Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: January and February 2018


January was a great reading month for me.  I was able to read my way through some of the large stack of books I received for Christmas.  I love getting books as gifts.  I bought Neil Gaiman’s book, Norse Mythology last year for Spring Break.  I finally got around to reading it in January.  It was wonderfully informative and entertaining.  I have blogged about Bridge of Birds, Frogkisser, and Finding the Constellations. These were all stellar books.  I am a Nora Roberts fan so I especially enjoyed reading her new book.  I am reading Finding Your Why for work.  It is an interesting read.  We have been working to find our personal whys.  February was a slower reading month as you can see by the size of the stack.

These days I find out what both girls are reading from their Facebook posts.  The three of us are participating in the 52 Book Challenge 2018.

All of us here at Haus Reimund love reading and we wish you “Happy Reading, Too!”

Robin’s list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Nix, Garth. New York: Scholastic, 2017
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Thomas, Sherry. A Conspiracy in Belgravia. New York: Berkley Books, 2017.
  • Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017
  • Roberts, Nora. Year One. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  • Hambly, Barbara. Bride of the Rat God. New York: Del Rey, 1994.
  • Rey, H.A. Finding the Constellations, 2nd New York: Sandpiper, 2008.
  • Hanks, Tom. Uncommon Type. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
  • Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. Finding Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2017.
  • Pilkey, Dav. The Adventures of Captain Underpants. New York: Scholastic, 1997.

Alexis’ list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Mertz, Barbara. Temples, Tombs, & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt. New York: William Morrow, 1984, 2007
  • Lucas, Dale. The Fifth Ward: First Watch. New York: Orbit, 2017.
  • Maaren, Kari. Weave a Circle Round. New York: TOR Books, 2017.
  • Telfer, Tori. Lady Killers: Deadly Women throughout History. New York: Harper Perennial, 2017.
  • VanderMeer, James. Johanes Cabal the Necromancer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010.
  • VanderMeer, James. Annihilation: A Novel. New York: FSG Originals, 2014. (ebook)
  • Howard, Jonathan L. Johannes Cabal: The Feat Institute. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014.

Jim’s list

  • Nye, Bill and Gregory Mone. Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World. New York: Scholastic, 2017.
  • Carver, Jeffrey A. The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3 (Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractor, & Infinite Sea). NP: Starstream Publications, 2010 (nook book).

Sarah’s list

  • Meyer, Scott. Off to Be the Wizard. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Meyer, Scott. Spell or High Water. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Cooper, Susan. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2006.
  • Holt, Tom. New York: Orbit, 2012 (ebook)
  • Howe, Deborah and James. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010 (ebook). Originally published 1979.
  • Walker, Rysa. New York: Amazon Publishing, 2014.


FrogkisserNix, Garth. Frogkisser! New York: Scholastic, 2017.

This is the second book I received for the Christmas Book Flood on Christmas Eve.  I asked the daughter who gave it to me why she thought I’d like it.  First, she knows that I like Garth Nix.  Second, she read the acknowledgements in the back of the book.  Here is what the author wrote and what influenced her choice. He begins by acknowledging that all writers are influenced by the books they read.  Sometimes the influence is apparent and sometimes it is not.

With this book, I would like to particularly acknowledge the inspiration and positive influence that came from my youthful reading (and frequent rereading in later years) of the works of Lloyd Alexander, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Dianna Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and T.H. White. There are many other writers who have influenced my work, of course, but I think for Frogkisser! these five deserve special mention.

Wow!  Some of my favorites!  I am going to have to look up Nicholas Stuart Gray.  The others are writers of stories about reluctant or unexpected heroes and heroines.  Thank you Sarah for this wonderful book!

This book, as it happens, is about a reluctant heroine.  A princess, who just wants to be left to read, study, and be a companion to the royal dogs.  Enter Princess Anya, second daughter, to the queen of Trallonia.  As the story opens, Trallonia has lost its queen and her consort.  The queen died first.  Anya’s father married Countess Yselde, an enthusiastic botanist, who cared not for children.  After a year, he passed away.  Countess Yselde married Duke Rikard.  While Countess Yselde could have been the evil step-mother, she is merely disinterested. Duke Rikard, on the other hand, is the evil step-parent of this story.  He is a sorcerer and he wants to be king.  As the story opens, Anya’s sister, Morven is nearly sixteen.  At sixteen, she will be old enough to wed and to begin her reign as queen.  Duke Rikard wants to prevent this from happening, after all he has grand ambitions, first Trallonia and then the world.

Duke Rikard makes a strategic error.  He turns Morven’s current beau, Prince Denholm, into a frog.  Had he waited a little while, Morven would have found another beau, she was notoriously fickle.  Anya, the more practical of the two, tells Morven to dry up her tears and kiss Frog Prince Denholm and turn him back.  He is after all her theoretical true love.  Unfortunately, Denholm has escaped through the window and into the moat.

Here is where Anya’s adventures begin.  She finds a frog, but Morven refuses to kiss the icky thing.  Anya, goes to her friend the librarian, Gotfried.  They discover that not only true love’s kiss will reverse this spell, but so will the Transmogrification Reversal Lip Balm and he just happens to have a small amount. Anya anoints her lips with the balm and kisses the frog that she thought was Prince Denholm. Oops!  Not Prince Denholm, but the prince of the month from last November.  It seems the Duke has been transforming all Morven’s suitors into frogs.  He was taking no chances!

After feeling Anya’s reversal of his spell, he is determined to send her halfway across the world to a very good school even though it is a perilous journey to get there.  At this point, Anya takes counsel with Tanitha, oldest and wisest of the Royal Dogs.  She is advised to go on a quest to find help to defeat the Duke.  Like all reluctant heroines, she cries, “Why me!”  She remembers that her real parents would want her to do the right thing.  Reluctantly, she leaves the dubious safety of her home.  With Ardent, the royal dog  who has a quest of his own, she begins her quest.

Her quest, like most, takes her all over the country side.  She is pursued by transmogrified weasels and other agents of the Duke’s.  She befriends, Shrub, a thief boy, who was turned into a newt.  She meets Merlin and the seven dwarves.  She meets Bert, leader of the Association of Responsible Robbers, who tells her about the All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs.  All of them have a part to play in her quest.

You must read this book.  It is a hoot!  Will Anya be able to defeat Duke Rikard?  Will she be able to save Princess Morven?  Once saved will Morven restore the All-Encompassing Bill?  Will that restore the kingdom?  Can Anya make enough lip balm to change back all the people the Duke and his fellow sorcerers have turned into frogs and other animals?  Does she get chapped lips?  You must read this book.  It turns the fairy tale of the Frog Prince on its ear.


Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was

Asian girl with birdHughart, Barry.  Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984.

This blog is late, late, late, but I still say Happy New Year, everyone!  I was able to get in some extra reading over the holidays.  This was one of the books I enjoyed.

We had our 2nd annual Christmas Bookflood (Jólabókaflóð).  I think it must be making a splash over here.  If you are interested in reading about it, here is a link to a NPR story on the subject:  Everyone gets a book on Christmas Eve.  You snuggle up with your new book and a cup of something warm by the fire, or on the sofa, or in your bed and read until you fall asleep.

I received two books one from each of my daughters.  The first one I read was Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was. I asked the one who gave it to me, why she picked it.  I like to know what people are thinking, when they give me a book. She was looking for a funny science fiction or fantasy book for me.  She said it kept popping up on lists of best lighthearted fantasy novel.  Oh, the girl knows me well. As an aside, she said she also wanted to read it.

It is a funny book.  Amazingly, it begins with a double tragedy.  The village of Kufu raises silkworms for its livelihood.  All the children between 8 and 13 pick mulberry leaves to feed to the silkworms.  At the end of their feeding stage, all the silkworms die and all the children, who had picked the mulberry leaves were afflicted by a plague.  What was to be done?  Number 10 Ox was sent to Peking to find a wise man to help find an answer.  The wise man was Master Li Kao.   In a filthy, foul, hovel in Peking #10 Ox discovers a very drunk Master Li.  Master Li is a scholar with a slight flaw in his character. Is being inebriated this slight character flaw?  After this first auspicious meeting, it is off to the races.  Master Li is indeed a great scholar, but many quests are needed to solve the puzzle of the plague afflicting the village children.  In the end it is a race against time.

Despite the urgent mission of Master Li and #10 Ox, this is an amusing, bawdy, and at times poetic book.  The author skillfully weaves stories that could be myths of ancient China throughout the book. It gives the book the feel of a book from an ancient time.  Number 10 Ox and Master Li must work together to accomplish a delicate and dangerous mission.  Characters are many and some are of questionable character.  They disappear and reappear unexpectedly.  I was surprised how all were skillfully woven into the story. This is complicated, complex, comic tale for anyone to enjoy. It was the lighthearted fantasy my daughter wanted for me. Read this book and see how a wizened sage and a sturdy, young peasant solve a puzzle to save a village and reunite two lovers.

The Dark Is Rising Sequence


  • Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1965.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Dark Is Rising. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1973.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Greenwitch. New York: Simon Pulse, 1974.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Grey King. New York: Simon Pulse, 1975.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Silver on the Tree.  New York: Simon Pulse, 1977.

Last year, I started out with a series based on Welsh mythology, the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. I love stories based on myths and legends. While I was writing about that series, I thought about this one.  The Dark Is Rising Sequence is based on Arthurian legends with some other mythologies in the mix.  It is a sweeping tale of the final struggle of the light against the dark. It is an exciting, well written, high fantasy series.  It appears on several best fantasy series lists. Once I decided to write about this sequence, I had to locate the books. Unfortunately they aren’t carried in my local Barnes and Noble.  I had to scour my Half Price Book store to find them.  I consider it well worth the effort. These are excellently crafted books that carry you away to another place and time.

Susan Cooper received a Newberry Honor Medal for the Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.  I couldn’t write this summary of the entire sequence without giving you some spoilers so stop here, if that is a problem for you. Please take my word for it this is a wonderful adventure.  I know I didn’t read this when I was young, because I started with The Dark Is Rising, which was published in 1973 when I was busy in college. I must have discovered it when my oldest daughter did and again when my youngest daughter did.  We all loved it.

In the first story, Over Sea, Under Stone, we are introduced to the story of the struggle between the light and the dark for control of the world.  Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, ordinary, intrepid children, have their part to play in this struggle.  Theirs is the first quest.  During a trip to the Cornwall Coast, they are introduced to this struggle by their Great Uncle Merry.  They find an ancient map that leads to an important manuscript and to the grail.  These are crucial weapons for the Light’s fight against the dark.  They must find a hiding place that is over sea, and under stone.  How can they prevail when all their actions are scrutinized by agents of the dark?   Can these agents be outwitted?  There is intrigue, danger, and excitement in this book. Read along to see how they discern the clues needed to solve this puzzle.

We move on to the second book, The Dark Is Rising. This book provides the title for the entire series.  Here we meet Will Stanton, the last of the Old Ones.  Will is the seventh son, of a seventh son.  On his eleventh birthday, he discovers his special gifts and his great responsibilities (sounds a lot like Spiderman).  He  must learn from the mysterious Merriman Lyon all that it means to be an Old One.  What are his powers?  What are his gifts?  He learns about the final contest between the Light and the Dark.  His quest is to find the Six Magical Signs that will aid the Old Ones in the final battle.  Here is a book rich with myth, mystery, adventure, terror, and delight.  Does Will prevail? Who is the mysterious, Merriman Lyon?

After Will’s discovery of his heritage and of his quest, we move to book three of the sequence, The Greenwitch.  If you’ve read this far, you probably have figured out that both the Drew children and Will were successful in their quests.  It really isn’t spoiling the stories for you too much.  A lost of exciting things happen to these children in both books, making them excellent reads even if you know the outcome.  Susan Cooper can weave a spell around you.  In Greenwitch, Will and the Drew children meet.  Here we learn the prophecy which has guided them thus far and will do so through this book and the next.

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold;
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

Greenwitch opens with Simon, Jane, and Drew discovering that the grail they found in Cornwall was stolen from the British Museum.  They are at the museum looking at the display, which had held the lovely grail they had discovered during their Cornwall adventure.  The grail came with a manuscript.  While the children were able to retrieve the grail, they lost the accompanying manuscript to the sea.  With the help of their Great Uncle Merry, they travel back to Cornwall to see if the manuscript can be retrieved.  At this point, the trio of children becomes a quartet as Will Stanton joins them.  He has grown into his responsibilities as an Old One with training from Merriman Lyon, a.k.a. Great Uncle Merry. Again, agents of the dark are all around them.  Although this story has tasks for all of the company, it is quiet, thoughtful, Jane who turns the day.

The Grey King is a quest for aid in the battle between light and dark.  Will has been very ill.  His illness has robbed him of most of his knowledge of the Old Ones.  He is left with this riddle to guide him. Although he can’t remember, it is the riddle from the manuscript retrieved from the grasp of the Greenwitch in the previous book. In this book and the final one, this riddle guides his way.  To unravel the riddle and find all of his answers, he will have to find the translation for the last two mysterious lines.

On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
And the silver eyes that see the wind,
And the Light shall have the harp of gold.

By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,
On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;
Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,
Yet singing the golden harp shall guide
To break their sleep and bid them ride.

When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,
And where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.

Ymaent yr mynddoedd yn canu,
Ac y mae’r aglwyddes yn dod*.

In the Grey King, Will’s family sends him to their relatives in Wales to help him recover his strength. Little did he or his family realize that Wales was the next step in his journey. Here he meets the enigmatic, Bran.  Is Bran the son of the Pendragon?  He is curiously pale.  He has tawny eyes, like a bird.  At their first meeting Will names him as “the raven boy’ boy from the riddle. Although most everyone else doesn’t know about Will’s status as an Old One, Bran recognizes him immediately.  There is something curious about Bran aside from his pale coloring. He has a sort of quiet austerity.  Is that due to the nature of his upbringing or his parentage.  Will learns that King Arthur and his knights fought the previous great battle against the dark.  While they weren’t able to defeat the dark completely, they did diminish the dark’s power and postponed the final battle between the light and the dark. The time is coming soon for the final battle.  Will and Bran must work together to find the tools needed in the Light’s fight.  At every angle and with every tool that can be mustered, the Dark works seeks to foil their attempts. Finding the Golden Harp and waking the seeker is the quest that Will and Bran must complete.   Will Bran meet his father?  Are they successful? Do they find the harp and wake the sleepers? Who is Merriman Lyon, who appear mysteriously, when aid or guidance is needed in all of these books.

The conclusion to the sequence is Silver on the Tree.   In this book all the players from all the books are present and necessary to the conclusion.  Each had his/her part to play.  Simon, Jane, and Drew come to Wales for holiday.  They are joined by Great Uncle Merry and Will.  Here they meet Bran and his family and allies. To start the book, Will has been receiving messages from the Old Ones around the world that they are prepared for the final battle.  Is everything ready?  Are the weapons and resources gathered?  Are all the necessary players in place?  The last object of power must be found, a sword, which has been hidden away.  Arthur’s sword it what they seek.  Will they find it? Like all the other books, Will and his companions must travel through space and time to gather what is needed for the final battle.  Here is the epic conclusion to this wonderful series.

Susan Cooper

  1. She has always loved reading and writing.
  2. She lived near London and was not evacuated during the Blitz. Her experiences during that time color some of her stories.
  3. After graduating from Oxford, she wrote for the Sunday Times. Her boss was Ian Fleming.
  4. She wrote Over Sea, Under Stone in her spare time in order to win a cash prize. She didn’t win the prize, but she was bitten by the fantasy bug and in time went on to write the other four books in this sequence.
  5. She married an American widower and moved to the United States, where she still lives.
  6. She was awarded a Newberry Honor for The Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.
  7. She has been nominated for an Emmy award for the scripts she co-wrote with Actor Hume Cronyn.

If you want to read more about this author, here are some interesting sites to visit.

The mountains are singing, and the Lady comes.

Santa Calls

SantaCalls1Joyce, William.  Santa Calls. New York: Laura Geringer Book, 1993.

I found this book about 4 or 5 years ago.  It delighted me so much that I had to add it to my Christmas book collection.  This fall when Jim and I went to the Texas Book Festival, I was excited to see that William Joyce was a featured speaker.  In the children’s book tent, there was a display of his books.  I managed to reign in my desire and purchase only a copy of one of his other books for myself and two copies of this book to send to my two young nephews for Christmas. I am hoping that it is a new addition to both of their book libraries and not a repeat of what I sent last year.  I am going to have to start keeping a log of what I send.

Some of you may know that I started this blog as a review of the books we gave one of my nephews for his Mama’s baby shower.  I bought too many books to explain to my niece at her shower how special each and every book in the collection was to us.  I was so excited about all of them, I wrote her soon-to-be born son a book about all the books. That book about my nephew’s little library got me started on this blog.  I try to include updates to that book for each new book that I send.  Here is some of what I sent this year.

Santa Calls is a book written about a boy, who lives in Texas.  Your Grandma and Grandpa and your Uncle Jim and I live in Texas and I know you visit it often.  I love words, so I could not resist a book that opens with an alliteration (ask your Mom about this).  Here’s the first sentence: “Art Atchinson Aimesworth was a very singular boy.” It is a book about boy, who lives in Abilene, Texas and helps his Aunt and Uncle run a Wild West Show and Animal Phantasmagoria.  With these two sentences, I knew Santa Calls was a book that needed to be shared with you.  It is about Art’s Extraordinary Adventure of Christmas 1908.  In this exciting adventure, Art, Spaulding (his friend), and Esther (Art’s little sister) take a trip to the North Pole.  They go because, “Santa Calls.”

This Extraordinary Adventure of Christmas begins just before Christmas.  A mysterious box appears in front of Art’s laboratory.  Did I mention that Art has many talents/hobbies?  He is an inventor, adventurer, and crime fighter. Art and Spaulding systematically and scientifically attempt to open the box.  Their most scientific method?  Poking it with a stick.  A note pops up.  It reads: “Open the box. Assemble the contents. Come NORTH. Yours, S.C.” Art and Spaulding as directed, assemble and modify the contents.  By Christmas Eve, they are ready to head north.  Esther has been watching and helping with the preparations and she asks to go on their quest.  As we learn early in the book Art has one weakness and one flaw.  His weakness is his love of sweets and candy.  His flaw was being mean to Esther.  As you guessed, Art refuses to take her along after all she is too little to come.  She of course, threatens to tell if she doesn’t get to go.  Art’s reply, “You know an Aimesworth never tells.”  Esther knows the truth of this so she watches sadly as they rev the engine to go.  Art, however, is not heartless.  At the last-minute he lets her hop in. “You won’t be sorry,” Esther says.  They lift away on their northern adventure.

What an adventure it is!  They meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, Ali Aku (Captain of the Santarian Guard), Dark Elves (trouble), and their evil Queen (even more trouble).  There are battles, a kidnapping, and an amazing rescue all before Christmas Day!  This book reminds me of so many other wonderful adventure stories like Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, the movie Babes in Toyland, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Father Christmas Letters.  It is an exciting book to read.  Santa is in the book, but Art, Spaulding, and Esther have the starring roles.

I told my nephews that I loved words and language and this book is filled with wonderful little sayings mostly from Art.  They remind me of old science fiction movies.  I can’t call to mind which movie, but here are a couple of them for you to think about.

  • By the rings of Saturn!
  • To the Pole! (I wanted to add, “and beyond!” It reminded me of Buzz Light Year in Toy Story.)
  • By the moons of Jupiter, this is a swell place.
  • Why in the name of Neptune did you call for us?

The illustrations in the book are soft and warm, but rich with detail.  While they are illustrations, they remind me of sepia photographs.  They set the right mood and enhance the story at every turn of the page.

You are going to need to read the book to find out the answer to these questions.  I predict you will have fun making these discoveries.

  • How does Art’s one weakness and one flaw play into this story?
  • Why were they called? Art imagines it to solve an arctic crime wave. Is it?

Ride along with these young people and have a magic adventure. I hope you enjoy this rollicking Christmas adventure!

Happy Reading!

The Halloween Tree: A Story of Friendship, Bravery, and Our Halloween Traditions

Halloween TreeBradbury, Ray. The Halloween Tree. Illustrated by Joseph Mugnaini. New York: Yearling Book, 1972.

Happy Halloween (a bit belated)! Here is a book that celebrates all the traditions of this season. Here is an education of the history of Halloween so carefully woven into a story of nine boys, you miss the education.  The book opens with these words:

It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state.  There wasn’t so much wilderness around you couldn’t see the town. But on the other hand there wasn’t so much town you couldn’t see and feel and touch and smell the wilderness.  The town was full of trees. And dry grass and deaf flower now that autumn was here.  And full of fences to walk on and sidewalks to skate on and a large ravine to tumble in and yell across.  And the town was full of …. Boys.

I love this ordinary setting in our United States for a launching pad for the adventures of eight boys and their special friend, Pipkin.  They are costumed for Halloween as a skeleton, witch, ape man, gargoyle, beggar, mummy, ghost, and death.  They leave their houses. They run and shriek and laugh and jump and frolic.  It’s Halloween! They stop to take count. Something is wrong.  There are eight where there should be nine.  Where is Pipkin? He would never miss Halloween!  Why is this boy so special? Here’s what Bradbury tells us about Pipkin.

Joe Pipkin was the greatest boy who ever lived. The grandest boy who ever fell out of a tree and laughed at the joke. The finest boy who ever raced around the track, winning, and then, seeing his friends a mile back somewhere, stumbled and fell, waited for them to catch up and joined, breast and breast, breaking the winner’s tape.

These and many more accolades are heaped upon Pipkin.  How could these boys have Halloween without him?  What is wrong? They scramble over to his house. Pipkin steps out.  He looks bad.  Will he trick or treat with them?  He asks them to head to the place of Haunts and he will meet them there. They go to the only house worth visiting on Halloween.  They round the side of the house and there it is, a tree, a hundred feet tall and hung with pumpkins of every shape and variety, the Halloween Tree! Each pumpkin was carved with an elaborate face.  As the boys watched, all the pumpkins light up! Each frightening, carved face is aglow. From this splendor comes Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, a ghoulish person, who offers them a trick.

These boys are wary of Moundshroud.  They aren’t sure they like his trick. They are waiting for Pipkin.  They spy him at a distance, when something dark whisks him away.  These brave boys, must rescue their friend.  The boys enlist the aid of the skeletal Moundshroud.  He promises to help them find and rescue Pipkin.  Away the boys are whisked to the past, chasing Pipkin through the centuries.  Each time and place they visit teaches them something about the traditions of Halloween.  Each festival from ones in Ancient Egypt to Día de los Muertos in Mexico is an exciting adventure.  They see the Feast of Samhain, The Time of the Old Ones, All Soul’s Day, All Saint’s Day, The Day of the Dead, El Día De Muerte, All Hallows!  All are some variation of Halloween.  As Moundshround says: “Night and day. Summer and winter, boys. Seedtime and harvest. Life and death.  That’s what Halloween is, all rolled up in one.”

Finally, in Mexico in the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they find Pipkin.  He may or may not be dead. Can they rescue him? What is the price?  It is a year from each young life. Will each brave boy give up a year of his life to save their dear friend?  Would you?

Ray Bradbury’s story is rich with symbolism and imagery.  It is difficult to give you a sense of this story.  I chose this book because it is my daughter, Alexis’ favorite. I can see why. It is creepy, exciting, and lyric all at the same time.  Ray Bradbury’s prose is evocative and wonderful.

This story set in an ordinary Midwest city, and that makes me remember.  I was raised in an ordinary Midwest city.  On Halloween, it was cool and crisp.  The trees had lost their leaves.  We lived in a housing subdivision, referred to by my folks, as the “Heslop Hatchery” for its sheer number of young children living in the neighborhood.  We leapt and gamboled and wandered carefree through the neighborhood my sister and me.  We met our friends and trick or treated throughout the entire neighborhood. Our bags must have been so heavy!

This story makes me remember Halloween past in various places not only the ones in my Midwest city. We lived in Greece for a time on a job site out in the country side.  I remember the terrific parties devised by the moms to keep us entertained.

I remember my Mom and Dad, who have both passed away.  They enjoyed this holiday, too.  I wish I had a story of their youth to share with you.  I do remember a couple of Halloween parties, they had.  It was fun to see grown-ups dress up.  I have some old film of one of these parties and it looks like they were having a terrific time.

I remember celebrating Halloween with our girls.  We had one girl, who always dressed as something gruesome and one who always dressed as something pretty.  I remember a Halloween, we had the Grim Reaper and a Princess and one with Pocahontas and Peter Pan.

I was discussing this story with my husband.  He too, remembers Halloweens past.  He shared some of his remembrances with me.  Here they are for you.

Well, here I am at 60, thinking about Halloween.  This was one of my favorite times when growing up.  While the candy was great, designing costumes was even better.  In 3rd grade, out teacher taught us how to make papier- mâché masks for art.  The masks were finished before Halloween.  This mask, though simple, was very cool.  I got to use my imagination to make my own Halloween mask!  It was mine and totally unique.  No one else would be wearing my same mask!

The papier- mâché mask led to other more elaborate costumes.  It turns out that boxes, hose and paint can make cool costumes.  I was always a fan of Jules Verne stories and it occurred to me that I could be Captain Nemo.  I don’t remember all the details (too long ago) but I do remember using these boxes and hose to make a diving helmet, air tank and hose that joined them.  The following year I went all fantasy and created a dragon outfit.  Again, boxes were used to create the head and mouth of the dragon.  Cardboard and strap was used to create the wings.  One house I went to that year loved the originality and DIY nature of the outfit and doubled my candy!

The last year I trick or treated I recalled the papier-mâché mask of long ago.  I decided to make something totally different.  The mask was in two parts, a round nose portion and a large mask to cover the head.  To this I added some simple electronics to my late 1960’s costume.  I fitted a colored light on the top of the head portion of the mask and one on the nose.  These were wired to a battery and switch that went through my jacket sleeve and into my hand.  As I walked down the street I blinked the nose and head lights.  It was gratifying when, the next day, I heard someone in school talking about a costume they had seen in my neighborhood with blinking lights!

These are our thoughts and the great Ray Bradbury’s thoughts and reflections.  Pick up a copy of The Halloween Tree and savor it.  Do you give Halloween gifts?  This would be a great one!  Read and remember.

Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: August and September 2017

Aug_Sep17I feel it has been an age since I have settled in to write. August and September were so very busy around here.  You may notice that the book stack here is much shorter than usual.  No contributions from Alexis and Sarah.  They moved out to an apartment of their own so I don’t have their input.  I hope to ask them to write something for me to post.  Helping them move, new job responsibilities, helping with a wedding, and general household clean up, my reading and writing have been on a hiatus.  I am glad to be sitting here writing.

With the girls comfortably established in a place of their own, Jim and I are empty nesters.  We are getting used to the new routine that includes only two people.  One of the advantages of  having an empty nest is that there are extra bedrooms. Jim and I converted one of them into an office for me.  Jim, the lovely man that he is, painted it for me.  I have a new desk.   It is wonderful to have a cozy, comfortable, dedicated space to do my bits of writing and blogging.

Without further ado, here is the reading report!

Robin’s List

  • Holt, Tom. The Management Style of the Supreme Beings. New York: Orbit, 2017.
  • Griffith, Clay and Susan Griffith. The Shadow Revolution. New York: Del Rey, 2015.
  • Griffith, Clay and Susan Griffith. The Undying Legion. New York: Del Rey, 2015.
  • Harris, Charlaine. Midnight Crossroad. New York: Ace, 2014.

I haven’t finished The Management Style of the Supreme Beings. I have been distracted by other reading.  I was hoping it would be just a funny as my favorite Tom Holt novel, Flying Dutch.  This one is amusing, but I am having trouble finishing it up.  I will give it another go later this month.

I did enjoy reading Midnight Crossroad. I read this book just before the new TV series, Midnight, Texas started.  It made me a step ahead on the first few episodes.  I need to find another book in the series and then catch up on all the episodes of the TV series I have missed.

The Shadow Revolution and The Undying Legion are the first two books in the “Crown & Key” series.  They take place in Victorian London where werewolves and other nasty shadows lurk.  I fished these two books out of the pile Alexis had designated for Half Price books.  They were fun, light reading during these busy months.

Jim’s List

  • Baxter, Stephen. New York: Penguin, 2015 (Nook Book)
  • Tyson, Neil deGrasse. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.

While on vacation this summer, we were wandering in a little independent bookstore in Healdsburg, California when we ran across this slim, little volume.  While Jim does take time to contemplate the cosmos and photograph it as well, I thought he might find this book amusing.  “It was good, very informative, and easy to understand.  You don’t have to be an astronomer or engineer to understand it.”  These were Jim’s comments on the book.  I need to move it from his reading stack to mine.

I am glad to be back at work on this project.  Have a good month and happy reading!

Just in case you are curious.  Here is my office.