Thursday, October 30, 2014

Books, Reading, Family and Halloween

I like to read certain books at certain times of the year. The past few years I have read Bruce Coville's The Monster's Ring to my kids. I was thinking that I would not read it to them this year. My daughter asked me if or when I was going to read it this year. I do not remember which. I had been straddling the fence on the issue and her question convinced me that I needed to read it again.

The question is why did she wanted me to read it again. She is a great reader herself and could easily read it in a couple of hours. She is the same daughter who didn't want to learn to read because she thought I would then stop reading to her. Later, I shared with my family how Jim Trelease stated in his marvelous book, The Read Aloud Handbook, how college professors read to their students. This convinced my daughter that it was okay to learn to read.

Bruce Coville's is a modern day Junior Dr. Jekll and Mr. Hyde. The main character Russell Crannaker is bullied at school. Right before he stumles into Mr. Elives' magic shop. Mr. Elives bullies him into buying a magic ring. Russell has always been interested in magic and monsters. This magic ring turns out to be more than he bargained for. The Monster's Ring is the first of the Magic Shops books. My kids enjoyed hearing all of them read to them.

Another favorite book to read in October is Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked this Way Comes. This is a great book that requires repeated reading. It tells the story of how Halloween came early one year in a small, sleepy town. It is told from the perspective of two boys, Will and Jim, about to turn fourteen. It is an excellent companion to Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. One of the major themes in this book is good vs. evil. Bradbury makes evil so real in this book you can actually feel and taste it.

Another important character in this book is Will's father, Charles Halloway. I strongly identified with this character. He works as a janitor at the library. He is comfortable around books and could easily have been the librarian. In a time of crisis he explores the books for a way to confront the evil lurking in the shadows.

Another important theme is time. The boys are about to lose their innocence as they face pure evil. The image of the clock and time ticking away seems to be an ever-present presence. Mr. Halloway is feeling his own age. He sees his life ticking away. He is trying to make peace with the aging process and find meaning in his life. As I said, it cuts very close to home.

Both these books will provide pleasure to you in the Halloween season or any time of the year.

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