Here's some of our favorite children's books! Mekayla Trout, who has done some book reviews for us before, is also contributing to the post today!
Julie- I’m not quite as old as Uncle Morty, but I’m digging back into my childhood for recommendations. I am going to recommend Frog and Toad and Winnie the Pooh. All of our readers already know my brain is spring-besotted and flower-obsessed, and both these book series put me in mind of gardens, forests, rain on the roof, tea shared with friends. In fact, I think if you could take a tiny peek into the real estate of my brain, you would find a good portion taken up by the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s bordered by the River where Frog and Toad swim. Toad’s flower garden is there too, the one he agonizes over until the first seedlings sprout.
Not only are these books part of my inner gardenscape, both series focus on the importance of deep abiding friendships, even when your friends are as grumpy as Toad, as sad as Eeyore, as scatterbrained as Pooh, or as frightened as Piglet. I know that there are lots of new, great book series out there for kids, but these books are still close to my heart, and they haunt my gardens, a lovely, hovering dream.
Jarad- The books I loved as a child were classic fantasy: great, burgeoning quests, witches, wizards, dragons were mostly what I read, and any book with those themes I immediately devoured. I made it my mission to read all those that I could find in both the school and the public library (consequently, Halloween will always be my favorite holiday). I'm located in the South, and I know a lot of people who were restricted in their reading as a child, and I'm lucky that those ridiculous rules were never imposed on me. The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and the Lost Years of Merlin series come to mind. As a result, I was often lost in my head most of the time (and sometimes still am). I was also always reading under the table during math class because who needs adding or division when you have book? My teacher, unfortunately, did not see it that way. Apparently, math is essential or something.
I drove through the dark last night and the fog was on the move, like an army of ghosts. It wasn’t a sit down, settling fog, moving in with a steady purpose. It was one of those fogs that swirled itself into a solid cloud that totally obscured the moon soaked farms on either side one minute and broke into solitary wraiths the next, each with a different mournful aspiration, uncertain as to the path down which its hopes might hide. Amusing antics, but I was in no hurry to join their ranks so it was a bit of a harrowing drive. Here’s the road; now it’s gone, a funny joke for the specters of the fog, not so funny for me.
But this morning the joke was on them. It seems last night that the circus of ghostly fog finally exhausted itself and settled in the trees for a bit of a rest after the performance. It was caught napping by the cold and when the sun woke it up this morning it found it had been transformed from a shifting, dancing troupe of performing ghosts into a mere embellishment for the trees, solid, stiff and fixed in place, an embarrassing position for a group of specters. Trees that yesterday were mere skeletons of themselves, that were nothing the eye could settle on, were suddenly bursting like clouds behind the small tacky buildings on the main drag, glittering, white, filled out almost as big as summer with leaves of ice. Tops of houses and even the little strip malls were coated with white. Dead grass as sharp and crystalline as icicles. From behind the concrete walls of the bridge, frosty branches hung over the Elk River as it splashed over the rocks like liquid ice. Everything glittered like Fairyland, iced with frozen ghosts. For a few minutes, it looked as though Walmart and Sonic and that ugly building covered with blue tarp at the end of the street might have wandered into some land of enchantment by mistake, as if they might be the ephemeral, endangered species instead of the trees. I thought maybe the plain and dirty buildings might feel they'd wandered into the wrong realm and disappear in a cloud of confusion. But the sun kept rising and getting stronger and the ghostly cloud began to wake up and pull itself together, ashamed of being caught earthbound. As I write this the cloud of ghosts is lifting itself again and leaving, Walmart and Sonic and Marvin’s and Krystal are sighing with relief to be back in the “real” world, and the ghosts, I assume are going back home or still searching for whatever it is that a flock of ghosts might be searching for.
High Static, Dead Lines
Written by Kristen Gallerneaux
Review by Roy Peak
Lou Reed exclaimed in song that "Electricity comes from other planets," and he may be more right than he ever knew.
Reading a book should expand one's knowledge as well as entertain. It should take you to places you have never been to before, that you would not have been able to arrive at on your own. It should be a journey of openness, with mysteries revealed layer by layer as you read deeper into its pages. Once you have finished a book -- a really great book — you should be a different person than when you started.
If you're a person who reads regularly, then you know the feeling of getting into a slump. You may be in one right now, especially if you've had a busy Holiday season. Here are some of the ways we get back into reading when we've been slacking!
Julie – If I’m in a slump, it usually because I’m busy and my mind is whirring about other things. I find that this is not the time to attempt the medieval works, Faulkner (I started blogging about why I couldn’t read As I Lay Dying before, but I couldn’t make myself read enough of it to make it work, and if you like the guy…fine…he just can’t find much of a resting place in my brain…I’m willing to blame myself) or Moby Dick for the hundredth time. Page five of MD and I skip to the end. So, if I’m stuck in a rut, unable to concentrate, I go to my comfort zone and hang out with old friends in familiar places. I can dive in, relax for a few minutes and then return to whatever soul sucking mess I have going on in the real world.
I stick to old favorites, sometimes going all the way back to children’s literature. The Mary Russell series is favorite, Jane Austen, and Poe if I’m feeling up to being an adult. But sometimes, I just pick up Alice in Wonderland, or Winnie-the-Pooh or The Princess and the Goblin. In crazy times, I tend to go for a setting where I’m happy, Regency England, the Hundred Acre Wood, or even the creepy bridal suite in Ligeia. But as the Wise Man said in Labyrinth, “Sometimes the way forward is the way back.” There’s no shame in a wise retreat.
Uncle Morty and the rest of the Sacred Chickens team would like to share their reading resolutions for 2019. We hope you're making your own literary resolutions and Happy New Year!
Your Uncle Morty has no specific books in mind. However, he does plan to read a good number of biographies in the coming year to help him contemplate his upcoming project: Mortimer After, A Deathography. So if you have any memoirs or biographies to recommend, please feel free to make suggestions here or on the FaceBook page.
Uncle Morty seems to have a lot of times on his hands since he departed the land of the living, and he spends much of that time writing (especially when asked nicely). So, over the years he's figured out a few tips and tricks about writing along the way, and he'd like to share them with us!
By the way, your Uncle Morty can always use original material. The living around here are always pestering the dying nightlights out of him to work on their silly blog. As such, he has created a writing exercise. Feel free to share your results with us. We may publish them so your Uncle Morty can actually RIP once in a while. This exercise can be used with your own work too. Use it to enhance dialogue. (When you get to Step 2 you’ll see how that works.)
In the Cemetery
In the cemetery, I was standing on my knees,
reading verses of the holy book to the tombs
I was praying with tears on my cheeks
until the graveyard stopped me and asked me if
I was reading verses or reading sorrows
with an emotionless face, he asked to repeat
I started reading again and, his face was getting
red as his eyes were dropping my unrhymed tears
he stopped me with anger and screamed out
why more grieves, why more death, and less peace
I responded to him, why did hope sold us to traitors
why life is struggling with us, why did the wars rape us shamelessly
we cried together as he was saying that he’s listening to
spirits weeping with us, as the clouds will rain again
he asked me again, why our world is no longer bright
instead, it’s full of darkness and lots of bloody cuts
our grandparents were the farmers, who lift the sunshine
and brunt themselves to death, just to protect the seeds
our mothers stole the moon from the wall of the night
they hid in their coffins and the stars after our fathers
turned the rainbow into a solider in the zone of death
and made the snow into a drinkable water to survive
Ruminations on Gender and Subjugation in Ashputtle, or The Mother’s Ghost by Angela Carter- Jarad Johnson
Jarad reflects on this posthumously published story by Angela Carter
Gender and the ideologies surrounding are integral parts of our everyday lives. We see it in the way we dress ourselves, the different shampoos for men and women, what jobs are stereotypically done by men and women, and so on and so forth. The outward expression of gender, and thus the ideology of gender itself, is bombarding us every single minute of every day. It follows then, that if this gender ideology ingratiates itself in our lives, it’s also in our books, and appears everywhere in them. We use it to draw the line on what is male and what is female, leaving no room in between those two categories. However, once someone begins to study the concept of gender, then those categories become somewhat meaningless, and our understanding of gender is then challenged. But what then is the exact definition of gender? The answer is somewhat vague, as gender’s meaning and interpretation has become very ambiguous and multilayered, as such a complicated topic should be. However, it can be said without a doubt that gender and sex are not synonymous with each other, as many people often falsely conflate them together. Sex is usually used to refer to the biological aspects of a person, such as their reproductive organs. Gender occurs in the mind, and in the society.
A Secret History of Witches
Written by Louisa Morgan
Review by Jarad Johnson
The multigenerational novel takes us through five generations of witches, the Orchiere from 1821 France to England in WWII. The novel shows the reader a brief history of each woman, usually around the time she inherits her power, which is passed from mother to daughter. But, I have to say, for this to be a book about witches, there is surprisingly little magic in the novel, and the witches in the novel don’t seem to use their power all that much. I was curious about this, and after some googling, I found an interview in which the author called the sort of things we would normally associate with witches like cauldrons, broomsticks, spell casting, etc, “easy magic” and that “Their craft represents knowledge, and power, and the thing some people fear most in women—independence.” I actually really like this approach to witchcraft. (Of course, I still would have liked more magic to appear in the novel.) The novel has a strong feminist core, that comes to the forefront when the mothers insist that their daughters understand how their magic gives them power.
Here are some of the books Sacred Chickens wants you to read this week!
The Knife Thrower by Steven Millhauser
What? A collection of eerie dreams that take the form of short stories where a place as ordinary as a department store becomes a fantastical world of its own.
Why? Because Millhauser sees the world the same way as your old Uncle Morty does, thin spots here and there in the walls between reality and fantasy, haunted by the flesh-covered who imagine themselves mundane instead of the extraordinary accidents they actually are.