Top books for October
There are so many great books being released all the time. I read a number of great books this month with two very different ones being my favourites. These include Nightmares, a Random House book by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, and End of a Line, a beautiful read in time for Holocaust Education Week.
Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
Editor’s note: What a great book. I am saving this one for my son when he is older. I love the idea of nightmares coming to life, and having to conquer your fears. What a fun read.
End of the Line
Sharon E. McKay
Annick Press, http://www.anncikpress.com/
Editor’s note: As this book is about the kindness of two lifelong bachelors who rescue five-year-old Beatrix from the tram after her mother is taken away by Nazis, it is not as horrific as other Holocaust books. It’s a different story – one about kindness and love. There is still fear, starvation and sadness, but also hope and happiness at an awful time. What a wonderful, amazing book. This book also made me understand how the Dutch must have felt and how they lived during the Second World War. I found it particularly powerful as my grandparents and their families lived through it. I wish I would have learned other war stories from my grandmother, other than she knit sweaters for the soldiers by moonlight. I have passed along this book to my mom and her siblings, but I will read again and again. Amazing.
Books I want to read, but ran out of time:
Meet the Shadow Whistler
Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iUniverse
The stakes couldn’t be higher: the normally quiet life in a small, rural town is ripped apart by a series of strange and violent deaths. The sight of brutally dismembered bodies is becoming disturbingly commonplace in a place where such a crime was once unthinkable.
Royce Walker’s The Shadow Whistler follows a woman and the wayward spirit of her Confederate soldier great-grandfather who band together to solve the mystery. The story grew from the local Fairfax County, Va. legend of the Bunny Man.
The Broken Hours
Edmonton-based award-winning author Jacqueline Baker has written a beautiful literary horror novel called The Broken Hours taking place in 1936, Providence Rhode Island. Arthor Crandle, desperate for a job, is quickly hired by an equally desperate man – an ill writer, on the edge of a nervous breakdown, who signs all his letters Ech-Pi, and never leaves his study. As Arthor moves in to the house, he’s immediately unnerved by the oddness of the large, almost alive darkness of the house. After figuring out the writer is indeed HP Lovecraft, himself, Crandle is drawn straight into HP Lovecraft’s terrifying world, Crandle begins to unravel the dark secret at the heart of the story.
A Halloween Scare in Canada
Sourcebooks jabbywocky, http://www.jabberwockykids.com and Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Editor’s Note: It is always so nice to read Canadian books full of Canadian content. This book is pretty cool as there are Canadianism throughout the book including a Quebec license plate ‘SP0-0KY’, a mention of Toronto and Windsor, moose, Parliament Hill and an “I heart Canada” shirt. The story is pretty fun, too.
Black and Bittern was Night
Kids Can Press
When spooky skul-a-mug-mugs take over a town, grownups cancel trick or treating so it’s up to the tykes to save the night.
Editor’s note: I hated this book. I stumbled over most of the made-up words while reading it to my five-year-old son and finally told him it was a ridiculous book and I wasn’t reading it any more. He didn’t seem to mind stopping and hasn’t asked for it again. Every sentence had made-up words and if I tried, I could figure out the point of the story, but it would be challenge and one I don’t want to bother with.
Circling the Midnght Sun Culture and Change in the Invisible Arctic
Over the course of three years, James Raffan circumnavigated the globe at 66.5 degrees latitude: the full Arctic Circle. Armed with his passion for the north, his interest in diverse cultures and his unquenchable sense of adventure, he set out to put a human face on climate change, meeting and surrounding himself with the different cultures across the circle. What he discovered was by turns shocking, frustrating, entertaining and enlightening. In Circling the Midnight Sun, Raffan presents a warm-hearted, engaging portrait of the circumpolar world, but also a deeply affecting story of societies and landscapes in the throes of enormous change. Compelling and utterly original, this is both an adventure story and a book that will transform the way we think of northerners and the north.
Count Candy Corn
Ruth L. Brugger
Editor’s Note: The book itself is beautifully illustrated by Sara Pace. I found the story full of holes. The first page of the book talks about how Maddix is extraordinary because he can count to 100 and the other children can’t count at all. We are told the rest of the story will tell us how it all began. However, Maddix looks old enough to be counting much higher than 100 and the rest of the story didn’t tell me anything about why Maddix is extraordinary. In fact, he doesn’t count to 100 either, just to 10. My five year old, however, loved the story because it was “cute” and asks me to read it again. So now I skip the first page, which I find frustrating and pointless, and several paragraphs within the book to get to the real point of the story – an imagination piece about the Count Candy Corn Bat. And if that is the point of the story, it is a cute book.
Counting on Fall, Math in Nature
Editor’s Note: What a fun book. Each page, created by paper art, asks if math matters to animals and plants getting ready for winter. Each page also asks the reader to make an educated guess or to count. An interactive book that kept my five year old interested from start to finish, counting acorns, figuring out which whale is in first or last place and counting monarchs by 10s.
Fall of Night
St. Martin’s Press, Raincoat Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Stebbins Little School is full of bodies. It’s unthinkable to Desdemona Fox. Children are sobbing as panicked teachers and neighbours beat down their family members outside of the school or the things that used to be their family members. Parents don’t eat their children do they? This is the zombie apocalypse. An insane escaped serial killer is infecting Stebbins County with a deadly virus. Fall of Night, Maberry’s nail-biting sequel to Dead of Night, picks up where the first novel left off.
Sourcebooks and Raincourt Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Billy, 15, guards a castle prison, but he isn’t just watching the criminals, but the ghost of executed prisoners that haunt the place. When Billy is given the task of feeding the prisoner in The Witch Well, a ghost named Long-Neck Netty decides to play a trick on Billy that could cost him his life.
Happy Halloween, Sesame Workshop
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, http://www.jabberwockykids.com and Raincourt Books, http://www.raincoast.com
It’s Halloween and Count von Count is dozing off when he hears tap, tap, tapping at his door. Is it a creepy Frankenstein or a Halloween spirit?
Editor’s note: The Sesame Street characters know how to celebrate Halloween in this fun rhyming book. My five year old enjoyed it, but we gave it to my four-year-old nephew who is an Elmo fan.
Is This Panama, A Migration Story
Editor’s note: Another paper art book, the story is about Sammy, a Wilson’s warbler, who wakes up one morning and realizes he needs to be in Panama, his winter home. Along the way, he meets other creatures that talk about their winter homes and migration stories. I liked the book. There is lots of information in it (including pieces that makes me incredibly sad – Sammy hitting windows and falling to the ground and the sandhill cranes that look for landmarks, during their flight. So what happens when we, being humans, build houses or highways on a bird’s migration flight?). However, the book is long. My five year old stopped before we reached Panama and doesn’t want to read it again.
It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse!
Join Mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie as he decorates all the pumpkins in the patch!
Kids Can Press
This is a board book about kitten and what he discovers one autumn day.
Editor’s note: This would be a cute book to read to a toddler over and over again. Lots of detail in the pictures.
James Preller and Iacopo Bruno
Feiweland Friends, Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Malick Rice and his sister love to hunt for hidden treasure and are about to make their biggest find yet – a small box, locked tight, buried behind a deserted house. A box meant to stay buried forever.
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca
Every autumn, strange figures start appearing around the town of Kentville, Nova Scotia, sauntering down the sidewalk, sitting in a tree, cavorting on a lawn. Who are these peculiar people? Why, they’re the Pumpkin People! Constructed from cornstalks, straw, and, of course, pumpkins, these folkloric figures are put together every year to celebrate the harvest in the Annapolis Valley in a most creative way.
Pumpkin People tells the tale of Kentville’s famous pumpkin people.
Editor’s Note: My five year old loves this book. We have read it several nights in a row. He asks if the pumpkin people are real and if that would really happen. There are instructions on how to make one at the back of the book.
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, http://www.jabberwockykids.com/
The day cows walked down Main Street in fancy hats and sheep having a picnic, Evy didn’t notice as she was too busy tending her garden.
Editor’s note: There is so much to look at in this book illustrated by Doug Cushman. Each page has so much detail. My five year old, however, didn’t care what Evy was doing, and got tired of being asked. We didn’t make it to the end of the book, although he did laugh at the sheep having a grass hot dog.
Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween
Kids Can Press
From costume ideas to trick-or-treating strategies, Scaredy Squirrel helps readers plan for the spookiest night of the year!
Editor’s Note: I attempted to read Scaredy Squirrel to my five year old when he was much younger and there was always too much information and it didn’t hold his attention. He liked this one as there is so much to look at and so much information. He enjoyed the checklists and answering the questions. It’s not a one-night story, however.
The Boy Who Drew Monsters
Picador and Raincourt Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Ever since he nearly drowned in the ocean three years earlier, 10-year-old Jack Peter Keenan has been deathly afraid to venture outdoors. Refusing to leave his home in a small coastal town in Maine, Jack Peter spends his time drawing monsters. When those drawings take on a life of their own, no one is safe from the terror they inspire.
The Ghost and Max Monroe, Case No. 1
Kids Can Press, http://www.kidscanpress.com/Canada/The-Ghost-and-Max-Monroe-Case-1-P6154.aspx
In this first title in the detective fiction series by L. M. Falcone, 10-year-old Max Monroe is intrigued to discover the carriage house behind his grandpa’s home was once the office of the Monroe Detective Agency. Then he learns the agency had belonged to his grandpa’s dead brother, Larry. But Max didn’t know he had a great-uncle. “Well, he’s dead,” says Grandpa Harry, “but his ghost still haunts the detective agency.” It seems Uncle Larry died of a broken heart because he “never solved one measly case.” However, a surprise phone call from a magician named Marty the Magnificent with an offer of a detective job seems like the second chance Larry has been begging for. Except, Larry is a ghost – he can’t work a case in the real world. But Max can! With Larry’s help, of course.
Lazlo is afraid of the dark. It hides in closets and sometimes sits behind the shower curtain, but mostly it lives in the basement. One night, when Lazlo’s nightlight burns out, the dark comes to visit him in his room. “Lazlo,” the Dark says. “I want to show you something.” And so Lazlo descends the basement stairs to face his fears and discover a few comforting facts about the mysterious presence with whom all children must learn to live.
Editor’s Note: This is a cute book. I read it to my five year old who declared he liked it, but I don’t think he got it.
The Haunting of Heck House (The Wiggins Weird No. 2)
Lesley Livingston, Jonathan Llyr
Penguin Random House Canada, penguinrandomhouse.ca
Monster-mashers and babysitters extraordinaire Cheryl and Tweed are back, along with their friends Pilot and Artie – and they’re in trouble again. This time, they’re tangled up in some ghostly goings-on: solving the mystery that lies behind the creepy doors of Hecklestone Manor, Wiggins Cross’s only genuine haunted house. The gang must face off against a whole new host of horrors, including gargoyles, possessed drive-in movie speakers and a gaggle of ghoulish ghosts.
The Night Gardener
Jonathan Auxier (Goodreads Author)
Penguin Random House Canada, penguinrandomhouse.ca
When orphaned Irish siblings Molly and Kip arrive to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house, they discover the house and its inhabitants are not what they seem. Soon the siblings are confronted by a mysterious stranger and the secrets of the cursed house will change their lives forever. This much-anticipated follow up to Jonathan Auxier’s debut novel, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes.
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca
Kate’s family has told her that on her 13th birthday she’ll hear the “Whooooo” call of the moon, and howl back, and become a werewolf just like them. But she doesn’t want to be a werewolf. She’s always felt more like a duck. On the night of her 13th birthday, Kate stands near her family’s cabin in the backwoods of New Brunswick and hears the moon calling, but it sounds like more of a “Whooooo?” as in “Who are you?” and Kate does what she’s always wanted to do – she quacks.
Her family tries to understand Kate’s new full-moon form, but they are busy integrating themselves with some new, edgy werewolves in town.
Editor’s Note: Kate’s transformation into a duck is pretty fantastic. I liked that she listened to what she wanted for her life and did what was true to her despite the pressure from her family and the new werewolves in town. But the book didn’t hold my attention – understanding of course I am not who the book is written for. I finished it – because it’s a book – but I skipped chunks of it in each chapter.
Holocaust Education Week
Branded by the Pink Triangle
Second Story Press, http://secondstorypress.ca
Before the rise of the Nazi party, Germany, especially Berlin, was one of the most tolerant places for homosexuals in the world. Activists, including Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein campaigned openly for the rights of gay men and women, and tried to repeal the old existing law against homosexuality. But all that would change when the Nazis came to power and existence for gay people turned into one of fear. Raids, arrests, prison sentences and expulsions became the daily reality. When the concentration camps were built, homosexuals were imprisoned along with Jews and any other groups the Nazis wanted to suppress.
The pink triangle, sewn onto prison uniforms, became the symbol of the persecution of homosexuals, a persecution that would continue for many years after the war. A mix of historical research, first-person accounts and individual stories bring this time to life for readers. Stories of bravery in the face of inhuman cruelty, friendship found in the depths of despair in the camps, and the perseverance of the human spirit will both educate and inspire.
Editor’s Note: The book starts with a history lesson of homosexuality in Berlin, considered the gay capital in the 1920s and 1930s. The information pulled me into the book and I wanted to read more. Although I should have known, I didn’t realize gay people were also sent to concentration camps. The book was excellent. Information with enough first-hand accounts to keep you reading. Released last year, I am including this book today because it has been nominated for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction.
Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers
Second Story Press, http://secondstorypress.ca
Shanghai, China is a strange place for a young Jewish girl from Vienna, but that is where Lily Toufar finds herself in 1938. She and her family have left their home to find safety far away from Europe, where Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party are making life unbearable for Jews. They’ve had to travel fast – Lily even had to leave behind most of her toys and books – but here she feels free from danger.
Despite their hopes, it quickly turns out that all is not safe in Shanghai. Now that the area is controlled by Japan, whose leaders support Hitler, the local government orders Jewish refugees, including Lily and her family, to move into a ghetto in an area of the city called Hongkew. Once again Lily wonders what will happen next.
Life changes for Lily and her family when they are forced to the over-crowded ghetto. There is little food to eat, and many people become sick. Lily remains hopeful, but when rumours begin to circulate that Jews may be in as much danger here as they were in Europe, she wonders if she will ever feel truly safe and at home again. Based on a true story.
Editor’s note: Kathy Kacer, author of this book and The Magician of Auschwitz, will be speaking on Nov. 10 at the Prosserman JCC.
The Last Train
Editor’s Note: As with all Holocaust books, after I finish reading I am left with an incrediable feeling of sadness in addition to horror – horror that the Holocaust happened and horror that people forget we are all just people. How can we be so evil to one another? Paul, the author’s husband, was five years old when his family was forced from their Hungarian home to a ghetto, to a work camp, to a concentration camp and to a Death Train, when they were finally liberated by the American Ninth Army. Amazing story, beautifully written, but awful.
The Magician of Auschwitz
Second Story Press, http://www.secondstorypress.ca
Kathy Kacer, who has written dozens of books about the Holocaust, presents her first picture book The Magician of Aushwitz, a true story about a young boy named Werner whose bunk mate at Auschwitz, a Nazi prisoner camp, is Herr Levin, a man, who before the war, was known as the the famous magician named The Great Nivelli.
One night, Werner is woken by prison guards who demand Herr Levin to do his magic. Herr Levin gives Werner hope and the gift of friendship.
Editor’s Note: I am a big fan of Kathy Kacer’s work. This one captures the darkness, but also presents hope. I liked that there was information about Werner – as an adult – and Herr Levin after the war ended.
This article was originally published at insidetoronto.com