All of the guinea pigs in Dandeville love eating dandelion leaves. In fact, they like them so much that they begin to run out of them. Of course, they could still buy them on the Internet – “for a HUGE amount of money”. Forced to eat chewy cabbage instead, Nibbles the guinea pig saves the day. He finds the sole remaining dandelion growing right outside his bedroom window, and he knows that he absolutely must not eat it. After a trip to the library to borrow the book Everything You Need to Know About Dandelions, Nibbles takes care of his dandelion and lets it go to seed. (Grown-ups – be sure to pay attention to the titles in the library illustration if you want a chuckle.) After Nibbles scatters the seeds all over Dandeville, new dandelion plants sprout and grow. The story concludes with Nibbles realizing that he loves growing dandelions just as much as he loves eating them. The mixed media illustrations are the heart of the story and are worth examining closely.
Check the WRL catalog for Nibbles: A Green Tale.
London, 1889. The city’s residents are frightened and demoralized by the crimes of Jack the Ripper, and Scotland Yard’s reputation has suffered as a result of its inability to capture the killer. The story opens on the scene of newly recruited Detective Inspector Walter Day and forensic pathologist Bernard Kingsley examining a corpse on a train station platform. The corpse turns out to be a fellow policeman, shockingly mutilated.
Day soon finds himself heading up the investigation, supervising Scotland Yard’s recently formed “Murder Squad.” The reader is taken into the world of policing in class-conscious Victorian London and its overworked detectives, disrespected constables, and the nascent science of forensic pathology. The thoughtful and perceptive Day, and the detectives on his murder squad, examine the cases of the murdered Detective Little, trying to find some thread of a lead to grasp.
As the murder squad pursues leads in the murder of their colleague, an ambitious and dedicated constable pursues the seeming accidental suffocation of a young boy in a chimney. The tragedy is a predictable outcome of the boy’s work as a chimney sweeper’s boy, yet Constable Hammersmith finds himself moved by pity and anger to pursue the facilitator of the child’s fate– against the orders of his superiors. He finds himself opening a very dangerous can of worms, which may or may not be related to Day’s homicide investigation. Jack the Ripper himself figures into this story, but not in the way you might think!
You should check out this series if you enjoy the Victorian-era mysteries of Anne Perry. Grecian’s protagonists share their sense of justice with those of Perry’s detectives Thomas Pitt and William Monk.
I was intrigued by the characters and their relationships. The character Bernard Kingsley is based on real-life forensic pathology pioneer Bernard Spilsbury (most famous perhaps for his work on the Crippen poisoning case). The forensics are one of the most intriguing aspects of the story. It is fascinating, for example, to see the general incredulity which greets Kingsley’s introduction of fingerprint technology into the case, something which today is taken for granted in criminal investigations. I was surprised to find out that the powerful character of Commissioner of Police Colonel Sir Edward Bradford is a real historical figure and portrayed very true to life.
The relationship between Inspector Day, Constable Hammersmith, and Dr. Kingsley are developed in the second book in the series, Black Country, which I think I enjoyed even more than the first one. I’m greatly looking forward to the next entry in this series.
Check the WRL catalog for The Yard as a book.
Listen to The Yard on audio CD.
We also have The Yard as an eaudiobook.
If you enjoy trickster tales, then you will want to read Anansi and the Talking Melon. This is a cute story about a mischievous spider named Anansi who loves melons but is too lazy to grow his own. One day he drops into elephant’s melon patch and uses a thorn to poke a hole into a juicy melon. Anansi slips inside the melon and eats and eats until he is full. When Anansi tries to squeeze out, he discovers a big problem. He is too big and can’t get out. While trapped inside the melon he gets bored and decides to trick elephant into thinking the melon can talk. Elephant is so impressed with the talking melon he decides he must show the king. Along the way elephant meets up with various jungle animals who accompany him on his journey to show the king. Read this witty and wonderful West African folktale to find out what happens when Anansi finally meets the king. The simple plot and beautiful illustrations make this a great read aloud for early elementary children.
Eric Kimmel has other Anansi books, Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock , Anansi Goes Fishing, Anansi and the Magic Stick and Anansi’s Party Time. These books are also available from Williamsburg Regional Library.
Check the WRL catalog for Anansi and the Talking Melon.
Jacob Fielding cannot be killed. As the story begins, Jacob has just survived what should have been a fatal car accident. His foster father is killed, and just before impact his final words to Jacob are, “You are indestructible.” With those words, Jacob seems to be given a gift, and he cannot be harmed in any way. Things take a turn when he writes those same words on the cast of the girl he has a crush on, Ophelia. His invincibility seems to be passed on to her, when shortly thereafter she survives a nasty skateboarding accident. He confides in Ophelia and his best friend Milo that he believes these words are the key to his power and that he can transfer it to those in need. With Ophelia and Milo now sharing his secret, the three set out to test the limits of his power and put it to good use.
Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished. Although they try to use Jacob’s indestructibility for good and to save those in danger, they realize that there is a terrible side effect to preventing death. Jacob is sending his power out to others more and more, and giving it to Ophelia more often as well. Ophelia’s personality begins to change, and she becomes obsessed with using the power to protect herself and as many people as possible. Soon Ophelia becomes a danger to herself and to everyone else, and it is up to Jacob and Milo to determine what this power really does, where it comes from, and how to bring Ophelia back.
Check the WRL catalog for Thirteen Days to Midnight.
Sometimes, you just need a good book. Not a great one or one that will move your soul, but just a well-plotted, interestingly written story with characters who will keep your attention. I found myself in that state the other night, and rather than browsing my shelves for something to re-read, I got out my iPad and took a look at the mysteries in the library’s ebook collection. There were lots of titles there to choose from, and I decided to take a chance on Sally Spencer. I had never heard of her books before, but a British police procedural set in the post-WWII period sounded interesting. I was delighted with the choice.
Spencer’s main character, Inspector “Cloggin’ It” Charlie Woodend, is a great addition to the fictional police forces. Like some of my favorite other police inspectors, Adamsberg, Colbeck, and Dalziel, Woodend is often a thorn in the side of his superiors, and his sometimes unorthodox investigating style does not always endear him to his colleagues.
These are slow-paced stories, with more thinking, walking, and talking than cinematic thrills and chases. Like Simenon’s Maigret, Charlie Woodend lets the “why” lead to the “how” of the crime rather than vice versa. This first story in the series also introduces Sergeant Bob Rutter, who is assigned to Woodend to investigate a series of killings in a small town in Cheshire. Woodend has a reputation for running through sergeants pretty quickly, but Rutter turns out to be a match, and the interplay between the two builds as the series progresses.
Spencer does an excellent job of bringing in details of the personal lives of the policemen as well as cultural events of the period in which the books are set (moving forward from the 1950s). In particular, Spencer captures the disruption caused by the war and its aftermath to small town life. In the later stories, Spencer explores the difficult entry of women on to the force, and eventually develops a new series around one of her female detectives.
So while these books may not be the be all and end all of crime writing, they are solid examples of some of the best crime fiction I have read lately, and a welcome addition to my growing list of police procedurals.
Check the WRL catalog for The Salton Killings.
Also available as an ebook.
Not being a “Ripperologist” (someone obsessed with all things related to Jack the Ripper), I have to admit that I almost didn’t check out this book due to the words “Jack the Ripper” included in the description. Mysteries, though, that have interesting protagonists with an intriguing continuing story-line, are the types of mysteries that I enjoy reading the most. Detective Constable Lacey Flint of Now You See Me fits very ably into this category. She is a character that I don’t think you will soon forget.
Now You See Me begins with Lacey covered in blood—fortunately it’s someone else’s blood. When she returns to her car after interviewing a witness, she finds a woman leaning against her car. When Lacey approaches the stranger, she finds the woman’s throat has been slashed only minutes before. Lacey rushes to the woman to try to help her and watches as the woman dies on the street. Even though Lacey is a witness to the crime and a junior officer, she finds herself re-assigned to the murder investigation. Then the case takes an ominous turn when an anonymous letter is sent to a reporter. The letter mentions Lacey by name and also makes references to London’s most famous serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Does the Metropolitan Police have a modern Jack the Ripper on the loose? Will this murder be the first in a series of Ripper-like crimes?
As the investigating officers grapple with the seemingly random killings, they struggle to uncover anything that might link the victims as well as try to figure out where in modern London the new Ripper will strike next. Lacey also finds herself under scrutiny by fellow officer Mark Joesbury. Detective Inspector Joesbury is suspicious of Lacey’s involvement with the murders and wonders why the killer is fixated on Lacey. Lacey finds that her tightly-controlled and carefully ordered world is starting to unravel as the killer taunts her with secrets from Lacey’s past. As Lacey and the rest of the investigating team try to solve the increasingly horrific murders, the plot takes a few twists and there are a couple of surprises which I don’t want to give away.
Now You See Me is a faced-paced read that I couldn’t put down. For me, the Jack the Ripper plot-line isn’t as compelling as Lacey’s own story. The mystery does contain a lot of information on Jack the Ripper’s murders as well as the various theories of who committed the murders in 1888. A warning, though, the book has graphic descriptions of both the historical and modern murder scenes. While S.J. Bolton has written two more books featuring Lacey Flint, Dead Scared and Lost, I would start with Now You See Me so you’ll have a better understanding of Lacey Flint’s story.
Check the WRL catalog for Now You See Me.
Four-year-old Young Ju is going to heaven. She’s going to take a plane and live in America, “Mi Gook,” the land where her parents will smile again and stop fighting. Her father won’t be so angry and life will be good. But Young Ju soon learns that America is not heaven. Instead it is a country where her father gets drunker and angrier and meaner. Her mother works two jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Her brother closes himself off. No one talks to each other or understands, and Young Ju must be the bridge between her family and the world.
An Na has created a wonderful character who vividly illustrates the challenges immigrants must face as they acculturate to the new world they have chosen. We see Young Ju as she tries to understand the Americans around her. An Na writes as Young Ju would hear (“Ah ri cas, ca mo ve he,” for “Alright class, come over here”) and animates the pain Young Ju feels as her father punishes her for being too American. Each vignette reveals the layers of Young Ju’s life as she grows and learns and navigates her way through the world. Each revealed layer brings the reader closer to Young Ju and the triumphant woman she can become when she finally finds the voice that will free her family from the vicious cycle they are living.
A Step from Heaven won the 2002 Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature.
Check the WRL catalog for A Step from Heaven.
Jack and the Giant Barbeque is a humorous retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk with a Wild West spin. In this story Jack loves to eat barbeque but his mother can’t make it any more after the tragedy that struck Jack’s daddy. Jack is surprised to learn his daddy once made the finest barbeque in West Texas. One day a giant stole his secret barbeque recipe book and Jack’s daddy died of a broken heart. Jack decides to set out to find the giant and steal back his daddy’s recipe book. Jack climbs Mount Pecos in search of the giant’s barbeque shack. Once there Jack finds a talking jukebox that offers to help him get the recipe book. Will Jack be able to outsmart the giant and get his daddy’s recipe book back? Check out this book to see what happens. Children ages 5 to 10 will enjoy the bold and colorful illustrations. A great read aloud and perfect tale for comparing and contrasting to Jack and the Beanstalk.
Check the WRL catalog for Jack and the Giant Barbecue.
Today’s post is from Janet of the library’s Outreach Services Division:
Mollie Katzen, the godmother of heartwarming vegetarian cooking and the author of eleven popular cookbooks, has written The Heart of the Plate as a guide for the new generation of plant eaters. Those of us who own dog-eared and food-stained copies of her classics, The Moosewood Cookbook and Enchanted Broccoli Forest, think of her recipes as hearty, homey, heavy on the dairy, and crowd pleasing. They are often our go-to cookbooks when we think vegetarian.
Katzen’s new approach reflects the current trends in vegetarian cooking, with a much greater emphasis on vegan dishes. Her recipes are lighter, tap into ingredients, flavors, and textures drawn from the world’s cuisines, and yet appear to be simple to prepare and to customize. Gone are her folksy and charming handwritten recipes with accompanying pencil drawings. Katzen’s new cookbook style is slick, with beautifully illustrated photographs and original watercolors by the author herself. She assures us in her preface that this new collection of recipes includes her “absolutely most loved” recipes of late. While I had fun browsing her new title, I am really looking forward to getting into the kitchen and experimenting with her new approaches and combinations.
Check the WRL catalog for The Heart of the Plate.
Babette from the library’s Outreach Services Division provides today’s review:
Everyone has a list of “Books to Read.” Remarkably, there are titles that seem to remain on “the list” but are repeatedly overshadowed by the stream of newer items added to “the list.” For me, The Cellist of Sarajevo was one of those books. Having just completed this book, I urge you to push it to the top of your list and read it. This story puts a human face on war. It explores how individuals, innocent bystanders, attempt to live their lives in the midst of war, challenged daily to perform basic tasks which can have life or death consequences, and strive to maintain their sanity and a semblance of humanity despite the danger, destruction, and chaos brought into their everyday existence.
Based on a real life event, The Cellist of Sarajevo is the story of a cellist who, in the midst of the Bosnian war, witnesses from his window a mortar attack that kills twenty-two people standing in a breadline. In an act of respect, defiance, or an attempt to bring some peace and beauty to his war-ravaged town, the musician embarks on a daily ritual of playing his cello in the town square, in plain sight of enemy combatants, for twenty-two consecutive days. Also featured in this story are three ordinary townspeople: Arrow, a young woman sniper dispatched to protect the cellist; Kenan, a family man who dutifully procures water for his family and an elderly neighbor; and Dragan, a baker who remains in Sarajevo to protect his home and belongings after sending his wife and son to seek refuge away from the city. The lives of this four-some intersect and have profound bearings on their existence, although each is not aware of this.
The author’s beautiful prose poetically describes the setting, daily existence, and thoughts of the four main characters. The reader is compelled to reflect on each sentence and ponder the images conjured up in his or her mind. I listened to this story as an audiobook, which has the added bonus of cellist Sarah Butcher playing Albinoni/Giazotto: Adagio in G minor, the adagio featured in this story. Whether you check out the audiobook, as I did, or the book, I urge you to push The Cellist of Sarajevo to the top of your list and read it. You will be glad you did.
Check the WRL catalog for The Cellist of Sarajevo.
The tragic tale of the Gingerbread Boy eaten by a fox is familiar to most kids. But in this sequel by Lisa Campbell Ernst a Gingerbread Girl has to face the same trials as her older brother. The difference is that she learned from her brother’s mistakes and is determined to not be eaten by any animal or person. She runs and she runs from those who try to eat her while chanting “You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Girl,” in a familiar nod to the original story. Eventually she is also stopped by the fox, but she uses her quick wit to outfox the fox who ate her brother. Not only does she save herself, she manages to train the fox to behave in this fantastic twist on the original story.
The Gingerbread Girl is a story best suitable for ages 4-8 because it features a lot of text that younger children may have a hard time sitting through at storytime. The book is oversized which makes it a great choice for storytime and also features repetition of the classic “You can’t catch me” rhyme which kids will love chanting. In addition, as this book is a sequel of sorts, talking about the original fable can be a great way to start a discussion with kids.
Check the WRL catalog for The Gingerbread Girl.
This week’s reviews come to you from the library’s Outreach Services Division, starting with a recommendation from Connie:
Amity & Sorrow is a fictional story inspired by the events surrounding David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, and Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Yearning for Zion religious splinter sects. The novel begins with a mother and her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow, fleeing their home, until they crash their car and are stranded in rural Oklahoma. A farmer gives them aid, and the women stay because they have no way of getting anywhere else. The story of why they are fleeing unfolds in flashbacks, as the mother, Amaranth, fears her husband (who claims to be God) is pursuing them.
I found the story interesting and repelling at the same time. I thought the author did a good job of making me think about why people are drawn to this religious lifestyle, how it provides a missing sense of community while isolating them from the rest of society, and how hard their day-to-day lives are. I think this would be a good pick for book discussion groups because it makes readers examine our thoughts and feelings about a part of our society that is outside the mainstream.
Check the WRL catalog for Amity & Sorrow.
At some point in our lives, we have all wished that we could send a message back in time to a younger version of ourselves. Maybe it would be a warning, or piece of advice that would have made life much easier. In Gimme a Call, author Sarah Mlynowski describes such a scenario, in which 17-year-old Devi is suddenly able to call 14-year-old Devi on her cell phone. Once older-Devi (she uses the name “Ivy” to avoid confusion) manages to convince younger-Devi who she is, they get down to the business of improving Ivy’s, and therefore eventually Devi’s, life.
First on Ivy’s list of changes for Devi: turn down Brian when he asks her out. Otherwise she’ll waste three years of high school with him and lose all her friends. Then, work on improving her grades and increasing her extracurricular activities, not only to be accepted at a top-tier school, but also to get a scholarship. Ivy spent too much time with Brian to worry much about schoolwork, and now her college plans pale in comparison to her brainy older sister’s.
As their plan unfolds, everything that Devi does manifests as a change in Ivy’s reality. In order to maintain the structure of the story, Ivy’s memories don’t change, just the world around her. Unfortunately, some changes do more harm than good and before too long Devi isn’t sure she likes having to do all the hard work while Ivy reaps the benefits. Logically, she will benefit in the long run, but since when do 14-year-old girls think logically? Not to mention that Brian seems like a great guy, despite what Ivy says.
Will Ivy’s plan to create a better life work? Or are things just as bad as they were before, only in a different way? And will any of it matter if she can’t convince Devi to stick to the plan and not give in to Brian’s charms?
Check the WRL catalog for Gimme a Call.
The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish is a hilarious book based upon the following remark that the author’s son made to him as a young boy; “I wish I didn’t have a dad! I wish I had goldfish!” In this book the son decides that his dad is too boring and so he trades him to his friend Nathan for two goldfish. Soon, however, the boy’s mother comes home and demands that he leave and not come back until his goldfish and his dad are swapped back. The boy brings along his little sister and tries to trade the goldfish back to Nathan but Nathan has already swapped his dad for something else! The brother and sister duo then go on a journey in which they keep swapping things in an effort to get their dad back, and afterwards the boy realizes that while his dad is not such a good pet, “He’s a very good daddy.”
This wonderfully frank tale by Neil Gaiman will appeal best to ages 6-8 as it is written in the form of a graphic novel and may be more difficult for younger kids to follow. Dave McKean’s illustrations are excellent but also quirky and abstract which is another reason why this book is more suitable for older kids. Kids will relate to the sibling rivalry between the main characters as well as to wishing that they could also swap their parents for cool toys. This is a great storytime choice because it is very suspenseful and kids will exclaim at every page that the siblings find another toy instead of their dad. Other questions to consider asking kids at storytime is whether or not they have ever tried to swap an item for something else and you can ask if their swaps went as badly as that of our protagonists!
Check the WRL catalog for The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish.
As I wrote about last year at this time, many readers first come to stories of the uncanny in their youth. In browsing the catalog for a collection of ghost stories for younger readers, I came across this delightful anthology compiled by Barry Moser. Moser is an noted artist, especially at printmaking and woodcuts, and his work graces the pages here. He also clearly has an ear for a good ghost story.
This collection starts with the chilling classic “The Monkey’s Paw.” I remember reading this story as a child and it still sends a shiver up my spine now just thinking on it. Be careful what you wish for is the theme here. Moser includes stories from classic writers, among them, Arthur Conan Doyle’s, “How it Happened,” the story of a car accident and its aftermath and the old, ghostly ballad of Polly Vaughn, retold by Moser himself. But there are more contemporary tales as well. Madeline L’Engle’s “Poor Little Saturday” is an excellent story of how a lonely boy finds some surcease of sorrow as he explores a haunted mansion. Joyce Carol Oates, known for her dark adult fiction, contributes a story here, “The Others,” that in its lack of resolution is a great addition to the ghost story canon. Also of note, and both related to music, are “Samantha and the Ghost,” by Philippa Pearce, where a young girl frees her grandparents’ cottage from a ghostly visitor and H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann.”
None of the stories here is overly scary (well, maybe “The Monkey’s Paw” is for me), and a couple of them are pretty mild as far as ghost stories go by modern standards. But they are fun stories to read, and perhaps to read aloud. Moser’s illustrations add an extra frisson to the general eeriness.
Check the WRL catalog for Great Ghost Stories
Days in Bixby, Oklahoma, last a little longer than everywhere else. One hour longer. This hour, between midnight and 1 a.m., exists for those in town who were born precisely at midnight. In this secret hour everyone and everything freezes, except for a small group of local teenagers and a new girl in school, Jessica Day.
Jessica wakes one night in her new home to discover that the world around her has frozen. After some exploration she finds that certain animals are also awake and can travel in the frozen world, but they turn out to be less than friendly. When they attack her she is rescued by fellow “Midnighters” Dess, Rex, and Melissa. They explain that these creatures are “slithers” and “darklings” and that they are the reason the secret hour exists. They created it to hide from humans, technology, and the things that can destroy them.
The Midnighters tell Jessica that each of them possesses a special power and they assure her that she has a power as well, which she will soon discover. The following night Jessica meets the final Midnighter, Jonathan. He is on the outs with the others, but soon develops a special bond with Jessica. When Jessica is again attacked by darklings, it seems clear that something about her threatens them. Perhaps they sense that her power will enable her to bring about their destruction.
Check the WRL catalog for The Secret Hour.
I have always enjoyed Brad Leithauser’s poetry. He is one of the “New Formalists,” who have advocated for the use of metrical form and structure in modern poetry, as opposed to those who favor free verse. So I thought it was interesting to come across an anthology of ghost stories edited by Leithauser.
One thing that makes this collection a bit different from the others I have written about this week is that Leithauser does not limit himself to the old masters of the genre. While Henry and M.R. James are both included, as is the delightfully named Oliver Onions, Leithauser also includes pieces from later 20th century writers, including V.S. Pritchett, A.S. Byatt, John Cheever, and Penelope Fitzgerald. In his introduction, Leithauser notes that there are two branches to the ghost story genre, and the two Jameses, conveniently, delineate each branch. M.R is a master of what Leithauser calls the “plot ghost story” and Henry of the “psychological ghost story.” While I favor the former, Leithauser is more interested in the latter, and the collected stories here reflect that interest.
There are some deeply chilling tales here. Marghanita Laski’s “The Tower” finds a woman seeking to impress her somewhat distant husband by exploring an isolated tower in the Italian countryside, with ambiguous results. “The Axe,” by Penelope Fitzgerald starts off as a memo of a rather routine, if callous, office firing, and devolves into something much darker. Cheever’s “The Music Teacher” explores many of the same themes of Cheever’s novels, infidelity, lost love, and suburban life, but with a darkly supernatural twist.
As Leithauser says about fans of ghost stories at the end of his introduction, “In their bones they know that the universe is unsettling whether it is inhabited by spirits or whether we—lone walkers on a bitter night—are alone in the windy darkness.” These collected stories all capture that sense of unease, and keep you looking over your shoulder.
Check the WRL catalog for The Norton Book of Ghost Stories
7:54 a.m., September 27th, 1974. Classes are about to start at the Ben Turpin School (grades K-8), and Mr. Elber is finishing up a disappointing extra-credit bio lab, in which he and two students failed to reanimate a deceased fetal pig. Not only did the experiment flop, but now there’s a weird purple smoke wafting up from all the chemicals. It smells really bad, and soon it has drifted outside the classroom and into the rest of the school. Before long, all the adults and most of the children are feeling unwell: symptoms include upset tummies, blanched complexions, drooling, and a ravenous urge to eat other people.
On the bright side, this zombie contagion only affects people who’ve hit puberty. The fourth-grade heroes of the story are hormonally immune to zombiefication. On the other hand, they’ve still got to defend themselves against being eaten alive—and the doors to the school are locked! Who will save them?
Fourth-grader Bob Fingerman, that’s who! Coincidentally sharing a name with the author, young Bob leads his classmates in a desperate plan to break free. Armed with épées, hockey sticks, and baseball bats from the gym, the children wage battle against their undead elders, with only their wits and their crude weapons to preserve them. (And a deus ex machina. The armored truck filled with weapons helps the situation considerably when it crashes through the wall.)
This is campy, silly, gory fun. The pictures are gross, not horrific, with over-the-top violence depicted in ookey splendor on the pages of the graphic novel, again and again and again to the point of absurdity (“Odd how something so terrifying can become redundant so soon,” quips one of the sidekicks). The one-liners are abundant and the humor is sophomoric. Because of the excessive violence, we’ve got this shelved in the adult section of the graphic novels, and my official party line is that this book is appropriate for mature readers, though privately I think it’s perfect for teens, or for any adult who never bothered to grow up.
Check the WRL catalog for Recess Pieces
Have I said how much I like Victorian era ghost stories? These atmospheric tales seem to me the perfect autumn reading. The Victorians, as the editors here point out, had a fascination with death, and that extended to their fascination with the afterlife. Think about Arthur Conan Doyle, who invented that exceptionally rational detective Sherlock Holmes, but who also believed in the power of mediums to connect with the dead. It comes as no surprise that some of the best ghost stories written come from this death-haunted period.
Oxford University Press is known for its exceptional anthologies, and Victorian Ghost Stories is an excellent example of their work. The collection brings together a superb assortment of authors telling chilling tales published between 1852 and 1908. Some of the well-known suspects are here, the Jameses, Henry and M.R., Wilkie Collins, and Elizabeth Gaskell among others, but there were also lots of new authors I had not encountered before. I particularly enjoyed “At Chrighton Abbey” by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, where ghostly hunters presage a tragedy at Christmas-tide. Or there is Charlotte Riddell’s “The Open Door,” where a young man makes his fortune by risking his life in an ostensibly haunted manor house. All of these tales create an atmosphere of suspense without resorting to cheap tricks or gory details. The Victorians really were masters of the uncanny.
These would be great stories to read aloud by candle light, or better yet the light of just a fireplace. Let the shadows start to dance on the wall, listen to the creaking as the house settles and the tree branches scrape and scratch, or is that just what you think you are hearing?
Check the WRL catalog for Victorian Ghost Stories: An Oxford Anthology
Snowmen at Night is a charming, wintertime tale the reveals the secret adventures of snowmen at night. In this story a boy builds a snowman and goes to bed. When he wakes up, he discovers his snowman doesn’t look quite the same. He wonders, “What do snowmen do at night?” He imagines snowmen sliding to the park, sipping ice-cold cocoa, ice skating, playing baseball, and much, much more. Finally after a night of action the snowmen are exhausted and slide down the hill to their yards. Caralyn and Mark Buehner combine their talents to offer a rhythmic text with bright, colorful illustrations for preschool and beginning readers. Eagle eyed readers will enjoy finding hidden shapes that have been painted in the wintertime scenes by the illustrator.
Check the WRL catalog for Snowmen at Night.