Halloween Movies (for kids!)

This year my daughter asked to see some Halloween-themed (scary) movies so I picked out several titles and we have been watching… or rather starting to watch and then stopping when they get too scary. Although she loves Halloween, my daughter, like me, is a huge scaredy-cat. Everything that goes bump in the night is elevated to serial killer proportions in our minds (I once stayed awake all night while camping CONVINCED that the shadow on the tent was a murderer; turns out it was a tree). I thought I would share some of our recent selections along with our personal ratings, in case you your 6 year old is also a scaredy-cat… you can use my mistakes instead of freaking out your own kids! Win-win.

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Black Cauldron: A 1980s-era Disney animated film about a vision-having pig and her knightly protector. I thought this would be a nice little story for my daughter. Having never seen it myself I settled in for what I assumed would be something similar to the Sword in the Stone. Yeah… no. Ten minutes in and my daughter was freaked out by the horned-king and his grim reaper-like appearance. She left the living room with the parting line “This will give me nightmares, are you crazy?” It does seem like an interesting story that we may be able to revisit once she is older.

Hocus Pocus: This movie really needs no introduction. It is a modern-day classic. My kiddo has caught it in the middle on TV, but never from the beginning. I forgot about the opening scene where a little girl gets her soul sucked right out of her and her brother gets turned into a cat. This freaked her out, but luckily Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are so outlandish and over the top even during this part of the movie that she quickly got over it and watched the rest of the movie. By the way… this news article broke my heart and smashed all my dreams.

Beetlejuice: Again, another classic film. I loved this movie when I was about my daughter’s age. As an adult I realized there was a TON of stuff that went over my head and luckily the same thing happened for my daughter. The scary stuff is scary but also so over-exaggerated that she found the movie hilarious. And remember this is a kid that got scared by a Disney movie about a pig.

The Witches: another classic (from my childhood) based on Roald Dahl’s book. As a kid I could. not. watch. this movie. Just too scary. Even as an adult something about it just spooks me. My daughter did exactly the same. She was uncomfortable through the whole set up and as soon as the witches showed themselves for who they really were she jumped up and ran out of the room.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: This is what started the whole “I want to watch scary stuff” fad in our house back in early September. We were on Sleepy Hollow Road and I made a comment about the story of the headless horseman, which fascinated my daughter. So after reading a few versions of the original Washington Irving tales (which went right over her head) I got the DVD. This DVD has the Disney version from the 1940s narrated by Bing Crosby. She loved this cartoon. It was really funny and not scary until the end and even the scary stuff is handled with a lot of humor. We really are spineless.

GhostBusters: Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Need I say more? My daughter LOVES this movie. She can’t sit through scary episodes of her favorite Nickelodeon shows, but Bill Murray having a proton pack showdown with Slimer, red-eyed murderous dogs, Zuul? She can’t get enough of it. Apparently 6 year olds really love live-action 1980s movies. Who knew?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: I know this isn’t technically a Halloween movie, but just try and tell me that this doesn’t make you think of fall and cold weather. My daughter loved this movie. I tried to read the book to her chapter by chapter, but it is still just a little too much for her. We haven’t moved on to the next movie either. I figure she has her whole childhood to be introduced to the HP world, why rush it?

The Addams Family: My daughter loves this movie, but it isn’t really scary. It is more about people who are different.

Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin: She loves this. Of course it is completely not scary and about as tame as you can be.

Hotel Transylvania: A story about a dad learning to accept his daughter as she grows up. But, you know, based around vampires and mummies. She gets a kick out of this, I think, because the scary monsters aren’t scary, they are just like you and me.

This is as far as we have gotten with our viewing and reviews, but just in case you have seen these or just really love watching seasonal themed kids movies here is the whole list I have on hold for us this October!

The Haunted Mansion

Corpse Bride

The Nightmare Before Christmas (I have tried to get her to watch this before and she never makes it more than 20 minutes in, we will see if she can handle it this year)

Coraline

Monster House

Paranorman

The Worst Witch (You know you love you some hunky warlock named Tim Curry)

The Vampire’s Assistant (PG-13)

Frankenweenie

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (PG)

Hope these movies help get you ready for Halloween!

-Natalie

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Common misconceptions

Do you use Wikipedia? I find that people either love it or hate it (or just don’t trust it). I rarely go there for the final word on anything, but I do love it as a starting point for topics I don’t know much about (Actually, I checked it just moments ago to find out who Lena Dunham’s mom is– Laurie Simmons, FYI). Most of the time the information on the site seems to be fairly accurate, but I especially love the footnotes! The footnotes are a great way to instantly find a short bibliography of sources.

Another thing I love about Wikipedia is the strange articles that you can find there– like this one about popular misconceptions. (Did you know that Napoleon was actually not that short?) Here are a few other articles that I especially love:

Ampelmännchen, aside from being a great German word that translates to little light man, is also an interesting article about these pedestrian walk signals from East Germany that survived reunification in 1990.

Have you heard of the Borough of S.N.P.J. in Lawrence County, PA? It stands for Slovenska Narodna Podporna Jednota  and is a recreation hall that applied to be a municipality in 1977 to get around liquor laws.

Calculator spelling has a name– beghilos!  Everyone spelled out 5318008 and 0.7734 in elementary school, right?

Need a better word for doodads or whatchamacallits? There’s a whole list of placeholder names here. (Gewgaw, gizmo, gubbins, hoofer doofer…)

The Waffle House Index is a real thing, guys. I actually had to check the footnotes on this one to make sure someone didn’t just make it up, but in this case truth really is stranger than fiction. FEMA actually does consider the strength of a hurricane by whether Waffle Houses nearby are open or closed.

Do you have a favorite Wikipedia article? Do you use it to find reliable information or just steer clear altogether?

-Irene

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Brooding Dukes and Damsels in Distress

Gothic novel: a novel in which magic, mystery, and chivalry are the chief characteristics.

A Handbook to Literature (6th edition) by C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon

Windswept moors, drafty and remote castles, stormy nights, and a dark and dangerous hero suffering lots of angst. Jane Austen spoofed it in Northanger Abbey in 1816 while the Bronte sisters epitomized it in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in the Victorian era. But what about today? Read on for some historical romances with a darker journey to happily ever after.

Máire Claremont’s Mad Passions series.

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In the Victorian era, it wasn’t considered unusual for powerful men to send their troublesome women to an insane asylum for reasons such as, say, having a nervous breakdown after the death of a child (The Dark Lady) or witnessing a father murder a beloved mother (The Lady in Red). Men, however, are not immune to commitment by a parent for opium addiction (The Dark Affair).

Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed by Anna Campbell. (Sons of Sin series)

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As payment for her married sister’s gambling debts, Sidonie Forsythe agrees to replace her sister in Jonas Merrick’s bed. In doing so, she will give up her virtue to a man haunted by his past and determined to prove his parentage.

Taken by the Duke by Jess Michaels. (Pleasure Wars series)

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Lady Ava Windbury is kidnapped by Christian Rothcastle and taken to his estate in revenge for one sibling’s death and another’s incapacitation in this Romeo and Juliet love story.

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare. (Castles Ever After series)

duke

Take one penniless and homeless orphan, add one tormented duke, and a dash of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table and you get this charming gothic spoof.

A Duke’s Temptation by Jillian Hunter. (Bridal Pleasures series)

temptation

Lily Boscastle is the biggest fan of the mysterious and handsome Duke of Gravenhurst’s “horrid” novels. When she becomes his housekeeper at his remote estate, she discovers the real secrets behind the man. Another gothic spoof, this one is best listened to aloud on e-audio, read by the enchanting Justine Eyre.

-Maria A.

Note: This post is the fourth in a series highlighting historical romance novels I’ve greatly enjoyed.

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On Not Getting Lost in the Wilderness (or Dying)

Quebec Run Wild Area. Photo by author.

Quebec Run Wild Area. Photo by author.

 “I was in Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, a 75-minute train ride northwest of Tokyo, with half a dozen other hikers out for a dose of shinrin-yoku,or forest bathing. The Japanese go crazy for this practice, which is standard preventive medicine here. It essentially involves hanging out in the woods.” Florence Williams, in an article in Outdoor Magazine

I’ve been trying to exercise more lately, but I’ve had a hard time finding something that I like to do that doesn’t feel like a chore. I’ve tried running, but have never been able to get into it (probably due to poor lung capacity, laziness, or both). I’ve always liked hiking though, and while searching for new hiking trails I came across a backpacking class offered through the Explorer’s Club of Pittsburgh. Backpacking! Finally, something that appealed to me. I checked my schedule and signed up for the class without a moment’s hesitation.

I’m really glad I did. One thing I love about backpacking is that it can be done by a broad range of people, regardless of athletic ability, age or skill level. The trick is to pack carefully and go at a pace that’s comfortable for you. There are plenty of great day and overnight hikes within a 100 miles of Pittsburgh and there’s sure to be a trail for just about everybody out there ( I recently even discovered this really cool Braille Trail in North Park).

Not being a great athlete, I was quickly won over by one of the more surprising aspects of backpacker culture—it’s nerdiness. Even if you are not a very skilled hiker, you can become an A+ packer. The idea is to include everything that is essential, but to keep your pack as light as possible. There is even a class of extreme backpacking called Ultralight, and these hikers will go as far as cutting the handle off their toothbrush to lessen their load. I’ve already learned a lot from the folks in the Explorer’s Club, although I don’t anticipate becoming an Ultralight extremist. Still, there are other sub-genres of backpacking to get into if you want to get nerdy in the woods. You can become an excellent map reader by joining an Orienteering Club, or a gourmet backpack cook by pouring over tons of blogs and books, or become a master of survivalist skills by taking a wilderness survival course.

Whatever your interest or skill level, there are tons of resources available to get you started. Here are just a few:

Books

The Backpacker’s Field Manual

This was the textbook for my backpacking class with the Explorer’s Club, and I found it indispensable. This book covers all the basics.

The Complete Walker

I’ve been told that this is the old stanby for backpackers. It covers all the basics, with some additional philosophical musings.

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Pittsburgh 

These are mostly days hikes, but if you’re just getting started hiking around Pittsburgh, I can think of no better book to begin with.

Websites

Keystone Trails Association 

A vital website for any Pennsylvania hiker or backpacker.

Venture Outdoors 

These guys are great, and can help get you started with everything from hiking and camping, to kayaking and snow-shoeing.

R.E.I. 

A great place for gear and maps, and also a few classes.

Explorer’s Club of Pittsburgh 

A volunteer group that currently offers once-a-year classes in backpacking, rock climbing, and mountaineering. The also have gear available for rental for first timers.

DVDs

Appalachian Trail 

This National Geographic special highlights this great trail, which runs all the way from Georgia to Maine.

Mile Mile & A Half 

This documentary follows five friends who leave their daily lives behind to hike California’s historic John Muir Trail, a 211 mile stretch from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney.

Tell it on the Mountain

This documentary follows a dozen thru-hikers who try to complete the Pacific Coast trail–a trail that is over 2,663 miles long.

Be safe and happy exploring,

Tara

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Let’s Read a Banned Book!

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Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.

 

One of the books that has appeared on the Top 10 list of banned books, compiled by the American Library Association, for each of the last 5 years is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This is a young adult novel (as so many of the books on these lists are) about a teenage Native American boy who chooses to attend school outside his home on the reservation. This decision leaves Junior, or Arnold as he’s called off the reservation, shunned by his people, as well as trying to fit in and on the outskirts of his new community. It is an honest portrayal of his life in high school – girls, bullies, fights, sports, and parents. Junior must learn to cope with a lot of loss in his family and embrace what’s good in his life.

Alexie’s book is most often challenged in libraries and schools due to its themes of sexuality, racism, use of drugs and alcohol, and offensive language. Many of these objectors feel that its content is unsuitable for the age group for which it is written. Considering that I have two teenagers at home who are dealing with and making personal decisions about all of the issues listed above, I find it hard to believe that some people don’t seem to understand what really happens in high school. But I shouldn’t judge, I’m sure they have their reasons. I’m more grateful that there are books like this available to my teenagers, so they know that what they’re going through is typical. They are not abnormal or weird. Being able to relate to a book’s characters and to recognize yourself in their struggles is one of the most important things a book can impart to an adolescent in the throes of indecision and hormones and peer pressure. But that’s just one person’s opinion. Happily for me and mine, those librarians and educators who fight against the banning of books must feel the same way.

book

Our librarians who lead the Let’s READ English book discussion group at the Main Library have decided that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is also a good vehicle for those who are learning to read and speak English as a second language. As well, it can serve as a catalyst for discussion about life in America amongst this group of foreign language speakers. The Let’s READ English discussion group will be talking about this book at their program on October 10th at 2pm. If you know someone who is looking to improve their English language skills, please have them stop by the library and check out a copy of the book prior to the discussion day.

Today is our last post for Banned Books Week 2014. However, through programming and book recommendations, libraries continue the fight against censorship every week of every year.

Now go out and continue to read banned books all year long!
-Melissa M.

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Are You There, Reader?

Graphic courtesy of the American Library Association.

Graphic courtesy of the American Library Association.

My feeling in the beginning was wait, this is America: we don’t have censorship, we have, you know, freedom to read, freedom to write, freedom of the press, we don’t do this, we don’t ban books. But then they did.

Judy Blume, The Guardian (July 2014)

I read Forever by Judy Blume in the 6th grade. (Incidentally, that’s the same year I discovered the Flowers in the Attic series. I’m eternally grateful that I read Forever first; who knows what I would have thought of sex otherwise.) Of course I passed it along to my friends. One friend in particular kept getting “caught” with it (seriously, worst hider ever.) Her mother returned it to me twice. She told me if I gave it to her daughter again, she’d tell my mom. And I was like, “Lady, who do you think gave it to me?”

She wasn’t the first friend not allowed to hang out with me and she wouldn’t be the last.

Forever

Written in 1975, Forever is the very real, very intimate love story of high school students, Katherine and Michael. They meet at a party and rapidly fall in love. Can their love last? (Of course not, they are 17.) It was written at the request of her teenage daughter, Randy.  Blume says, “She was reading all these books, where a girl succumbed [to sex], she would be punished, sometimes she would die. And Randy said, ‘Couldn’t there ever be a book where two nice kids do it and nobody has to die?'”

Michael and Katherine “do it” and no one dies!

WOW, does that make people angry! Forever is Blume’s most banned/challenged book (and this is the lady that wrote Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret? and Deenie!)

Here are a few of the reasons why:

  • Frequency of sexual activity and sexual descriptions
  • Use of “four-letter” words
  • Does not promote abstinence
  • Does not promote monogamous relationships
  • Demoralized marital sex
  • Disobedience to parents is shown
  • Talks about masturbation
  • Talks about birth control
  • Sexuality
  • Lack of moral tone
  • Sexual passages inappropriate for young people

So. I guess it’s the sex. Thankfully for every censorious jerk, there are a million women who were educated and touched by her books. And a lot of those women became librarians, who write letters. Get your Kleenex.

Amanda Palmer wrote a song about Judy Blume!

Now go read something sexy!

suzy

 

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Short List Of Banned Sci-Fi

Get your ray-guns ready! I’m going to list my three favorite banned sci-fi and fantasy titles.

F-451-cover Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This one marks a double-threat–great book and a great movie version (you can watch it at CLP’s Downtown & Business location on October 21st)! Working at the height of his powers, Mr. Bradbury takes us to a dystopian future where fireman start fires instead of putting them out! The ultimate anti-censorship book suffered the terrible irony of finding itself on more than one banned book list since its publication in 1953, and even the publisher itself released expurgated versions removing what certain editors considered to be objectionable content. Fahrenheit 451 remains such an important work, it’s at the center of this year’s Big Read.

Neverwhere-cover

 Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. People sometimes challenge the most innocuous things. Mr. Gaiman’s Neverwhere has a bit of violence, a bit of sex, and a lot of really uplifting and incredible stuff. Of all the things from a high school reading list a parent might challenge, this book should fall near the bottom. According to complaints, one particular sex scene did this one in. If you can get beyond this,  you’ll find a story that effortlessly blends the worlds of modern London and a subterranean shadow-plane of magic, mystery, and adventure. While Neverwhere’s sex and violence quotient seems quite tame to me, I guess I can at least understand why someone might object to it, but learning the last book on this short list had been banned flummoxed me.

Hobbit-cover The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, that Hobbit. Some accuse the book of promoting smoking. As an individual who has been rabidly anti-smoking his whole life, but also loved The Hobbit since at least first grade, I don’t see it. Fictional characters smoking a fictional pipeweed (even one as pure as Old Toby) never caused me to waver. Then there’s the folks who identify Tolkien’s work as irreligious. The man was a devout Catholic and his work is suffused with Christian symbolism. I think his Christian bonafides remain pretty unimpeachable.

Folks will come up with all sorts of reasons to ban the books we love. Genres like sci-fi often take it on the chin from would-be censors. All we can do is call them out.

Sunshine remains the best remedy for ignorance.

–Scott P.

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