Category Archives: Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

Post by Mark T. Locker.

In 1995, the first volume of the greatest trilogy ever written was released. This is of course my opinion and there are those out there who would wholly disagree with this. But the first time I read The Golden Compass it blew my mind. And although it’s really meant for middle-age readers I had a feeling my 8-year-old would dig it. And we have been reading it nightly and he can’t get enough.

The Golden Compass is full of mysterious forces, witches, armored bears, adventure and monsters. Lyra Belacqua has grown up in Jordan College in Oxford in a world much like ours, but very different. In Lyra’s world, every person has a daemon, an animal companion, bound to them in spirit. It’s very much an physical manifestation of the soul. Lyra’s daemon is named Pantalaimon and like all daemons of children, it can change shape into any animal they can imagine.

She has always been a bright, if fierce and precocious young girl, with few cares in the world. But her world is changing. The Gobblers have come to Oxford. All over England, there have been stories of children going missing. And now her best friend Roger has gone missing and Lyra finds herself plunged into an adventure she never dreamed of. She’s headed to the North, to find her friend, and to learn about the mysterious alethiometer given to her in secret by the head of Jordan College. A strange kind of compass that tells the truth and Lyra can read it like nobody else. And it’s all connected to the Gobblers, to herself, to the North and to a mysterious element known only as Dust.

There are layers to this story that make it enjoyable for readers of many ages. Although Pullman’s feelings on religion are not always shared by all, I found this series impossible to put down.

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Bedtime Stories: The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann

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Post by Mark T. Locker.

Bedtime Stories: The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

For most, the story of the Nutcracker is a beloved holiday tradition. Dress up fancy and go to the performing arts center or school to watch the popular ballet, whose music from Tchaikovsky is pretty much synonymous with the holidays. For many, hearing the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy will evoke images of Christmasy scenes.

But did you know that it was first a short story by 19thcentury author E.T.A. Hoffmann? Written in 1816, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” is the littleknown origin of the Nutcracker ballet. Hoffmann was a fan of the traditional German fairy tales, and their influence is obvious in the story.

On Christmas Eve, Marie and her brother are playing with their new nutcracker toy which becomes accidentally broken. She attempts to fix it and stays up late keeping it company. Suddenly, an army of mice appear. All the wooden toys then come to life and battle the mice. The next day Marie tells her godfather, Drosselmeyer, about the event and he tells her the story of the nutcracker and how he came to be. There are lots of unusual fairy tale goings-on, such as the need to have a princess eat a nut which must be cracked and handed to her by a man who had never been shaved nor worn boots since birth, and who must, without opening his eyes hand her the kernel and take seven steps backwards without stumbling.

In the Hoffmann story, none of this is a dream. The little girl sees it all with her own eyes and even though most adults don’t believe her, it’s a true story. My favorite version of this story is illustrated by Maurice Sendak, known best for his book Where the Wild Things Are. Richly illustrated, the story is both beautiful to look at and to read.

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Bedtime Stories: How This Book Was Made

bookPost by Mark T. Locker.

Bedtime Stories: How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex.

So you think you know how a picture book comes into being? You may think you know, but you don’t. I don’t think you took into account the pirates, or the arm-wrestling tigers. Or the roaring fires of discarded drafts. No, you don’t know how this book was made at all.

From the mind and hands of Adam Rex and Mac Barnett comes another clever and hilarious picture book. Mac Barnett writes with a number of talented illustrators but his work with Adam Rex is my favorite. I see this book as a companion piece to Barnett/Rex’s 2012 picture book Chloe and the Lion which is another behind-the-scenes peek at the making of a picture book. Where Chloe looked at the collaboration between author and illustrator, How This Book Was Made looks at the process from inception to publication. In some ways, it really does explain how this book was probably made, though of course embellished and changed to make it interesting for children.

When Mac Barnett tells you his editor sent him back the first 20 drafts of the story, you can’t help but believe that this was indeed the case. But whether or not he burned the other drafts to scare away the tiger bent on revenge cannot be confirmed or denied.

To take Mac’s word on it, the process of getting the book from his original idea to becoming the copy in your hands is an incredible process! Adam Rex makes a valuable contribution, turning simple statements like “I found a quiet place to write” and placing the author at the top of a ladder on the top of a desolate mountain. Although Mac insists “it took the illustrator took a VERY long time to draw all the pictures” it was definitely worth waiting for his fantastic illustrations.

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Bedtime Stories: Fangirl

fanPost by Mark T. Locker.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Cather and Wren are twins (Cather Wren—Catherine—get it??), starting their first year at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. And although they have always been thick as thieves, as twins should be, bold and brash Wren wants to break out and become her own person. She doesn’t want to room with Cath, wants to party all the time, and begins teasing Cath about the fan fiction they have been writing together for years.

The Simon Snow novels are the Harry Potter books of their world. Stories of an orphaned boy with powerful, if poorly controlled, magic. He is roomed with his nemesis, a vampire named Baz, short for Tyrannus Basilton Pitch. Throughout the novels, the two spar and occasionally collaborate for the greater good. Cather and Wren, but mostly Cath, have been writing short stories about Baz and Simon, about what happens between scenes. Her fic is hugely popular, garnering tens of thousands of followers, as she attempts to finish Carry On, Simon Snow, her version of the final book in the series, before the real final book comes out.

Between bouts of storytelling, Cath learns how to be her own self, thanks in large part to her brusque and straightforward roommate Reagan, who exasperatedly tells her she has to be her friend because she’s so damn pathetic. And thanks also to Reagan’s friend Levi, whose unflappable good cheer chips slowly away at Cath’s stony, stubborn exterior.

This is a book about magic, about friendship, love, and siblings. And it’s about growing up and learning how to have parents as an adult.

The best part is that if you are intrigued by the chapters of Carry On, Simon Snow that you get a peek at, Rainbow Rowell released the entire novel, Carry On last year. Good reading for people who like witty and smart writing with just a little (not too much) drama.

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Bedtime Stories: Goldenhand

goldenhand_garthnix_epicreadsPost by Mark T. Locker.

Goldenhand by Garth Nix.

I don’t have a scary story for you today. Sorry! I was too excited about the new Garth Nix novel to read anything else. I’m sure you all understand.

20 years ago, the Australian author released Sabriel the YA fantasy novel about a young woman, Sabriel, flung before her time into the dark and dangerous world of necromancy. Wielder of seven magical bells, her job is to fight Free Magic necromancers, who bring the dead back to life to do their bidding. Later, we met Lirael, Daughter of the Clayr. Lirael is a Clayr, the Seers who live underneath the glacier and watch the future and the past. In the final book, Abhorsen, Lirael continues her quest to defeat a dark necromancer.

And now, 20 years after the last battles of the Old Kingdom, we get Goldenhand, a new tale that picks up shortly after Abhorsen. Tying together all the novels (including Clariel, a story that takes place hundreds of years earlier) we get what appears to probably be the final book in the series. Focusing again mostly on Lirael, we join her as she reunites with a young man from the other side of the Wall, a non-magical person with little experience in the magical North. We also meet a new character, another brave and fierce woman, a tribal warrior named Ferin. While Lirael and Nick work their way to the Clayr’s glacier, Ferin is fighting to make her way to Lirael, carrying an important message from Lirael’s long-deceased mother.

If you have read the other four books in the Old Kingdom series, Goldenhand will quench your thirst for another trip north of the Wall. Personally, Sabriel is still my favorite but this is a satisfactory end to a much-loved series.

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