Category Archives: Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories: Strange and Creepy Stories

link_getintroublePost by Mark T. Locker.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link.

Nobody does weird and creepy quite like Kelly Link. I fell in love with her stories the first time I read “The Wrong Grave” about a self-obsessed young man whose girlfriend had died and he’d thrown a sheaf of poems into her grave, thinking it the poetically appropriate thing to do only to regret losing such amazing writing to the earth and deciding to exhume his probably terrible teenage poetry. This is one of the more likely premises of a Kelly Link story. Get In Trouble shows a bit of maturing in her writing; some of her early stories leave the reader a bit puzzled at the end, which I think was her purpose. This new collection, which was a Pulitzer finalist this year, has nine short stories covering ghost hunting reality television, fake vampire boyfriends, and superhero conventions.

Kelly Link merges the mundane and the bizarre with such casual ease that you begin to wonder what’s made up and what isn’t. The rich girl Ainslie in “The New Boyfriend” gets everything she wants, including all the boyfriends available: the Vampire Boyfriend; the Werewolf Boyfriend; and on her birthday the discontinued Ghost Boyfriend featuring Embodied and Spectral mode. He can float invisibly like a ghost. Immy is deeply jealous that Ainslie has the ghost, who she has named Mint. That’s just the first couple pages of a wonderful tale of complicated friendships and ghost boyfriends.

“The Summer People” is about a girl and her moonshiner dad who tend to vacation homes while they are abandoned. They also care for one in particular, where the Summer People live, a group of mysterious beings.

Each of her stories is dripping with atmosphere and plunges you headlong into strange and often spooky worlds. Great reading for teens and adults who like fantasy and horror but are looking for something less run of the mill.

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Bedtime Stories: Ghosts!

ghostsPost by Mark T. Locker.

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

As my kid gets older, the books I am exposed to are geared towards older and older kids. Occasionally I need to remember to look backwards and find great books for younger kids. As the time of the year demands an eye towards the spooky, it’s important not to overlook the little kids who like the idea of ghosts and goblins but cannot abide actually scary spooks. That’s where books like Ghosts in the House! come in handy. It’s super Halloweeny without being scary at all. Even though, like the title suggests, there are indeed ghosts in a little girl’s house, it’s really quite okay. In fact, it’s downright adorable. The girl is a witch, so she’s totally cool with ghosts. However, they still need to be dealt with. After all, we can’t have ghosts floating about all higgledy-piggledy!

So the witch and her cat gather up all the ghosts, run them through the wash (don’t worry; a window in the washer shows the ghosts are having a fine time in there) and put them to work as curtains and tablecloths.

Simply illustrated black and white images on orange pages add to the Halloween feel of this very simple and very cute story. If you have a little one in your life who likes spooky stuff but doesn’t like to be actually scared, Ghosts in the House! is a great choice. Read it to them in bed and rest assured they won’t have any scary dreams as a result!

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Bedtime Stories: Celebrations of Halloweens Past

halloweenHalloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food, and Frolics from Halloweens Past by Diane Arkins

Post by Mark T. Locker.

I love Halloween. I love that dark and spooky become de rigeur for a month. I love skeletons, giant spiders, creepy sound effects. The holiday has been a phenomenon in the United States for a long time, though traditions have changed a bit over the years. Halloween Merrymaking looks at the holiday through the lens of American history and tradition.

The book is filled with cool old pictures of Halloween decorations from bygone days and informational tidbits about how the Halloween traditions have changed over the years. Mostly, this is a book about Halloween entertaining from the 19th century to now. In the early 20th century, it seems simply EVERYONE was hosting Halloween parties for adults and there were no shortage of books and magazines offering ideas for everything from invitation templates to recipe ideas. Whereas today’s angle is children and spookiness, in yesteryear, it was just as fun for adults and it was more about mystery. Invitations were always sent out anonymously, lending an extra air of mystery.

Often these mysterious parties would have a theme, like all guests must dress as ghosts, or as noted literary figures. Or maybe the hostess would be ghost. Bobbing for apples was always a good time even back then. Other party ideas have, not surprisingly, faded away such as this oddity: “Where a fireplace can be used, dip stick in strong salt water and dry them thoroughly…sticks are given to guests who throw them in the fire and perform tricks or tell stories while the it burns.” (Spooky Hallowe’en Entertainments, 1923)

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If you like Halloween and if you like the old-timey celebrations of days gone by, this book has a lot of interesting information and maybe some unusual party ideas as well!

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Bedtime Stories: Moonlight the Halloween Cat

moonlightPost by Mark T. Locker.

Moonlight the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant.

The other day I was sitting with my boy who somehow has already turned eight. We were discussing this and that and the subject came around to some of his older picture books. I went looking for one in particular, the one with a character that was the namesake for our lovably dumb semi-feral cat, Dandio. I was unable to find that book (it’s a Toot & Puddle book, if you’re wondering) but I found myself looking through a bunch of his other now neglected but still much-loved (for nostalgia) books. One of the books I brought back to the table was Moonlight the Halloween Cat. When he was two, or three, we would read this book at least once a week. Probably daily. He still has a stuffed Halloween kitty he named Moonlight. I would lie on my stomach, propped on my elbows, and he would drape himself across my back, reading over my shoulder. He’s too big to do that now!

Sniff!

Well, we read the book and it’s just as sweet as I recall. Filled with naive art and simple text, the book tells us about Moonlight, the black cat who likes Halloween best of all. We follow Moonlight as she watches trick-or-treaters from the shadows, and sits in the laps of scarecrows and snacks on fallen pieces of candy. It’s a cute and simple book about an outsider who loves this human holiday. We get to tag along and see what Moonlight sees. Sometimes, there’s an owl!

I know some of you may think it’s a little early for Halloween books. But put this one on your list if you have a little one.

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Bedtime Stories: The Night Circus

thenightcircusPost by Mark T. Locker.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

In 19th-century London, there are two magicians. Not sleight of hand magicians, pulling rabbits out of hats and such, but real magicians, manipulating the elements and perception. One goes by the name of Prospero the Enchanter. The other, simply Mr. A.H.- These two play a terrible kind of game of ego, finding children of magical promise, training them, and pitting them against each other in an awful competition to see who can raise the greatest magician. Prospero has already chosen a competitor: his young daughter, Celia. In response, A.H.- finds a child at the orphanage. He doesn’t bother to name the boy, but years later the boy takes the name Marco.

After years of arduous and often cruel magical training, the competition is to begin. The venue? A brand new circus is created, a magical circus that tours the world, and opens only at night. The Cirque des Rêves (Circus of Dreams) is appropriately dark, mysterious, and mystifying. Marco manages the circus from afar, quietly adding new tents showing of his magical mastery. Celia has her own show as the Illusionist. Although Marco immediately realizes that Celia is his competitor, she has no idea who she is playing against, though the recognizes his magical work.

There are a few parallel stories also being told: the German clockmaker who created the incredible (but somehow not magical) clock that sits at the entrance to the circus; the young boy in Massachusetts who sneaks in during the day on a dare; and the redheaded twins of remarkable power, Widget and Poppet, that the boy meets when he sneaks in. All the narratives weave together into a compelling tapestry.

The Night Circus is an enchanting, mysterious and at times amusing story, full of twisty paths and dead ends, much like the circus itself. If you are looking for a story to captivate you and to fill your dreams, what better place to turn than the Cirque des Rêves?

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