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Crickhollow Books - Reading Ideas from an Indie Perspective

Good books. Great Stories. Fine Purpose.

Why We Love Fantasy Stories Soooo Much!

The Purpose of Fantasy: A Reader's Guide to Twelve Selected Books with Good Values and Spiritual Depth - Philip Martin

This weekend (Saturday through Monday, July 5–7), The Purpose of Fantasy is discounted to 99 cents.

It includes discussions of specific titles like The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, and others (some labeled as children's books but enjoyed long into adulthood!).

It also discusses why fantasy is so beloved and influential in meaningful ways, drawing on thoughts by Tolkien, Chesterton, and others.

Happy 4th of July weekend!

Humorous Ghost Stories for Kids, now just $.99 as eBook

Shadow Island: A Spooky Tale of Lake Superior - Raymond Bial

More fun than scary!

Now just $.99 in Kindle edition.

Shadow Island: A Spooky Tale of Lake Superior.




The humorous adventures of three girls – 12-year-old Amanda, her kid sister Sally, and her best friend Roxanne – who find themselves trapped on Shadow Island, a spooky island near a sleepy resort somewhere on Lake Superior. To have any chance to get away, the girls will have to explore the mysterious and long-abandoned Stardust Hotel. . . . with its many rooms, towers, and dusty cellar. Turns out it's not quite as deserted as everyone thought!

In Raymond Bial’s ghost stories for kids, the characters encounter lots of ghosts as they dash from one funny spooky encounter to the next.

In the process, they learn a lot about themselves – and about the importance of friends, family, and doing the right thing.

Raymond Bial's humorous spooky tales, set in the Midwest and full of regional heritage and history, are fun to read, not too scary for young readers, and always deliver good lessons on friendship and a bit of regional history.

Raymond Bial is the author of more than 100 books for children and adults, including Amish Home, The Underground Railroad, Where Lincoln Walked, Ellis Island, and others. His other books of humorous ghost stories for kids include The Fresh Grave (short stories), The Ghost of Honeymoon Creek (a novel), and Dripping Blood Cave (short stories). He lives in Urbana, Illinois.

Odin's Promise - A Novel of Norway (Middle-Grade Historical Fiction)

Odin's Promise: A Novel of Norway . . . is a great read for fans of WWII fiction, dog stories, and all things Norwegian!



“Love of dog, love of family, and love of country . . . beautifully written, emotionally taut novel of one girl’s coming of age during war time.” – Gayle Rosengren, author of What the Moon Said


Odin’s Promise is a historical novel for middle-grade readers. When German troops invade Norway in Spring 1940 in the early days of World War II, eleven-year-old Mari is forced to grow beyond her “little girl” nickname to deal with harsh new realities in her small village in western Norway.


At her side is Odin, her faithful Norwegian elkhound. Odin, not one for quiet resistance, quickly makes an enemy of soldiers who patrol the area. Mari, her family, and neighbors are soon drawn into the underground resistance movement, as young and old find a way to oppose the occupying forces and show their love for their native land.


Odin’s Promise is a wonderful story, especially for Norwegian Americans and other European-Americans whose ancestors were involved in resistance movements in World War II, and for all who enjoy reading stories about World War II history.


Author Sandy Brehl is a teacher and an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. She lives in Muskego, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee.

What is the Purpose of Fantasy?

“All stories teach, whether the storyteller intends them to or not. They teach the world we create. They teach the morality we live by.” – Philip Pullman

Do you agree?

Why do you enjoy fantasy stories?


For more, check out:

The Purpose of Fantasy, by Philip Martin


(It's also available as an inexpensive Kindle, just $3.99.


The Purpose of Fantasy: A Reader's Guide - now in paperback

The Purpose of Fantasy: A Reader's Guide . . .


is now out in paperback, along with the oh-so-inexpensive Kindle edition ($3.99).




The book is good for anyone interested in writing or reading, not just avid fans of fantasy, as it talks about the underlying themes of value we find in the best books.



I hope the book proves of value to you in your reading adventures!


#amreading #WriterWednesday #fantasybooks

Must-Read Stories for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Laurel Long Arthur's Christmas: An Arthur Adventure - Marc Brown The Snowman - Raymond Briggs 'Twas the Night Before Christmas - Clement C. Moore, Matt Tavares The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - Dr. Seuss A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale - Martin Waddell The Christmas Candle - Richard Paul Evans The Message of the Birds - Kate Westerlund, Feridun Oral

When the weather outside is frightful, why not curl up with a roaring fire, a piping hot mug of cocoa (complete with marshmallows), and one of these holiday-themed stories suggested by Crickhollow Books:


Christmas Reads


1. The Twelve Days of Christmas, Laurel Long, Age Range: 3-5


2. Arthur’s Christmas, Marc Brown, Age Range: 3-6


3. The Snowman, Raymond Briggs, Age Range: 3-7


4. Twas the Night Before Christmas, Clement Clark Moore, Age Range: 3-7


5. The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg, Age Range: 4-8


6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Suess, Age Range: 5-9


7. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Age Range: 10+


Christmas (Christian) Reads


1. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale, Martin Waddell, Age Range: 2-6


2. The Christmas Candle, Richard Evans, Age Range: 4+


3. The Message of the Birds, Kate Westerlund, Age Range: 3-5


Hanukkah Reads


1. Hanukkah Bear, Eric Kimmel, Age Range: 4-7


2. The Story of Hanukkah, David Adler, Age Range: 5-8


3. Oh Hanukkah, Cathy Goldberg Fishman, Age Range: 5-8


4. Chanukah Lights, Michael Rosen, Age Range: 5-9


Kwanzaa Reads


1. The Rugrats’ First Kwanzaa, Stephanie Greene, Age Range: 4-8


2. Kwanzaa, Deborah M. Newton Chocolate, Age Range: 5-8


3. The Seven Days of Kwanzaa, Angela Shelf Medearis, Age Range: 8-12


4. Kiesha’s Kwanzaa, Jacqueline Grant, Age Range: 9-12


A Hive for the Honeybee

A Hive for the Honeybee, a (hc) - Soinbhe Lally, Patience Brewster

Written by Lauder Hansen


Soinbhe Lally’s allegorical novel, A Hive for the Honeybee, is a beautiful tale about one little worker bee who learns idleness and thankfulness through her friends, Alfred, Mo, and Belle, in a working-centered society.


The story begins when we meet Thora, a small house bee, whose entire life is centered-on the colony. Her friend, Belle, is a hive cleaner, and she spends most of her days sweeping “up the dust made by a hundred thousand busy feet coming and going on the hive floor all day.” The hive is their world, and their world is the hive.


On the other hand, the hive contains the drones, who only think about themselves. Drones focus solely on drinking honey, going Queen-questing, making ridiculous rules, and being extremely messy and lazy. Yet Alfred, a poet, and Mo, a philosopher, are the exceptions.


Philosopher Mo is beginning to question the way the colony functions when he bumps into Thora and Belle, who are, of course, working. Mo tries to teach these small workers how to dream. Belle immediately stops the conversation, stating that “the hive is our whole existence. We’re born to work.” However, Thora begins to open her mind, and unlike any other worker bee, she begins to dream.


Thora dreams she “flew outside into the sunlight, gorged herself on nectar, and lay in the heart of a wild white rose under the noonday sun.” Her dream is quite elaborate, seeing as she, because she is constantly working, never has time to savor such exotic circumstances.


But even after such an enlightening experience, the hive begins to spiral out of control.


And it all starts when a new Queen begins to sing; once her song has been sung, many bees and drones begin to die after various mating sessions, brutal wasp attacks, and an intruding mouse.


Through all these horrible happenings, though, Thora, Belle, Alfred, and Mo still remain close friends, and with Alfred and Mo’s guidance, Thora continues to dream.


That is until the drones are forced out of the colony into the bitter cold by the Queen’s command; after this hideous slaughter, Thora realizes just how important her friendships were. Without them, she is all alone, and she realizes that “there was nobody waiting for her…not anymore.”


In the end, Thora realizes that life is more than just working; it is a celebration, as well as a hardship. At times, we do need to be busy, but at other times, we need to revel, cherish, and appreciate the small things in life, like a simple white rose.


A Hive for the Honeybee is an incredibly complex novel, which does not solely revolve around bees. Instead, it is a stand on government, art, poetry, and society rolled into 226 pages of sheer emotion and beauty. Like Thora and Belle, we need to remain hard-working; however, we must also be like Alfred and Mo, where we savor beauty outside the hive. It is okay to be idle, appreciative, and thankful.

Coraline Review

by Lauder Hansen


Neil Gaiman wrote a fantastic novella that is worth reading more than once. As you begin to read Coraline, you'll definitely feel the chills start to creep up your spine, as you get deeper into the story with its mysterious bricked-up door and the odd and sinister characters, including a man who trains a mouse circus and a "mother" with shiny black button eyes.


Adventurous Coraline Jones and her family move into a new apartment complex, which was once “a very old house.” And there were other people who lived in that very old house, including Mr. Bobo, a crazy man with a mouse circus, and Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, retired actresses with an obsession for Scotties.


Then one day, Coraline discovers the dreaded door, a story element that sprang from Gaiman’s own childhood memories, according to the author. As a child, he had lived in a house with a “big, carved, brown wooden door.” Like Coraline, he had wondered, “What might lie behind it?” In real life, behind that door, Gaiman had found it bricked up, just as Coraline does at first in Gaiman's story. But that strange image also provided the inspiration that led many years later to this novella, a story of what lies behind the bricks and dust.


When Coraline decides to open the door again, the bricks and dust have disappeared, and she finds herself stepping into a flat that looks, surprisingly, like her own. However, there seems to be something different. Something very different.            


This is when she meets her Other Mother and Other Father. They seem normal enough, except for their chilling black button eyes. Her Other Mother, too, has extremely long fingers, and “her dark red fingernails were curved and sharp.” it's a scary idea: If everyone has another Mother, where is mine? And what would I do if I met her?  


For Coraline to stay in this magical place, where all the food “tastes wonderful” and all her toys are “remarkable things,” the Other Mother says, “There’s only one little thing we’ll have to do, so you can here for ever and always.”


And that one little thing is having buttons sewn into your eyes! Coraline is led into the kitchen where “a spool of black cotton,” “a long silver needle,” and “two large black buttons” are waiting. All the Other Father can offer is, “It won’t hurt.”


An extremely afraid Coraline escapes to reality, wanting nothing more than a warm and comforting embrace from her real parents. But they are nowhere to be found; the Other Mother has kidnapped them!


To save her parents, Coraline, fighting back fear, returns to the magical world where her Other Mother has patiently been waiting. Coraline still refuses to have buttons sewn into her eyes, so a furious Other Mother locks her into a dark closet.


While locked away, Coraline meets three dead ghost children. Their souls have been eaten up by the Other Mother. Slurp. If Coraline can find their souls, they explain, they will be free from the Other Mother’s evil clutches…and, you know, the dark closet.


After what seems like an eternity, because time-outs are never fun, Coraline is released, and she instantly challenges the Other Mother to a game. (I mean, who can resist games?) The Other Mother, a demon with long fingernails, greedily accepts the challenge when Coraline bets her soul that she can win the game.


Time slowly begins to tick away. Coraline is forced to find the dead children’s souls and her parents. Will she find help from a magical stone that she received from Miss Spink and Miss Forcible? 


Needless to say, Coraline does manage to uncover all the ghost children’s souls, but only after fighting and wrestling with evil rats and horribly disfigured Other Father blobs.


The ending is perfect, not a surprise given the wonderful storytelling we expect from this award-winning author. Gaiman has written a fantastic novella. But be warned, it is scary. You will feel the chills start to crawl up your spine as you wonder if somewhere, your own Other Mother may be lurking, waiting to sew black buttons eyes onto you.

Advice from Neil Gaiman
Advice from Neil Gaiman

Thanksgiving Writing Prompts for Children

Children have wonderfully creative ideas, especially when it comes to the holidays. Why not give them a fun writing prompt (located below) and let their imagination run wild? 


1. Thanksgiving Dinner is right around the corner, and your child gets to invite one more person. Who would they invite, and why? 


2. Thanksgiving Dinner is on the table, but wait, that's odd...there is a dish that doesn't quite belong there. What dish wouldn't your child want to see, and why? 


3. What is your child most thankful for? 

    This would be a great question to ask before Thanksgiving Dinner!


And guess what? 


Crickhollow Books is holding a 50-word writing contest to celebrate their 5-year anniversary! The contest's theme is "Thanksgiving," and the deadline is November 16th. For more details, please visit: http://www.crickhollowbooks.com/50-word-story-on-thanksgiving/


Happy Writing, and Happy Thanksgiving! 

Must-Read Stories on Thanksgiving Day

A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620 - Kathryn Lasky Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving - Joseph Bruchac, Greg Shed The Memory Cupboard: A Thanksgiving Story - Charlotte Herman, Ben F. Stahl The Thankful Book - Todd Parr Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) - Melissa Sweet Milly and the Macy's Parade (Scholastic Bookshelf: Holiday) - Shana Corey Turkey Trouble - Wendi Silvano, Lee Harper A Plump And Perky Turkey - Teresa Bateman, Jeff Shelly Arthur's Thanksgiving (Arthur Adventure Series) - Marc Brown Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Thanksgiving: With Turkey, Family, and Counting Blessings - Deborah Heiligman

Gobble, gobble, there is nothing like Thanksgiving Day! It is a festive time to eat turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, while enjoying much-needed time with family and friends. 


Thanksgiving Day is also a time to read wonderful stories about Thanksgiving, and Crickhollow Books has recommended quite a few stories to gobble up this Thanksgiving! 


Historical Thanksgiving Reads


1. A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple

    Kathryn Lasky, Age Range: 9-12


2. Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

    Joseph Bruchac, Age Range: 6-9


3. Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl

    Kate Waters, Age Range: 4-8


Being Thankful Reads


1. The Memory Cupboard: A Thanksgiving Story

    Charlotte Herman, Age Range: 6-9


2. The Thankful Book

    Todd Parr, Age Range: 3-6


3. Thanks for Thanksgiving

    Julie Markes, Age Range: 4-8


4. Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks

    Margaret Sutherland, Age Range: 3-6


Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Reads


1. Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade

    Melissa Sweet, Age Range: 4-8


2. Milly and the Macy's Parade

    Shana Corey, Age Range: 4-8


Turkey, Turkey, Turkey Reads


1. Turkey Trouble

    Wendi Silvano, Age Range: 6-8


2. T is for Turkey: A True Thanksgiving Tale

    Tanya Lee Stone, Age Range: 3-5 


3. A Plump and Perky Turkey

    Teresa Bateman, Age Range: 6-8


Other Holiday Reads


1. 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

    Dav Pilkey, Age Range: 3-5


2. Arthur's Thanksgiving

    Marc Brown, Age Range: 3-6


3. Holiday Around the World: Celebrate Thanksgiving

    Deborah Heiligman, Age Range: 6-9


Remember to count your blessings, eat some turkey, and curl up with a great story on Thanksgiving Day! 

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Sometimes, we think writing an entire novel is an impossible act. But we need to believe in ourselves -- if we write one-page every single day, we will have a 365-page manuscript to work with at the end of the year. Nothing will ever seem impossible again! 



Neil Gaiman's 8-Rules for Writing
Neil Gaiman's 8-Rules for Writing

Six Books To Scare You This Halloween

Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark by Schwartz, Alvin published by Scholastic Inc (1989) [Paperback] -

Ghouls, witches, goblins, and more are lurking around every corner, waiting to scare you in these stories recommended by Crickhollow Books:


1. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Alvin Schwartz

2. Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs, various authors

3. Tales for the Midnight Hours, Judith Stamper

4. Short and Shivery, Robert D. San Souci

5. The Wolves in the Wall, Neil Gaiman 

6. Goosebumps, R.L. Stein  


But as R.L. Stein wrote, "Reader beware; you're in for a scare." 

"Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts."

Larry L. King, a respected Texas playwright and National Book Award-nominated author of many books, said this, and it is, in my eyes, quite true. 


To become a great writer, one must sit down and write. Words must flow from your pen. It could be a short story, a poem, or even a journal entry. Writers must strive to write every single day, even if it is only jotting down ideas or scribbling. 


Afterwards,  you must rewrite (edit) those ideas, stories, and poems. As an editor, rewriting is important; words need to be shaped, enhanced, and strengthened. No piece is ever finished -- you can always go back, rewrite it, and remaster your writing.


And who doesn't love to read? When we read, we are inspired, and sometimes, our writing style changes to show homage to authors we love and admire. For instance, if I take a break to read a chapter of a book by Neil Gaiman or Clive Barker, I'll come back to my own writing with fresh ideas on style, creative language, and characters.


Do you try to take a shortcut, or do you use all three ingredients in your writing?

“Watch with glittering eyes the world around you.” – Roald Dahl

“Watch with glittering eyes the world around you. Those who do not believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl


Note for writers: Roald Dahl was one of a number of beloved, über-successful writers who developed their chops by telling stories out loud to their kids.


The topflight storytellers included Richard Adams, who wrote Watership Down; J.R.R. Tolkien, who told bedtime stories to his kids before writing his wonderful Father Christmas Letters (before writing The Hobbit); and others.


Reading your writing out loud is one of the most powerful (and perhaps least used) ways to improve your writing!


For more tips to become a better writer:

How To Write Your Best Story
by Philip Martin