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.

Vintage Ghosties…and the Power of Imagination

ghost vintage
A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night.
~ J.M. Barrie
imagesTHYNH9HXI like this Barrie quote, because along with the descriptive aspect of “ghostly” elements, he also acknowledges our own mind’s power to frighten ourselves. I’m guilty of that myself: imagination can be a wonderful and a terrible thing. 🙂
When I was little, on nights when I’d spooked myself by reading my “Witching Hour” comic books or a spooky short story, I wouldn’t walk into my bedroom to climb into bed; I’d back up, run to the doorway, and leap from there into my bed, to avoid the “things” lurking in the dark under there, and to prevent them from grabbing my ankles.
skeletonWe’d also watch “Monster Movie Matinee” on Saturday afternoons, just before nap time (I’ll have to ask my mother why she allowed that, LOL). I recall one episode, called The Screaming Skull. After watching it, no nap was to be had, because my sister kept “seeing” the shadow of a skeletal hand moving down the hallway toward her bedroom and shrieking that it was coming to get her. 🙂
I’ve gotten better at managing my imagination, now that I’m older. Usually I can reason through whatever is spooking me…though I can still experience a shiver and freeze up with the feeling that someone (or something!) is watching me from the dark, if I allow myself.Vintage-Halloween-Pumpkin-Head-Image-GraphicsFairy
I’ve had a few ghostly experiences as well, in the old house we first lived in when we were married, but those will have to save for another day.
What about you – can you scare yourself silly…or have you had moments where you believe you’ve experienced something outside the natural world?

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!