Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everyone! Given that today is a celebration and remembrance of one of the most important voices in American History, we thought that we would share with you all some books about the Civil Rights Movement. Some may be familiar, others may not be as well known, but all of them give a voice to this movement, the people within it, and the importance of the ideals at it’s heart.
Book: The “March” Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Ill.)
Publishing Info: Top Shelf Productions, August 2013 (Book 1), January 2015 (Book 2), and August 2016 (Book 3).
Kate has talked about this book before on this blog, and it has a clear place on this list. John Lewis, one of the key people in the Civil Rights Movement, decided that he wanted to tell his story, and he did it in graphic novel form. These books talk about his early days as an activist, the Sit Ins, The March on Washington, Freedom Summer, and Selma, amongst many other key moments in the movement. Lewis is honest and candid about his time during this movement, and this book shows the horror, the sadness, the determination, and the hope.
Book: “Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice” by Phillip M. Hoose
Publishing Info: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, January 2009
Though many people have heard of Rosa Parks, they may not have heard of Claudette Colvin. Colvin also refused to give up her spot on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, months before Rosa Parks did the same thing and became a Civil Rights Icon. Colvin, unlike Parks, was not only largely forgotten by history, she also was shunned for her actions and mostly ignored by community leaders. But she then became an figure in the Browder v. Gayle case, a court case that challenged Jim Crow laws in Montgomery. This book tells her story within the context of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Montgomery itself.
Book: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Malcolm X, Alex Haley
Publishing Info: Ballantine Books, 1965
Both a celebrated and controversial figure, Malcolm X was an important force and speaker within the Civil Rights Movement. This book is his story, as told to Alex Haley (the author of “Roots”), and it covers his early time as a hustler and goes all the way through his conversion to Islam, his position during the Civil Rights movement, and his stances on how to gain freedom within a racist society. Haley eventually added a section to the book after X’s assassination. Malcolm X is still considered a polarizing figure to this day, but to have his story in his own words is invaluable, and continues to serve as inspiration and education about the fight for Civil Rights.
Book: “A Wreath For Emmett Till” by Marilyn Nelson, Phillip Lardy (Ill.)
Publishing Info: HMH Books for Young Readers, January 2005
Though Emmett Till’s murder happened in 1955, it is considered to be one of the moments in history that helped set off the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till was a fourteen year old boy who was murdered for whistling at a white woman, and his death and the aftermath his told in poem form in this award winning picture book. The poetry is beautiful, told in a crown of sonnets, and it both captures the horrific nature of the crime, the injustice of the court ruling, and the despair and sadness of a child who was murdered with no consequence.
How are you guys celebrating and remembering Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday? Let us know in the comments!
So we were feeling a bit nostalgic this week, thinking about how we’ve loved reading our whole lives, and how books can leave lasting impressions. Both of us have our favorite books now, but we also had our favorite books when we were kids. So we thought that we would share with you some of the standouts from our childhoods, and what it was that made them so magical.
Book: “Matilda” by Roald Dahl
Publishing Info: October, 1988
Why I Loved It: While I really liked a number of Roald Dahl’s books when I was a kid (particularly “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), the one that stood out for me most was “Matilda”. It appealed to me in a number of ways, most particularly that she was a little girl who liked to read, and was pretty lonely (as I had few friends in childhood, though my family wasn’t the absolute worst like Matilda’s is). So “Matilda” served as pure escapist fantasy for me, as the lonely, bookish girl also had magical telekinetic powers. It remains as my favorite book by Dahl, as Matilda is spunky and smart and a true role model for girls everywhere.
Series: “Fear Street” by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: First book published 1989
Why I Loved It: My love of horror goes all the way back to my childhood. And since I’ve already gushed about my other favorite, “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark”, I will talk about my other big horror influence: “Fear Street”. I started with “Goosebumps” when I was in third grade, but quickly graduated to the “Fear Street” series because they were more challenging and a lot scarier. I loved the scandal, the murder, the intrigue, and the WONDERFULLY tacky and now dated covers. R.L. Stine published a number of regular “Fear Street” books, and a few off shoot series like “Ghosts of Fear Street”, “Fear Street Super Chillers”, and “Fear Street Nights” (reminds me of “Baywatch Nights”). They were formulaic and repetitive, but man did I love them to pieces.
Series: “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” by Ann M. Martin
Publishing Info: First book published August 1986
Why I Loved It: And on the exact opposite side of the spectrum, my other big series of my childhood was “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” by Ann M. Martin. I think that what I liked about it was that it was about a bunch of tween girls who had responsibilities and deep and lasting friendships. I would go to Barnes and Noble and usually leave with the newest in the series, and boy did I have my strong opinions about all the girls (Mary-Anne was the best, Stacey was the worst). And I also liked the inevitable soapy storylines that came up every few issues, involving boys, drama, and family. I also loved the spin off series “Baby-Sitters Club Mysteries”, which usually had some kind of potential danger or supernatural element. It always goes back to the creepy for me.
Series: “The Mandie Mysteries” by Lois Gladys Leppard
Publishing Info: First book published May 1983
Why I Loved It: This series was pretty much my entrance drug into the world of long-running mystery series featuring spunky heroines. And man, there are even more of them than I remember (I’m sure I didn’t read them all, but I loved the first 12 or so that I did get through!). There are like 40 of these suckers, it turns out. They’re fairly simplistic mysteries, of course, but I found very fun as a young reader. Especially the inclusion of the troubles her cat Snowball always gets into, and my early shipping heart’s love of Mandi and Joe’s interactions.
Book: “The Raging Quiet” by Sherryl Jordan
Publishing Info: April 1999
Why I Loved It: And this, my introduction to the joys of historical fiction! This book falls into the young adult category more than children’s fiction as it deals with some challenging themes. But oh I loved it! I still re-read it once every year or so. The story focuses on Marnie, a young girl who comes to live in a new area due to a forced marriage. After she is suddenly widowed, she is viewed with fear and skepticism by the local villagers, but finds friendship with another outcast of society, Raven, who she learns is deaf. It’s a powerful story of the challenges of being different in a time when that was often looked upon with fear and hatred. It’s a lovely story, but also a tough read at times.
Series: “Song of the Lioness” quartet by Tamora Pierce
Publishing Info: September 1983
Why I Loved It: And finally, my first fantasy love. It’s pretty impossible to talk about 80s/90s popular young adult fantasy without the Alanna books coming up. And for good reason! I absolutely loved these books as a kid. Alanna is a spunky, heroine who constantly defies the expectations and limitations that are placed on her as a young girl, and eventually woman, who dreams of being a knight and having her own adventures. I’ve re-read this series a few times as an adult, and I’m even more impressed by the topics it covers that are so great especially for young women readers (it covers the importance of birth control even!) all while never losing its sense of fun, fantasy, and adventure.
What about you? What were some of your favorites from your childhood? Let us know in the comments!
Happy Holidays everyone! Winter is the perfect time to snuggle down with a cozy blanket, a cat, and a great seasonal book. And in celebration of this great time of year, we’re highlighting our favorite holiday reads!
Book: “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis
Publication Info: Geoffrey Bles, October 1950
Not only is the Narnia series a fantasy classic, but this, the first book (let’s not get into the chronological debate, this will always be the first one!!) is a perfect Christmas read, because we all know that the premise is so true: Winter with no chance of Chirstmas would be the worst! Everything about this book makes it a great winter read: the fur coats, the snowy setting, the White Witch, and, of course, Santa Claus. Whether you’ve never read this book before, or read it a million times, this is a great one to check out this winter season!
Book: “Breadcrumbs” by Anne Ursu
Publishing Info: Walden Pond Press, September 2011
There are a few winter fairytales that must make this list, and my all time favorite “The Snow Queen” is first up with this middle grade retelling. This book features the perfect mix of familiar elements from the original story (a young boy and girl who are friends, boy’s heart becomes frozen, girl goes on adventure to save boy) and many new twists. It’s great for fans of fantasy as there are fun references to other works like “Harry Potter” and “The Wizard of Oz” all over the place. It also features a diverse cast and, bonus!, is set in our hometown of Minneapolis (let’s be honest, Minnesota is the perfect setting for any winter-based story).
Book: “East” by Edith Pattou
Publishing Info: HMH Books for Young Readers, May 2005
Another classic winter fairytale is “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” featuring a girl who is stolen away by a snow bear king who lives in a castle full of secrets. This fiarytale eventually evolved in “Beauty and the Beast,” but also remains popular in its more original form. There are a million re-tellings of this story, but this is one of the best as it is basically a straight up novel-length version of the fairytale with very few major changes to the plot. A perfect read for fans of “Beauty and the Beast!”
Book: “NOS4A2” by Joe Hill
Publishing Info: William Morrow, April 2013
No, don’t look at us like we’re crazy. “NOS4A2” is definitely a good pick for a cozy holiday read! Sure, maybe that’s because a child kidnapper takes his victims to a surrealistic dream scape he likes to call Christmasland, where it’s the worst Christmas ever…. But hey, it’s also a really good book that has to do with family, friendship, independence, and facing your fears. Plus, the main character is a kick butt lady named Vic who rides a motorcycle and is determined to save her son from Charlie Manx, the man who is head of the demonic Christmas town. An the holidays are a time for family.
Book: “The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming” by Lemony Snicket and LIsa Brown (Ill.)
Publishing Info: McSweeney’s, January 2007
So maybe this is a picture book, but Lemony Snicket brings a lot of humor and heart to this story about a Hanukkah latke who is trying to explain his holiday to a bunch of Christmas objects. It’s a witty take on the dilemma that many Jewish children face around Christmas time, when people aren’t as in tune with the menorah and dreidels as they are to Santa Claus and reindeer. Plus it stars a frustrated screaming latke who wants others to know why he is significant.
Book: “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” by Jean Shepherd
Publishing Info: Broadway Books, October 1966
No doubt many of you are familiar with the holiday cult classic film “A Christmas Story”. But maybe you didn’t know that it was based on a book by Jean Shepherd (who served as narrator in the original film). This book goes far beyond the movie, however, as it focuses more on the hometown exploits of a boy named Ralph and the things that (possibly) went on in Shepher’s own childhood. But never fear. The authentic Red Rider BB Gun and the ‘Special Award’ still makes appearances! Shepherd is heralded as the original Garrison Keilor, and his dry wit and humor will keep you laughing on cold winter nights.
What are your favorite books to read during the holiday season? Let us know below in the comments! And have a Happy Holiday Season and New Year!
Though we do tend to read different genres, there is sometimes overlap in the books that we pick up and devour. When this happens, we decide to do a joint review, giving our thoughts through our own personal lenses of what we look for in reading material. When we were putting together our October Highlights post, we discovered that we each had picked this book. Obviously, a joint review was in order!
Book: “One Was Lost” by Natalie D. Richards
Publishing Info: Sourcebooks Fire, October 2016
Where Did We Get this Book: the library!
Book Description:Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.
Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.
Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.
Suddenly it’s clear; they’re being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…
Whelp, I knew going in that this book was either going to be a great hit or potentially a big miss for me. A little background: I grew up in a very, very rural part of northern Idaho. I’m talking “only had an outhouse/had to sno-mobile 5 miles in during the winter/wood stove for heat and cooking/solar power/etc” type of remote. That being the case, I spent large portions of my childhood running around in the woods with my sister. So, for one, the woods aren’t a natural “fear factor” for me. And for two, I grew up learning a lot about how to survive in these types of situations. All of that said, because of this, I always find myself gravitating to books like these that focus on the experiences of others in the woods, just because I love the setting. But that also means that I approach these types of stories from a hyper critical standpoint, which isn’t the book’s fault. So I have to spend a lot of time balancing my personal reaction to a book like this against that of the average reader. But, since we’re joint reviewing this, Kate will be here to give her perspective as the non “woodland wild child” reader!
But first, I don’t want to give the impression that this book was a complete failure for me. I feel like the main cast of characters were very likable. They were a diverse group (if perhaps a bit too stereotypical), and I liked the attention that was spent addressing the difference challenges that each of these teens had faced in the typical highschool experience. Sera herself was a very good narrator. While the writing and voice were rather simplistic, she was likable and for the most part I was fully on board with her as a protagonist. There was an interesting backstory with her mother and with the impact that this relationship has had on Sera’s own life and sense of self. I wish there had been even more on this, as the ending felt a bit rushed with her ability to resolve what has to be a huge, ongoing personal conflict. There was also a romance that, while I still don’t feel that it was necessary and had an overly dramatic backstory that proved to be a let down when it was revealed, wasn’t as terrible as I first suspected. Just wish there was less of it.
But, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I had some very specific issues with this book, and what frustrates me the most is that much of it comes down to poor research on the author’s part. Look, I know this book is about teens out in the wilderness and that, due to this, they aren’t going to know all the ins and outs of wilderness survival. However, they make SO MANY WILDLY BAD DECISIONS!
About a third of the way in, after they wake up with the words written on their wrist, there are a few chapters that are made up of just one bad decision after another. There’s the very basics that most people know: never wander off. If you’re completely lost, stay put. Here, not only are they not lost, but they have a perfectly good trail with only a three days’ walk out, which in the grand scheme, really isn’t much. So it’s a million times more stupid to instead go wandering out into the wilderness with the hope that you might not get turned around and you might find the road and maybe rescuers will find you even though you are now putting miles between yourself and where they would know to look.
Then there are more specific things that are just common sense. Obviously, water is your most important priority (after not wandering off! And not fixating on food, which they do. Obsessively. For the record, you can live three weeks without food and do not, in fact, start feeling massive effects after ONE DAY). And maybe, maybe, river water is a safer bet than water that is being left for you by a madman who has ALREADY POISONED YOUR WATER ONCE! Any bacteria in a river (if there even is any, fast moving water is usually a safe bet as long as it’s not draining directly out of a cow field) is going to be curable once you’re found. And if you’re not found…you have bigger problems.
And then, just because you shouldn’t camp near a river that may flood, this does NOT somehow make it too dangerous to follow (civilization is found near water). Like, what do they think is going to happen? The river is somehow going to instantaneously flood enough to take them out in seconds if they’re walking along it? Walk a ways above the water line, for crying out loud.
The story was much stronger when it simply focused on the thriller aspects and left aside any survival choices. After this initial string of events ends, the mystery/thriller aspects picked up again and I was able to shut my brain off for a good portion. And if it had maintained this until the end, I might have given the book a pass. Unfortunately, near the end, it lost me again with what was the last straw for me as far as poor research goes. Sera has a cut hand. They find peroxide to put on it. And then there are several paragraphs about how horribly painful it is applying the peroxide….
Peroxide is painless. The author clearing didn’t do one iota of research and simply failed to spend the time differentiating between rubbing alcohol and peroxide. Which, look, I get that it’s a small thing. But after all the rest, it was the final straw to my patience with this book. If you, an author, are going to write a survival story about teens in the woods, it is not too much to ask that you do basic research. And I, the reader, expect more. There was some more nonsense about finding a 4 wheeler but not leaving immediately because “Omg, cliffs!”…as if headlights aren’t a thing. And the fact that they find a RV along with the 4 wheeler, but somehow there are no roads (how did it get there??) necessitating said wandering in the woods. And…I was done with the book at this point.
And then there’s me, City Girl Kate! I was raised in the city, by two parents who grew up on farms and decided that nature just wasn’t their bag once they could escape it. So nature isn’t MY bag either! And therefore, I went into “One Was Lost” with less knowledge about what the dos and don’ts are when it comes to wilderness trekking and survival. While some of the obvious mistakes jumped out at me, most of the others Serena mentioned went right over my head. I’d probably die in the woods, because I’m pretty clueless.
So I guess I was kind of able to go in with less critical eyes in my head, at least when it came to the survival skills trope. HOWEVER, when it came to horror tropes and thriller plot points, I too had a harder time swallowing “One Was Lost”. I was hoping for some kind of “Blair Witch Project” story (For crying out loud, the cover alone is a nod to it), but sadly it didn’t quite live up to the expectations that I placed upon it. Perhaps unfairly, but placed upon nonetheless.
I did like the characters that we followed, I want to make that perfectly clear. Sera was a relatable and interesting protagonist, whose baggage is kind of unique when looking at YA protagonists. I liked her backstory and I thought that it was believable enough to explain some of her reasoning and decisions she made down the line, as well as parallel some of the revelations as they were exposed. I agree with Serena that the romance she had with Lucas was a bit unnecessary, though I did like Lucas and the foil he provided when verbally sparring with Sera. Emily and Jude were also interesting enough, though we didn’t get to see as much of either of them so they fell a bit more into their stereotypes (Emily as the quiet victimized girl, Jude as the spoiled and privileged adoptee. Side note, I think Jude could have been VERY interesting being a transracial adoptee of two gay men, but that wasn’t focused on at all). I think that their introductions were a little rushed, as we pretty much hit the ground running. As the plot kept going and as they all found themselves in worse and worse situations, I got a pretty good idea as to what was going on, at least in terms of who was probably harassing them and stalking them. Maybe not in the bigger picture as to motive, granted, but I called who the culprit was long before the big reveal. I know that I’m a horror girl and a thriller girl, and I know what to look for. But there were things that tipped me off and they are things that have been seen in many, many other stories of both genres.
I also found myself rolling my eyes when the urban legend/ghost story that was told had to do with “Cherokee Spirits” living in the woods. Jeeze. Why is it that sometimes these stories feel a need to trot out Indigenous stories while totally butchering them? It was uncomfortable for me, especially given the recent dust up with “The Continent”. Luckily this was kept to a minimum, but really, it shouldn’t have been in there in the first place.
So for me, “One Was Lost” was also a disappointment, though I did like Sera and the personal journey that she went through. I just wish that this book had done more, because the potential really was there, and I wish that some choices that were made had been taken out before publishing.
Serena’s Rating 5: A strong premises and lead character, all foiled by very poor research that kept kicking me out of the story.
Kate’s Rating 5: I liked the characters and I liked the backstory, but the plot was a bit too predictable for me, and some of the storytelling devices were a bit aggravating.
Look, no mincing words here. We’re very disappointed with how last weeks Presidential Election turned out. We’re sure you guys can guess why, though that shouldn’t be too hard because the list is long and terrifying. But there were a few small glimmers of hope on Election Night. In our own Minnesota, Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American to be elected to the Minnesota House. Tammy Duckworth won the Senate seat in Illinois. And Kate Brown secured the Governorship of Oregon. In honor of the women who didn’t win and the women who did, we’ve put together a list of books with inspirational women, be they fictitious or not, to share with you all.
Book: “I am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Publication Info: Little, Brown and Company, October 2013
At fifteen years old, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai was an outspoken activist for women’s and girls’ education in Pakistan. At the time the Taliban had moved into her home country and had started imposing that girls not be allowed to go to school, and Malala spoke against this. It was because of this that she was shot in the head while riding a bus to school. She survived, and her story has taken the world by storm, putting a spotlight on education for women the world over. Malala’s memoir details her life before her activism, the fallout after her attempted murder, and how she continues to strive and fight for the right for girls to go to school. It’s poignant, inspirational, and incredibly relatable, and you see her courage and determination in her writing and storytelling.
Book: “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See
Publication Info: Random House, May 2009
Starting in pre-WWII Shanghai and moving through the Red Scare era of Los Angeles, “Shanghai Girls” tells the story of two remarkable Chinese women who live and fight against adversity. Pearl and May are sisters growing up in 1930s Shanghai and having the time of their lives. But then their father informs them that he has sold them as brides to pay off his debts, and they are going to marry two Chinese men who are moving to Los Angeles. But before Pearl and May can join their husband (in Pearl’s case) and future husband (in May’s), the Japanese invade. Their fight for survival in China is devastating, and their adjustment to life in America is jarring. But both Pearl and May show strength and resolve in spite of the horrors and hardships that fall upon them, and their fight against oppression of all kinds will inspire you.
Book: “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Publication Info: Vertigo, 1990
Though many people probably immediately think of V, the Guy Fawkes mask wearing vigilante, in the groundbreaking comic by Alan Moore, “V for Vendetta” also features Evey Hammond, his mentee turned critic turned partner. Evey turns from a victim within the dystopic London she lives in to someone who is actively fighting against the oppressive system, and could be argued to be the true protagonist in this story. V is very much the symbol of the revolutionary ideals at their most extreme. Evey is there to show how a normal woman can take power back in her life and help lead a revolution, and not only shape it, but claim it as her own and keep it going. She has her moments of self doubt and struggle, and questions the morally ambiguous decisions that come before her. She’s a tough gal with a lot to relate to.
Book: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
Publication Info: Scholastic Press, September 2008
Okay, so maybe this is an obvious one. But it’s hard to deny that Katniss Everdeen from District 12, aka The Girl on Fire is a force to be reckoned with within her story. A girl who comes from humble beginnings in a poverty stricken society offers herself up to a battle to the death to save her sister, only to spark a revolution. Sure, the love triangle is a bit much, and sure, last book in the series has a lot of criticism thrown its way, but Katniss is always a well rounded and reluctant hero, with realistic problems and a fortitude that leaps off the page. “The Hunger Games” is the start of her journey, and Katniss really is at her best here.
Book: “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly
Publication Info: HarperCollins World, September 2016
So many stories have been suppressed and removed from history when it comes to scientific achievement, and a new book and movie are making waves about some ingenious women who made their mark in the mathematics field. A group of African American women working for NASA were some of the pioneers behind the space race, working numbers and data that would eventually propel rockets into the air and send man into space. Though their story has been overlooked for a long time, a newly published book shows that these women were essential to the propulsion of the American Space Race. If you like science and STEM things along with American history, this could be the book for you.
Book: “Rad Women Worldwide” by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klien Stahl (Ill.)
Publication Info: Ten Speed Press, September 2016
Why have one or two awesome ladies in a book when you can have a whole lot of them?! In this collection of biographies and essays, a large number of women from all over the world are given their time in the spot light. The backgrounds run the gamut, from artists (like Frida Kahlo) to musicians (like punk icon Poly Styrene to world leaders (like Hatsepshut). This collection for younger readers will open a world of really neat ladies who will inspire kids for all kinds of reasons.
There are, of course, many more super inspirational books about women, fiction and non fiction alike. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
Happy Halloween, readers!! We hope that you had a good weekend filled with parties, candy, tricks, and treats! We know that we sure did….
Now on the day itself, we are coming to you with our favorite spooky, ghostly Halloween Reads! These books that really get us in the spirit (get it?) of this fun filled holiday!
Book: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Publication Info: Archibald Constable and Company, 1897
Though not the first vampire novel, “Dracula” is considered to be the work that redefined vampirism in modern literature. Unfolding in a series of letters, diary entries, and newspaper articles, “Dracula” tells the story of an Eastern European vampire count, his invasion of England, and the band of heroes that come together to defeat him. “Dracula” is on this list because it’s a classic in gothic horror that has long influenced the horror genre well into the start of the 21st century. It’s also a rather progressive work when looking at feminist issues, as Mina Murray Harker was a very active participant in the downfall of the Count, at least by Victorian standards. “Dracula” stands the test of time and should be read by every horror fan.
Book: “The Shining” by Stephen King
Publication Info: Doubleday, 1977
The classic haunted house story gets twisted, turned, and amped up in King’s classic novel. The tale of the Torrence family, trapped for the winter in an ominous, haunted hotel, is one that has become burned into popular culture, thanks in part to the movie of the same name but loose interpretation. The original King novel doesn’t have the same subtleties that Kubrick brought to it, but it has some seriously scary moments. The ghosts that are haunting the hotel are all very scary, and then you add in the threat of Jack Torrence losing his damn mind and it becomes that much more horrifying. Read this one with the lights on, and wait until all the snow in your area is good and melted…
Book: “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman
Publication Info: Harper Collins, 2002
Though not particularly scary (it is for children after all), Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline” is still deeply unsettling. It’s the story of Coraline, a girl whose family has moved into a new home. Feeling neglected by her parents, Coraline is a bit morose, but then finds a new world with the “Other Mother”, a woman who looks just like her mother, but with buttons for eyes. The Other world seems pretty okay, but it suddenly becomes all too clear that Other Mother has more sinister plans in store. This story is both very creepy, but also is filled with a lot of heart. Gaiman knows how to capture childhood, from feelings, to experiences, to fears.
Book: “Midwinterblood” by Marcus Sedgwick
Publication Info: Indigo, October 2011
We read this book for bookclub a few years ago, and it is one that has stuck with me. Comprised of seven parts, the story unfolds throughout the centuries on an isolated island with a mysterious past. Each new story seemed only to add to the suspense and dread that slowly builds throughout the book. Re-reading it, one will still find connections between the stories that were missed the first time. It is as tragic as it is unsettling, and yet we loved every bit of it. The lyrical, almost fairytale-like, quality of the storytelling only makes the building sense of horror that much more shivery!
Book: “Anna Dressed in Blood” by Kendare Blake
Publication Info: Tor Teen, October 2011
This book could be marketed as a young adult, novel-version of the television show “Supernatural.” Featuring a teenage hunter named Cas Lowood who is in the “family business” of killing the dead, the story is surprisingly creepy for a young adult story. Blake doesn’t pull her punches with the spook factor or the body count. The ghost “Anna” is somehow both creepy and sympathetic at the same time. Don’t make any mistake, she is no “Casper the Friendly Ghost” as Cas and Co. learn to their detriment!
Book: “Help for the Haunted” by John Searles
Publication Info: William Morrow, September 2013
We got to meet John Searles at an ALA convention a few years ago (he had some great stories, but we will rave about that at a different time) where he was promoting his new book. We immediately chose it as yet another bookclub story, and it was a big hit. Sylvie Mason’s family help “haunted souls” for a living until the night they are lured to their death in a church. A year later, Sylvie is still piecing together her memories of the night and dealing with her parents’ bizarre legacy. For what could be easily categorized as a mystery/thriller novel, “Help for the Haunted” has some very creepy elements and is definitely worth checking out!
What are your favorite Halloween reads? Share in the comments below!
All Hallows Eve is nearly upon us, readers, and while we’ll be putting some scary stories out there for you to think about on Halloween proper, this week we have a selection of some good Halloween movies. But maybe not the too scary kind. After all, we can’t all be scary movie junkies like Kate is, as not all of us like being scared. But there are plenty of non scary movies that are perfectly appropriate for the Halloween season. And we thought we’d share some of our favorites with you. Whether they have Halloween settings or spooky themes, these movies are milder, but just as fun to watch during the season of the witch.
What do you do when you infuse a 90s movie with a healthy dose of witchcraft and teen angst? Why, you get “The Craft”, aka the movie that almost every Goth girl in the late 90s and early 2000s took as a how to guide (including Kate). It’s a story of four teenage girls, Sarah, Nancy, Bonnie, and Rochelle, who find out that when they are together they have magical powers. Though they hope to use magic to make their lives better, it becomes all to clear that sometimes magic is too hard to control and has unintended consequences. All four of the actresses do a good job, but the stand outs are Robin Tunney’s Sarah, who plays reluctance and strength with subtle edges, and Fairuza Balk’s Nancy, whose desperation makes her both tragic and terrifying. It’s “Mean Girls” meets “Macbeth”‘s Weird Sisters, and it drips 90s girl power like few other films from that time do.
Joel Schumacher may be remembered these days for his campy and much reviled Batman films (“Batman and Robin” in particular). But the camp and schlock he is good at really added a certain something to the 80s cheese o-rama that was “The Lost Boys”. When brothers Sam and Michael (Corey Haim and Jason Patric) move to a small seaside town in California, they run afoul a group of vampires led by Kiefer Sutherland’s David. They enlist the help of two teen vampire hunters (one of whom is Corey Feldman) and hope to save themselves from the danger they’ve found themselves in. “The Lost Boys” may have some tense moments, but it’s so overwrought with earnest campiness that it isn’t terribly upsetting, just a lot of fun.
There are many classic tropes in horror movies, and two of the most overused are backwoods hillbillies, and remote cabins in the woods. “Tucker and Dale vs Evil” takes both of those tropes and makes a movie with a lot of laughs and a whole lot of heart. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two guys who are excited to renovate Tucker’s new vacation home, a cabin in the middle of the woods. But when a group of college kids arrives and makes assumptions about who they are based on their ‘hillbilly’ appearance, a comedy of errors (with some grisly deaths) ensues. Though this is kind of a gory movie, both Tucker and Dale are so hapless and bemused by their situation there are many laughs to be had.
Maybe this is an obvious one, but “Beetlejuice” is a classic haunted house tale that is far more funny than it is scary. When the Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) die in a tragic accident, their house is bought by New York yuppies with no taste. They enlist the help of an obnoxious demon named Betelguese (portrayed famously and perfectly by Michael Keaton), but then have second thoughts when the goth and morose teenage daughter of the house Lydia (Winona Ryder) is far sweeter than they anticipated. Filled with lots of Tim Burton staples and dark humor, “Beetlejuice” is an enduring classic that stands the test of time. And will never make you look at “Day-oh” the same way again.
I mean, of course. “Hocus Pocus” is quite possibly the Grand Queen of non-scary Halloween movies. The story of the Sanderson Sisters, three Salem Witches awakened in 1993 to the (then) modern world, is a cult classic. The witches may be fish out of water, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to take the souls of Salem’s children to grant themselves eternal life. But three kids and a talking cat named Binx are out to stop them. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy bring the hilarious, and sometimes genuinely creepy, Sanderson Sisters to life with unforgettable performances. We would be remiss to leave them off our list, because it is not officially Halloween until “Hocus Pocus” has been watched.
What about you guys? What are your favorite non scary (or scary!) movies to watch during the Halloween season? Let us know in the comments!!