Saturday, September 20, 2014

Spooky Author Display 2014: Gaston Leroux

Back in 2010, my kids asked if we could do something "spooky" during the month of October. Since we don't celebrate Halloween, I initially balked at the suggestion. But since I'd promised that I would always take ALL suggestions with due consideration, I thought about it for awhile and after a brainstorming session over zucchini bread & hot cider, we came up with a creative compromise.

Each year, during the month of September, we learn about a "Spooky Author". This might be an author who wrote spooky stories or poetry, or an author who lived a particularly spooky life. We study their life,  as well as a selection of their most famous works. These studies then result in a collaborative display that is "spooky" without having anything to do with witches or ghosts.

In 2010, we learned about E.A. Poe. Not really sure what to put into the display that would steer clear of the macabre, we opted for a simple black-and-white display, with a faux raven nicknamed Nevermore who still finds his way into our fall decorations perched over a basket of sunflowers.

Their favorite poem? The Bells. Their decision? Mr. Poe must have had the worst luck of anyone, ever.

In 2011, we studied Mary Shelley. Our display became much more colorful, and we had some creative fun using a miniature pumpkin as Abby Normal's brain, as a nod towards the movie Young Frankenstein.

Their favorite part of this study? Revisiting Frankenstein's Laboratory at the Bakken museum.

In 2012, we chose to research Lemony Snickett. Rather than create a display about the author, out of deference to the author's desire for anonymity we chose 13 iconic items; one for each of the books, to display along with a few items to represent each of the main characters.

My son thought it was immensely amusing that we used HIS leg to create a photograph of Count Olaf's ankle tattoo, and my daughter adopted the crocheted Inky the viper I made after the display came down.

And last year, after life got a bit ahead of us, we made a last-minute attempt at creating a display around our studies of H.G. Wells. We never did find a flat-fronted Altoids tin to create a mock-Farnsworth, (ala Warehouse 13) and while we WANTED to put a model time machine into the display - every option we found was far too expensive. 

The highlight of this study, was listening to a remastered copy of the original radio drama from 1938. Again, and again, and again...

With the waning interest of last year, I considered skipping our annual display this year. But I had been hoping to create a display based on The Phantom of the Opera and decided that even if the kids weren't interested, I would do the research myself for one last author.

What started with a playbill from 1993, a red rose, and a mask - quickly turned into my favorite display yet. I learned that M. Leroux researched multiple strange goings-on at the Paris Opera House as a newspaper reporter for years before writing his most famous book. So many parts of the book, and now-famous opera are actually based on FACT that I styled the display after a criminal investigation board (with notes in French) on the whereabouts of the mysterious Erik. I would share more, but because the kids will actually be doing their studies on M. Leroux NEXT month due to our late-start this year, I can't ruin their surprises. Let's just say that sometimes, truth is BETTER than fiction!

I don't know if this will be our last Spooky Author display, or if the secrets of M. Leroux will renew our interest for next year. What I do know, is this was a TON of fun to put together, and well worth the effort - even if I'm the only one who ends up appreciating all the secret nuances!

No comments: