Glen Huser’s Top 5 Halloween Movies for Kids

The Elevator Ghost

My novel The Elevator Ghost is a story that begins and ends on Halloween, and, as I’ve grown older, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around just what it is about the day that enchanted me as a youngster and has continued to do so. The key I think is in that word ‘enchanted’. Halloween pulls itself away from its commonplace siblings by the very way it spurs us to view the world around us as a place of wonder and danger, where things — like nature itself — are not always what they seem. I would add another word to wrap around the appeal of Halloween for me: humour. The best Halloween moments are scary or awesome … or funny.

A tradition for me over many years has been to watch a movie after the calls of “Halloween apples” have faded away and my doorbell has quit ringing. I’m fond of the animated films of Tim Burton and Henry Selick and staples such as Joe Dante’s Gremlins, but more often than not I’m apt to slip one of these old favourites into my DVD player:

Meet Me in St. Louis

Vincente Minelli, 1944

In brilliant technicolor, we follow the Smith family in St. Louis over the year (1903) that Dad considers and then decides against a move to New York. A fall sequence features Totie (6-year-old Margaret O’Brien) in her tramp costume volunteering to visit the scariest house on the street to “kill” (throw flour in the face of) Mr. Braukoff. Among the other treats, of course, is Judy Garland — never more beautiful or in finer voice. (For viewers of all ages.)

E.T.

Steven Spielberg, 1982

This picture remains a spellbinding sci-fi/fantasy. No matter what age you are, it’s impossible not to identify with the lost and frightened extraterrestrial. I love that it applauds the empathy and powerful spirit of children. A key scene has them bicycling through the sky (shades of Peter Pan) on Halloween with E.T. garbed as a ghost. (For viewers 8 and up.)

To Kill a Mockingbird

Robert Mulligan, 1962

There’s a very scary house (complete with a bogeyman) on the street where 6-year-old Scout (Mary Badham) and her older brother Jem (Phillip Alford) live. We follow the two over a summer and fall in a sleepy southern town in the 1930s that is riled to life by the trial of an African-American man for rape. A knuckle-biting scene near the end has Scout, costumed as a Thanksgiving ham, being pursued through the woods by a madman. (For viewers 11 and up)

Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton, 1955

After a bank robbery which leads to their father’s imprisonment and execution, two children — John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce) — are on the run from a murderous, demented preacher (chillingly portrayed by Robert Mitchum) intent on getting the money stashed in Pearl’s doll. Terrible circumstances lead them on a downriver journey to sanctuary in the hands of an old woman (Lillian Gish) who collects and protects abandoned children. (For viewers 11 and up.)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Charles Barton, 1948

I’m not a huge fan of Abbott and Costello, but this one is a Halloween treat as the comedy team, baggage handlers for a house of horrors, meet not only Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) but Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.). An enjoyable introduction to some of Universal Studio’s pantheon of horror stars. (For viewers 8 and up.)

Gustave is a friend you won’t forget

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A little mouse and his friend, Gustave, go out to play one afternoon in this darkly comic story about the sadness of losing a friend and the joy of making a new one.

The mouse’s mother has always warned the young friends not to stray too far from home. There is a cat, she says, and it is dangerous to go far away.

But danger doesn’t stop this curious pair, and soon they find themselves face-to-face with their big blue-eyed enemy. In a feat of bravery, Gustave allows his friend the chance to escape — but is gobbled up by the cat in the process. Heartbroken, the little mouse must return home — without his friend — and tell his mother what has happened.

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A sweet surprise ending turns this melancholy tale of friendship into a strangely funny book.

Behind the scenes of a picture book translation

When we came across the beautiful picture book À La Sieste! (Naptime!) by Iris de Moüy, we knew we had to bring it to an English audience. But there are lots of things that go into making a picture book that the average reader might not think about. In the case of Naptime!, all the text in the book was hand-lettered to match the illustrations. We knew that to make the English translation as beautiful as the French version, we had to hand-letter our text too.

Groundwood Art Director Michael Solomon was up to the task. He let us document the process, and gave us some insight into his thoughts. Have a look!


 

About to attempt the English lettering for our edition of Iris de Moüy's Naptime. The text will print as a greyscale layer in the final production and I wanted to match the dark and light tones of the original as much as possible (it's not a solid black). I assumed I would need to use a transparent coloured ink or watercolour, but I couldn't find any that were dark enough or that pooled the pigment in the right way. Finally I settled on this Windsor and Newton India: less black than Pelikan but strong enough in the heavy strokes and then yielding a nice grey when the brush runs dry or the pressure is less. Perfection! (The ink, not me).

I’m about to attempt the English lettering for our edition of Iris de Moüy’s Naptime!. The text will print as a greyscale layer in the final production, and I wanted to match the dark and light tones of the original as much as possible (it’s not a solid black). I assumed I would need to use a transparent coloured ink or watercolour, but I couldn’t find any that were dark enough or that pooled the pigment in the right way. Finally I settled on this Windsor and Newton India: less black than Pelikan but strong enough in the heavy strokes and then yielding a nice grey when the brush runs dry or the pressure is less. Perfection! (The ink, not me).

The original. Ours will be a conventional jacketed trade picture book, not a board book. But it will print in these 4 yummy spot inks.

The original. Ours will be a conventional jacketed picture book, not a board book. But it will print in these four yummy spot inks.

I am going to need complete silence.

I am going to need complete silence.

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The weapon of choice.

Silence, I say! Mmmm... Smooth white card stock...

Silence, I say! Mmmm… smooth white card stock…

Oh, yeah!

Oh, yeah!

I'm lying. I want to have a nap. Right now.

I’m lying. I want to have a nap. Right now.

Excess feathering and other irregularities: Photoshop will see to that!

Excess feathering and other irregularities: Photoshop will see to that!

Destination: page 5

Destination: page 5

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And the final result!

Martha Brooks Gives a Glimpse of Her Other Life as a Jazz Singer

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Not only is Martha Brooks an award-winning novelist who has been published internationally, but she is also a talented Jazz singer! With that much creativity flowing through her veins, Martha penned us her thoughts on her dual creative outlets and how Jazz influenced her new children’s book Winter Moon Song:

My parallel career as a jazz singer, working with the inventive minds of other jazz musicians, underscores the solitary rhythmic work I do with words. Music imbues my life in the everyday, whether it’s birdsong at the family cabin at Pelican Lake, raindrops drumming on the roof, wind scattering autumn leaves, waves lapping at the shore (the very music of nature) a beloved human voice dropping down through silence, or the sacred and profane and beautiful wall of sound that my jazz brothers make (and I lean against ) — piano, bass, drums — whether we’re performing Day by Day, or Teach Me Tonight, or I Fall in Love Too Easily.

Am I a writer or am I a singer? The answer is: both. I began my creative life as a singer, writing followed, and now I can scarcely imagine what I would do without the shelter of either art form. Perhaps that’s why my little rabbit is the way he is: full of the power and beauty of the natural world as he finds his own way to honor the Winter Moon Song.

Check out some of Martha’s soulful Jazz on iTunes! It’s the perfect music to curl up with when reading Winter Moon Song, a lovely story about a little rabbit who finds a special way to brighten the darkest month of the year.


Martha Brooks is launching her new book Winter Moon Song in Winnipeg on Wednesday October 15, 7:00 pm at McNally Robinson (1120 Grant Avenue)! For more information see the official event page.

“A Shared Space” – A Guest Post by Irene Luxbacher

Irene's workspace, where she makes her own kind of magic.
Irene's father's workshop space in more recent years.

Irene’s father’s workshop space in more recent years.

I grew up watching my dad work quietly at his trade. A small tailor shop in the garment district of downtown Toronto was my introduction to the world of pattern, texture, patches of color and a wild assortment of kaleidoscopic characters. There, in his shop, we got to share in the best wordless conversations ever, both looking out the large storefront window onto an ever bustling Spadina Avenue, and in again at each other. Working on Mr. Frank was a great way to re-visit a lot of those memories.

Because Mr. Frank was a story that was so personal, the first place I looked for inspiration was in the boxes of fabrics and patterns my dad had accumulated over the years. I collected scraps and papers that reminded me of the materials he had. Old newspapers and patterns he had stowed away as part of his reference collection became a part of the backdrop of his shop in the book’s illustrations. I made lots of paintings that resembled the look of woven fabric textures, and of course poured over lots of old photos of my dad over the years, drawing and re-drawing his facial expressions and posture as he aged from a young boy into an elderly man.

Irene's workspace, where she makes her own kind of magic.

Irene’s workspace, where she makes her own kind of magic.

In a lot of ways, my studio space is very similar to my dad’s workshop. At first glance both our workspaces are pretty unassuming. There’s a quiet feeling of productivity, practicality and comfort in the organized mess that I think I adopted from his way of approaching his work. From the scraps on the floor, to the piles of collected patterns and images, we both — in our own time — work quietly together. Sketching out designs for a new idea or style, piecing together patterns and textures in a new way… fussing over details that please the eye and somehow “fit” and “feel” right.

In many ways, making Mr. Frank reminded me that the wordless conversation I remember sharing with my dad while watching him at work in his shop is far from over.


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On his last day before retirement, Mr. Frank is sewing the most wonderful outfit of his long career. Who could it be for?

In all his years working as a tailor, Mr. Frank has made all kinds of clothes. From the practical uniforms of the 1940s to the wild and weird designs of the 1960s and 1970s, he has seen (and sewn) just about everything. But today’s project is especially close to Mr. Frank’s heart.

With its use of textiles and sensitive period detail, Irene Luxbacher’s artwork is the perfect complement to her understated text. The result is a story that children and grandparents can share with equal delight.

Don’t miss this picture book!

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This cleverly conceived board book appeals to a young child’s sense of fun while providing facts about different animals. A series of impossible but delightful-to-imagine cautionary statements are followed by informative explanations:

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The simplicity and humor in the text and watercolor illustrations will make this book a story-time favorite.

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