Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley

“‘But I wonder if this tale may be too disturbing for you,’ said Uncle Montague, seeing me peering towards the window, turning to the fire and prodding at a log with the poker.

‘Really, Uncle,’ I said, pushing out my jaw. ‘I am not as timid as you seem to think.’

Uncle Montague lay down the poker and turned to me with a warm smile; a smile that quickly faded from his face as he linked his long fingers together and began this new story.”

After I finished Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I felt a little bereft and needed another creepy, atmospheric book to bolster myself up.  Since I’m in library school now, I try to justify all my reading time as “professional development”, but really, I just like to sit in the park and look at the fall leaves and read fun things that remind me why I want to be here in the first place…and not study for my cataloging test…at least, not just yet.

Anyway, look what I found!  This creeptastic book features Edgar and his rather ominous Uncle Montague.  Uncle lives in a candlelit, Gothic monstrosity of a house, replete with red velvet curtains, a lurching butler, and a nightmarish array of artifacts. Edgar regularly makes his way down the forest path to sit in his uncle’s parlor and listen to the stories his uncle tell.  It seems each relic in his home has a ghastly backstory, and Edgar’s uncle is eager to share them.  There is a unifying theme to these chilling tales, and readers will be kept guessing until the very end of the book.

Fantastic, Gorey-style illustrations?  Yes.  Stories that are both original and spooky? Yes!  I especially see this book as hitting that sweet balance of a very engaging subject matter (scary stuff for a slightly older crowd), quirky format, and accessible reading level that is just right for enticing more reluctant readers.

Happy reading!

Author’s website: http://chrispriestley.blogspot.com

Priestley, Chris. Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror. Bloomsbury: New York, 2007. 237 pp. Ages 10-14.

If you liked this book, you will probably like these:

A House Called Awful End 

A Series of Unfortunate Events 

The Witches 

The Haunted Tea Cosy




Girl Goddess # 9 by Francesca Lia Block

“They like to dance together better than dancing with boys because they can be more sexy and free and not worry that the boy is feeling self conscious.”–Pixie and Pony

“The most beautiful people are the ones that don’t look like one race or even one sex.” — Winnie and Cubby

“No other kid at my school lived with two women who slept in the same bed and kissed on the lips all the time.”   –Dragons in Manhattan

” I am bringing lost girls back from underground.” -Orpheus

My beautiful sister brought me this book back from San Francisco, and I am in love with it, an unashamed crush that makes me want to fly kites and sing enthusiastically and leave positive body image decals in fitting rooms.  Yeah, it is that good!  Have I ever steered you wrong, my dear friends?

This is a collection of nine short stories, which I was already inclined to love, because I believe the short story is so often overlooked as a genre, and it is a great way to entice readers who are, perhaps, intimidated by a longer format, and disdainful of the shorter, though often more opaque, poem.  Isn’t that sneaky?  Besides,  this collection is stellar.  The stories all center around girls and young women, all told with a lush, almost magical, voice.

La’s poet mother is dead, Tuck has two mothers, Winnie is in love with her boyfriend Cubby, who loves other men, and Pixie and Pony are the best friends to ever grace the pages of a book.  These are their stories: full of sparkly hope, growth, and language that makes you think of paintings and constellations and water glinting off the ocean.  You can finish the book in a few hours, but you will probably want to hold on to it for days.  If you know a girl, or you are a girl, (I am pretty sure that is everyone. Just sayin’!) you should read this book.  Here’s why: this collection is special because it returns the magic to femininity and celebrates that power inherent in young women, the strength that society so often likes to overlook .  What I loved most was the contrast of the setting (often a gritty city landscape) and the tapestried beauty of the characters’ inner dialogues and relationships with others.  The stories are straightforward in plot, and feel like little snapshots in a photo essay entitled “Being a Person”.

Francesca Lia Block is the author of many amazing books, including Weetzie Bat and The Rose and the Beast.  She won the Margaret Edwards lifetime achievement award, which is actually code for Super Amazing Goddess Writer Who Makes the World Better Just By Existing.  Everything she has ever written is now on the top of my to-read list, and I am mailing this beautiful book to a friend who is going to love it, as long as she promises to mail it to someone else after she is finished.

On a side note, do you remember when I reviewed The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, and someone described it as “magical realism”?  I loved Bender’s style, and Francesca Lia Block gives me the same feeling.  I think you will like it!

On an even more unrelated side note, I got my student visa and am leaving for McGill in Montreal for library school this week!  Oh sweet goodness, I am going to be a librarian!

Happy Reading (and I love you)!

Author’s website:  http://www.francescaliablock.com/

Block, Francesca Lia.  Girl Goddess #9. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 181 pp.  Ages 13 and up.