Category Archives: Bedtime Stories
Bedtime Stories: Scaredy Squirrel
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Scaredy Squirrel by Mélane Watt.
If you have children and they haven’t introduced you to the Scaredy Squirrel series, well they probably will any minute now. It now boasts eight books in its collection, but we are here to talk about the one that started it all. Wayyyyyy back in 2006 the first of the Scaredy Squirrel books was released. We learn a lot about this utterly neurotic squirrel and his very particular routines.
As you may guess, he is the squirrel equivalent of a scaredy cat. What is he scared of? You name it! On his list are: Green Martians; killer bees; tarantulas; poison ivy; germs and sharks. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, to be sure (I can hear him now: “Icebergs! Where?! RUN“). This may be a neurotic little guy but he is not unprepared. He has four evacuation routes from his tree and contingency plans for each exit point just in case any of THOSE things are awaiting him.
Then, one day, the unthinkable happens and Scaredy Squirrel finds himself facing the things that have kept him from ever leaving his tree and the safety of his routine. What will happen? Will he be nabbed by aliens? Read it and find out! A funny book with lots of companion books for fans aged four and up!
Bedtime Stories: The Magician King
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Magician King by Lev Grossman.
A few weeks ago I shared with you a magical novel called The Magicians, a Harry Potter-meets-Narnia-meets-something wayyy more grown-up. So intrigued was I by the ending, I had to run out and pick up the sequel, The Magician King. As far as middle books in a trilogy go, this one is pretty good. It is a fair bit darker in some ways and a bit more playful in others. SPOILER ALERT: The story picks up with Quentin and his friends Julia, Janet, and Eliot assuming the four thrones of the land of Fillory. But on an adventure to discover a magical golden key, Quentin and Julia find themselves suddenly back on Earth with no way of returning. The novel goes between the main narrative and the backstory of Julia who, unlike Quentin and his friends, was not accepted into magic school and had to find other means of developing her magical education. That is where most of the darkness of this story comes from.
I enjoyed this follow-up. Quentin has, thankfully, grown up and doesn’t make these stupid childish decisions like he did in the last book. He’s more of a protagonist I can get behind. If you read the first novel and enjoy it, I definitely recommend you pick up this one as well.
Bedtime Stories: Bermuda Triangle
The Bermuda Triangle by Aaron M. Rudolph.
My son has become an early embracer of conspiracy theories and other mysteries of the unknown. Channel surfing a few weeks back, we came across a documentary about the Bermuda Triangle. It is indeed an enticing sort of mystery: ships and planes and people seeming to vanish into thin air. Reports of crazy wormhole-like activity! So I headed to the 001 section of the children’s nonfiction at the local library. For those unfamiliar with the Dewey Decimal Classification, 001 is where you will find all the books about aliens, cryptids, and mysteries like the Bermuda Triangle. For the record, I grabbed a UFO Files book and a Loch Ness Monster book as well.
Filled with color pictures, simple text, and a nice mix of fact and speculation, this book is a big hit. I for one never realized how difficult it would be for my son to say “BERMUDA”. It just doesn’t roll off the tongue! But this book has opened him up to the concept of ghost ships, and Atlantic geography, and all the wonderful Mysteries of the Unknown. I must admit I’ve always been a sucker for this kind of stuff and I’m more than delighted that he takes such an interest in it too! Next up: government cover-ups of alien encounters? Sasquatches? The world of pseudoscience is all at our fingertips!
Bedtime Stories: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane.
I’ve been reading a disproportionate number of grown-up books these day. That’s not a bad thing; I’m just so accustomed to picture books and young adult literature! I’d been told of this book a couple years ago, but I’m pretty slow on the draw. I’d say this book is worth a read. Clay Jannon was a silicon valley graphic designer who was among the many victims of the Great Recession. After a lengthy unemployment, he happens across a San Francisco bookstore that is hiring for the night shift. It is immediately apparent that Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is not your typical bookstore. For one thing, most of the selection is a series of mysterious books which Jannon is forbidden to even look at. They take up a huge, 3-story shelf. The customers who request these books are eccentric, often disheveled, and frantic for the next edition. Jannon is required to record every detail of his encounters in the old leather-bound log books. When coaxed by a friend, he takes a look at one of the books and discovers it’s an entire volume written in code. As his curiosity deepens, he begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding this strange bookstore and its mysterious owner.
It’s a very interesting read, though the dialogues about technology versus old knowledge are a little overdone; one would almost think that Google paid a sum to have their products featured so prominently. Also, despite being somewhat ordinary in his skill set, the narrator has only incredible people in his life: the Google programmer; the skilled sculptor who works at ILM; the millionaire digital rendering master. It’s all just a little too convenient. The other half of the story, however, addresses the life of Aldus Manutius, an influential 16th-century printer and publisher, whose legacy surrounds the mysteries of the bookstore. That bit was a lot of fun. Overall it’s an intriguing story about old and new and an inquiry into if and how modern technology and the much-loved print medium might coexist.
Also: the cover glows in the dark! You can’t discover THAT in a digital format!
Bedtime Stories: We Are In a Book!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems
Mo Willems is really the best. If you have a child, you have likely encountered at least one of his wonderful series. There’s the Knuffle Bunny books, and the Pigeon books and for kids FINALLY reading on their own, there are the Elephant and Piggie books, of which there are approximately a zillion. My favorite (and my son’s favorite; he has impeccable taste) is We are in a book! which is a fantastic little piece of meta fiction for children. The story revolves around the casual mention by Piggie that he and the elephant (whose name is Gerald, naturally) are in a book. This simply blows Gerald’s mind.
What happens after this revelation is a lot of fun with the reader. The best bit being when they realize they can make the reader say “banana”, which results in much hilarity, both for the reader and the characters. But when Gerald realizes the book is going to end on page 57, panic ensues. What will happen at the end? Will they cease to be? Read it and find out!
There are a bunch of books in this series. I like them better than most readers because they are not only very simple and easy to read, they are also clever and funny. None of this “the dog is dirty. Let us give the dog a bath” nonsense. I don’t think boring stories are going to get reluctant readers to pick up a book. These hilarious Elephant and Piggie books have gotten my son over the “reading is a chore” hump and he is now diving into a whole world of books.