Books Full of Magic and Mystery

Midnight in the Pawn Shop

By Deborah K. Frontiera

Midnight in the Pawn Shop is a charming little book about a group of objects that are for sale in a pawn shop. The story is told from the perspective of the security camera, which is able to record everything that happens in the shop. Not long before the story begins, the security camera tells us that there was a storm one night, during which lightning struck the shop; ever since then, all the items in the shop have been able to move and talk. However, they made a pact never to talk or move about during the day so the owner doesn’t know their secret.

The book reads a bit like The Arabian Nights, with one item telling its story every night. Sometimes, the items end up having connected stories that make the book all the more interesting. For example, the Exercise Bike tells how it belonged to a young woman named Amber, who used it regularly until she met a guy named Tom and moved in with him. Then Exercise Bike was sold. The mention of Amber and Tom makes Diamond Ring speak up because it also knew Amber and Tom and then shares what happened to them after Exercise Bike was sold.

Beyond the stories, there are adventures that happen regularly in the pawn shop. The first item to tell its story is an antique teapot that is sold by a man who tells the owner no one in his family wants it anymore. The owner wants to have the teapot appraised because he believes it’s quite valuable, but the man just wants his money, settles for $25, and quickly hurries away, which causes the owner to be suspicious. Later, when the teapot tells her story, we find out that she was stolen. Later, a man breaks in and tries to steal a collector’s item John Lennon record. The pawn shop items protect the shop from him, but the police want to see the security camera footage, which causes the items to fear their secret will be discovered. You’ll have to read the book to see what happens next.

I thoroughly enjoyed the many stories in this book. Others were told by Plate and Pitcher, Guitar (which was once played by Elvis), Golf Bag, 35MM Camera and Clock.

One character in the book, however, especially stands out—Gun. He is rather blunt and rude at times, and he is also resistant to telling his story, although he keeps saying he belonged to a man who worked for the FBI. When Gun finally does tell his tale, the other items are largely left speechless in how to react.

The Author’s Note at the book’s end discusses the scientific possibility of panpsychism—the theory that all matter, including inanimate objects, has thoughts and feelings. Frontiera also shares where she got the inspiration to write the book.

Think of Midnight in the Pawn Shop as Toy Story for grownups. It’s important here that I clarify that while this book is 109 pages and looks like a young adult novel, some aspects of it may not be suitable for young readers, especially Gun’s story. I recommend if you have children that you buy the book to read for yourself. Then you can decide whether to let your child or teenager read it. It might actually create a good opportunity to talk to your children about topics raised in the stories like gun control.

For more information about Midnight in the Pawn Shop, visit Deborah Frontiera’s website at: authorsden.com/deborahkfrontiera.

Faeries of the Night: Dance and Play

By Deborah Choszczyk

In the August Superior Reads column, I reviewed the first book in this series, Faeries of the Night: Good and Evil, a picture and activity book designed for children ages 7 to 12. This second book largely tells the same story, but it is written for younger children and to be read aloud. While the first book had multiple paragraphs per page, this one only has a few simple sentences on each page, many of which ask children questions designed to make them think and wonder and be imaginative.

Before I say more, let me explain how these books were created. Deborah Choszczyk loves dance in all its forms. She’s been a dancer since age five and is now a dance instructor. She has taught dance in many different places including at Northern Michigan University and Lake Superior State University.

Long before she thought of writing a book, Choszczyk created a ballet in 1999 that told the story retold in these two books. The books themselves are the result of recreating scenes from the ballet in the forest and cave depicted in the ballet’s storyline. Choszczyk created the ballet and wrote the text for the book, but she also hired another enthusiastic young dancer, 16-year-old Lindsay Morel, to be the book’s photographer. In addition, she found several young dancers to dress up as the faeries, goblins and the dragon that appear in the storyline.

The story itself does not read like a typical children’s book—there is no dialogue or real development of individual characters—but that’s because it is more like the plot summary of the ballet. We are introduced to several individual fairies—Wild Rose, Lilac, Sorrel, Ivy, etc. They are helping Star Faery place stars in the sky. Then the goblins appear and kidnap her. The other faeries go to their friends for help, including the beautiful Snow Faery. Then they disguise themselves as goblins and enter the goblin cave to rescue Star Faery.

Choszczyk’s goal is not only to entertain readers with this book but to encourage children to be imaginative and creative, including in the form of dance. Because Faeries of the Night: Dance and Play is for younger readers, Choszczyk continually asks them thoughtful questions. For example, after talking about how faeries sit on mushrooms, she asks them, “What kind of faery do you want to be?” and “What shape can you make your body?” After introducing the goblins, she asks the reader, “How would you dance if you were a goblin?” She also explains that boy faeries bow and girl faeries curtsey and asks the reader, “Do you know how?”

The story throughout is illustrated with stunning photographs of faeries and goblins in costumes. My favorite part is that Choszczyk created giant blueberries, pencils, and cookies for the photos so the humans costumed as the faeries would look small beside them.

The book concludes with instructions for “Dance and Movement Activities for Home and School.” These include “Moving Arms,” “Skipping Locomotor Activity” and “Making Shapes—on a Mushroom.” Each one is described with suggestions for how to encourage young readers to move about. The “Notes for Teachers and Parents” says “this story affords opportunities for students to create new movements every day, write dialog for this story, create music, or even write a play!” Teachers wanting more ideas on how to incorporate the books into lessons can contact Deborah.

More information about the innovative Faeries of the Night series can be found at the publisher’s website rrrbooks.com or at the book’s Facebook page: Faeries of the Night Series.

Editor’s Note: Tichelaar is the author of My Marquette and Haunted Marquette. All books reviewed in this column are available in local and online bookstores. For book review submission guidelines, visit www.marquettemonthly.org.

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