Tag Archives: bedtime stories
Post by Mark T. Locker
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen.
My son, at six point three years old, is almost too old for picture books now. While it’s a shame that we won’t have this format to enjoy together forever, it certainly won’t stop me from seeking out new and wonderful picture-heavy reading material for my own enjoyment and for the enrichment of you, the readers. Especially now that Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett have found each other, why would anyone move away from picture books? There can be nothing but great things coming from these two for a long time to come. And any time Adam Rex wants to fill in for Jon Klassen, that’s okay too.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is a charming and painful story. Two boys decide to dig down in the yard to see what kinds of treasures they can find. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the cross-sections of the deep, winding hole they dig show us just how close they come to finding some remarkable treasures. The drawings are wonderful and make the story what it it. Mac Barnett’s touch for subtle humor definitely helps drive this story too. Truly a great collaborative work between some of children’s literature’s great new voices.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman.
Neil Gaiman is one of the most diverse and prolific writers I know of. From eerie to fantastic (and often a bit of both), from picture books to long novels for adults, Gaiman covers the gamut. Best known, perhaps, for his super scary young adult book Coraline which was made into a movie, he has taken a turn with his newest book, a short picture-filled story called Fortunately, the Milk. The story begins with a family that is fresh out of milk. The father steps out to the corner store to pick some up. When he doesn’t return for a long time, his two girls begin to worry. Finally, after a very long time (far longer than it should take to get some milk from the corner store) he returns. When asked what took him so long, he relates the long and inexplicable tale of what befell him when he left the market.
The rest of the book is the story of what took him so long, with occasional interjections by his daughters. It’s way more incredible than you’d dare think. Burbling green aliens hell-bent on redecorating Earth in a most tasteless manner is only the beginning. A stegosaurus in a time-travelling hot-air balloon named Professor Steg is to be his companion through time and space for a large portion of his journey. The father is hilariously focused on making sure the bottle of milk is safe throughout the entire ordeal. Hence the title, Fortunately, the Milk. “Fortunately, the milk was safely tucked away when the volcano erupted” for example.
My son and I both had a great time reading this book. I was worried it might be too random and nonsensical but it manages to retain a fairly cohesive, if totally weird, narrative thread. The only difficulty is that there are no chapter breaks, so reading at bedtime is a challenge. You have to choose an arbitrary stopping point which is easier to argue over than a chapter’s end. Super fun and imaginative book for kids 6-10.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Hell House by Richard Matheson.
Happy Halloween, everyone! Here are two similar but very distinct haunted house novels. Hill House and Hell House, besides having quite similar names, have similar premises (no pun intended!). Each features a scientifically-minded individual engaging in an empirical study of a well-known haunted house.
In Hell House, Dr. Lionel Barrett is invited by a wealthy eccentric to spend a week in a notoriously haunted—and dangerous—house with two mediums to gather definitive proof of the paranormal. In this case, the site is known as the Belasco house, named for the former owner, a horrifically depraved and evil man named Emeric Bellasco. Many lives were lost in the house and many angry spirits remain. Every attempt to reside in and study the house has ended in death. Dr. Barrett is convinced he can end the whole thing using technology. Florence Tanner, a spiritualist and mental medium, wants to connect with the spirits and put them to rest. Benjamin Franklin Fischer, a physical medium, visited the home as a teenager and hopes simply to get through the week alive.
The Haunting of Hill House is by Shirley Jackson, a well-known author, most notably of her chilling short story “The Lottery”. Like Hell House, this story is based around a science-minded professor spending time in a haunted house with a couple assistants hoping to gather concrete proof of the supernatural. This story is built more around the characters, especially Eleanor, one of the young women staying with Dr. John Montague. Unlike the Belasco house, there is no particular set of event that makes the house so awful, rather it seems the house itself is malevolent. Its forces get into the characters minds and exploit their weaknesses.
Both are spooky and enjoyable books, though Shirley Jackson’s superb writing style and brilliant subtlety of narrative flow through the novel make it seem creepier. You never see a chair fly across a room, which somehow makes the whole thing scarier. Matheson’s book, however, highlights the darker parts of the human soul and the icky depths some people descend to. Either one will make you shiver in your bed as you read.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-it-yourself Designs to Amuse your Friends and Scare your Neighbors by Tom Nardone
We are less than two weeks from Halloween now! We picked out our pumpkins a couple weeks ago and my son has been rarin’ to cut into his ever since. For my part, I’m always hurting for inspiration when it comes to most crafty concepts. I came across this out-of-box book at the library. It’s full of amusing and sometimes a little disturbing ideas. On the cover is a mean pumpkin face chewing an understandably surprised-looking littler pumpkin. On the back is a pumpkin who has vomited its insides all over the table. Yuck! Unless you are a six-year-old boy, in which case: awesome!
Have you ever wanted to make a Darth Vader helmet pumpkin? How about using toothpicks as scary sharp teeth? What about a pumpkin puking guacamole? Whatever your weird desires, this book probably has some ideas for you.
Note: I did not do any of the pumpkins in this book in the end. I probably should have, as mine looks like a disaster. My kid’s looks extremely abstract and my wife’s is a fantastic nerd reference.
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
In case you didn’t know, it’s October, the scariest month of the year. It’s actually MID-October now, which is pretty scary in its own way. Well, there’s nothing I like more as the days grow shorter, the leaves turn to flame and the mists descend upon us, than to curl up with a nice creepy story. A while back I wrote a review of Lockwood & Co. Part I by Jonathan Stroud. With a subtitle like The Screaming Staircase, there was really no way it could be bad, and it didn’t disappoint. With much anticipation on my part, the sequel was finally (and in a timely fashion, just in time for fall!) released. The Whispering Skull picks up where the last installment leaves off, with our protagonist ghost hunter Lucy Carlyle discovering that she can hear the voice of a haunted skull her colleague has in a jar. How’s that for a spooky intro?
In this story, Lockwood, George, and Lucy, a team of freelance ghost hunters, are hired to look into a mysterious grave found in a nearby cemetery. What they discover in the tomb is a relic so deadly and powerful it threatens to destroy anyone who comes near. And with the discovery of this relic, the haunted skull suddenly becomes very talkative. Is it connected to the tomb somehow? And how much of what it says is truth, how much is lies to manipulate and divide the team?
Spooky fun reading for a brave kid or young adult or, in this case, regular adult.