Nightmares and Beasts for Children

The 2012 “Books That Made Me Love Reading” Challenge: February Edition

Hello all! It’s been a while since the last time I posted anything on the blog. I’m sorry I’ve been so absent, but I’m seriously drowning in work right now. BUT, I decided to give myself a bit of a break today. I’ve caught up on a tv show a started watching a few weeks ago, called Lost Girl (totally fun show, by the way), and I made myself an enormous sub sandwich for lunch, and now I’m taking the time to write a couple blog posts.

For today, I have two more books for the “Books That Made Me Love Reading” Challenge.  Like last time, they are picture books (they’re short and quick to read in what little spare time I have, and I just love them).

Fore info on the Challenge, see Emlyn Chand’s post: “The Books That Made Me Love Reading Challenge.”

For January’s edition, see “How Alexander and Garfield’s Terrible Days Made Me a Writer.”

First, There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer:

Let’s be honest: EVERYTHING Mercer Mayer does is completely awesome. I love every picture book he has ever done.  But I think this one might be my favorite.  My mother read it to me so many times when I was growing up, I could probably STILL recite most of it.  This book, about a boy who decides to confront the scary monster in his closet only to discover it’s as scared as he is, is so easy for children to relate to, and so adorably illustrated, how could you HELP but love it?

The funny thing is, I don’t remember EVER being afraid of monsters in my closet or under my bed.  Maybe it’s because my mother read it to me at a young enough age that I learned that monsters were scared of me before I was even old enough to be scared of them first?  I have no idea.  I was, admittedly, always scared of the possibility of things being right outside my window (and still am, quite frankly), the whole monster-under-the-bed (or in the closet or basement) thing never really occurred to me.  *shrug*

I just sat down to read this book again (I bought a copy at Barnes & Noble recently expressly for this purpose, as my mother’s original copy was destroyed in a flood, like many of our books, a few years ago), and it’s as wonderful as I remember it.  I like to think that this book has helped many children learn to not be afraid at night over the years.  It’s hard to tell how much a book really helps with things like that.  Maybe it’s more about how the parents deal with such situations.  But it’s still nice to think books like this help.  In any case, this book still makes me smile.

With pictures like this, is it any wonder?

For the curious, Mercer Mayer also wrote There’s An Alligator Under My Bed, and There’s Something in the Attic, which are along the same vein, and both equally adorable.

Second, Beauty and the Beast, retold and illustrated by Jan Brett:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love fairy tales.  I’ve read many, many versions of Beauty and the Beast (and seen many film and tv versions as well), but Jan Brett’s rendition is still one of my favorites.  Brett was mainly inspired by the version of the tale as told by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, which was published in 1910.  The story itself doesn’t change too much from the version most people are familiar with (merchant cuts a rose from the beast’s garden and Beauty goes back in his place, etc etc etc).  What really makes this version so special are the illustrations.

For me, a picture book is ALL about the illustrations (it’s a PICTURE book for cryin’ out loud!).  Obviously, the story should be good or cute or easy for kids to relate to, but I will not by a picture book that doesn’t have outstanding art.  And this one (like everything Jan Brett does) has it.

Don’t believe me? Here:

Picture books like this, with detailed, luscious, colorful, elegant, BEAUTIFUL art, opens my mind up to joy and wonder and possibility just as much as a story does.  A good picture book reminds me of the wonders and beauties of the world, of people, of imagination.  This picture book (as well as many others) is the reason I really wish my artistic skills were more up-to-par.  I really want to write and illustrate a picture book someday.  My drawing skills are… okay… but not great, and finding the time to improve (on top of the million-and-one other things I do) has proven difficult.  I’ll probably have to cave in and collaborate with an artist if I ever want to get that picture book idea off the ground.

But I guess we’ll see.

So, there a couple more of my favorite children’s picture books.  There’s plenty more where that came from, but I think these are the last ones I’ll do for the “Books That Made Me Love Reading” Challenge.  Maybe I’ll get around to sharing more from my picture book collection one of these days.  In the mean time, which picture books do you still love?

Four Webcomic “Shorts” You Really Must See

Four Webcomic “Shorts” You Really Must See

I don’t read as many webcomics as some people do (I just don’t have the time), but I love the ones I do read, and I follow them religiously.  My favorites are in the Links list on the right side, for those who are curious.

I didn’t occur to me at first that along with the usual sort of webcomics, which are formatted as either strips or pages and which update on a regular basis, you could also have webcomic “shorts.”  A sort of short one-short story in comic form.  Then one friend introduced me to “Our Blood-Stained Roof” by Ryan A., and I was cured of my ignorance.  Now, I love webcomic shorts, especially those that are unique in style, and tell intriguing and strange stories.  It takes a lot of talent to both plan/write the story and to do the drawing/painting as well.

Here are four webcomic shorts that I absolutely love, and think you’ll enjoy too.  I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t give you any sort of summary for these (some of them would be kind of hard to describe anyway).  Just take my word for it: they’re wonderful.

“Our Blood-Stained Roof”

by Ryan Andrews

“Nothing Is Forgotten”

by Ryan Andrews


By Boulet

“The Roller Blades of Suleimaniya”

by Sarah Glidden

I hope you enjoy them.  Please tell me what you think, and if you know of any good webcomics “shorts,” please feel free to share them!

The Enchanting World of Dolls

When I was ten or eleven years old (I’m not quite sure exactly when anymore), my mother bought me a porcelain doll at a Cracker Barrel Country Store.  She was blonde with a pink dress, and I adored her.

My Very First Doll

From that first doll, I started collecting porcelain dolls.  Not the kind of priceless collection that some people can boast, but the kind of collection a Marine Corps warrant officer on a tight budget could afford to give her daughter.  My mother tried very hard to buy me nice ones, and I loved every single one she bought me. the time I was in high school, I had around a couple dozen porcelain dolls of various size and quality, and I had started to collect the collectible Barbies.  The $70-80 ones.  I had three ballet Barbies, and several fairy tale Barbies, and some in gorgeous designer dresses.

One of my favorite Collector's Barbies

After high school, for reasons unimportant here, I had to put my dolls in storage.  And many of them were ruined.  And then I stopped buying more.  But I have never lost my vast appreciation for dolls and doll-making.  It is an art form that is sometimes ignored or forgotten amid popular culture; though, thankfully, serious artists and art-lovers still appreciate it.  And sometimes I run across a truly masterful artist who makes dolls that are real, honest-to-god treasures.

Beauty and the Beast by Marina Bychkova (the one that caught me)

I wish to discuss one such artist here.  Her name is Marina Bychkova.  I came across her purely by chance on Deviantart and I consider that a moment of fantastic good luck.  After viewing of a few of her pieces on devianart, I quickly moved on to her website where the gallery is even more impressive.  This artist makes all of her dolls entirely by hand – beginning with molds she designs herself.  Her specially designed joints have absolutely amazing articulation, which allow fora myriad of life-like and elegant poses.  Her artistic nude dolls are sensual, tasteful, and beautiful.

Emerald by Marina Bychkova

Her costumed dolls are luxurious, vibrant, exquisite in their detail and design.  But, as I’ve told several people now, the real selling point on these dolls, the real crux of this artist’s talent is the beauty of the faces.  The expressions of these dolls are so beautiful, life-like and emotional that they quite literally left me breathless the first time I saw them.  There is one in particular, called Beauty and the Beast, that strikes me every time I look at her.  I swear she is going to actually shed real-life tears at any moment.

To see all of these beautiful little ladies, go to Marina’s website Enchanted Doll.  I warn you now: you may find yourself lost in her website for hours, just staring in breathless amazement.  And just in case that’s not enough, here’s her deviantart page:

Dunyazade by Marina Bychkova

It is possible (though not this moment, as she is not taking orders currently) to buy one of her dolls.  They are, unfortunately, too rich for my shallow pockets.  But the price is an honest representation of the quality, beauty, and worth of these dolls, and I would buy one without a moment of doubt if I was in any position to do so.  However, I can eke sufficient joy from simply going to her website again and again to stare in wonder.  Hopefully, one day I will be in a position to indulge in my long-held love for dolls, but for now, dreaming will have to be enough.

Venetian by Marine Bychkova (one of my favorites)