Check Under the Bed….And in the Closet. Just Check the Whole House.

Don’t you roll your eyes at me because this trio of books I’m going to talk about seemingly belongs in the area of ‘To Be Read By Children.’ By the age of 13 I was already reading Stephen King and Clive Barker. Not because I was precocious but because my brother left Stephen King’s Pet Sematary on the arm of the couch one day and it had a kitty on it and anything with a kitty on it had to be pretty good. If you know anything about that book (or about any Stephen King book in general) you know I was traumatized for months. But in a good way. Yes, there is good trauma. I think.

So when I first laid eyes on Alvin Schwartz’s first book for kids called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark I thought ‘Oh, please! That’s supposed to scare me? Bring it.’

Scary_Stories_to_Tell_in_the_Dark_coverOh, it brought the scares. It brought them in droves. I bought the book because the picture on the cover made me uneasy, a man with his arms flung to the skies, his mouth stretched open in agony. Okay, cool picture. And then I began to read the stories inside. Hooked is not a strong enough word to describe what that first book did to me. I would read a story and then rush to read it to my mom. Schwartz relies on folklore and urban myth in many of the stories and he gives a background description of each story at the end of the book.

But it’s the stories wedded to Stephen Gammell’s illustrations that made the books for me when they first came out. These are horrifying pictures. I came across my copies of the books (one of them so often read that I repaired the spine with black electrician’s tape) about a year ago and I flipped through it, shuddering at the illustrations. Other illustrators were brought in for the newer editions of these books which the library owns, but Gammell’s illustrations are the ones that haunt me.

Part of me wants to warn parents that the books are a little too scary for small children to read. But another part of me thinks what the hell; read them to your little boogers and keep them in line. Tell them all about that thing waiting under the bed counting down the minutes until the lights are turned off.


Book One is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Even the titles of the stories are terrifying: “What Do You Come For,” “The Hearse Song,” “Old Woman All Skin and Bone.” My favorite out of this first book is a very short story called “The Slithery-Dee”: The Slithery-Dee. He lives in the sea. He saw all the others. But he didn’t see me. That quote creeps me out for reasons I still don’t understand.

Book Two, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, amps up the frights even more with story titles like “Wonderful Sausage,” “Cat in a Shopping Bag,” “The Man in the Middle” and my favorite from this book,”The Bed By the Window.”

The third book is Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones (Oh God, I just read a few of the story titles and had major flashbacks. I think I should sleep with the lights on tonight.) Titles in this volume include: “Just Delicious,” “The Dead Hand,” “The Red Spot” (I’m still afraid of this story actually being true and happening to me) and “It’s Him.”

These are just a smattering of titles from each book. You can read them in any order but study the illustrations closely. They, along with the stories themselves, will help your nightmares find you.

Modern Cat Lady: 2015 Edition

Modern Cat Lady 2015

Adorable cat top by ModCloth.

Last year I wrote a little piece about the struggles of the modern cat lady, and how we should totally embrace the stereotype and wear our fur-dotted-clothes with pride. There was a much larger positive response than I’m used to here on A Reading Life, so I thought this year I would bring it back. A lot has happened in the world of cats and cat ladies, and I can’t wait to share with you all the new stuff you may have missed this year.

You Need More Sleep: Advice from Cats by Francesco Marciuliano
Okay, you’ve gotta love adorable photographs of cats or you wouldn’t be reading this right now. This humorous quick read is packed with cute feline faces and advice that will probably get you fired, dumped, or even arrested. My favorite nugget of wisdom has got to be from page 92. Just because others can’t see it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chase it:

Love. Friendship. Success. Ghost mice. If you can picture it in your head then you should pursue it with all your might, sometimes at speeds achieving sonic booms. Sure, others may exclaim, “There’s nothing there!” or, “How many times can you run into a wall and still remember your name?” But no one ever achieved anything by waiting…unless it’s to stare up close at a blank wall. Because when that wall finally does do something, oh, man, it’s so gonna be worth those three days you sat still without blinking.

Cats Galore: a Compendium of Cultured Cats by Susan Herbert
Have you ever visited an art museum or gallery, stood still pondering the beauty before you, and wondered to yourself, ‘Yeah, but what would this look like if cats stood in for all the people?’ Well, wonder no more! The posthumous publication of this compilation of Susan Herbert’s artistic genius is not-to-be-missed by the modern cat lady. Whether it’s opera (Aida), film (Singin’ in the Rain), or art (Mona Lisa), nothing is safe from Herbert’s interpretations.

Shake Cats by Carli Davidson
Speaking of art, I’ve always thought of photography as one of the more difficult artistic mediums, mainly because there are so many varying factors that are outside the artist’s control. Lighting, weather, and most of all, the subject’s temperament can change drastically from one instant to the next. I think that’s why I love Shake Cats so much. Sure, the concept is simple: get some cats wet and photograph the resulting magic. But as any modern cat lady worth her catnip knows, cats generally hate water and will instantly let you know their displeasure. Davidson captures the magic in the split second before the claws come out, and thus the best coffee table book of them all was born.

Modern Cat Lady 2015 part 2

97 Ways to Make a Cat Like You by Carol Kaufmann
Modern cat ladies like yourself may not be inclined to look twice at this book on the shelf, but I’m here to sell it to you in a different light. You have at least one friend, significant other, or child in your life who could totally use this book. Packed with actual proven behavior-based tips, someone in your life will thank you for this book. You’ll make your ‘fraidy-cat pal comfortable and happy in your home and subsequently send good vibes to your kitties. What could be better than that sort of harmony?

Catster Magazine
Formerly Cat Fancy, Catster puts a modern cat lady spin on a classic periodical. I will confess I was never much for Cat Fancy, mostly because the title totally turned me off. Now that it has been re-dubbed something modern and catchy, I’m more likely to be seen out and about with it (see photo above for proof of my approval).

The Maine Coon’s Haiku: and Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Michael J. Rosen
Set the youth in your life on the right path to modern cat ladyhood and give them this book of haikus appropriate for kids and the young-at-heart. Whether it’s singing the praises of the Manx or extolling the virtues of the American Shorthair, there’s plenty of poetry to make your heart fuzzy. Young readers and those still considered novice cat ladies will appreciate the glossary of cat breeds tucked into the back of the book.

Catify to Satisfy: Simple Solutions for Creating a Cat-Friendly Home by Jackson Galaxy
And finally I want to tell you about this forthcoming book from my new best friend, Jackson Galaxy. Last year I said I had no idea who he was, and it was true. But after reading his book Catification, I realized this was a modern cat fella after my own heart. I haven’t had a chance to see this one yet, as it doesn’t come out until Tuesday, but getting to hear about a book before it’s even delivered to the cataloging department is a rare thing to share with someone. And you modern cat ladies are definitely worthy of this hot tip.

So that wraps up this year’s modern cat lady highlights. As for me, I still have three adorably insane cats at home and I’ve started getting interested in wearing cat-themed fashions, like the top in the photo above. I’m here to tell you that declaring yourself as a modern cat lady and wearing that badge with pride is a freeing and fulfilling thing. It also has a side effect of outing other cat ladies who aren’t yet ready to step into the tantalizing beam of sunshine where our cats like to nap.

Meow, what were your favorites of 2015?

Did You Know? (Tooth Edition)

Tgeorgeteethhat George Washington’s teeth were carved from hippopotamus tusks?

I found this information in the book George Washington’s Teeth. He also only had 2 teeth at his inauguration. George was born in 1732, and things were very different in those days! Don’t Know Much About George Washington by Kenneth C. Davis is packed with information about life in the Colonies and early America.

hippopotamusesHippo tusks were probably easier or cheaper to get than elephant ivory which explains why George’s teeth were carved from them. At the time, many people killed hippos and harvested their tusks. Hippos have long curved front teeth and their tusk like canines are even longer. Adult humans have about 32 teeth, while adult hippos have about 42. The hippopotamus is the third largest land animal. Hippopotamuses by Melissa Stewart is full of great information about Hippos and nice pictures of them.

toothbookGoing to the dentist was almost unheard of in George’s time. In fact, in those days your barber would have been your dentist and in some cases your doctor too! Now there is no reason to be afraid of the dentist. In the book What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist by Heidi Murkoff Angus the answer dog explains to kids what will happen at the dentist. The Tooth Book by Edward Miller is a guide to healthy teeth and gums, with nice artwork explaining the proper way to brush and floss.

toothfairySince George Washington lost so many of his teeth, I bet he was pretty good friends with the tooth fairy! In the movie Tooth Fairy seeing the Roc in a tutu was hilarious. Tooth Tales from Around the World by Marlene Targ Brill tells about tooth fairy customs in other countries and cultures. Cherokee Indian children throw their teeth on the roof! We also have dozens of other children’s stories about tooth fairies.

Arts and Crafts at the Library

P1020257Did you know that the library offers many wonderful programs for children and adults? Well, if you missed our arts and crafts series called “Crafternoons” in July, here’s some of the books we used and the projects they inspired.

indexThere are 52 wonderful ideas in Art Lab For Kids by Susan Schwake. We used the ‘Tiny Paintings on Wood’ project but you may be interested in the drawing, printmaking, or mixed media ideas. This is a well-thought-out guide with simple, clear explanations of technique, combined with inspiration from established artists. These projects will enable children to feel successful and encourage them to explore art as a form of expression.

index (1)We used the ‘Watercolor Magic’ project from Art Lab for Little Kids by the same author. This project involved drawing with white crayon on white paper, painting with watercolor, getting the surface really wet and then sprinkling it with salt. The result was many fine abstract paintings.This book was developed for the younger set and begins with an introduction on materials and setting up a space for making art. The lessons that follow are open-ended and to be explored over and over – with different results each time.

h2o color

indexWe made (I think) awesome shopping bags out of old t-shirts. You can get this project and others from DIY T-Shirt Crafts by Adrianne Surian. Creating something useful and stylish doesn’t have to take ages or require expensive supplies. Complete with step-by-step instructions and stunning photographs, each T-shirt craft is simple enough for beginners to recreate and can be finished in 60 minutes or less.



index (1)Print & Stamp Lab by Traci Bunkers includes 52 ideas (I guess one for each week of the year) for handmade, up-cycled print tools. Learn to create print blocks and stamp tools, all from inexpensive, ordinary, and unexpected materials: string, spools, band-aids, flip-flops, ear plugs, rubber bands, school erasers and a slew of other re-purposed and up-cycled items. We used paper cups to create the music prints below:



index (2)We plan on using Paper Playhouse: Awesome Art Projects for Kids Using Paper, Boxes and Books by Katrina Rodabaugh for planning our fall craft projects. Focused around surprising and easily accessible materials like shipping boxes, junk mail envelopes, newspapers, maps, found books, and other paper ephemera, it has 22 projects aimed at inspiring children to create amazing paper crafts. I love the tiny Airstream trailer made using duct tape. You will too.

index (3)If you and your kids are not that into crafts, try these other ‘lab’ books. Kitchen Science Lab for Kids by Liz Heinecke includes 52 fun science activities for families to do together. Using everyday ingredients, many of the experiments are safe enough for toddlers and exciting enough for older kids, so families can discover the joy of science together. You can whip up amazing science experiments in your own kitchen.

index (4)The title of Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play and Enjoy in Your Garden says it all. It is a refreshing source of ideas to help children of all ages learn to grow their own patch of earth. The lessons in this book are open-ended and can be explored over and over.


Our wonderful librarian Elizabeth has also organized a craft table at the Evergreen Branch which is there everyday! Children who visit the branch are able to do awesome, creative crafts each time they visit the library. These crafts provide fun hands-on activities for kids and their parents to do in the library. They also connect art and science with featured books and help develop small motor skills – many kids enter school not knowing how to hold a pencil. Don’t wait for our fall craft programs. Come on down to the library and check out these and other books to unleash your creative spirits!

2015 Summer Reading Program!

Be a super reader and find your hero in a book this summer!


Everett Public Library has launched the 2015 Summer Reading Program, offering kids and teens a way to have fun and be ready for school come fall. Studies have shown that students who don’t read in the summer come back to school with a lower reading level. If children read just twenty minutes a day, they will return to school at the same reading level. Our program has children reading thirty minutes each day so that they will return to school even better readers!

Pick up a reading log at either the Main Library (2702 Hoyt Avenue) or the Evergreen Branch (9512 Evergreen Way) from June 1 – July 31, 2015.

Start your reading on the first day of summer vacation. The library has special reading programs for pre-readers, readers and teens in which children can read or be read to, in order to earn a free book and other fun prizes.

Choose your path:

  • The Read with Me program is for children not yet able to read on their own.
  • The Children’s Program is for children who are reading on their own and are going into kindergarten through soon to be fifth graders. Select your reading goal: 24 hours of Reading (1 line = 30 Minutes)  or 48 books (1 line = 1 book)
  • The Teen Program is for students going into grades six through twelve. Select your reading goal: 24 hours of Reading (1 line = 1 hour)  or 24 books (1 line = 1 book)

After earning prizes, children and teens may continue reading and earning stickers to their heart’s content. Additional reading sheets are available for these readers, but not prizes.

indexWe will have lots of copies of Wonder by Palacio (and other fantastic reads) available for all of the Everett School District students who are required to read it this summer.

Plan on participating in the fantastic array of programs planned for children and teens this summer: Paws to Read,  Crafternoons, Storytimes and so much more!

A big THANK YOU to our main sponsor, Home Street Bank! If you have any questions about the 2015 Summer Reading Program, please call the Youth Services Department at 425-257-8030 for more information.

Best of the (Half) Decade

Today I saw a list of the top 100 books written in the past half-decade. We were not amused. Items chosen were limited almost exclusively to adult fiction, and the fiction itself seemed to be fairly narrow in scope. So quite obviously it’s time for a better list. Created by me.

Books chosen have all been read by yours truly, which skews the list’s contents, confining it to items I find attractive. Obviously some wonderful books will be absent. But of the 80 or so books written since 2010 that I’ve read, diverse genres including autobiographies, humor, YA, juvenile, graphic novels, mystery, supernatural fiction, travel, historical fiction, and true crime have been explored. Allowing for a potentially well-rounded list.

And now I give you: The Top 13 Books Written Since 2010!

  1. Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson (2012) Perhaps the funniest book I’ve ever read. Written by the Bloggess, a woman who recounts pant-wettingly hilarious scenarios whilst openly discussing her severe coping issues, this book is guaranteed to shock, perhaps revolt, and leave you aching from unquenchable laughter.
  1. Insane City by Dave Barry (2013)
    I have a soft spot for ridiculously complex, filled-with-coincidences plots. In a way, it doesn’t even matter what the story is about as long as the screwball comedy aspect is well done. Dave Barry is always enjoyable and this is perhaps his greatest effort. The plot is not even remotely describable in less than 10,000 words, so suffice to say: Florida, wedding, Russian gangsters, angry strippers, and pythons. Standard issue Dave Barry.
  1. At Home by Bill Bryson (2010)
    Bill Bryson has become my guru. Don’t understand science? Read Bryson. Need a better handle on the English language? Bryson. In At Home he explains how dwellings evolved and where names of house parts came from, all while imparting abundant information about western civilization. Funny, understandable, a compelling read.

Set 1

  1. The World’s Greatest Sleuth by Steve Hockensmith (2010)
    The Holmes on the Range mystery-solving series is durned brilliant. In this installment, the Amlingmeyer brothers travel from their usual Western climes to the 1893 Columbian Exposition and compete with famous detectives in the field of detecting. Murder, of course, ensues. Outstanding evocation of the Chicago fair.
  1. Yes Please by Amy Poehler (2014)
    Of all the autobiography/memoirs I’ve read, this was my favorite. Written in a personable, conversational yet well-crafted style, Ms. Poehler recounts life stories and shares bits of her wise personal philosophy, creating a sort of charming, amusing self-help manual.
  1. Bye Bye, Baby by Max Allan Collins (2011)
    Brilliant historical fiction that examines the circumstances of Marilyn Monroe’s death. Through Collins we get to know Marilyn, the powerful people she mingled with, and the potential truths behind her death. After reading this book I was moved to learn more about her life and death, which indicates to me that Collins did a superlative job.

Set 2

  1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (2011)
    A plane crash, abundant death, struggles to survive, nefarious politicians and Miss Texas all mix poetically in this waggish disembowelment of the beauty pageant industry.
  1. Who Could That Be At This Hour? By Lemony Snicket (2012)
    For a fabulous description of this fabulous book, read Carol’s fabulous post here. I’m not a huge fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I was blown away by this new mysterious series. Written for kids but equally intriguing for adults.
  1. The Rosie Effect by Graeme C. Simsion (2014)
    In this follow up to The Rosie Project, Don and Rosie are married and expecting. Don (who I suspect is on the extremely high-functioning end of the autism spectrum) approaches fatherhood as a problem to be solved, but Rosie is not sure if his lack of emotion will allow him to be a good father. Tension follows, communications break down, and the couple struggles to maintain their couplehood. A powerful, magical romance that shows how people of all kinds can enrich the lives of others.

Set 3

  1. The Yard by Alex Grecian (2012)
    Fascinating fictional look at the beginnings of Scotland Yard, the ridiculous caseload piled on the pitiful handful of detectives, and the ease with which murder could be successfully committed in the 19th century.
  1. The Dangerous Animals Club by Stephen Tobolowsky (2012)
    Stephen Tobolowsky is an incredibly versatile and prolific actor, perhaps most remembered as Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day. This memoir tells tales of his intriguing life, but is also filled with philosophical musings and complex ideas. Funny and thought provoking.
  1. Deep Creek by Dana Hand (2010)
    Historical fiction based on a true story. When Chinese gold miners are murdered along the Idaho-Oregon border, white settlers don’t really care. The Sam Yup Company, a powerful Chinese firm, hires a local man to solve the mystery. Elegant, descriptive writing clearly depicts an unjust time.
  1. Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel (2011)
    This is one of the few graphic novels that has truly engaged me, featuring beautiful charcoal drawings and a fantastical tale of love, riverboat travel, and mermaids. Memorable, alluring and ultimately disturbing.

Set 4

So there you have it, 13 books, one for each month of the year! Read, enjoy, enrich and prepare for the next half-decade.

Surfing the Purple Stickers (Ewoks Included)

What do Batman, Ms. Marvel, Constantine, and Hellboy have in common? We’ve recently rescued them from obscurity in the Dewey 741s and have given them a shiny new home in a fresh collection, aptly named Graphic Novels.

*Cue happy dance!*

GraphicNovelsNot only do these lovely books now have simplified labels and bright purple stickers, but we’ve also worked hard to put series together. We’re still working to get all the outliers together, but we’re getting somewhere and I truly believe this is a collection we can all be proud of.  We finally have a graphic novel collection for adults and older teens that compliments the collections we already have for children and young adults. I’m not sure I can aptly describe how happy this makes me, so instead I’ll just do another happy dance.

It just so happened that we debuted this shiny new collection the week before Emerald City Comicon at the end of March. It was my first time attending ECCC and I was completely overwhelmed with the number of artists, authors, celebrities, and vendors that were announced. There was no way I could go to everything, but I did download their convention app and created a schedule of best bets. In the end I got to meet some awesome people in the world of comics, got a sneak peek at what’s coming down the line from publishers, bought some awesome swag on the showroom floor, and got insight behind-the-scenes from various comic panel interviews. I even got to tell Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover ,the creators of Bandette, about our new graphic novel collection, an idea which they loved!

Oh, and I met some Ewoks. I’m nerd enough to say that I probably fangirled over the Ewoks just as much if not more than the real live people I got to meet.


The debut of this collection also capped off the year I first started reading comic books and graphic novels. As you may be able to tell from some of my previous posts, I’m a full-on nerd and totally own it. But I admit that I hadn’t really given graphic novels or comics a real fighting chance. All that changed when I read Bandette and I’ve been on the lookout for strong female characters in comics ever since. Here are some awesome ladies I’d like to introduce you to:

Friendship to the max! Lumberjanes is the very first comic book I ever bought. The camping theme caught my eye in the aisle of Everett Comics and I bought it on sight. After reading it at home I was hooked! The story centers around a group of girls at summer camp who become fast friends over campfires and crafting. However, they soon discover that lurking in the woods is a whole other world of adventure, mythical creatures, and plot twists! This series is aimed at grades 5 & up, but don’t let that stop you from picking up the trade paperback (out later this month!) and getting caught up in the adventures of Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley.

ms marvelMs. Marvel
Kamala Khan is just your average girl from Jersey City dealing with typical teenage problems: hormones, strict parents, school stresses, and the like. Trapped one day in a dangerous situation, she wishes she could be like Captain Marvel and have her superpowers to get out of trouble. Through a twist of fate Kamala suddenly gains those superpowers and becomes Ms. Marvel! Join her as she discovers how to control her superpowers and learns just what it means to be a superhero–no matter your religion or skin color.


captain marvelCaptain Marvel
And speaking of Captain Marvel, she has her own comic books, written by superstar comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. I’m still making my way through Carol Danvers’s back-story so I can dive into her current adventures. She’s strong, witty, and compassionate, definitely my kind of superhero. The fact that her name is also Carol is just an added bonus. In the process of writing this post I happened to run into the graphic novel buyer in the hallway. I mentioned we didn’t have any of Kelly Sue’s Captain Marvel books yet and do you know what he did? He immediately purchased them for the library! They’ll soon be on the shelves, but if you can’t wait you can place your holds here.

Now it’s your turn. What comic books do you read? Graphic novels? Heroes and heroines who stand out? If you can’t think of any answers for my questions, I urge you to get to either branch of EPL and surf the purple stickers today.