Category Archives: Halloween

Witchy Wonders

As part of my eldest daughter’s “13th birthday in Boston” celebration it was her decision how to spend the morning before our drive home.  Possible options included a trip to the Museum of Science, Boston for the opening day of the “Science of Pixar” exhibit or visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, a locale from our favorite Boston based middle-reader book Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne.

In the end it was the irrepressible draw of Salem that determined how we would spend our final hours.   The allure of history and witchcraft is powerful, and the heart of our visit was really to just get the feel of the place.  Salem is peppered with hokey museums and theme driven gift shops, but actually being present in a location full of witchcraft lore totally overpowered the touristy vibe.  We took the obligatory, if outdated, tour of the Salem Witch Museum, had a delicious chowder lunch, and picked up dessert at the Salem Ice-Screamery.   All-in-all it was a worthwhile diversion and time well spent, especially the time browsing the gift shop bookshelves for witchy reads!   This Halloween, if you can’t be in Salem, pick up one of these fun, fantasy or non-fiction books to discover a new view on witches and witchcraft.

room on broomRoom on the Broom by Julia Donaldson – A little witch gets some help from some special animal friends but now they all want a ride on her broom….will there be room for everyone? (PB)

witchWitches by Cheryl Christian – Adorable rhymes bring to life this story of Halloween preparations for a group of little witches. (PB)


littlewitchLittle Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett – This 60th anniversary edition brings the story of the very reluctant little witch, Minx, to a whole new generation.  Although it sounds fun to be the daughter of a witch, Minx just wants to be a normal girl.  She takes it upon herself to attend the local school and her adventures are heartwarming and fun.  (ER-2) 

worst witchThe Worst Witch by Jill Murphy – Mildred Hubble is the ready for her first year at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, but things aren’t as easy as she thought they’d be and, just when it can’t get much worse, it seems she’s made Ethel, the favorite student, her sworn enemy.   A funny, fun precursor for witch crazy readers not quite ready to tackle Harry Potter. (ER-2)

witches dahlThe Witches by Roald Dahl –  The enduring tales  Grandmamma tells are about witches, real witches, that look just like regular people.  But they hate children, and the warning stories are never more important than when coming face to face with the Grand High Witch!  A true classic tale as only Dahl can tell it!  (MR-4)

truesalemWitches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer – This award-winning retelling of the hysteria that shook Salem in 1692, told in engaging text and highlighted by riveting illustrations.  (MR -5/6)


blackbird pondThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare –  In 1687, Kit is uprooted from her home and thrust into a new life in colonial Connecticut.  As she struggles to find her way in these new harsh surroundings she finds happiness a new friendship with Hannah Tupper, but Hannah is believed to be a witch.  Can Kit hold true to her heart, and what she knows is right?  Or will duty sway her in these difficult times?  1959 Newbery Award Winner (MR – 6)

crucibleThe Crucible: A Play in Four Acts by Arthur Miller –  Not just for High School English classes anymore, this classic tale of mass hysteria, based on actual events of the Salem Witch Trials, is fascinating as an historical observation.  Take it to another level – when placed in context of the political climate during its writing, the vilifying McCarthy era, it is a social commentary on the power of group mentality.  (YA)

Check out some spooky witchy reads from Mom’s Bookshelf.

deliverancedanceThe Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe – Connie Goodwin is spending the summer cleaning the dilapidated old house in Salem, left to her family by her grandmother, and working on her doctoral proposal.  While cleaning she comes across a lead on original historic source that could change her academic work, her relationship with her advisor and her understanding of her family’s history. (MBS)

discoveryofwitchesA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – After a lifetime suppressing her abilities as a witch in favor of academic research, Diana Bishop discovers an ancient manuscript that pushes her to acknowledge her gifts, embrace and challenge the relationships between creatures, and redefine her beliefs.  The story continues in Shadow of Night and concludes in The Book of Life. (MBS)

witchesdaughterThe Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston – Centuries ago Bess watched her mother hang as a witch, and her desire to escape the same fate led her to Gideon, who awakened power in her – but who has chased her across the centuries to exact payment for saving her life.  Now, in the 21st century, Bess has discovered a young protege.  In sharing her knowledge Bess has awakened feelings she’s kept hidden, but also led Gideon back to claim her soul.   Continue the story of Bess and Gideon in the upcoming sequel The Return of the Witch (publication date 3/8/16)  or discover more “witch” stories by Paula Brackston: The Midnight WitchThe Winter Witch, and The Silver Witch. (MBS)

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Graveyard Ruminations

Down the street from my elementary school, hidden behind a ring of trees, on the grounds of a golf course, stand three simple gravestones.  Weathered by time, they are illegible and unmoveable.   We visited them once, as a class, when learning about the early settlement of our town.  And so began my fascination with cemeteries.   I love looking at them from the highway, stopping in small towns, or historic battlefields.  Old cemeteries are best, ones with tilted stones half buried in earth, tabletops washed free of writing by centuries of wind and rain, elaborate mausoleums bearing family names holding old secrets.   Discovering headstones with tragically short lives elicits sadness, and a grateful heart for the blessings of 21st century medicine.  Come across a particularly long life to wonder at all that soul bore witness to, as time marched on.  I’m especially fond of the park-like setting and rolling hills of Mt. Hope Cemetery where, one day in early November, women come to place their “I Voted” sticker upon the headstone of Susan B. Anthony in thanks, and as a reminder never to take the hard-won right for granted.   For cemeteries are places to honor, remember, grieve, but also to connect us with the lives of those who have gone before us.susanbgrave

This time of year we associate graveyards with the spookie and scary – home to the hostile undead looking to haunt those careless enough to cross through the gates after dark.  There are many frightening tales to enhance this image of cemeteries -but there are also plenty that show a softer side of these final resting places.  Check out the unusual spin these great reads take on the traditional graveyard tale.

43 cemetery roadDying to Meet You (43 Old Cemetery Road) by Kate Klise – When Ignatius B. Grumply moves in to 43 Cemetery Road he presumes it is abandoned, but to his surprise, and frustration, it is occupied by eleven-year old Seymour Hope- and a ghost named Olive C. Spence.  This delightful epistolary novel tells how very different people can come together, opening their eyes and hearts to become a family.   A riveting page-turner, it leaves you wanting more – luckily the series continues in Over My Dead BodyTill Death Do Us BarkThe Phantom of the Post OfficeGreetings from the Graveyard Hollywood, Dead Ahead, and The Loch Ness Punster(MR-4/5)

graveyard bookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Bod Owens hasn’t had a typical childhood.  When his family is murdered the toddler crawls to the graveyard where he is taken in by the resident spirits who raise him, albeit unconventionally, as part of their family.   Things begin changing when Bod questions the world outside the graveyard and where he fits between the living and the dead.  Dangers lurk outside the gates for Bod as the man who murdered his family is out to finish the job. (MR -5/6)  

spotted dogThe Spotted Dog Last Seen by Jessica Scott Kerrin – Derek was sick the day the 6th graders signed up for their community service requirement, so he’s assigned the least desirable project – care and maintenance of the cemetery.  Not only does it sound boring, but Derek carries his own grief from a childhood accident that took the life of his friend.  Surprisingly the lessons and work at the graveyard turn out to be interesting, and a secret mystery discovered in the pages of a book leads Derek and his new friends to uncover the truth about the past – and help him come to terms with the tragedy of his childhood.  (MR -5)

graveyard girlGraveyard Girl by Anna Myers -A haunting historical fiction novel set during the yellow-fever epidemic that, during the summer of 1878, ravaged Memphis, TN.  Eli’s father has fled, unable to handle the loss of Eli’s mother and sister to the disease that has been raging throughout the city.  It is left to Eli to bury them at Elmwood Cemetery, a place hauntingly busy as evidenced by the constant ringing of the bell by the Graveyard Girl.  Just a bit older than Eli, the Graveyard Girl has nursed her father through the fever, but as he’s still too weak, and she has taken over the duties of recording the dead and tolling the bell for each soul lost.  It is through the Graveyard Girl that Eli learns to find strength to go on and the hope to keep living. (MR-5/6)

This October wander through your local graveyard or, for the more ambitious, take a trip to visit one of these remarkable American cemeteries.  Though I highly recommend daylight hours, because it is awfully close to Halloween and you never know who you might meet.

Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia – Set just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC this hallowed military burial ground located on the previous estate of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is a sobering reminder of the sacrifice of our nation’s military.  The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and President John. F. Kennedy’s grave are highlights of this extensive burial ground still in use.

Gettysburg National Cemetery , Gettysburg, Pennysylvania – The first national burial ground for the military dead of the Civil War.  It was at this cemetery’s dedication that President Abraham Lincoln gave his heartfelt 3-minute Gettysburg address.

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia – Known for its Southern Gothic architecture, Bonaventure is hauntingly beautiful and inspiring.

St Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, Louisiana –  The historic, unique, above-ground mausoleum cemetery only encompasses approximately one block in downtown New Orleans, but holds thousands of souls.  Due to new regulations visitors must be part of a paid tour group to visit the cemetery grounds.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, California –  Part cemetery, part cultural events showcase, Hollywood Forever is the final resting place for some of some of the entertainments industries most famous names.  Visitors can see the burial sites for Johnny Ramone, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. & Jr. and  Cecil B. DeMille.  Or take in a concert at the Masonic Lodge, a performing art hall inside the cemetery.  This is truly a unique graveyard – as only Hollywood could do it!

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Spookiest Stories of All…

It’s Halloween!  That time of the year where spooks and ghouls are around every corner and kids of all ages dare to scare.  There are unlimited seasonal favorites for everyone to get in the mood for a night of frights.  For the budding witch or wizard The Worst Witch (MR-3/4) and Harry Potter (MR-4/5, RA) are classics that bring to life the mystery and magic of witchcraft.  Join Creepella von Cacklefur (MR-3/4) as Geronimo Stilton’s creepiest friend meets up with ghosts, pirates and vampires!  Perhaps your child would like nothing more that to move to Scream Street (MR-4/5) where the government agency G.H.O.U.L has relocated young werewolf Luke Watson to live with witches, zombies and vampires!  Maybe you have a little ghoul made of sterner stuff who gets a thrill from being scared silly – try R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps (MR-4/5) series or Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories  (MR- 4 & up).  The Short & Shivery (MR-4/5) series by Robert D. San Souci shares spooky tales from around the globe, putting a multi-cultural spin on the universal thrill of being terrified!

For my family one series stands out.  More sweet than spooky, filled with ghosts, vampires and mysterious happenings, Araminta Spookie stories are an all-time favorite.  Araminta first captured my heart when Shakespeare was a first grader with her own unique interests.  As I’ve stated before, there aren’t any “bad” books for beginning readers.  (See my post Reading is Reading).  The trouble for Shakespeare is that she was an advanced reader, but totally uninterested in “traditional” girl books.

Then we stumbled upon Araminta.  She’s kooky and crazy.  She lives with her aunt and vampire uncle in a haunted house.   She loves the bats in the belfry and the coat of armor in the hall.   We had finally found a heroine that was strong and crafty, quick-witted and quirky, proud of who she is and willing to fight to preserve her family identity.  All that, and age appropriate!December 08 153

I adored Araminta from the start, and no more so than on Christmas morning when Shakespeare received the latest book and abandoned unopened gifts to curl up on the couch and dive into the latest installment.  Proof positive of the compelling power of reading when you discover a character to identify with.

Araminta does have spooky characters, so be cautious if your young reader is sensitive to scares.  But Araminta is a refreshing member of the early reader genre for those who look for the supernatural beyond the world of fairies – and with her sidekick, Edmund the ghost, she appeals to both boys and girls in search of a spooktacular series  – anytime of the year.

aramintahauntedhouseMy Haunted House  is the first book in the Araminta Spookie series by Angie Sage.  Araminta loves her haunted house!  But her Aunt Tabby – who is never in a good mood – wants to move and she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.  It is time for Araminta to take matters into her own hands and, with the help of some of the houses more supernatural residents, plans an Awful Ambush guaranteed to keep anyone from buying their house.  But will it work?  Or will Araminta find herself packing? (ER-1-3)

araminaswordingrottoThe Sword in the Grotto The second installment in Araminta’s story finds her searching for the perfect gift for Sir Horace’s 500th birthday.  But what do you get a suit of armor?  When the search puts Araminta and new friend Wanda in danger they wonder if they’ll even survive to make it to the party!

aramintafrognappedFrognapped  Araminta didn’t do it!  Barry’s frogs have gone missing and everyone blames Araminta.  Sure, Araminta is usually at fault  when things go wrong, but this time she’s not responsible and she’s going to prove it.  A mysterious aquarium show and a cast of creepy characters won’t deter Araminta as she sets out to rescue the frogs!

aramintavampirebratVampire Brat A werewolf in the hidden passages below the house?  Araminta is sure of it and is going to prove it.  Then Max arrives, her Uncle Drac’s nephew, and he’s full of terrifying trouble as he’s creeping around the house.  Can Araminta figure out what Max is up to, and capture the werewolf?  Nothing can stop Araminta when she sets her mind to it!

aramintaghostsittersGhostsitters Isn’t it awful enough that Aunt Tabby and Uncle Drac are going to Transylvania and missing Araminta’s birthday?  Nope, it’s worse.  They’ve hired a babysitter! Things are looking up when the babysitter turns out to be Araminta’s super-cool teen cousin, Mathilda.  Until the twin trouble-making ghosts she brought with her wreak havoc on Spookie House.  How will Araminta stop them and save her birthday?

For slightly older readers Araminta author Angie Sage also wrote the Septimus Heap series – a magical story about the seventh son of a seventh son, who holds the key to defeating the Necromancer DomDaniel and saving his world from darke magic. (MR-4/5)


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