[spooky review + giveaway] Monster School by Kate Coombs and Lee Gatlin

Twilight’s here.
The death bell rings.
Everyone knows what
the death bell brings . . .

It’s time for class. You’re in the place
where goblins wail and zombies drool.

 

Welcome, you’re just in time.

Monster School is in session — come right in and meet the gang!

These just might be the scariest, spookiest students ever — a class where nobody blinks twice about the odd hairy eyeball on the floor or having a teacher who’s a screaming banshee.

Strangely enough, when you read about them, these spirited scholars seem to feel freakishly familiar. 🙂

In her newest children’s book Monster School (Chronicle Books, 2018), poetry wizard Kate Coombs has conjured up 18 fangtastic poems just perfect for some Halloweenish fun. Illustrated by Georgia cartoonist Lee Gatlin (who professes to love drawing monsters most of all), this cauldron of creepiness will cast you under its spell and tickle your skeletal funny bone.

Written in a variety of poetic forms, the mostly rhyming poems introduce us to some very interesting pupils, two weird teachers, and one voracious class pet.

Take “Fernanda Kabul” (please) — she has a way of instilling dread at the mere mention of her name. Part brat, part bully, and a vengeful liar, this “terrible, heartless” dressed-all-in-black “princess of hex” thrives on terrorizing her classmates:

One time Josh was laughing at something I said
and she thought he was laughing at her.
By the time she was finished he wasn’t a kid:
He was three inches long. He was covered with fur.

Continue reading

things to believe in + a holiday blog break

“My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Can’t believe Christmas is just a little over a week away and that 2017 is coming to an end.

What a year it’s been!

I think that aside from personal joys and professional accomplishments, most of us can say that in general it’s been an exhausting, tumultuous, frustrating, scary and very sad, demoralizing time for our country — and that’s probably an understatement.

Continue reading

[sweet review + recipe] A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal

Please help yourself to a Pineapple Macadamia Bar

On Christmas Eve, millions of kids all over the world will be leaving out cookies and milk for Santa, and many will also provide a few carrots for his trusty reindeer.

Though my family did not do this when I was little, I’ve more than made up for it since. Any holiday tradition involving cookies is fine by me, and Santa deserves the very best. 🙂

Until I read A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal (HMH, 2017), I didn’t know very much about Santa in the context of other cultures. As an egocentric American, my concept of “cookies and milk” was very generic — a few sugar cookies here, a gingersnap there, chocolate chip cookies everywhere. That’s understandable when you tend to think Santa belongs only to you.

Silly me, Santa belongs to everyone, and he enjoys lots of deliciously different treats (not all are cookies) as he travels hither and yon. Yes, he swigs a lot of milk, but he’s also able to wet his whistle with tea, beer, sparkling cider, eggnog, hot chocolate and wine. Lucky man!

Continue reading

[author chat + recipe + giveaway] Patricia Toht on Pick a Pine Tree

Please help yourself to milk and cookies (photo by P. Toht)

I’ll always remember the Christmas my parents visited us in Virginia and we decorated a balsam fir tree together. Unlike the artificial trees that defined my childhood in Hawai’i, this one was real — it liked to drop its needles but how we loved that woodsy, fragrant evergreen smell!

We sat around the kitchen table and strung garlands of popcorn and fresh cranberries while a cozy fire crackled in the adjoining great room. This was novel for us, but our lei-making experience served us well when it came to handling big needles and long strands of thread. Of course our tree was the best Christmas tree ever, because with shared memories, mugs of warm cider, and a nice collection of handmade ornaments, we had made it our own.

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht and Jarvis (Candlewick, 2017) celebrates all the joy, wonder, magic and anticipation of finding and decorating that special tree. Written in jaunty rhyming verse, this book is well on its way to becoming a perennial favorite with its timeless sentiment.

Continue reading

[spooky review + giveaway] The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler

Hello my pretties! Ready for a spookalicious story?

*cackles and strokes chin wart*

No matter where we grew up, most of us can remember a mean or eccentric neighbor, a creepy old house that was supposedly haunted, or a place we were afraid (or not allowed) to frequent for one reason or another.

It was the kind of thing where we were both curious and terrified at the same time. We hungered for more even as we trembled in our boots. It’s wonderful how local lore and enduring legends figured in our childhoods, how we bore witness to the dynamic process of their evolution.

In The Pomegranate Witch (Chronicle Books, 2017), Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler serve up a deliciously eerie and suspenseful tale of five neighborhood kids who battle a green twiggy-fingered Witch for fruit from her haunted, zealously-guarded pomegranate tree.

Beyond the edge of town,
where streetlights stopped and sidewalks ended,
A small boy spied a farmhouse in a field long untended —

And before its sagging porch, amid a weedy foxtail sea,
Found the scary, legendary, haunted pomegranate tree.

The gnarled tree loomed high and wide; its branches scraped the ground.
Beneath there was a fort, of sorts, with leafed walls all around.
Its unpruned limbs were jungle-like, dirt ripplesnaked with roots,
But glorious were the big, red, round, ripe pomegranate fruits.

Continue reading