Click-Clack The Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman

Happy Hallowe’en!

It’s also All Hallows’ Read, a festival that Neil Gaiman thought up 2 years ago, which proposes that on Hallowe’en, or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books.  In the spirit of such a fun literary holiday, and also in an effort to suck up to my beloved Gaiman by doing everything he tells me to, I have listened to my very first audio book.

I know, I know.  Some people LOVE audio books; they save time, and they’re portable, and blah blah blah.  But they’ve just never been my thing.  I like to feel and smell and see the words, even as they paint a picture in my mind.  It took me ages to come around to e-books, and even then it was only to allow more room in my suitcase for shoes when I travel.  But my main problem with audio books is the voices.  If the narrator has a particular way of speaking (i.e. annoying), or a strange accent, or even if they just have too much POW! BANG! SLAM! during the exciting parts, it completely distracts me from the story.

All that being said, if anyone could have made me listen to (read?) an audio book, it was Neil Gaiman.  He is my absolute favourite author, whether it be novels, graphic novels, short stories or kids books. So, when Neil announced on his blog that he had teamed up with Audible to release a new, unpublished short story, (for free!), I was willing to give it a shot.  Especially considering it’s also narrated by Neil Gaiman, so I can’t be mad about the voice.  As an added incentive, Audible will donate $1 for every download through Halloween to the education charity DonorsChoose.

 “‘What kind of story would you like me to tell you?’ ‘Well,’ he said, thoughtfully, ‘I don’t think it should be too scary, because then when I go up to bed, I will just be thinking about monsters the whole time. But if it isn’t just a little bit scary, then I won’t be interested. And you make up scary stories, don’t you?’” So begins this sweet, witty, deceptive little tale from master storyteller Neil Gaiman. Lock the doors, turn off the lights, and enjoy. (Audible)

As mentioned, this is a short story, which Neil read at the George Mason Award evening, and it will be published in a forthcoming anthology.  The whole thing is only about 12 minutes long, and starts off with a brief introduction about All Hallows’ Read and the charitable donations.  Around the 2 minute mark, we get into the story, which is being told from the point of view of a guy taking care of his girlfriend’s little brother.  The boy requests a bedtime story, one that’s just the right amount of scary, while they walk through the big, old, and very dark house.  The boy specifically asks for a story about Click-Clack the Rattle Bag, because those are the best kinds of stories, and “Click-Clacks are the best monsters ever”.  They’re even scarier than vampires.

As always, Gaiman does an excellent job of setting up the story, and detailing the surroundings in a way that put a vivid picture in your head.  The use of the first person narration, as well as the language and phrasing used by the little boy, manage to inject you into the conversation.  There are a bare minimum of sound effects here, but they are used wisely to mimic a creaky old house.  The story is obviously a more family-friendly kind of scary, but the description of what Click-Clacks “do to people” is icky enough to give kids pause.

All in all, this is a great little story, and a perfect Hallowe’en treat (to go with the mountain of candy I am currently devouring).  I am intrigued by how different it is to hear a story, as opposed to reading it; it was kinda like listening to a spooky story being told around a campfire.

So, in the words of Neil Gaiman: “Go to www.Audible.com/ScareUs to download it if you’re in the US or the rest of the world except the UK and www.Audible.co.uk/ScareUs to download it if you’re in the UK/Commonwealth. And then download the story. As I may have told you already, it’s free — absolutely, utterly, perfectly free.

Holiday Horror for Kids – Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

You know…we’re not biased.  We love scary books for any and all holidays.  If there’s a spooky Easter story out there, you can bet you’ll be hearing about it next spring.  If horror reigns anywhere for Mother’s Day, we’ll find it.  If Valentines Day gets scary, or Thanksgiving yields a tale of turkey terror, we will have front row seats.  Count on it.

Where were we going with this?

Oh yeah – it’s Hanukkah right now, which makes it the perfect time to break out this charming picture book!

Hershel, a traveller, walks into a village on the first night of Hanukkah expecting to find a celebration, but the village is dark and quiet.  Goblins haunt the old synagogue and stop all attempts to celebrate the holiday, making the villagers’ lives miserable in the process.  Hershel decides he must help.  Even when he’s told that to stop the goblins he must stay in the old haunted synagogue for eight nights, he’s undaunted.  He must manage to light the Hanukkah candles each night despite the goblins, and on the eighth night the king of the goblins must light them himself.  Nobody expects him to make it back out, but off he goes anyway.  Using his quick wits and cleverness, he manages to outsmart the goblins in a variety of creative ways and get the candles lit each of the first seven nights.  But how will he survive when the powerful goblin king appears on the eighth night, and how could he possibly manage to get the Hanukkah-hating creature to light the candles himself?  Grab a copy and find out how Hershel saves the holiday.

We love a tale where the hero uses his brain to defeat the bad guys (not that there’s anything wrong with plain old butt-kicking), and this book is a great example.  Fun and even a little educational with a supernatural threat to overcome, this Caldecott Honor book is worth a read.  The illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman (A several-time Caldecott winner herself) are atmospheric and generally superb.  We love it.

Happy Hanukkah!

Holiday Horror for Kids – The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

When one thinks of Clive Barker, a million different things may come to mind. He defined fantasy with Imajica and The Great and Secret Show. He seduced us with Galilee, and horrified us with his Books of Blood and The Hellbound Heart. His movies have shown us scores of things we never would have otherwise seen. If you’re a fan, you’re no doubt already aware of The Thief of Always, a truly classic work of fantasy and horror for children.

Harvey Swick is bored. Fearing that the ‘cruel, slumbering beast February’ will swallow him whole, Harvey must look into himself to find out what it really is that he wants. All of his questions are answered with the arrival of a stranger named Rictus, who offers to take him away from all the boredom. Their destination is The Holiday House, where Harvey soon finds that every day spans all seasons and whatever he wishes for will come true. With Spring every morning, Summer every afternoon, Autumn and Halloween every evening, and Winter and Christmas every night, what more could any child want? Upon entering The Holiday House, Harvey finds two friends – Lulu and Wendell – to spend his days with in happiness. That is, until he finds that things aren’t entirely what they seem…and there may be no escape from The Holiday House.

A fantastic story, this young adult novel is essential reading for a burgeoning horror fan and anyone with a thirst for something truly unique. Come on back Wednesdays this month for more holiday horror for kids!

What Was I Scared Of?

Sometimes as you peruse your bookshelf, you know nothing but a classic will do.  And nothing in the picture book world is more classic than Dr. Seuss!  This lesser-known Suess is tons of fun and a perfect fit for little guys who like a bit of creepiness in their tall tales.  The new glow-in-the-dark edition is extra fun, too!

Walking in the woods one night, the main character of this wacky little volume spies ‘a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them’.  He’s normally not afraid of anything, but when he starts seeing these spooky empty pants moving about everywhere he goes he becomes terrified of them.  Finally one night he comes face-to-face with the pale green pants and starts screaming and yelling for help.  How will the pants react, and what will become of this unwanted encounter?

This is a cute story with a happy ‘don’t be afraid of something just because it’s different than you’ ending.  The illustrations are classic Seuss with a dark twist.  Almost everything but the main character and the pants is just black line drawing on a green background, lending the book an excellent spooky night-time feel.

Blend the whimsical rhyming genius of Dr. Seuss with a creepy mystery to get to the bottom of and what do you have?  A book that thrills our mini horror-fiends.  Worth a read!

KinderScares photo contest winners!

First of all, we’d like to thank everybody who participated in our Halloween photo contest!  We got so many awesome pictures and we love them all!

Without further ado, the winners of our fun prize packages!

Kimberly sent us this pic of her baby mermaid, Annie:

Cutest thing ever?!

 

She’ll be receiving copies of Scott Nicholson’s ebooks for kids for her little guys to enjoy.

Caffeinated Joe sent us this pic of his daughter as Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd and his son, Charlie Brown in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown:

They’ll be receiving Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex, and A Zombie Ate My Cupcake.

And Tymothy submitted this photo of his son Jubal as the Joker.  Looks awesome!

 

They’ll be getting Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, the Bert of the Dead art, and Little Monsters Cookbook.

Congrats to all our winners! We hope everybody had a fantastic Halloween season!