Friday, January 29, 2016



We have had so many amazing guests share their favorite BOOKISH BEASTS this month.  In case you may have missed something, let's take a quick peek at the full list again.

A huge thank you goes out to all our guests who contributed this month, as well as to all our fans that stopped by to read and comment.  Be sure to stay tuned for another great month here at Book Bloggers International.  We are changing gears with some steamy romance reads, but we are still expecting lots of great conversations from book bloggers and book lovers around the world!

Before we close out for the month of BOOKISH BEASTS, chime in with your personal favorite beast or literary creature in the comment sections below!  We want to know!!

Monday, January 25, 2016


We are heading into magical lands today with Paige of The Book Carousel.  The topic can be debated as to whether it falls into BOOKISH BEASTS, but it definitely fits into LITERARY CREATURES ... Hobbits!


As a real life Hobbit, I find a strange connection between myself and those within J.R.R Tolkien’s much loved fantasy series. You’re probably wondering; “But, Paige- what on earth makes you a Hobbit?” I’ll make a list of the parallels between, shall I?

For starters, Hobbits are small creatures. Even the tallest Hobbits ‘rarely exceeded 4 feet in height.’ [1] Well, guess what: I’m barely 5ft. In fact, I’m 5ft and half an inch. I’m not even 5”1. How ludicrous is that.

Second of all, Hobbits are known for their love of mushrooms. Frodo himself was regularly chased out of farmer Maggot’s field for trying to nick his fungi. Farmer Maggot definitely was not a fun guy. Mushrooms are essentially my favourite food. Fried, raw, stuffed; you name it, I’ll eat it, and love it. I don’t even know why, there’s just something delicious about them- most of the time, I even pick my own mushrooms from our field. (Don’t worry, I’m always careful).

I could probably eat 6 [2] meals a day. (There’s no ‘probably’ about it, let’s be honest).

Now this next one might seem rather gross: but I hate wearing socks. I will only do so if it is absolutely necessary – like, if it’s freezing, or if I’m putting trainers or horse boots on.  Therefore, it isn’t hard to imagine that my feet are quite rough; and, no doubt, so are hobbits. They don’t even have shoes to wear.


Last of all, I like to imagine (as do most people, I assume) that I will live a long life. I’d like to reach a ripe old age, and since Hobbits live longer than men- well, maybe I’ll live long enough to receive a letter from the King/Queen!

So, yes, the creator and owner of The Book Carousel is a real life hobbit. Take from that what you will. But enough about me; it’s time to talk about the Hobbits.

I’ve already pointed out their small stature. Their range is 2 to 4 feet, with the average height being 3”5. For scale, think of your little brother or sister or cousin or a friend’s sibling. It’s quite little, isn’t it?


Look at old Bilbo, exceeding the average!

They live an unadventurous life- it was such a scandal when both Bilbo and Frodo left the Shire. That’s another reason for as to why they don’t wear shoes; besides their thick, durable skin, the Shire has soft ground, and being an unadventurous species, they rarely left the Shire.

Hobbits come in 3 types: Fallohides, Stoors and Harfoots. Each sub-species (I don’t think the term ‘breed’ is applicable here), has its own prominent characteristics.

-          Originate from the forest and the woodlands.
-          The tallest kind, with fairer skin and hair.
-          Skilled in hunting and language
-          It was two Fallohides who begun the expedition to the shire; hence, it can be assumed that the Bagginses are descendants of this kind.

-          Broad and heavy
-          Crossed the Misty Mountains to find their home
-          Many moved to the Shire in the Third Age

-          The most common kind
-          Smaller than Fallohides, with darker skin. It is most likely that Sam is a Harfoot.
-          Far less adventurous than their brethren
-          Preferred Hobbit holes to be in mountain sides

Speaking of Hobbit holes- the portrayal of their architecture in Jackson’s films is breath taking. The Shire replica in New Zealand is a place that is on my bucket list- and it should be on yours!

Tolkien claims to be the inventor of the word ‘Hobbit’, as he expressed that “‘on a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why.’” This is debated, for there is no official record; but this is not something that I find myself inclined to discuss. (Partly because I have absolutely no idea where I would begin research into the matter).

Tolkien has, arguably, created the most magnificent and well known fantasy series to date. Other publications with as much reverence as his could only be either Harry Potter, by J.K Rowling, and A Game of Thrones, by George R.R Martin.

So, if The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are not books you have as of yet read, I implore you to! Tolkien takes you on a magical and mythical journey, one that is full of fleshed out races like the Hobbits.

Thank you so much for reading, and also a thank you to Book Bloggers International for allowing me to write!


2 – In the movie adaptation, 7 meals are listed; however, the actual quote is ‘…being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).’
4 – I cannot find the original ‘Weta’ version of this, so unfortunately I can only provide this link to a Tumblr post:
5 - The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, No 163, to W.H. Auden, dated 1955

Friday, January 22, 2016


We have covered a wide array of beasts so far this month, but today Julianne of Outlandish Lit is bringing us another literary creature that we can't seem to live without these days . . . aliens!  Read on for a little something out of this world!


Aliens. There's so much to love about them. Why? Because we know literally nothing about them. Sure, there are some archetypes: short grays, tall grays, reptilians, alpha-draconians (and they are all fighting to control the earth and enslave the human race right now. WAKE UP, SHEEPLE). But what's so great about aliens is that they currently exist as an idea. They could be evil, they could be benevolent, they could be new to the galaxy, or they could have been here on earth ~all along~. All we really have is our imaginations to play with the idea of extraterrestrials, which makes them prime material for interesting books. So until we make first contact, here are some of the great, wildly different books about extraterrestrials you should check out that maybe you haven't before. STUDY UP, because they're coming.


The short story "Out of All Them Bright Stars" by Nancy Kress is a phenomenal example of the root of all alien stories. One way or another, they're a commentary on humanity. What's valuable about it, what needs to change. In this story, the aliens have made first contact and are living amongst humans. In a small vignette, the main character witnesses prejudice against an individual alien in a diner. It's so powerful. Read it online here.

This is one of the kinds of alien stories I just go crazy for. In "The Sentinel" by Arthur C. Clarke, a crew of astronauts finds a strange object on the moon surrounded by a forcefield. What's the implication of this object? Where did it come from? And what would happen if they were to break it? The ending thrills AND chills. You can read it here


Though I haven't been loving all the single issue comics coming after it, Trees, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis is so so solid. The aliens in this comic series are the strong silent type. By that I mean they are enormous tree-like columnar structures that plant themselves down in big cities, destroying a bunch of stuff, and then don't do anything. At all. What is the meaning behind them?? Is there sentience? Who sent them and where are they? This is my kind of extraterrestrial mystery.

And then there are the aliens full of personality. And in the Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan (all 5 volumes out so far are 100% worth reading), the aliens are incredibly human. Two soldiers from warring factions of a space war fall in love and have to deal with the consequences of pursuing that love. And some of the other species they run into are amazing/hilarious/grotesque. If you like aliens AND fun, you must give Saga a read.


Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor is one of the only real first contact stories on this list, and it's a great one. Something crashes into the sea near Lagos, Nigeria and an alien ambassador begins to communicate with three separate people. She promises them that they want to positively impact humans; that they just need some place to live. But convincing the rest of Nigeria of that is a whole ordeal that tears the city apart. Lagoon is another alien story that that forces us to take a look at our own world. 

Now this is my all-time favorite alien book. If you're looking for really truly original and alien aliens, you have GOT to read this. Embassytown by China Miéville. Humans live alongside the indigenous species called Ariekei on a planet. I'm not even going to try to describe the Ariekei race to you, it's too bizarre. But this book takes an amazing look at linguistics and the importance of language on this alien planet. And it is so so good.


If you're ready for a little bit of ~serious research~ now that you know aliens are alive and well in the universe and on our planet, you should probably read Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken. This is the book that every person interviewed on Ancient Aliens read as a kid. A lot of it is farfetched, but I have to say, the thought that aliens could have shaped our past is super interesting to think about. SHOW ME PROOF THAT THEY DIDN'T. That's what I thought.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


I (Tif from Tif Talks Books) am popping in today as both the coordinator of this monthly event, as well as a writer for one of my favorite BOOKISH BEASTS . . . zombies!!  Enjoy!!


The Undead.

The Walking Dead.

The Unconsecrated.

The Hungries.


I had no idea that stories about zombies could truly become so fascinating and addicting.  I can't even remember which book started it all, but I can tell you that I tend to always enjoy a book about the undead.  Here are just a few of my personal favorites . . .

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman:  For those that are unaware, The Walking Dead began as a comic series and not the fabulous TV show that is so popular these days.  Illustrated completely in black and white, readers follow a small group of individuals that are fighting to survive in a zombie-infested world.  The story line is the same between comic and show, but there are a number of differences between the two as well, which makes this fan happy to keep guessing.

World War Z by Max Brooks:  Yet another story that originated as a book before the movie.  This novel is written from multiple perspectives and reads more like a journal of accounts at the time of the zombie breakout.  The film is much different from the book, and almost dare I say, engaging because of the zombie super speed.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan:  This book is one of the first zombie books that I have ever read, or rather listened to in this case.  It was nothing what I expected from a zombie novel, including the name of the beasts themselves.  I have yet to return to this series, but I hope to in the near future after a quick re-read of the first.

The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant:  The set of three books chronicling the lives of bloggers in a zombie apocalypse still stands as one of my all-time faves.  It follows a brother and sister through some pretty fantastical adventures as they try to find the truth behind the zombies while trying to survive.

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry:  Patient Zero is the first of Maberry's Joe Ledger series, and features zombies as the beasts.  The rest of the series features a multitude of other beasts along the way, but it kicks off with a whirl of undead to get you hooked.

Last, but not least, I am currently in the midst of listening to another zombie novel that has the potential of becoming another all-time favorite . . .

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey:  When I first began reading this novel, I had no idea that zombies would come into play.  But, they do, and it is in such an unique and different way that I quickly fell into the story.  I was saddened when the audio expired on me, but I shouted a quick cheer when I just received a notice that I was able to check it out again this week.  I can't wait to dive back in and find out what happens next.

This list is just the beginning!  What other zombie novels have you hungry for more?

Monday, January 18, 2016


Today, we are taking a bit different turn in our BOOKISH BEASTS feature.  Please welcome Dinara Tengri who explores technology as a beast.


Technology is not a traditional monster in literature in movies, but it's one of the most popular. Unlike werewolves and vampires, robots and AI are not living things. They're nothing but wires and circuits. And maybe that's what makes them so frightening. They've been created by us, and yet we cannot fully understand them.

If you look at the lore, most of the books and movies share the same basic ideas. Either the technology is just evil, and wants to destroy/enslave humanity. Or, we have become too dependent on it and run the risk of becoming helpless and obsolete.

The first scenario is perfectly realised in movies like Terminator and Matrix. Both these movies tell the story of our creation becoming smarter than us and turning against us.

The other scenario is illustrated in Isaac Asimov's Robot novels. The robots in Asimov's books are governed by the Three Laws of Robotics and they can't willingly hurt humans. All they want is to serve and to help us. But the humanity runs the risk of turning into helpless babies with robot nursemaids waiting on our every need.

Are there any other reasons we find technology so frightening in science fiction, other than the obvious fear of becoming a slave or a spoiled baby? Take the short story, The Veldt, by Ray Bradbury, for example. Bradbury didn't bad-mouth technology itself, but he often asked the question: what will happen if technology will become such a huge part of our lives that it will be more important to us than our friends and family?

The Veldt is about a family that lives in a "smart" house in a not too distant future, and this house does everything for them, like cooking their dinner and tying their shoelaces. But the crowning achievement of this house is the children's Nursery. It's a room that can transform itself according to your wishes and imagination. If you want to play in Alice's Wonderland, the room will read your telepathic signals and create Wonderland, replicating every sight, sound and smell that you're thinking about. If you want to spend a day in the African Veldt, it will give you the Veldt, complete with the hot blazing sun, and the bloodthirsty lions.

At first, the parents are happy to give their children this Nursery, because the children are a little psychotic and the parents think it will help them to get more Zen. Pretty soon, though, they get a feeling that something's wrong, because the children only want to play in the Veldt. This goes on for weeks, and the parents start to worry that the kids may be stuck in the same pattern. But it's not just that they don't want to change the Nursery from the Veldt to something else, say a green forest. There is something about that Nursery, something about that Veldt that feels wrong. Something that is unsettling and alarming to the parents. The smells are too strong, the "sun" is too hot, and the lions look way too real. They're just 3D projections, but the way they're looking at you from the distance while munching on some carcass, makes you think that they're actually there, in flesh. The parents even arrange for their friendly neighbourhood psychologist to come and take a look at the Nursery. In the meantime, they decide to lock it off, which enrages the children. That same night, the parents hear a scream, somewhere in the house. A scream that sounds a little too familiar.

I won't spoil the rest of the story because it's one of those stories that you must experience for yourself.

The Nursery isn't the real monster in this story. But it is a reflection of the children's innermost desires and dreams. A projection of their imagination. The adults - both the parents and the psychologist feel ill at ease in that room, as if there is something sick in the atmosphere, and it's the reflection of how the children really feel on the inside.

Are the children stuck in a destructive loop? They get more psychotic and isolated in the Nursery because it gives them everything they need, even replacing their parents. And the more psychotic they get, the more real the Veldt becomes. It's like the Nursery feeds on the kids' negativity.

Just like vampires and werewolves, technology is only as scary as we want it to be. And I want it to be really scary. I want it to be a reflection of ourselves. I want the lines between virtual reality and "real" reality blurred. I want the relationship between humans and the machines to be complicated.

Lastly, I really recommend listening to the audio version of The Veldt, narrated by none other than Leonard Nimoy. Check it out on Youtube. I listened to it myself to prepare for this article.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Another day, another beast!  Please give Chrissy of Punk's House of Books a warm welcome, as she is here to talk about a classic favorite . . . DRAGONS!!


Fire cannot kill a dragon. 

We are all familiar with that saying now, thanks to Game of Thrones. Dragons have been a part of literature since well…forever. They are steeped deep in mythology and cultures around the world. They are even mentioned in the Bible. And most importantly, they are my all-time favorite fictional beast. 

One of the best things about dragons is that they can’t be pigeonholed like other fictional creatures. Trolls tend to be ugly and slow, vampires are usually charming and extremely good looking (my love of that is a whole other article). Dragons though, they can be anything. Just look at pop culture right now. I wouldn’t want to come face to face with any of the dragons from Game of Thrones but I would love to play fetch with Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. 

Dragons can be intelligent and brutal tricksters. They are beautiful even when they are “ugly”. They can be cruel or protective, depending on the mythology the author uses. They can have wings or not. They can live in mountains, in water, or your pocket (this is a thing that happens in the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead which only increased my love of dragons and made me want my own pocket dragon). 

How can anyone not love dragons? They are the heart of most fantasy books. Which was why is was extremely difficult for me to pick just one book that illustrated my love of these majestic creatures. So I chose two. 

The Inheritance Cycle is probably the one I love the most. 

The story follows Eragon and how much his life changes after he discovers a strange stone that is actually a rare dragon egg. When the dragon is born, she is bonded to Eragon and together they fight the King. If you are unfamiliar with this series it is ALL about dragons. All kinds of dragons. Good dragons, bad ones, old as time dragons and new baby dragons. The dragons and their humans share a special connection in the series that I really enjoyed. It’s more than the connection between the dragons and their riders in How to Train Your Dragon but still a traditional take on dragons and that is just as great too because hello, it’s kind of what made me love dragons in the first place. 

The other series I love is unfortunately not finished though I believe a book is planned for later this year. This one is different and I suppose at the other end of the spectrum of dragon stories. The Sweetest Dark series features a girl that can turn into a dragon. 

Besides that totally awesome part (I would love to be able to turn into a dragon!) the writing is beautiful and it takes place in England (love!) and just everything about this series is amazing. The author also has a more adult series that has a similar plot with dragons and I’m eager to get into that. 

Now that I’ve gushed about my dragon feelings, how do you feel about these magical beasts?

Monday, January 11, 2016


Welcome to another installment of BOOKISH BEASTS!  Today, I am excited to introduce you to a regular guest of Book Bloggers International, Kai of FICTION STATE OF MIND.  She is here today to talk about gargoyles!


Stone Guardians: Why I love Gargoyles 

I can’t remember when I first encountered gargoyles. They have been a part of my life for so long. From The thinker gargoyle statue that sits on my bookshelf, to the classic oversized book Nightmares In The Sky by Stephen King, a wonderful primer for those looking for the origins and meanings of the many types of gargoyles. I connect with these creatures in a deep way. There is a sense of history and mystery to them and they look so lovely on bookshelves 

Like many my first viewing of a gargoyle was in an architecture book and later in an art history class. As a child I was always drawn to them. Their strange faces and intricate details. There is also the interesting dynamic that such extreme figures are often found on churches and historical landmarks. 

The one thing that moved my interest to a passion was the television show Gargoyles. This animated show took a group of stone guardians from medieval Scotland to modern day New York. Gargoyles entertained kids with action and comedy but also explored almost Shakespearean themes of loss and sacrifice. It continues to be one of my favorite shows and I’m now getting all the seasons on dvd’s for future binge watching. 

We seem to be having a renaissance of Gargoyles in paranormal and romantic fiction. I haven't read many of them yet but I plan too . One of my favorite Gargoyle books that I read several times a year is Night of The Gargoyles by Eve Bunting and David Wiesner. This book encapsulates every thing I love about gargoyles. The narrative is in poem format and chronicles the adventures of a group of gargoyles that come alive at night. 

I also recently enjoyed the first book in the Tales from Lovecraft High School series which had an evil Gargoyle principal. I hope you search out some of the items I mentioned in this post. They are all fantastic! 

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 8, 2016


Let us welcome Sibella Asher of YA Book Reviews!  Sibella is here to talk about the ever popular vampires for our Bookish Beasts & Literary Creatures feature.  Read on and share your own favorites in the comment section below.


Out of all the mystical creatures I’ve read in books, I think vampires are one of my favorites, because the way they are imagined differ between who you ask. When you say the word “vampire” the first image that comes to mind for you could be Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Stephanie Meyer’s Edward.

I love the way authors explore the world of vampires, the way you can twist the creatures, even though I know some people don’t approve of changing the classic view of what a vampire should be, I love the way authors make their vampires come alive, so to speak.

In the recent past, vampires were a very common addition to YA paranormal books each in some way unique to the others already published. Some popular ones that floated around the YA world were:

The Culllens-Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

I feel like Twilight was hit and miss for everybody. A lot of people have a problem with the fact that instead of burning up in the sun, they sparkle and glimmer like they have diamonds inside their skin. I don’t have a problem with it, because I choose to remain open minded, but it was an extremely bold choice on the author’s part, in which I have to give her props for trying out.

The Salvatore Brothers-The Vampire Diaries by L.J Smith

I would first just like to let the world know that I love The Vampire Diaries. I love all of the supernatural elements that play throughout, but of course, I am mainly there because I love vampires. What I find interesting about the Damon and Steffan Salvatore in particular is that they have rings that allow them to walk in the sun. For the other vampires however, they burn up in the sun. I also love that Smith kept with the classic ability to compel others.

The House of Night Series-P.C Cast and Kristen Cast

I will admit that I’ve only read until about the 7th book in this series, it was just dragging on. Despite that though, I really like the way vampires are portrayed in this series, they aren’t bitten and changed, they get “marked” by a tracker, and are sent to the House of Night to be with other vampires so they can survive. It’s a concept that I’ve never read before, that humans aren’t changed by being bitten. Also, sucking the blood out of humans or other vampires is incredibly sexual.

I’ve read so many vampire novels I’m starting to lose count, these are just the popular ones that I’ve noticed, and even just out of these 3 that I discussed I can’t choose a favourite portrayal of vampires!

Who’s written your favourite vampire? Are you more of a spooky horror vampire, or a sexy, mysterious, vampire lover?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Featured Blogger: Celticlady's Reviews

Today please welcome Kathleen Kelly, who blogs at Celticlady's Reviews.


What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

I am Irish of course and the name comes from my love of anything Irish. I have been to Ireland twice and loved it.

How long have you been blogging?

I was deemed disabled in 2009 after a second spinal fusion and had some residual affects left from that. I was also diagnosed with Parkinson type symptoms.  I have always been an avid reader so to keep myself busy and not get bored since I could no longer work, I decided to try my hand at blogging. So I know have three blogs, Celticlady's Reviews being the main one I maintain.

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

Celticlady's Reviews started as a book blog but has evolved into sharing on social media, reviews of books, spotlights of indie/self published authors and I now do product reviews as well.

What genres do you write about most, and why?

My favorite genre is Historical Fiction but I will write about most any genre although I do not read westerns, fantasy, dystopia or erotica. I also love a good mystery or thriller. I also read women's fiction.

Every blogger feels pressure at some point. What's something you feel pressured to do or not do on your blog? How do you deal with it?

Most people think that blogging is just a hobby. Well it can be I guess but sometimes it feels like a full time job. I am not really pressured into doing anything I chose not to. I have worked with some wonderful authors and tour companies. Rarely do I have an issue.

What's one book you think everyone should read?

There are so many options but I think that the classics should be read, Gone with the Wind, Tom Sawyer, Black Beauty, anything by Charles Dickens. etc.

Aside from that, as far as historical fiction, anything by Anya Seton, Norah Lofts. My favorite contemporary author would be Barbara Erskine and her book The Lady of Hay.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?


What's your favorite place to read or blog?

I have three computers, an iPad and a few Kindles. I still love to read print books. I read in bed at night, almost every night.

Our youngest daughter had moved back in with us a few years ago and recently moved out. I took the room she was using and turned into a mini library/office. I needed a place to put my expanding library and also a place to keep all the products I receive for review and a place to read. If I do not get off the computer, which is hard for me to do, I am never able to read. So I force myself to go in my sanctuary. My favorite place to work on the computer is the desktop I have in the kitchen, I can do chores, baking and cooking and still be able to get back to whatever I was working on.

Is the evil empire? Discuss.

No I do not buy into that. Amazon provides a valuable service to consumers and authors alike.

What have you learned from other bloggers or your readers?

I learned how to do reviews and be part of social media.

Do you judge a book by its cover, or its lover?

Actually I do judge a book by it's cover, which is not fair I guess. I figure that if an author takes the time with the cover to make it appealing, then what is inside must be good.

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?

I refuse to read Fifty Shades of Gray. Period.

To DNF or not to DNF?

It depends, I finish more than I don't. If I can not get into a book by at least 100 pages and since I am on a strict schedule to finish books, that is the best I can do.

What's one book that intimidates you?

Lord of the Rings, I read The Hobbit years back but could not get into the rest.

If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?

Anywhere in Dublin. So many greats came from Ireland.

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I bake and cook. I received a Kitchenaid a few years ago and it is a godsend. This year I received a food processor. Needless to say both of them are put to good use. 

What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?

I can't really say, I do not watch a lot of movies as I have to spend my time reading.

What are 3 favorite posts or reviews you've read by other book bloggers?

Was Prince Eddy Jack the Ripper?
Of honeymoons and death by starvation

What is your reading personality? (via quiz at

I am an all rounder:

Exacting Reader: You love books but you rarely have as much time to read as you'd like - so you're very particular about the books you choose.

Serial Reader: Once you discover a favorite writer you tend to stick with him/her through thick and thin and eagerly await the next in the series.

Eclectic Reader: You read for entertainment but also to expand your mind. You're open to new ideas and new writers, and are not wedded to a particular genre or limited range of authors.


Thank you for joining us today, Kathleen! 
Remember to check out Kathleen's blog, Celticlady's Reviews
and leave a comment or question.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Welcome to the first official guest post for BOOKISH BEASTS & LITERARY CREATURES!  I am so excited to welcome Wesley of Library Educated.  She is here to discuss her personal favorite:  GOLEMS!!  Please give her a warm welcome.


When I was growing up I had this weird gap in my reading life. I was probably about 10 and I was obviously too old for children’s books, but wasn’t ready for something like Sweet Valley High and had become bored with The Babysitter’s Clubs antics. YA hadn’t really bloomed into the booming literary scene what it is today with a plethora of great options for people in this weird gap. As I wandered around the library trying to find something that would suit my needs I’d often wander back to the children’s section and run my fingers through the bins of colorfully colored books. I distinctively remember pulling David Wisniewski’s “Golem” from a bin because that .cover. For real. The illustrations are layers of paper, stacked on top of each other to create this great dimension. I honestly still haven’t seen a book of any kind with illustrations that are anywhere near as beautiful as this book. So I put aside the “I’m probably too old to be reading this book” feelings, found an empty, red, scratchy chair in my library and sat down.

The story is about the Jews of Prague who are forced into a walled ghetto by other townspeople due to suspicion of the Jews and their religious practices. (Oh and this is in the 1500s, so this isn’t even WWII era Jewish pograms. The Jews have been facing persecution). The chief rabbi is named Judah Loew ben Bezalel, and he feels the need to protect his people from the injustice and the violence that they are facing so he crafts a golem. A golem can only be made by a righteous man, and is responsible to just that one person. He is a huge man shaped creature made of clay and dirt, which has the Hebrew word for truth etched into his forehead “emet”. He listens to his creator and protects the Jews of the city, killing several people who threaten to storm the ghetto. The rabbi realizes that he might not be able to control the golem, and that since the Jews of Prague are safe for now, he decides to return the golem back to dust. The golem has begun to learn what it is to have life and be “human” and pleads for his life, but the rabbi refuses. He smudges away the “e” in “emet” and is left with “met” the word for dead or death. The golem crumbles to bits and the rabbi leaves his pieces in the attic of the synagogue. We get the feeling that the golem might be called upon to help the Jews again…

The synagogue in which the rabbi kept his creature is the Old New Synagogue in Prague (picture below). I made a point to see it when I was in Europe this summer (though my sister was a little bit confused by my excitement). The attic is not open to the general public, so no chance for investigating! However the story of the golem is alive and well in Prague and there were many references to it throughout the Jewish Quarter.

Like any creature of myth and legend, there are so many different stories associated with the Golem’s story and his creation. Since I read David Wisniewski’s book first, in my mind that version is the “right” one. Though there are versions from Germany and other parts of Europe that have variations on the same general story, though in one the golem falls in love!

The Golem is a somewhat popular fixture in pop culture. He shows up in books: the super popular “Golem and Jinni”, a graphic novel about a Jewish baseball team “The Golem’s Might Swing”, and a Discworld book of Terry Pratchett’s. He also makes appearances in television and movies. My two favorite examples being a Treehouse of Horror episode a la The Simpsons and a Supernatural episode called “Everyone Hates Hitler”. (#Truth.) There’s even a Pokémon named Golem and he’s made out of rocks…..

What I think is interesting about Golem is that he (according to most legends) is designed to protect a group of people, which seems unique. Other creatures and beasties seem to mostly act in their own self-interest but he has the wonderful higher purpose, even though it involves being violent! So while he might not have the gold hoard of a dragon, or the sexy appeal of a vampire, he is noble and devoted to his people.