Tag Archives: bedtime stories

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)

halloween-1  jack-horner-pie-centerpiece

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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Bedtime Stories: Pokémon!

pokemonPost 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.

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Bedtime Stories: Fairy Tale School

The_School_for_Good_and_Evil_book_1_coverPost 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.

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