Category Archives: Bedtime Stories
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
Once in a while, there is a book, one of those that completely transports you and immerses you in another world. One of those books that keeps you nervously glancing at the clock to see how much past your bedtime you have stayed up. I guess for most people this wouldn’t be that book because it’s only 150 pages long. But, I read slowly and it still took me a few evenings to finish.
The story starts out fairly normal, with the author heading to his childhood town for a funeral. When he finds himself at the old Hempstock farm, whose daughter he had vaguely known as a child, things begin to change. He begins to remember little details, like the duck pond behind the barn that Lettie Hempstock had referred to as “the ocean”. And when he remembers the name she had for the pond, he begins to remember everything from that spring when he was seven years old.
It turns out the Hempstock family was not your ordinary family. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but the women of the farm were much more than they appears. Magical, ancient, otherworldly. The young narrator is unwittingly drawn into a fierce conflict when Lettie brings him with her to bind an ancient power (Old Mrs. Hempstock dismissingly refers to it as a “flea”) causing trouble in the village. When the creature hitches a ride into the real world inside the boy’s foot, great trouble ensues.
Almost a children’s book if it wasn’t for some very scary imagery, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a wonderful quick read for a rainy afternoon. And we will have plenty of those soon enough.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
I love young adult and teen fiction, but I don’t normally go for the harder, darker, more realistic stories. I prefer to read to escape reality. So I was surprised when I picked up Okay For Now and just kept on going. Even when you realize that the dad is a horrible person and that the brother is almost as bad. And most of the teachers are rotten too. Maybe I kept going because I could see the glimmer of hope through the terrible events in his present.
Because although Douglas Swieteck is up against a great deal of adversity and wrangling with a lot of preconceived notions from adults in his new school in Marysville, New York, there are a couple people who know he is not a thug just because his brother is, and maybe he is acting out because his life is rotten. Most important among those who help guide Douglas out of the fog is Mr. Powell, the elderly librarian who recognizes Douglas’s fascination with the Audubon book at the library and encourages him to try drawing the birds himself. Ultimately Douglas discovers a healing through art.
Although it’s difficult to believe the breadth and depth of the story, it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the tale. A lovely, at times dark, story of redemption and discovery.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Bats at the Library by Brian Lies.
If you have never read Bats at the Beach, no need to worry. There is nothing in the sequel, Bats at the Library, that will be confusing if you skipped the first one. As you may guess, Bats at the Beach was about a bunch of bats at the beach. Playing bat games, eating bat snacks. Any guesses what Bats at the Library is about? That’s right: it’s about the same troupe (flock? herd? murder?) of bats visiting their local library. It seems a careless (or possibly thoughtful) librarian has left a window ajar, just enough that the bats can cruise in after hours. The librarian in me is torn between horror and delight that the bats are inside. I can only hope they are toilet trained!
It turns out they are a very respectful bunch and use the library just as one would hope they would: reading stories, shadow puppet theater, storytelling. Who knew bats were so thoughtful? The illustrations are fun, and if you have a keen eye, you can spot some homages to children’s literature: Dorothy and her friends in bat form, the kind policeman from Make Way for Ducklings, and many more. A good read for kids in preschool or kindergarten.
Post by Mark T. Locker
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.
First of all, I know what you are thinking. No, it’s not THAT book. Shades of Grey predates that OTHER book by a full two years and, from what I know of 50 Shades, is utterly unlike it in any way.
Jasper Fforde is a British mystery novelist who has written a number of clever and entertaining series of novels. This unusual dystopian novel revolves around a young man named Eddie Russett. In this far-off future, people are broken into classes determined by what color they perceive. Eddie is a Red, which is the lowest end of the spectrum. Violets are the top dogs. Greys are nearly worthless. It is a strange and highly regimented world, all built on the rather odd laws of a man named Munsell. One of the most intrusive laws is the outlawing of spoon production, which makes spoons highly sought-after. Also, one must never, EVER marry a complimentary color. Imagine the scandal!
Eddie and his father are sent from their urban home to the far-off town of East Carmine, where Eddie is to perform a chair senseless as a punishment for “lack of humility”. When he meets a fiery Grey named Jane, his life slowly is turned upside-down as he begins to look at society in a new way.
What’s most interesting is that the first thing we learn is that Jane has pushed Eddie into a giant man-eating Yataveo tree, which will slowly digest him. He is narrating from inside the tree. I enjoyed this book quite a bit; I like Jasper Fforde and his tongue-in-cheek style, the classic understated British humorist.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Pssst! by Adam Rex.
You have no idea how happy I was to discover I had somehow missed writing a review of this story. I am a huge fan of Adam Rex. I love his illustrations, his novels, his picture books. I even love his tweets. We would be great friends, I am sure. We found a copy of this at my favorite used book store the other day and since then has become a staple of the bedtime reading ritual.
A girl is walking through the zoo when suddenly she hears, “PSSST!” To her surprise, the one hailing her is a gorilla. “Hey,” he says. “Hey,” she replies. Turns out, he wants her to get him a new tire for his busted tire swing. As she walks through the zoo, the javelinas, bats, sloths, all manner of animals call her over and her list of supplies grows. The animals are hilarious. My son’s favorite is definitely the turkeys. “We want corn,” one of them says. The other adds, “Corn corn corn corn corn corn!” He insists on reading that part. “Corn corn corn corn corn corn!”
So what is the greater story here? We soon discover these animals are in cahoots. What could the garbage cans, tires, flashlights, helmets and all the other pieces add up to?? The answer may surprise you.
As with all of Adam Rex’s books, this is a must-read.