Category Archives: Bedtime Stories
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.
Recently I was feeling a bit down. All the news has been sad and depressing and I needed to read a book that would be sure to make me laugh out loud (actual laughing—not LOLing) and make me forget all the other stuff in the world. I was given a number of recommendations from friends but the one that came up the most was Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. With no idea what it was—so little of an idea that I looked for an audio version—I promptly put a hold on it at my local library, with no idea what I was even getting.
What I got was a unique blend of personal narrative and hilariously crude illustrations, all chronicling the formative moments of Allie Brosh’s life, from the opening story about finding a note written to future Allie from 10-year-old Allie to the story of her insanely stupid (but greatly loved) dog. Each story is complemented by a number of pictures done in Brosh’s telltale stick-figure style. The stories on their own are funny and interesting but the pictures push it to a whole new level of hilarity.
But not all the stories are flat-out funny. As one who has struggled with depression, she provides a startlingly honest look at her bouts with depression and her attempts to be understood and to deal with it. Even this is oddly funny, mostly due to her ability to see clearly where she is being unreasonable and holding, at times, hilariously unrealistic expectations.
I read this book in bed every night and couldn’t get enough. My son was super interested in it too, partly due to the fun pictures but probably mostly because I told him it was totally inappropriate for children, mostly because of language. We did let him read the story about cake. The cake story is okay for kids.
If you need some levity in your life without compromising on a smart read, read this book. Or, if you can’t wait, hit up her blog where it all began: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Pokémon Gotta Catch ‘em All! Deluxe Essential Handbook : the Need-to-know Stats and Facts on Over 700 Pokémon by Scholastic.
I’m too old to have caught the Pokémon fever when it first came out. I was vaguely aware of something called Pikachu and that there was a turtle named Squirtle. But as a parent I learned that the exciting world of the Pokémon card game never actually went away. My son has piles of cards, and binders full of these critters, sorted by type. There’s electric types and grass types and poison types. We’ve watched the cartoon a million times but every time he’s asked me what my favorite Pokémon is, I’ve only been able to say: what’s that one that looks like he has broccoli on his head?
There are hundreds of these guys out there and many change form as they evolve. Of course, nearly everyone knows that now. The wildly popular Pokémon Go! game has turned our entire planet into a game board with gyms, Pokéstops and weird little creatures everywhere.
Can I say that my kid was into it before it was cool?
Either way, if you or your kid (you can say it’s for your kid if you’re embarrassed—it’s okay, you’re not alone) are interested in making sure you have all the information you could ever need, then this Essential Handbook is probably something you need. Not only does it have a handy pronunciation guide, but it shows you all the evolutions and powers of each Pokémon. It even tells you weight and height. My son has an incredibly deep knowledge of this universe. We spot a silhouette of a Pokémon and he can tell you exactly what it is. As far as reference books go, this is less useful than the Farmer’s Almanac but way more interesting to kids and grown-ups of a certain ilk.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
On the edge of a dark wood sits the village of Gavaldon. Every four years, two children from Gavaldon are taken away. You cannot stop the forces that choose the children, but it can be easy to guess who will be taken, because they are taken to a mysterious and legendary school, the School for Good and Evil. This is where the worst and the best are taken to learn how to be a fairy tale prince, princess, witch or warlock. Or, if you aren’t so great, how to be an evil minion or an animal companion.
Sophie is absolutely convinced that she will be selected as the new candidate at the school for Good. She has prepared all her life to become a princess and to find a handsome prince all her own. Her best (and only) friend, Agatha, lives in the cemetery with her mother, who makes potions and poultices for the village. Draped in black and wary of people in general, Agatha’s only hope is to be left alone. But when the night arrives, Sophie and Agatha are both taken but much to their surprise, not to the schools they expected. It turns out that all of Sophie’s good deeds were more self-serving than altruistic and she is dropped in the School for Evil while the reluctant Agatha is taken to the School for Good.
What follows is each girl struggling to correct what was clearly an error while simultaneously learning the tricks of their respective trades. Agatha is loathe to wear pink frilly dresses but her natural talents for the skills of the good betray a kind heart. Sophie, on the other hand, makes the most of her putrid black gowns, and her skills at the black arts suggest maybe she wasn’t placed there in error after all.
An interesting spin on fairy tales and schools of magic, The School for Good and Evil is the first in a trilogy. An entertaining read for fans of magic, fairy tales, and the complicated friendships all of us have. This book is a great bedtime read as it will surely feed your dreams with magical delights.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.
So many young adult books these days are about reluctant heroes, boys and girls finding themselves battling monsters and unspeakable evil. This book is not about those people. This is about the kids in the background. The “normal” kids. It’s a really interesting twist on this classic trope of YA fiction.
Something weird is happening in this small nameless town somewhere in western Washington. Kids are going missing, strange blue light is bursting into the sky. But this isn’t what Mikey is worried about. He’s a teenager gearing up for the end of his school year. He’s in love with his best friend. His sister has an eating disorder. He has OCD. They really don’t have time for monsters, inter-dimensional portals, or any of that stuff. That stuff is for the Chosen Ones; known in this book as the indie kids. They have names like Satchel and Finn. All we know about the fight against otherworldly evil is explained in the titles of the chapters. For once they are the background characters.
I love this unusual twist on YA fantasy fiction. I’ve read many books about chosen kids, balancing school and relationships with a fight against evil. What about the other kids? The ones who just want to get through finals, go to prom, find love? The Rest of Us Just Live tells their story. And it’s a really good story. It’s all about the angst of absentee parents, of leaving high school and the friends who have kept you going. It’s about love and jealousy and family. The mysterious blue light infecting the people and animals of town certainly doesn’t help. But Finn and Satchel and Finn and Finn will take care of that. Mikey and his friends are too busy cramming for final.
A fun and thoughtful book for teens who enjoy the monsters and zombies but want a little more.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Mister Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham.
First, Rob Thomas brought us Veronica Mars, the clever, driven high school detective. It was clever, intriguing, thought-provoking and funny. We were all sad when it ended too soon.
Then, a million die-hard fans heeded the call of Rob Thomas and funded what would be the biggest Kickstarter to date: Veronica Mars: the movie.
Finally, just for kicks, Rob Thomas collaborated with Jennifer Graham to write Veronica Mars novels. The second of these books, Mister Kiss and Tell, was published last year. If you have ever watched the show, it’s worth the time to pick up the books. The first one is even read by Ms. Mars herself, Kristen Bell. It’s practically like another episode of the show!
A young woman is attacked at The Neptune Grand, the finest hotel in Neptune, California. Veronica is hired to clear the hotel of wrongdoing. But the more she digs, she becomes invested in helping the victim even if she loses money in the process.
Mr. Kiss and Tell is gritty and dark. Peppered with the characteristic Veronica Mars wit, it is like an episode of the show but darker and with “adult” language. The story is not for the faint of heart. The author pulls no punches in reminding us of the darker side of humanity. Happily, the lighter side shines through as well. Lots of witty dialogue and a cute puppy help to balance out the tone of the story. Side plots involving a corrupt sheriff’s office and another about Veronica’s boyfriend Logan don’t add a lot to the story but they do keep the story from being monotonous. If you liked the show, you should definitely read the books; it’s basically bonus episodes of the show!