A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
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Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Favorite Things

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My Favorite Things

Greasy green lizards
and raw chicken gizzards,
spell-binding spells
cast by spell-casting wizards.
Dead mice and head lice
and flapping bat wings--
these are a few of my favorite things!

Bare bones and tombstones
in old cemeteries,
unsweetened pies filled
with wild sour cherries.
Cat claws and rat paws
and bumblebee stings--
these are a few of my favorite things!

Haunting, taunting--
life gets daunting.
That's when this witch sighs,
I simply remember
my favorite things
and fly through October skies!

~ Bobbi Katz, 
from The Monsterologist: 
A Memoir in Rhyme

I love the The Sound of Music and its song "My Favorite Things". Reading this poem (and then singing it to the tune of the song from the musical) made me grin like a jack-o-lantern! It's creepy and silly at the same time. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Wishing you all a bootiful Halloween, filled with spooktacular treats! :)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Just taste it.

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“I also learned that 
you respond physically to poetry. 
Your hair stands on end. 
Your skin bristles. 
Your heart goes faster. […] 
If you don’t 
understand a poem, so what? 
Just listen to it. 
Just taste it.” 

~ Philip Pullman, 
in The Wand in the Word: 
Conversations with Writers of Fantasy

Pullman's words jumped out at me when I was reading The Wand in the Word a few months ago. I like how he describes the response to poetry -- as well as his advice. Listen to poetry. Taste it. How does it make you feel?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


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I wanted to share a Halloween-related word this week, and finally decided on phantasm [fan-taz-uh m], a noun that means "an apparition or spectre". That is to say, it is a fancy word for "ghost".

Here are a couple of examples I came up with, using the word:

I think I will paint my face white, 
wrap myself up in a sheet, 
and go to the costume party as a phantasm.

Suddenly, the room turned very cold. 
I could even see my breath. The hairs 
stood up on my arms as I slowly turned around.
I stood face to face with a phantasm.

Shrieking, the phantasm flew through the 
doorway and out into the night.

How would you use the word phantasm?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Scare Up a Good Boooooook

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I love reading scary books -- the kind that make me shiver from head to toe -- whether it's Halloween time or not. I know that not everyone feels the same. However, if you, too, are a fan of the horror genre and are looking for a spine-tingling read, here are a few books that I recommend for various ages:

Picture book:

Hansel and Gretel,
retold by Neil Gaiman
and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti, 2014

A woodcutter leaves his children in the woods and when they try to find their way home, they stumble upon a house made of gingerbread.

As Gaiman recounts this well-known fairy tale, he doesn't stray far from the original story. He does add his own sinister touches, however, and his words pair well with Mattotti's dark, eerie artwork. This book, like all good picture books, begs to be read aloud. (I suggest reading it out loud in a dark room, with only a flashlight to see the words and pictures, for maximum effect!)


Middle grade fiction:

The Thickety: A Path Begins,
written by J. A. White, 2014

The same night that six-year-old Kara's little brother Taff is born, her mother is executed for witchcraft. Now, many years later, the siblings are still shunned by the people of their village. The villagers believe magic to be evil and fear it more than anything -- except for the dark and wild woods nearby, the Thickety.

I first spotted this novel at a book store. The title and cover art intrigued me, so I opened it up and began reading. After just a couple of pages, I jotted the title and author down in my "to read" list on my phone; the next time I visited the library I checked out the book. I really liked this fantastical tale and it is one that I would've enjoyed at age 10, as well. (It may have given me a nightmare or two back then, however!)

This is the first book in The Thickety series, which also includes The Whispering Trees (2015) and Well of Witches (coming out in 2016). I'm hoping to read the second book soon and will look for the third one next year!


The Night Gardener,
written by Jonathan Auxier, 2014

This Victorian ghost story follows a pair of young orphans who go to work as servants in a tumble-down house far from town. It does not take Molly and Kip long to discover that both the house and the family who lives there are not quite what they seem....

I saw that a reviewer on Goodreads wrote this about The Night Gardener: "Long story short, this novel is Little Shop of Horrors meets The Secret Garden." I thought that was a fitting description! I found this to be a delightfully creepy book and have recommended it to my 10-year-old, Ben.


Lockwood & Co.:
The Screaming Staircase,
written by Jonathan Stroud, 2013

For over 50 years ghosts have stalked the land, frightening the living, wreaking havoc, and even killing those poor souls unlucky enough to come in contact with them. Psychic Investigations Agencies have been formed across the country to seek out the horrifying spectres and destroy them. When the young agent Lucy Carlyle arrives in London looking for work, she is offered employment with the smallest, most unconventional agency in the city, Lockwood & Co. She and her coworkers, Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins, quickly find themselves in the middle of a dangerous mystery. Can the three of them survive long enough to solve it?

This book is shelved in our library's middle grade section and also the young adult section. I personally feel that it is most suited for older children, teens, and adults. (I know I would've been terrified if I'd read the book when I was 8 or 9!) Ben had been planning on reading it, which is why we checked it out, but while he was working his way through another book, I read this one. I'm glad that I got to it first -- afterwards I talked with Ben about it and we decided that he should probably wait a couple of years before reading it himself.

That being said, I absolutely loved this book! And it truly scared me. Stroud is a masterful writer. (I adored his Bartimaeus trilogy, as well.) The main characters are very likable and well-written. In addition to the suspense that Stroud injects into every chapter, he also provides many laugh-out-loud moments.

This is the first title in the Lockwood & Co. series, which also includes The Whispering Skull (2014) and The Hollow Boy (2015). I have not read the others yet, but am eager to do so -- hopefully soon!

Young Adult Fiction:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane,
written by Neil Gaiman, 2013

When a man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, he finds himself drawn to the farm at the end of the lane. While there, images he hadn't thought of in years come flooding back, memories of the strange, frightening events he'd witnessed as a boy -- and a magical girl named Lettie who promised to protect him.

I found this book (which a friend aptly called "a grown up fairy tale") in the adult section of our library, but there is also a copy in the young adult section. I am a Neil Gaiman fan and was excited to read this when it came out. I was not disappointed. It is a beautifully written, haunting book that I plan to reread soon!


For more hair-raising book recommendations for kids and teens, check out my posts from previous years: Oh, the Horror! and Books That Go Bump in the Night.

Have you ever read any of the books listed above? If so, what did you think? I'd love to hear about your favorite spooky stories. I'm always looking for new ones to read!

Monday, October 26, 2015

What's That?

My son Ben, Oct. 2015

What’s That?

What’s that?
Who’s there?
There’s a great huge horrible horrible
creeping up the stair!
A huge big terrible terrible
with creepy crawly hair!
There’s a ghastly grisly ghastly
with seven slimy eyes!
And flabby grabby tentacles
of a gigantic size!
He’s crept into my room now,
he’s leaning over me.
I wonder if he’s thinking
how delicious I will be.

~ Florence Parry Heide

Many people, when they hear the word "poetry", think of romantic poems or poems about rainbows and flowers and other lovely things. But poetry encompasses so much more than that! 

Someone can write a poem about being in love, sure -- someone else (or even the same person!) can write about being sad or mad or frightened, like Heide did in the poem above. I like to read creepy, scary poems, especially around Halloween. What kind of poetry do you like?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Scaredy Cats

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I'm doing things a little differently today and am offering you this Halloween-themed excerpt in the form of a video. My son Ben and I read this book together last week -- it is meant to be read with two voices. We had so much fun that we decided to read part of it again and record it, so that we could share it with you. (Can you tell, between the story, the alien and vampire costumes, and the decorations in the background that we LOVE Halloween at our house?) Hope you will enjoy this short reading:

~ from You Read to Me, I'll Read to You:
Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together,
written by Mary Ann Hoberman

Note: In addition to our voices, you'll also be able to hear our cockatiel Icarus chirping in the video. She was very excited about story time, apparently! :) 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A new rule...

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"Shall we make a new rule of life… 
always try to be 
a little kinder than is necessary?" 

~ J. M. Barrie

I love this quote. It makes me think of another quote, this one from comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres who says it every day at the end of her show: "Be kind to one another."  

Kindness matters. It really does. Let's look at the people around us today and figure out ways that we can be kind to them. It can be as simple as giving them a smile or a hug. Let's do what we can to brighten someone's day today, okay? :)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Good Company

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Good Company

When other flowers
Have gone away,
The goldenrod
And asters stay.

The asters with
Their purple blooms,
The goldenrod
In yellow plumes

Linger, though
The others flee,
And keep
October company.

~ Author unknown

The idea of the goldenrod and asters keeping October company makes me smile. :) I love to see them, too, their bright blooms adding color to the autumn scenery. I like the rhymes in this poem and the word "linger". What do you think of the poem?

Thursday, October 22, 2015


The word for this week is malapropism [mal-uh-prop-iz-uh m]. According to Your Dictionary, the word is a noun meaning "the act of using an incorrect word in place of one that is similar in pronunciation". These mistakes often result in amusing sentences, like the following:

I'm an eternal optometrist.
Instead of: I'm an eternal optimist.

For all intensive porpoises, this is a silly sentence.
Instead of: For all intents and purposes, 
this is a silly sentence.

I resemble that remark!
Instead of: I resent that remark!

Don't take me for granite.
Instead of: Don't take me for granted.

Have you ever heard or said a malapropism that made you laugh? I'd love for you to share it here!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

So lasting...

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"No entertainment 
is so cheap as reading, 
nor any pleasure so lasting."  

~ Mary Wortley Montagu

I agree with every word of this quote! How about you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Spooktacular Stories for Small Children

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It's that time of year again: time for jack-o-lanterns, candy corn, costumes, and caramel apples... and also curling up under a blanket to read a few Halloween books! :)

It's been several years now since I had someone to read picture books with. A couple of weeks ago I checked out a BIG stack of Halloween picture books from the library. I brought them home and read them all out loud to myself! The following books are the ones that I liked best from that stack, ones that I thought my own kiddos would've enjoyed when they were younger. I hope you will like them, too!


Boo, Bunny!,
written by Kathryn O. Galbraith
and illustrated by Jeff Mack, 2008

The dark Halloween night is a little too scary for one shy bunny -- until Bunny bumps into a friend.

Everything's better with a friend, and this cute story is no exception.  I especially liked Mack's artwork.


Pumpkin Trouble,
written and illustrated by Jan Thomas, 2011

This short, silly story about a duck, his friends, and some pumpkin trouble made me giggle!


Just Say BOO!,
written by Susan Hood
and illustrated by Jed Henry, 2012

What should you do when something scares you on Halloween? Just say BOO!

This book is perfect for the littlest of trick-or-treaters who may not be too sure about the spooky sights all around them this time of year. Hood's story and Henry's watercolor illustrations work together to gently help dispel young children's fears.


T. Rex Trick-Or-Treats,
written by Lois G. Grambling
and illustrated by Jack E. Davis, 2005

T. Rex wants to be scary for Halloween, but what kind of costume should he wear?

Gambling's words and Davis's illustrations together create a funny story that all ages can enjoy. I especially liked all of the facial expressions throughout the book.


The Best Halloween Hunt Ever,
written and illustrated by John Speirs, 2000

More of an activity book than a story book, The Best Halloween Hunt Ever offers detailed pictures on every page, with lists of items to look for and bats to count.

My 10-year-old Ben loves this kind of book -- and always has. It makes for a perfect (quiet!) indoor activity on a cold autumn day.


Shy Mama's Halloween,
written by Anne Broyles
and illustrated by Leane Morin, 2000 

When Anya's family moves from Russia to the United States, she and her siblings are eager to celebrate their first Halloween. Mama is shy and frightened by many things in her new country, especially this holiday of ghosts and goblins. Papa agrees to take the children trick-or-treating, but then falls sick. Will Anya and her siblings have to settle for watching all the Halloween fun outside their window?

I found this to be a beautifully written, special book. Dealing with various themes (including multicultural differences, emotions, and acceptance), this book would be a great one to read and then discuss in a classroom.


Alpha Oops!:
H Is for Halloween,
written by Alethea Kontis
and illustrated by Bob Kolar, 2010

It's time for the Halloween show, but A isn't ready yet. Maybe this time H can go first, and then... Z?

Who knew that a daffy, mixed-up alphabet could be laugh-out-loud funny? This one sure is. Alpha Oops!: H is for Halloween seems like a book that young kids will want to hear over and over again!


A Creepy Countdown,
written by Charlotte Huck
and illustrated by Jos. A. Smith, 1998

From one to ten and then down to one again, this rhyming, counting book is enchanting! My favorite thing about it is Smith's meticulous and spooky artwork on every page.


Behind the Mask,
written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi, 2006

Kimin decides to dress up as his grandfather, a Korean mask dancer who is no longer living, for Halloween. But Kimin doesn't know that the mask holds a secret, just for him.

I like how Choi combines Korean and American folk traditions in this tale and also how she shows Kimin's connection to his grandfather growing stronger.


The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin,
written by Margaret Wise Brown
and illustrated by Richard Egielski, 2003

A little pumpkin dreams of growing big and fierce and able to scare the field mice like the scarecrow scares birds. Does his wish come true?

I like the way that Brown uses repetition to tell this charming story. Egielski's vivid artwork pairs nicely with it.


Harriet's Halloween Candy,
written and illustrated by Nancy Carlson, 2002

It's hard to share, especially when you're asked to share your hard-earned Halloween candy. When Harriet runs out of places to hide her candy from her little brother, there's only one thing left to do (other than share it, that is)....

The amusing consequences to Harriet's actions were my favorite part of this book. (That and the fact that it reminded me of my own kids, trying to hide their chocolate trick-or-treat candy from their father!)


Wild Witches' Ball,
written by Jack Prelutsky
and illustrated by Kelly Asbury, 1976

A rhyming, counting book about the antics at the Wild Witches' Ball, this is an entertaining story with lively pictures.


Pumpkin Jack,
written and illustrated by Will Hubbell, 2000

When Tim carves his very first pumpkin, it turns out so well that he decides it needs a name --Jack. Tim keeps Jack for as long as he can, but when the pumpkin starts to rot, his mother insists he throw it out. Tim carries Jack to the garden where the pumpkin grows flat and moldy. Soon Tim forgets about Jack -- until the spring when he finds a surprise in the garden!

I love Hubbell's engaging story about the life cycle of a pumpkin, as well as his beautiful illustrations. This is a book I'd be happy to buy and add to my own collection!


The Three Bears' Halloween,
written by Kathy Duval
and illustrated by Paul Meisel, 2007

Mama Bear and Papa Bear take Baby Bear trick-or-treating and pay a visit to... you guessed it!... Goldilocks.

I enjoyed the role-reversal of the well-known fairy tale and this story's Halloween twist.


Halloween Howls: Holiday Poetry,
selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
and illustrated by Stacey Schuett, 2005

A dozen poems -- including some from Jane Yolen, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and Lee Bennett Hopkins --  capture the spirit of Halloween in this collection for beginning readers.

This delightful, easy-to-read poetry made me grin like a jack-o-lantern! :)


You Read to Me, I'll Read to You:
Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together,
written by Mary Ann Hoberman
and illustrated by Michael Emberley, 2007

This book contains fourteen frighteningly fun stories written "in two voices",  to be read aloud with a friend.

As I mentioned earlier, I read all of these books aloud to myself. With this one, more than any other, I was wishing someone else was home to read it with me! I tried reading the different parts with different voices, but it just wasn't the same. Then, earlier this week, I asked Ben to do a reading of the book with me. He had a blast with it (he's a bit of a ham!) and we ended up recording part of it. I'll share that video with you next week....



How to Carve Freakishly Cool Pumpkins,
written by Sarah L. Schuette, 2011, 

This book shares photos and step-by-step instructions for eleven different jack-o-lanterns, ranging from cute to gross to scary!

I LOVE carving pumpkins and try to come up with a different look each year. I found a couple of ideas in this book that I'm planning to use this year -- and in the future.


Kids' Pumpkin Projects:
Planting & Harvest Fun,
written by Deanna F. Cook
and illustrated by Kate Flanagan, 1998

Do you love pumpkins? This book contains "more than 50 indoor/outdoor pumpkin activities for year-round fun!" It includes recipes, games, arts and crafts, gardening tips for growing your own pumpkins, and much more.

I love everything pumpkin. I am definitely planning to try some of the recipes from this book soon. And, after reading through this, I am seriously considering growing my own pumpkins next year. I know my kiddos would get a kick out of that, too!


The Halloween Book of Facts & Fun,
written by Wendie Old
and illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye, 2007

Halloween riddles, facts about the history of Halloween, party ideas, and safety tips are just a few of the items packed into this book.

I found this book interesting and informative. I even learned a few things! I chuckled through the riddles (many of them puns, which I love) and have had fun sharing them with Ben. (He mostly just groans -- but then he runs off to tell them to his brother and his friends!)


How to Haunt a House,
written by Dan Witkowski
and illustrated by Jack Lindstrom, 1994

"Everything you need to know to make your home, garage, or school frightfully fun for Halloween -- or any evening of the year!" This book includes tips for lighting, makeup, costumes, sound effects, illusions, decorations, and more.

I really had fun looking through this book. It gave me lots of great ideas I can use to "spookify" our house! 


Spooky Paper Folding for Children,
written and illustrated by Steve and Megumi Biddle, 1996

Easy-to-follow instructions and photographs explain how to make over 20 different Halloween shapes using origami, including a rat, a spider, and the Phantom of the Opera.

My daughter Emmalie is an origami expert. I think next time she is home from college, I'm going to check out this book again so that she can make several of the shapes for me! (Note: it's not necessary to be an origami expert in order to make these -- the instructions look clear and simple to follow. I just know that she would have fun trying them!)


For even more Halloween books geared toward young children, check out my posts from previous years: Not-So-Spooky Stories and Bootiful Books for Young Kids.

Have you read any of the books above? If so, what did you think? Do you have favorite Halloween stories that aren't listed here? I'd love to hear about them!