A sweet book from a simpler time

When they were in elementary school, this was a favorite book for both my girls, especially around this time of year. It has some lovely black and white, soft-edged illustrations by Deborah Kogan Ray, and it was originally published in 1985, purporting to be based upon a slightly spooky but also sweet and ultimately positive experience had by the author, Emily Herman, when she was little.

My younger daughter so enjoyed the details and descriptions in the story, that from the very first time I read it to her, she begged for us to have “spaghetti and meatballs” for supper that Halloween, since that’s what the narrator and her family have in the story on that night.

We’ve been having spaghetti and meatballs for Halloween supper ever since. 🙂

Here’s the book’s description:

“Every Halloween, Hubknuckles pays a visit to Lee and her younger sisters and baby brother. The children watch the ghostly figure from the safety of their warm kitchen, experiencing delicious little tickles of fear.
But this year, Lee has decided that Hubknuckles isn’t real. “Hubknuckles is just a sheet and a flashlight,” she tells her sisters. “Either Ma or Pa makes him dance.” And she is determined to prove it.
What Lee discovers after an eerie dance on the lawn with her silent, shadowy partner is sure to delight young readers, who will be enchanted by the softly glowing illustrations of this unusual Halloween happening.”

I recommend it highly if you have or know of young children who enjoy reading or being read to, say from kindergarten age to age 9 or so. It remains one of my older daughter’s favorite stories. And my younger daughter, who is a decade older than she was on that long-ago Halloween when we first read Hubknuckles together, is now an avid reader in own right, in large part due to the way books like it triggered her imagination. This story is available for kindle or in hardcover (though the link I’ve provided in the title here leads to the hardcover version at

One of the things I miss, now that my girls are no longer so little, is the loss of those opportunities to read to them like I used to. Seeing this book brings back many happy memories of times together, snuggled up and enjoying a good tale. But I’ve ordered copies for both of them, so they maybe they will be able to recreate that magic when they read it to their children one day.

Ruby Port Wine

Glass of port wine in a 1950’s glass, backed by a 19th century “carved lion-head” writing desk, passed down to me from my German Grandma, Mary Sinderman Reed

Even the name “Ruby Port Wine” makes me happy.

This one is from the oldest winery in America, Brotherhood Winery, established in 1839; ruby port wine is rich, jewel-toned, and sweet on the tongue (the words and wine, both).

Sometimes a nice glass of it is the only civilized way to end the day…

From The Mist in the Mirror, by Susan Hill: “The day’s newspapers and some journals were set out upon the desk, some decanters of sherry and port stood on a table. I unpacked, bathed and, comfortable in robe and slippers, warmed myself with a glass, beside the fire.”

Such a soothing image and one of the elements I like best about Susan Hill’s writing…the comforting imagery and “hominess” (heightened by the fact that this small excerpt is taken from a ghost story) 🙂

Wishing everyone a pleasant evening!

Some Spooky Reading

It’s the right time of year for a little atmospheric reading material. I’m not much into gore, and “horror” movies are really hit and miss for me, since there is so much of that built into so many of them, so curling up with a good spooky book is more my cup of tea.

In the misty, chilly nights of October, my preferences lean toward novels that are suspenseful, eerie, know how to set the mood with imagery…and preferably feature a ghost (or at least the possibility of a ghost) in them.

Here are three novels that I can recommend. Well, only two, really, because I’m still reading the third. But the writing so far is good, and she’s the author of Book #2, so I’m going to predict it will be a good story as well.


Classic psychological suspense/ghost story by Henry James

Book #1 – The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James

This has got to be one of the most masterfully written suspense/thriller/psychological studies I’ve read. It’s short – a novella, really. And it’s Victorian in setting and style, so be forewarned that there is a lot of description and long, complex sentences. The author also leaves it to the reader to decide whether there is a ghost or a case of paranoid delusion, brought on by the stifling Victorian societal pressures/a case of sexual hysteria, so if you despise a story that doesn’t leave everything neatly tied up in a bow, then this one may not be for you. There is also a pretty good and faithful-to-the-novella film version put out by PBS and starring Jodhi May, with a smaller role played by Colin Firth.


The 1983 novel that spawned the 2012 movie with Daniel Radcliffe

Book #2 – The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill

Yes, this is the novel that inspired the recent film starring Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame. However, the novel uses a framing technique (beginning in the “present” for one of the characters and then shifting to the story itself) and ends quite differently from the film. There was also a play made from the story, along with several earlier screen versions. The British television version from 1989, while low budget, has plenty of atmosphere and chills, and I saw it before I read the novel or watched the more recent 2012 film.


Another Susan Hill ghost story

Book #3 – The Mist in the Mirror, by Susan Hill

This is the one I’m reading now, and so far, so good. I don’t know much about it yet, except that I enjoy the author’s use of description to set the mood and tone. As a writer, I admire the development of atmosphere, along with character and plot, and Susan Hill seems to do this quite well. Stay tuned to hear more about this one….or if you’ve read it, feel free to tell me what you thought of it – or any of these texts – in the comments. If you have other recommendations that would be great too. 🙂  Happy reading!