Do It Yourself, or Books for Kids Scared of Halloween (or Both!)

Once upon a time, a long long time ago (OK, about nine years) there was a little girl named Chestnut (OK, that's an alias) and she was terrified of Halloween. The candy aisle. The kids with pumpkin carriers. Worst of all, the giant, wheezing blow-up monsters hovering outside peoples houses (also, if it was around, the Scab-Busting Rat, though he's not specifically Halloween-related).

Whenever we passed any of these things anywhere (for some reason CVS's display was the most terrifying), she would more or less melt, and would need to be carried out, sobbing.

It was great!

Anyway, none of this seems at all relevant anymore. Now she is scared of not passing Mandarin. And maybe also scared of the spooky specter of applying to college. And, you know, climate change. However! When I saw this excellent post, I remembered that as long as there are kids and Halloween, someone, somewhere will be crying. And that having a book about it would have been oh so helpful. Oh, if only!

This is such an excellent idea, and so fun and silly, and I wish I could read it to 5-year-old Chestnut, but alas that time has passed. But perhaps for you, or someone you know, it has not passed. If so, how excellent! You can make a book yourself! Or get this one that she made! Or just write something down on regular paper, and then eat some candy corn! No matter how it works out, it seems it's a win.

I wish you all a totally un-scary halloween that still involves candy corn in some way.

I Am Fancy

So, as the delightful Karen at Mignardise pointed out, I wrote a review.

I'm not gonna' lie (did you think I would?)—writing this was really exciting and wonderful and inspiring. Not least because it came about because of this blog. And the truth is that you who read here and say many interesting and thought-provoking things, are a huge part of this blog. So thank you all for that. There is no way at all that I would still be writing this, or that it would be the blog it is, without you.

Anyway, though, fancy, right? I'm so fancy I barely even recognize myself.

The Diamond in the Window Goes to the Movies!

So we went to the movies. 

This might not sound like much to those of you who, you know, go to the movies. But for us, it's huge.

It's one of those things that we somehow forgot to inure the children to early on (like vegetables and being on time) and so by the time we got to movies, they were all so BIG and LOUD and UNPREDICTABLE that, well, they were too much. And some people of my acquaintance have a bit of a problem with plot tension. In a book, you can skip to the last (or next) page. In a movie? You just panic. So somehow, with the lovely exception of Moonrise Kingdom, we just don't go to the movies.

Until a week ago. When we hauled everyone in the house (inadvertently spreading a rather vicious influenza—sorry, every single person at the Ziegfeld) to see Les Miserables on Christmas Day. With yes, a visit to Chinatown for dinner afterwards. (Jews on Christmas day, we know how to party! Except for the influenza!)

We prepared. Oh, how we prepared! We read the synopsis on Wikipedia multiple times, to avoid the heavy stress of not knowing who would die. SPOILER ALERT: Pretty much everyone dies. We watched the preview. Often. We saw the pirated scene from the Spanish version on Gawker. We PREPARED.

And? I know, many of you have seen the multiple scolding reviews. I will not go so far as to say this is a good movie. Or that "You'll Love It!" However? I had an awesome time. 

Note, for the faint of heart: said awesome time involved rubbing Chestnut's back as she dissolved into wracking sobs over, and over, and over again. (Also rubbing her back as she collapsed in horror from the onslaught of the previews, but that's another story.) Crying, it must be admitted, myself. (It's sad, OK? They're Miserables, after all.) Watching Diana, whose taste runs to cerebral, meta, dark humor, also cry. Watching Aragorn cry. Watching the guy in front of us get angry because Diana touched his seat with her foot (he probably has the flu now—sorry!). Watching both guys in front of Chestnut turn in their seats repeatedly to see who was crying that hard. Floating out of the theater in full catharsis mode (catharsized?), empty of tears, uplifted by the whole "To love another person is to see the face of God," etc. Just: wow.

My belief: do you know an 11-year-old girl who feels things deeply? Go with her. Buy lots and lots of popcorn and m&ms. Prepare well. Cry your eyes out. When things get too intense, eat more candy. Emerge, renewed. Have an excellent Chinese dinner. Then go home and read a book.


A Hurricane Week—What We Found Out at the Library

First know this: we are fine. Better than fine. Able, for fleeting moments at least, to appreciate the ridiculous luxury of our daily life—the electricity, the warmth, the preserved food, the dryness of our floors and walls and beds.

There has been no school for a week, which is…refreshing? Strange? Both odd and wonderful. My faithful collaborators have been reading steadily and widely, if not deeply somehow. While this should be an opportunity for clear and deep focus, somehow it hasn't been so for us. There is an unsettled feeling to everything, a sort of fracturing of our attention.

What we were able to do, was volunteer at our local library. We had gotten the alert that many of their regular workers were unable to get there, so I headed over, and when I got the OK to have under-18 help, so did Diana.

We got to wheel one of those book carts around and shelve books. I must say, it felt pretty cool, finally seeing what it's like in the back room (spoiler: lots of books).

Also? Amusing fact: Ayn Rand was classified as YA. Disturbing fact: Ayn Rand was in the "assignment books" section (what kind of assigment?). Neutral fact: at least in our library, graphic novels for adults are mixed in with other fiction, including fantasy, sci fi, and romance, in an invigoratingly democratic hodgepodge. (Yes, I just wrote "hodgepodge," and it felt great.)

While that was satisfying, we still feel…strange. We are so lucky, and are very appreciative of our luck. I hope you this finds you all warm and dry and safe.

Local Brooklyn people can also find volunteer opportunities here. Though I think the library is all set for now.

And I Went to KidLitCon, But I Was Still Myself

I did it. That's what I tell myself anyway. I went to KidLitCon2012, and I gave my presentation. I figured out how to work the non-Mac computer, and I listened. I got to see the amazing in- and under-side of the New York Public Library, which is the coolest place in the world. It has outsides in its inside. See here:


We were inside, but what you see—that marble expanse—is the old exterior wall, that now lives inside the building like a secret. Also: the old New York City reservoir, on which the public library was built, is still there. Its strange rough walls exist as a kind of backdrop.


Those stones? The old reservoir. I can't tell you how cool I found this. I wish I had my normal camera, instead of my phone.

Here it is all together: the crazy reservoir wall, the marble exterior trapped in the interior for all eternity, the window that used to look outside now looking inside. If I were going to run away in 5th grade, this is where I think I would come. Though no question: it does feel haunted.


I did get to feel all special and like I worked there, because the room where I presented was here:


Not only did I have the awesome velvet rope, but if you look down the hall (and pretend it's not blurry), you can see that there are also ornate metal gates, which you had to slip through. Thank you to all the kind and thoughtful people who attended my presentation. Endless, endless thanks to the NYPL, and to Betsy Bird, who organized the conference with help from Monica Edinger and other amazing people. They are who allowed it to exist, and gave me a place to present, and a forum for so many interested people to communicate together about the books they love.

I always wish, with things like this, that I will go there and instantly feel, "I belong! I belong so damn much that I will lose any self-consciousness I ever had, and will move freely and gaily among the others, exchanging views and thoughts, and shedding my normal self like a dirty old cloak."

This did not happen. And probably it would be a little creepy if it happened? But.

But I do wish I wasn't seized by shyness. That I didn't get quiet and shut off when I'm in a group of more than, oh, one person. I wish I could just walk up to people I wanted to talk to and talk to them. I wish I didn't convince myself in the moment "It will be better if I just go off alone" and then later think, "Wait, I didn't have to do that."

Maybe someday, I will be different. In any case, here is the most beautiful picture I took of the library.


It has it all, the spooky reservoir, the outside inside, then soaring up and away to the sky. I must say that I am very very tempted to find a metaphor in here somewhere, but I think I will leave it alone.