe the impeccable narrator of the YA series I’ve been enjoying. Maybe some others who put together the 8 million websites devoted to his vast collection of novels, most of which are set in the magical Discworld realm. I began devouring his stories a few weeks ago only to discover that I even own a couple and I never even knew. Well, I guess I have fantastic taste even when I don’t even know it!
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is the first book in the Discworld series aimed at young adults. It tells the story of a cat named Maurice and a band of rats and a “stupid looking kid” that travel with him from village to village. Mind you, these are not your average rats and cat. The kid? Well, he’s pretty average. But the rats, who lived once in a garbage pile behind a wizards’ castle, ate some discarded magical paraphernalia and gained a sudden self-awareness, complete with speech and understanding. Maurice, too has gained the same knowledge. He doesn’t eat garbage, but he does eat rats, so…I’m sure we can guess how he got his gift. My favorite bit about this book is the rats’ names. They picked them out themselves off labels from discarded food containers. So we have rats named Additives, Peaches, Serves Four, and—my personal favorite—Dangerous Beans.
My six-year-old isn’t quite at a point to take on all the themes and scary bits in this story, but in a couple years he will be and we will venture through this hilarious magical world together as Maurice and his stupid looking piper kid and his trained rats trick locals into believing that they are ridding the towns of rats.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary.
We are simply flying through the chapter books these days! I have a pretty substantial collection, but at this rate we will have gone through them all before the summer is over. I pulled this one off the back of the bottom shelf. It’s a worn old ex-library paperback with a cracked spine and yellowed pages. Which is to say: it’s a classic. So appropriate for my son in so many ways. Beloved spunky younger sister Ramona Quimby is staple of children’s literature. She is also a Portland native entering first grade. My son is a Portland native entering first grade at Beverly Cleary School. It seemed like the perfect book to pick up. Becoming a first grader is a really big deal in our house. We are already being reminded of the stuff he used to do back when he was a Kindergartner (last week). Those were the days!
I love reading Beverly Cleary books. Written in the 1950s-60s, the have a lot of that old-timey feel of a life that simply doesn’t exist anymore. Henry Huggins delivering the evening papers before picking up some horse meat from the butcher to feed his dog Ribsy. Stuff like that. Ramona the Brave focuses on Ramona and on her life with her parents and big sister, Beezus. It’s about growing up and about being a kid. It’s about sudden moments of self-awareness and awareness of the world outside of oneself. There’s a number of books from the world of Klickitat Street in Portland. I think after this one we are going to read a Henry Huggins story. It’s a “boy” story so it will be full of scrappiness and clubhouses and getting dirty. But the Ramona and Beezus ones are great. I recommend you read them all this instant.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon.
We all know that the thing to do is to write dystopian teen novels. Everybody’s doing it. Some of them get lots of coverage because they are excellent (Hunger Games for example) and others get lots of coverage despite not being very good. And then there are those which are quite good but seem to have more of a cult following. Maybe The Bone Season falls into this category because it’s so different from so many other novels in this genre. Sure it’s got a teenage hero. Sure there is mounting tension and potential for civil unrest. But so much about this book is unique.
Set in London in 2059, the story follows a young woman named Paige Mahoney. She is a clairvoyant, which is not all that remarkable in her time. There are a lot of clairvoyants around. However, the politicians have created an environment unfriendly to these types and they must go underground to survive. What makes Paige unique is her particular ability. She is a dreamwalker; she can leave her body and travel through the aether, where the spirits roam. She can even enter another person’s psyche, though she doesn’t if she can help it. One day, despite all her caution, she slips up and becomes the number one target of the Scion, whose job it is to hunt down rogue clairvoyants. Shortly thereafter, she learns the weird truth about her home. When she is caught, she is shipped to the ruins of the off-limits Oxford town, which is now a camp for clairvoyants who are ruled by a group of beings called Rephaim.
What will happen to her? Will her unique abilities save her? Who and what are these Rephaim? This is a book for older teens or adults. It’s in intriguing story though Paige, the narrator, needs to lighten up a bit. I’m looking forward to the sequel but dubious about how the author intends to write six more books about this story.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
My kid is entering first grade in the fall. I’m suddenly thinking about all the books I read to my class of first graders I supervised years ago. How can he possibly be the same age as them??? They were so big! Well, either way, like it or not, my kiddo is growing up. I don’t think I’m going to run out of books to read to him though!
I read Because of Winn-Dixie to that class of precocious first-graders and they all loved it. So when I saw it on the shelf, I knew exactly what we’d be reading together. If you haven’t read it, Winn-Dixie is just a beautiful story, told in the charming first-person of a young girl named India Opal Buloni, preacher’s daughter and newest resident of Naomi, Florida. On an errand to pick up some groceries from the Winn-Dixie store, Opal encounters a stray dog who is terrorizing the produce department. She quickly claims him as her own and brings her new dog, Winn-Dixie, home to meet the preacher.
Everything that happens that summer happens because of Winn-Dixie. If it wasn’t for him, she would never have met the kindly, nearly blind, old Gloria Dump. She would not have met Otis from the pet store whose music would hold all the animals in rapt attention. And if it weren’t for that old stray, her father might never have pulled his head out of his shell.
Kate DiCamillo manages to write a book that is disarmingly sweet in its story and tone without ever coming across as saccharine or forced. It’s a wonderful book with blessedly short chapters. I recommend it to all.