#tbt, Part 3: Halloween Edition!

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Here I am, all dolled up in my very first Halloween costume:


If this picture is any indication, I wasn’t all that into Halloween that year (you wouldn’t be, either, if your introduction to Halloween included that horrifyingly scary Mickey Mouse costume).

But, as I got a little older, I became a huge fan of Halloween.

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You Are Not a Stranger Here

Adam HaslettYou Are Not a Stranger Here
Adam Haslett
© 2002

Adam Haslett makes one thing very clear: if you think your life is rough, rest assured–it could be way, way worse.

In his collection of short stories, You Are Not a Stranger Here, his characters’ lives are miserable and tragic and sad.  One dude is dying of AIDS.  A high-school kid’s dad dies in a car crash only weeks after his mom has committed suicide.  A young kid feels helpless and desperate after foreseeing someone’s death.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  In addition, many of his characters are dealing with severe mental illness.  Schizophrenia, mania, and depression all play major roles in stories. Continue reading

The Mysterious Benedict Society

1a51af785d26f8d5a080d0be0252fe60The Mysterious Benedict Society
By Trenton Lee Stewart
Illustrations by Carson Ellis
© 2007

When eleven-year-old orphan Reynie Muldoon reads the following question in a newspaper ad, he believes it was written specifically for him:


He decides to answer the ad and, thus, submits himself to a number of tricky tests.  Some of the tests are traditional pen-and-paper tests, others are very nonconventional (Reynie doesn’t know that some of the challenges he overcomes are actually character assessments).

It’s survival of the fittest, and, after each test, nearly all of the children are sent home for failing to pass.  But, at the end of the test day, Reynie and a few other children are left standing. Continue reading

Born Round

6a00d83451b42169e20120a6210039970c-piBorn Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater
Frank Bruni
© 2009

My mom likes to tell the story of my first childhood foray into “real” food.  She was feeding my brother and me lunch.  I was a wee (six or eight months, my mom now guesses), sitting in my high chair.  My brother was four, sitting at the table.  She gave him a peanut-butter sandwich—made, as always, with crunchy peanut butter.  Meanwhile, she was getting ready to feed me baby food (which she made herself back before the Béaba existed and it became the trendy, hipster-mom thing to do).

But I had a different agenda.  Apparently, I had decided that I’d had enough baby food.  Despite the fact that I had no teeth, I wanted that crunchy PB & J.  So, I did what any spoiled brat would do.  I stole my brother’s sandwich.  And I gummed it delightedly (Yes, I ate peanut butter before I was two.  I also learned to ride a bike without wearing a helmet.  These were dangerous times).  If the rest of the fam was going to eat delicious foods, then I would, too.

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c23112Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall
Kazuo Ishiguro
© 2009

I’m sure you won’t be too surprised to find out that I keep a collection of short stories in my husband’s car.  If we’re stuck in traffic, I’ll pull it out and read a story aloud to him (my brother-in-law, Sweater, will be happy to know that the collection that currently lives in the car is one of Sedaris’s).

If we’re headed on a long road trip, I usually download a short-story collection onto my iPad, so I can read them aloud as he’s driving.  I am not a fan of driving, and he is not a fan of reading, so it works out well.

Short-story collections are a good choice for our road trips for two reasons: Continue reading

Never Fall Down

Never Fall Down
Patricia McCormick
© 2012

This is Arn Chorn-Pond:


Arn is a Cambodian-American human-rights activist.  He is the founder of Cambodian Living Arts, a nonprofit that honors and supports Cambodian traditional arts, which were in danger of being lost as a result of the Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot) regime. Continue reading