Spooky Tales for All Ages

Spooky Books for All Ages

When I was ten or eleven years old I came across an entire shelf of Agatha Christie books in my grandpa’s basement. He graciously allowed me to borrow one and I devoured it, eventually moving through the whole collection over the course of the next few months. And I’ve been a sucker for a good mystery ever since.  This past month I re-read Murder on the Orient Express in one of my book clubs and was reminded of why she’s a master.

With colder weather and Halloween right around the corner it’s the perfect time to curl up with a spooky story or mystery and forget everything else happening in the world outside. So I wanted to share a few of my favorites for all ages. My tastes now run the gamut from the cozy mysteries to thrillers (but I have to take the stronger stuff in smaller doses–I can only take so much of the blood, guts, and truly twisted characters) so there should be something for everyone!  Have a favorite I missed or you think I would like? Let me know in the comments below!

(Most of these authors have written multiple books that could fit on this list. Be sure to check out their complete works for more options.)

Adult–

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

In the Woods by Tana French

Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

Rebecca by Daphne Du Marier

Love Talker by Elizabeth Peters

 

Young Adult–

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton

Jackaby by William Ritter

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Scary Stories by Barry Moser

Chime by Franny Billingsley

 

Middle Grade–

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

Ghoulia by Barbara Cantini

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

Doll Bones by Holly Black

The Book of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West

Juniper Berry by MP Kozlowsky

Bunnicula by James Howe

The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Patricia McKissack

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

 

Beginning Reader–

The Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain

In a Dark, Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz

 

Picture Book–

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

Inside a House That Is Haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

Skeleton Cat by Kristyn Crow

Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

Nightlights by Lorena Alverez Gomez

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara

Wolves by Emily Gravett

The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

 

And check back to these posts for a few other ideas.

Psychological Thrillers

Truly Devious 

The Devil in the White City

A Bit of Poetry ~ Rumi

Rumi Renewal From the Fall

I came upon this poem by Rumi not too long ago and it is such a beautiful concept of fall. Life is full of hard things and while we tend to try to avoid them we can often look back at those trials and see how they helped to lead us to the people and places we needed or have shaped us to become stronger or teach us important lessons. I, for one, have a hard time seeing the beauty in the situation while I’m in it. It generally takes a few years  (if at all) for me to recognize all the positive points of a negative situation. But nature does a better job of accepting what is and taking things in stride. Fall is a natural state of being and part of life and death. With each season of ruin comes an eventual rebirth and rebuilding, with each fall comes the spring. And each season holds its own glorious beauty if we know how to recognize it and appreciate it.

My challenge to you for the next few weeks is to take a moment to step outside and take in the beauty that surrounds you. And remember that when your own life mimics the cycles of the seasons that there’s a beauty to be found in each one. Even if it seems as if everything around you is falling down and apart and into ruin its all just part of the plan. Our desecration, just like nature’s, leads to a remaking, a glorious spring. (You just have to survive winter first!)

Fall Aspens

Library Day

West Jordan Library

After spending several years working in a public library and having constant access to all the books my heart could desire I’ve had to make it a regular habit to stop by my local library to get my fill. I wanted to give you all a little peek into my weekly ritual and the fabulous building I frequent. Since I tend to max out my request/hold list at all times there’s almost always something for me to pick up and for my husband’s sanity I try to always have a stack to return. This is the main branch of the Salt Lake County library, a gorgeous, spacious building that also houses an event center that gets used for a ton of youth programs, author readings, art and music displays and more. There’s always something going on. I like to spend a few minutes perusing the shelves to see what’s new, taking pictures of covers to add to my Goodreads queue when I get home and often picking  up an extra title or two that really jumps out at me.

West Jordan Library interior

After checking out my holds (I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up with back trouble due to my weekly load) I head home and jump right in. I update my Goodreads status, make a list of which books I plan to review and which I’ll just read for fun, and depending on the time I may start in on the actual reading.

Here’s this week’s haul.

Currently Reading Book Stack

What are you reading? Where’s your favorite place to feed your bookish needs?

Music Monday (er, Thursday?) ~ Willie Nelson

With election day breathing down our necks and the country in all sorts of upheaval I just couldn’t not share this. Hopefully you are registered to vote, so do your part and make your voice heard. Study up on the issues and where the candidates stand on them and vote accordingly. Let’s bring about some mighty changes this November. Spread the word!

Nighttime Musings

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.     

A Parade of Elephants end pages

One of the perks of not being able to sleep (if it can be thought of as a perk) is that you get the house, and often the world, to yourself at odd hours of the night. A few nights ago I was up wandering around 3 am or so, reheating a heat pack and making me some chamomile tea. The house was silent aside from the sounds of settling that seem to happen only when it thinks no one is listening. There was a hint of horizontal light peeking through the blinds from the streetlamps out front and the odd glow of an alarm clock and charging laptop, enough to light my way to the kitchen without having to turn on an overhead light.

As I was waiting for my water to heat I looked out the back window and realized I wasn’t alone. Across the road and through the trees I could see not one, not two but three windows illuminated in the darkness. I wondered at the circumstances behind the too-early-morning shine. Did my neighbors have jobs that forced them to be up at this hour? Were there new babies in the house that needed feeding or comforting? Perhaps they’d received bad news, a late night phone call that forced all sleep from them? Or, like me, did they simply have nights when sleep, no matter how welcome and wished for, wouldn’t come?

I leaned my forehead against the cool pane and let the steam from my mug fog the glass as one by one the lights winked out and I was alone again with the night. Misery, no matter how brief, loves company and it was a comfort to share my insomnia with strangers. And with that feeling of unknown of alliance and companionship I headed back upstairs to cuddle under the blankets and drift off to sleep.

A Parade of Elephants

 

*Both images are taken from this adorable book by Kevin Henkes.

 

Adult Non-Fiction ~ How Music Works

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.    

In case you were feeling a bit of letdown after so many great musical book recommendations a few weeks ago, I’ve got another one for you today. This one for the adult set. (And somehow I failed to get a picture, so thanks to Amazon for the visual.)

It is no mystery that David Byrne (creative force behind Talking Heads) is knowledgeable about the ins and outs of music. Sprinkled with terms such as “sonic landscapes” and “tonal architecture”, his book chronicles the changes in technology and culture that have aided in the evolution of music its composition, performance, and enjoyment (recordings, live concerts etc.) and Byrne’s place in it.

Half of the book holds a general history while the other half contains Byrne’s own personal experiences from his garage band days, as a part of Talking Heads and his various collaborations.  These weren’t quite as interesting because I’ll admit I’m not super familiar with his albums and music so many or the songs and people were unknown to me.  Confession: I skimmed these sections a bit. But I did love some of his insights and could even relate to many of his experiences.

After hearing the song ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ for the first time he said, “The world was suddenly a bigger, more mysterious, and more exciting place—all because I’d stumbled onto some recording.” (94) Oh, how many times I’ve felt that way after hearing a piece of music, sometimes even re-hearing a piece in a way I’d not heard it before. Music can open up a realm of new possibilities and ideas.

He goes on to say:
Music tells us things—social things, psychological things, physical things about how we feel and perceive our bodies—in a way that other art forms can’t. It’s sometimes in the words, but just as often the content comes from a combination of sounds, rhythms, and vocal textures that communicate, as has been said by others, in ways that bypass the reasoning centers of the brain and go straight to our emotions. (94)

Later on he waxes poetic about mixtapes, calling them “pocket-sized audio wonder cabinets.”  I think this is a fabulous term! Obviously I’m a bit partial to the idea of mixtapes and think he summed it up quite nicely here:

The mixtapes we made for ourselves were musical mirrors. The sadness, anger or frustration you might be feeling at a given time could be encapsulated in the song selection. You made mixtapes that corresponded to emotional states, and they’d be available to pop into the deck when each feeling needed reinforcing or soothing. The mixtape was your friend, your psychiatrist, and your solace. (110)

 

The history portions were fascinating, filled with questions to ponder about the nature of music and our relationship to it (some along the lines of “if a tree falls in the wood…”) and showing that the pulse of our world is often a rousing drumbeat.  Highly recommended for anyone at all interested in music.

 

How Music Works book review

How Music Works

Written by: David Byrne

Number of Pages: 352

Publisher: Three Rivers Press, 2017

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 4/5

And just for kicks…

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 5

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Folk songs are some the most singable songs out there and I used a ton of them in the classroom when I was teaching. From the more patriotic “This Land is Your Land” to the silly “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and everything in between, the majority of these songs started out much like the spirituals being adopted and adapted by various communities and changing slightly over time. But many of them have been used to convey messages, particularly of a political nature and one of the names most synonymous with this movement is Pete Seeger.

Born in NYC in 1919, Pete was shy but had a love of music and the truth instilled in him from an early age. He protested and attended rallies for the rights of workers during the Depression. He learned to play the banjo and absorbed the folk music he heard at festivals. He dropped out of school to form a band and met Woody Guthrie who let him tag along to some of his concerts and meetings he played at across the country. And did what he could to make a difference. WWII, marriage, civil rights, and various government issues all shaped Pete and Pete shaped those things right back. His discography isn’t extensive, he only released 5 official albums in his lifetime. But his influence is incalculable. And this book does a superb job of showing both pieces of that puzzle.

Pete Seeger book review

Pete Seeger book review2

Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice

Written by: Susanna Reich

Illustrated by: Adam Gustavson

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2017

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

 

One of my favorite ways to get my students involved was with music. As I mentioned above I sang a lot of folk songs with them particularly. Sometimes we’d just sing a capella, sometimes with a CD accompaniment, and often with the help of a picture book. There are so many great ones out there to choose from I’ll have to dedicate a whole post to them to do it justice but I wanted to leave you with a few to get you started. And add the caveat that kids (little ones at least 🙂 don’t care if you can’t carry a tune. Be enthusiastic, sing out, and they will join in. I promise!

 

This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie and Kathy Jakobsen

Yankee Doodle by Mary Ann Hoberman and Nadine Bernard Westcott

The Wheels on the Bus by Jane Cabrera

Down by the Station by Will Hillenbrand

 You Are My Sunshine by Dare Coulter

Down By the Bay by Raffi

Five Little Monkeys by Eileen Christelow

 

Oh, and so many more! Watch for a whole list to come a little later and thanks for joining me this week. I love sharing my favorite books and music with you and when those things overlap it just makes it all that much better. Happy Reading!

 

 

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 4

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.        

There probably aren’t many who aren’t familiar with the story of Joshua Bell’s social experiment in the DC metro station. I lived just outside of Washington, D.C. for many years and while I was in the area when this occurred I wasn’t a witness to the performance. I often wonder what my reaction would have been. But just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, this book is perfect for you!

How often do we stop to really pay attention to what’s happening around us? The answer: not very often. One of the most accomplished violinists in the world decided to see what would happen if he dressed as a vagrant and played music in the busy metro station on a priceless instrument. Of the over 1,000 people who walked by only 7 stopped for more than one minute to listen. He had a little over $30 in his case when he finished. While several people seemed to want to stop they didn’t, yet every child tried to stop. This lovely little book tells the fictionalized account of a boy who was in the metro station that day but, like so many of the other children, was dragged by his mom on their way. All day long the music plays in Dylan’s head and changes how he and his mom see the world.  There’s a note about Joshua Bell and how he and the experiment came to be. And a note from Joshua himself about why he does what he does.

And for those who want to know more, this same creative duo brings to life a short biography of Joshua Bell’s beginnings. In the Dance of the Violin, we see young Joshua determined to play with a real orchestra. He practices a very difficult piece in order to win a contest, but when the day of the contest arrives he makes a mistake. Instead of giving up he asks to start again and plays perfectly and blows everyone away.

There’s another author’s note with this one telling us a bit about what really happened and giving us a little more information about Joshua Bell and his amazing talent.

Man with the Violin Book Review

The Dance of the Violin

Written by: Kathy Stinson

Illustrated by: Dusan Petricic

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Annick Press, 2013

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 4/5

 

The Man With the Violin

Written by: Kathy Stinson

Illustrated by: Dusan Petricic

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Annick Press, 2017

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 4/5

Joshua Bell book review

Here’s a brief clip to give you an idea of what the experiment was like though it only gives you the barest idea of his talent. Look him up and give him a listen if you’re not familiar with him. He’s one of those performers that is unmatched and indescribable.

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 3

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

I was raised on jazz. I am by no means a connoisseur or well-educated critic but I’ve been surrounded by the sounds from an early age and have had more than a passing exposure to some of the greats (and I’m sure I have great holes in that exposure as well.) But even in the most educated and critical of circles there aren’t many who will deny that Ella Fitzgerald was one of, if not the, best female jazz vocalists. Ever. She’s far and away my favorite and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this first book and learning more about the first lady of song.

When Ella Fitzgerald’s star was just beginning to rise she found herself (and her band) being barred from clubs and performance halls because of the color of her skin. She was about to give up when a benefactor stepped in, bargaining with the nightclub owner to book a week of performances for Ella. She promised to sit in the front row of each performance. The benefactor? Marilyn Monroe. While the two women had never met before, they became great friends and the performance run was a great success.

I absolutely love this story of friendship and standing up for what is right. Marilyn used her influence to make a difference not only for Ella and her band but for the civil rights movement at large. It just goes to show what good can come when we work together! A powerful message that is much needed in a world that seems intent on having us tear each other to pieces.

Bonus. There’s also a brief bio of each woman and a fabulous photograph of the two of them at the back.

Ella Queen of Jazz book review

Ella Queen of Jazz

Written and Illustrated by: Helen Hancocks

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 2017

Age Range: 5-12

Rating: 4.5/5

 

My love for Frank Sinatra knows no bounds. Because of my upbringing (see above) I had very different tastes in music than all of my friends. While they had posters of N’Sync and The Backstreet Boys on their walls I had posters of Elvis, The Beatles, and a framed photograph of Frank Sinatra above my bed. I watched all his movies, I bought cheesy memorabilia, ventured to Hoboken, the works. But first and foremost I am in love with the voice.

I had decided I needed to write a kid friendly book about him, but someone beat me to it.  This is the book I should have written but someone beat me to it!  It’s a lovely little recap of the life of the Chairman of the Board. Covering his childhood in Hoboken, his obsession with Bing Crosby, his need to perform, his journey to New York and the recording studio and on into the movies and his influence all around the world, there’s not much they’ve missed. There’s also an author’s note, bibliography, and list of favorite songs for young listeners. And check out the sweet illustrations, and those end pages. *sigh* It’s the perfect introduction to Frank’s world.

Frankie Liked to Sing book review 2

Frankie Liked to Sing

Written by: John Seven

Illustrated by: Jana Christy

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 4.5/5

 

I’m a sucker for brass. But I’m also quite picky about what I like to listen to (and don’t ask me to explain what…I just know it when I hear it!) Trombone Shorty is a more recent addition to my music collection. I don’t love all his stuff across the board. I much prefer his classic jazz/blues sounds to the songs that have more of the r&b bend but boy, oh boy, can he play!

He’s been nominated for a Grammy, has worked with Bo Didlely, Lenny Kravitz, Eric Clapton just to name a few, can also play the trumpet, tuba, drums, and organ, and is a published author! In this delightful autobiography he tells readers how he got his nickname and how music has influenced his life. Bryan Collier’s fabulous illustrations garnered a Caldecott honor and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

His second book, The 5 O’Clock Band, also illustrated by Bryan Collier was released in June of this year.

Trombone Shorty book review

Trombone Shorty

Written by: Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

Illustrated by: Bryan Collier

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

Age Range: 5-12

Rating: 4/5

 

I’ll leave you with some of Trombone Shorty’s tunes to help you lose a bit of the Wednesday slumps. Enjoy!

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 2

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

Blues and Jazz are kissing cousins in the music world. With roots in Africa and branches stretching from New Orleans to Chicago and everywhere in between there’s a special flavor and feeling in each musician’s take depending on where they’re from, who their influences are, the year they were born and more. Since it began primarily with slaves there were a lot of local influences that stayed local for the first little while until recordings became easier and outsiders began to take notice.

Today we’re spotlighting a few of the early (but by no means earliest) pioneers of the blues and jazz music scene.

Born near the Mississippi Delta in 1915, McKinley Morganfield, was immersed in the blues from an early age. His Grandma Della had other ideas for how she wanted to him to live his life, “but Muddy was never good at doing what he was told.” Eventually he left the racially segregated south and his life as a share-cropper and migrated to Chicago where he soaked up the jazz, bebop, and blues. He fought his way to a recording contract and became influential to everyone from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and more.

The text has chunks of rhythmic repetition interspersed with the story. The illustrations are rough, earthy, and brimming with life just like the music and musician they are portraying. There’s an author’s note, a bibliography, and further listening list for readers who want to know more.

Muddy Waters book review

 

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

Written by: Michael Mahin

Illustrated by: Evan Turk

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

Muddy Waters is one of those people you know, even if you don’t know you know them. Modern musicians continue to be inspired him or by those who were inspired by him. Here’s one of his own and one by Son House who came a bit earlier and was one of his inspirations. (Shout out to my friend Katie who introduced me to Son House several years ago. He’s become a repeat player on many a playlist in my world!)

 

Women didn’t always get a public voice in music outside of church settings. And they didn’t often get a chance to be leaders or headliners on their own. Lil Hardin Armstrong did it all.

Born in Memphis in 1898 she played her mother’s organ and took lessons from a young age, including playing for her local church. Her mother insisted on the classics but Lil was more influenced by W. C. Handy and other jazzy neighbors. She earned a spot as a piano player in the New Orleans Creole Jazz Band and migrated north to Chicago where she met Louis Armstrong. Together they wrote songs, played music, and formed their own band. Later she toured in Europe, designed clothing, opened a restaurant, and eventually died doing what she loved best, playing music.

Excellent back matter includes a little more about Lil, a list of songs to listen to, photographs, a timeline, author’s note, bibliography, and more. I’d heard of Lil Armstrong, knowing her as the wife of jazz great Louis Armstrong, but hadn’t realized she was a jazz great in her own right. I loved learning more about this amazing powerhouse of a woman.

Born to Swing book review

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz

Written by: Mara Rockliff

Illustrated by: Michele Wood

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Calkins Creek, 2018

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

We’ll keep on trucking through the years to another jazz legend tomorrow. Hope to see you then!