2-5, 3-6, Books, Children

5 Monster Picture Books for a Fun Halloween

For this week leading up to Halloween week I wanted to throw out some great spooky recommendations for kids.

I’m starting with the youngest and as they are meant for little kids these stories are not so scary, but star some of our favorite Halloween Horrors.

 

This one in particular is one of my favorites.  Monsters of all shapes and sizes are staples this time of year and many kids can relate to the fear of the monster under the bed.  This is a story of a young boy whose Monster is going to spend a week on vacation and he just can’t get to sleep without his monster’s usual slurps and groans.  He spends the week testing different Monsters but in the end, there is only one Monster for him.  If your kid is a Monster’s Inc fan, or is a little bit picky this story will definitely resonate with them.  We all know what it is like to feel like something isn’t right, we just might not realize that the thing that the knowledge of the thing that scares us is the thing  that makes us feel safest.

 

Some of you might recognize this author as  none other than the chronicler of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Known for his melancholic nature it is surprising to read such an adorable story… even if it is about a dead fish.  Goldfish Ghost is the story of … well a goldfish ghost trying to find the right place for him.  He was lonely on the boys dresser and nobody seems to pay him much attention in the real world.  You follow along on his journey to find a friend and get to see our world from an incredibly unique perspective.  Definitely worth a read.

Zombies are a personal favorite this time of year.  I think I was a zombie of a ghoul at least three Halloweens in a row (but then again I was a fan of scary things at Halloween rather than Princesses, Witches, or Dolls.  I find this one super cute in general, but  if you have a kid who feels a little unique or left out.  When one little zombie wants a peanut butter & jelly sandwich … rather than brains. It shows how sticking to your opinions and being yourself is worth while.  Even old … zombies … can learn new tricks.

 

My little sister dressed as a black cat one year, and my family has always raised black cats so this one is a favorite just for that.  This is a story about fear, about overcoming fears and facing the world unafraid.  This is the story about someone who thinks he is brave, even when he isn’t and is brave even when he thinks he isn’t.  Cat owners will especially love this one, and the art style is very evocative and cute.  Always a plus.

I know monsters can feel like a boys club, I certainly felt that way as a child, even as a tom boy I was frustrated that the things I liked seemed to be marketed exclusively at boys.  Well, vampires have certainly become a beloved thing for young girls and this cute little one is no exception.  It is hard to be a ballerina when you are also a vampire.  Not all aspects of it match up with the vampire life style.  Following your dreams is important and so she pushes through.  Definitely a good choice for a little dancer or for a little darkling like myself.

Hopefully these guys sounded interesting.  There are scores more great spooky picture books out there.  Head to your local library and I’m sure the librarians will have some favorites for you to choose from.  There are always interesting new ones coming out as well so its worth a trip to the book store to see what  was released in that department as well.

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5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

This one goes out to all those parents, teachers, librarians, and kids who loved Wonder by R. J. Palacio and want something similar.  I gobbled it up and loved every second of it.

Title: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Author: Dusti Bowling
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Page #: 272
Genre: Middlegrade, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

I made a video review of this one right after finishing it, watching it back several months later I realized that it took me a while to catch my footing while talking about it but if you can stick with my scattered thoughts for about a minute I get there and you can hear why I think this book is going to become an instant classic.

 

I liked it more than I liked Wonder which is blasphemy in some ways and warranted in others.  Definitely one to read to help introduce empathy and acceptance of diversity in kids, also a great way to discuss deformity, disability, and mental health at a young age.  One to pick up next week when it is published.

I look forward to Dusti Bowling’s future books because I’m sure she has a bright career ahead of her if this is any indication.  Well done.

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu Review

It was not until I was a fair way into this book that I realized how many things it was attempting to do, and only upon finishing it did I understand its mastery.

Title: Somewhere Among
Author: Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Page #: 448
Genre: Middlegrade, Historical Fiction, Poetry

This is a story about an 11 year old girl with a Japanese father and an American mother.  Her mother is currently pregnant with a new little sibling, after suffering several miscarriages, and is sickly.  Ema must accompany her mother to her grandparent’s house in the Japanese countryside.  She doesn’t want to leave her friends, she doesn’t want to miss her annual vacation to visit her mother’s parents in America, she doesn’t want to have to go to a new school where she will become a spectacle, but she does, because she wants this baby.  This is her story coming to terms with the good and the bad in life, with sacrifice, valor, and selfishness.  It was beautiful.

The thing that really caught me off guard about this one, and subsequently made me buy it, was the fact that it is written in verse.  Aside from some good ol’ Shel Silverstene, Robert Frost, or Emily Dickinson selections poetry aimed at kids is a little hard to come by.  Creating a narrative through poetry sounded like a great way to introduce a lot of modern poetry to kids.  Slam poetry, urban poetry, rap, all have the potential for narrative and they are growing ever popular.  I wanted to see if this was done well, if the form would enhance the story, or if it was just a gimmick.  I am glad to say it blew me away, rather than let me down.

The second thing that hit me was just how this is a piece with so many interlocking pieces: from what it is like to be biracial, what it is like to grow up in Japan, what it is like to become an older sibling for the first time, what it is like to worry about a parent’s health, what it is like to hear about something as major as the 9/11 attacks.  It was slowly rotating and focusing on all of these things and none of them felt forgotten or lesser.  I think part of this is due to the minimalist nature of verse. When writing in verse you can’t spend too much time with any one thing, less the poems become erratic or unhinged.  There is astounding balance in this book.  For every point there is a counterpoint, and rather than clashing, they exist harmoniously with each other.  This, is for sure, a sign of the author’s talent.

The last thing I want to touch on  I didn’t realize was a part of the book until I saw some of the headings.  (Careful consideration of the cover might have clued me in, but I didn’t look too deeply into it). I had the revelation while reading this book, that the children who would read it were not born before 9/11.  Part of what Annie does in this book is attempt to capture the horror of a terror attack.  This is perhaps one of the most important thing in this book, .  She compares 9/11  to the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and boy did I love it. It showed not just the immediate reaction to something so detrimental but the long term effects.  Aside from her own experience raising biracial children in Japan she was able to set this book in a way that perfectly explained terrorism and what it does, immediately and for years to come.  It helped build empathy, and teach forgiveness; the characters in the book know what it is like to live through an event like this and their empathy for the very country who perpetrated the acts of terror that shocked them is ground breaking.  It is important that these two are linked.  Just as Ema struggles with conflicting emotions, she sees something that brings everyone together and ironically it is the same thing that tears them apart: FEAR.

This book was incredibly well written, delicately plotted, extremely poignant and just all around wonderful.  I read it in one sitting (once you really get into it, reading verse is like being carried along on a song).  If you have a kid that loves to read, likes historical novels, wants to learn about living through 9/11, likes Japanese culture, any or all of the above?  Grab this guy.  It would make an interesting independent reading book as it raises many questions and dichotomies to be discussed in an essay.  It is just good stuff.  Highly recommended.

(Sorry I was absent for a month, been dealing with some rough stuff in the real world.  This was one of the many books I read on my hiatus and hopefully I can keep doing this at least semi-regularly for the foreseeable future.)

 

7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz Review

Making our way through the backlist reviews, slowly but surely.  I promise that I will be posting the reviews for books I have read recently as well.  I just wanted to make sure this content was here for you all to find.

Title: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy  Dog
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Illuminator: Hatem Aly
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Page #: 384
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Books, YA (Young Adult)

Almost Adulting by Arden Rose Review

Here is a post for all of those parents of teens.  I admit that my focus on here and in life is very focused at the younger (tween) market than it as teens but I am going to try and at the very least throw something out there for you.

Title: Almost Adulting
Author: Arden Rose
Publisher: HarperCollins
Page#: 208
Genre: Self-Help, Tell All, Humor

 

Hope you enjoyed our take on this one.

As always, if you have any questions, recommendations, comments, etc. you can find me all over the interwebs or right down below in the comment section.

7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud Review

Another of the backlist reviews, this time a book that I read out loud to my best friend.  We both happen to be adults, and we both happened to really enjoy this book.  We had many a giggle and fell a little bit in love with the banter found within.

Series Title: Lockwood & Co.
Book Title and #: The Screaming Staircase #1
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Page #: 381
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Middle-Grade, Ghost Story

Bibliomancy For Beginners, Books, Musings, YA (Young Adult)

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor Review (Bibliomancy for Beginners)

That’s right folks we are almost done with this season of Bibliomancy for Beginners only one more book! *shock and awe*

I know you guys are all sad about it but don’t worry we have super secret plans in the works.  Secret plans you won’t hear about until the end of the next episode so be sure to stay tuned in!

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Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Browne Books for Young Readers
Page #: 517
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal

 

Almost done.  I believe.  Let’s go.

Adult, Bibliomancy For Beginners, Books

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides Discussion (Bibliomancy for Beginners)

What?  I actually am posting two days in a row and one of those posts is literally a book club episode.  Somebody check to make sure the world hasn’t ended.

You know how this goes by now!

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Title: Middlesex
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Publisher: Picador
Page #: 529
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Ficion, LGBTQIA+ Fiction

We do plan to make book club a regular thing again … hopefully… if life maybe stops being shit.  It won’t stop but we can hope.

Adult, Books

Betwixt the Books Discuss! Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Fanfiction vs. Canon

Hey guys … so its been over a month since I’ve posted anything.  I’m having real college flashbacks where I would blink off the face of the internet for a while.  I have still be posting things on youtube so if you follow me there you will have seen my face a little but I’ve been going through a really rough patch as of late and it has led to extreme self doubt.  When I doubt myself I have a tendency to let things that I love slide, because maybe I’m not doing them properly.  Maybe I think I’m doing well when in reality I’m just shouting into an empty void.  Hopefully that isn’t the case.

In an attempt to reform my life in a way, I have started planning posts again (really I fall off the bandwagon when I stop planning… I go, oh I’ll think of something for monday … Monday comes and goes and no posts and so it goes forever).  I have a handful of content that I created while I was on hiatus here that can show up if I am at a loss for content, but I want to keep up with it.  I have been saying this all year.  I want to keep up with it and I want to let you guys know I still care.  Even when I’m in limbo, I still care.

Today, Gretchen and I managed to get together and talk about something that is super topical and super controversial around the interwebs: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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Title: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
Author: J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
Publisher: Little Brown UK
Page #: 343
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Young Adult

I have read the thing, she is choosing not to read it at all.  This tells you a bit about where we stand in it all. We discuss some of the issues we have seen or heard as well as some of the issues around it in general.  If you are interested in our take then please by all means check it out.

(I do apologize for the audio issues, google + has been acting super shifty so I was trying a different style of streaming and the audio was not having it.  What I was hearing was not at all what the stream was hearing but I didn’t have anyone around to tell me this.  We hope to fix this issue in the future, either by returning to our beloved Google Hangouts or by finding some other way to do it … just get better at it in general.)

I hope you guys have had a better summer than I did.  I will be back tomorrow, believe it or not, because we have penciled in a super late book club episode.  Remember when we were going to talk about Middlesex guys … we do.  It is going to happen.

Adult, Books

Lions by Bonnie Nadzam ARC Review

I read this book waaaaay back in February so I’m talking to you guys from the past!  Hello future me!  Hello future you!

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Title: Lions
Author: Bonnie Nadzam
Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat
Page #: 288
Genre: Literary Fiction

This Book Will be Released on July 5th!

Now because I am writing this review after just having read the book in February something weird is going to be happening.  I have ordered a copy of Bonnie Nadzam’s first novel, Lamb and am planning to read that as well (which spoils a bit of what I’m going to say in this review, tldr; I liked it).  The reason I am saying this is because one book is called Lamb the other is called Lions they have to be connected somehow.  You don’t name things like this unless they are meant to be in some sort of conversation with each other.  There is a chance that by the time this review goes up that I have read and reviewed Lamb… in which case you already know whether or not I was disappointed that there wasn’t any repeating themes or super excited that both books gain deeper meaning when read and compared.  If not, perhaps I will do that soooooon.  SOOOOOOON.

You aren’t here for things that may or may not have happened already, you are here for a review of this book right here!  Like I said, I liked it.  I read it in one sitting despite the fact that is literary fiction.  That isn’t to say this is a light read, its just an engaging one, or at least it was for me.  It does have several trigger words associated with it that I particularly love though so I may be a bit biased (ghost story, mysterious stranger, westerns … yes please!)  It is relatively short being under 300 pages so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to spend a couple hours curled up in my nice warm bed on a snowy February evening (HI JULY HOW ARE YOU? HOT AS BALLS? PROBABLY) and escape into a summery setting.

One of the things I found most enjoyable about this books is that there are these long prosaic descriptions of the setting and everything going around in this tiny little town in Colorado.  However, whenever anyone speaks its this clipped back and forth exchange of a handful of words.  It is as if the people in this town don’t need to say a lot, everything is already known and understood, and what is unknown is left to the imagination or ignored.  For instance, the catalyst to most of the events in this novel, that mysterious stranger walking into town with his dog.  He is mostly ignored even when he stirs up a bit of trouble.

The other thing I think this book did incredibly well was to move around the idea of ghosts and haunting.  One of the character’s father dies within the first couple pages of the novel and his father’s dying wish was for him to continue his life’s work.  Now we are not privy to what that is and neither is anyone else in the town beside the now deceased father and his son just about to step out into the world for the first time.  People speculate that their family has been tasked with taking care of a sick or injured ghost.  The mysterious stranger is believed to be a ghost.  Then of course there is the theme of this dying town with all of the inhabitants moving away to something larger, something better, something bigger creating the illusion of a ghost town because it is so empty.  This theme continues through the book in different ways including the haunting of regret, the haunting of past relationships and even insanity in some cases.  It was fully explored without being too heavy handed.

There was enough mystery involved in several aspects of the story and whenever something got resolved something new sort of sparked up.  There is a lot of secrets in this town and a lot of inferring and gossiping.  There is always something new to try and glean from the sparse words you get or to parse out through the narrators description of this town and its few straggling inhabitants.

If you enjoy books about how our decisions effect us, tales of mystery, tales of young love and regret then this is definitely something you should pick up.  It creates a story through atmosphere and both gives and withholds of information with perfect timing.  This was one of the best books I’ve read so far this year (reminder this is in February I could read something earth shatteringly good two months from now but as of the 22 books I’ve read so far, this was really freakin’ good).

That’s all I have for you guys today!  I hope you enjoyed this review from the past, now back to the present!