Friday, October 21, 2016

A Halloween Roundup for Young Readers

Halloween can be a scary time for younger kids and here are some gentle books to help them navigate the day.  These books all are Halloween friendly and are sure to get your kids into the spirit.

You Are My Pumpkin by Joyce Wan
Cartwheel Books, 2016, 14 pages, age 1+
This is a very sweet board book designed to make Halloween a less scary time for the youngest kids by reassuring them that they are special.  Each two page spread has a traditional Halloween icon, such as a ghost, a monster, a witch, and even candy corn, done in Wan's simple, friendly style with a text that read begins with "you are my happy, smiley pumpkin and continues "my sugary, sweet candy corn.  The book ends with a bat and the words "Baby, I'm Batty for you.  This is a happy, fun book that might need to be read more than once on Halloween night as older kids come to the door trick or treating in frightening costumes, and it is sure to be a favorite of babies and toddlers long after Halloween is over.

Seeking A Witch by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Allie Smith
Little Simon, 2016, 30 pages, age 2+
I loved this simple rhyming board book that also uses traditional Halloween icons as the characteristics of a witch are described by a trick or treater looking for the perfect witch. Of course, the trick or treater turns out to be the witch in the end, but it is a fun journey getting there. The rhyme scanned nicely throughout the book and the simple, colorful illustrations compliment the text on each page. The bold illustrations are done in seasonal colors of orange, black, green, purple and yellow.  A nice introduction to the kinds of creatures a new trick or treater might see on Halloween night.

This Is The House That Monsters Built by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Jared D. Lee
Scholastic Press, 2106, 32 pages, age 3+
Halloween can be a scary time for young kids.  Suddenly, other kids they are familiar with are dressed differently and may feel unrecognizable, and they also see lots of frightening masks and other decorations in otherwise friendly places.  How to take the fright out of Halloween?  Well, Steve Metzger takes the old “this is is the house that Jack built” and gives it a fun Halloween twist.  Each creature - ghost, zombie, witch, Frankenstein, mummy and more - adds something to the house they are building, but each one is in turn scared.  Why?  Kids will delight when they discover the scary Halloween creatures are scared of the trick or treating kids dressed up as scary creatures knocking at their door.  Between the predictable repetition of the rhyme and the fun illustrations, this is a book that really takes the “scary” out of Halloween.   

The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Richard Egielski 
HarperCollins, 2003, 32 pages, Age 4+
In this Halloween story by the author of Goodnight, Moon, "a fat little, round little, yellow little pumpkin" has springtime dreams of growing into a very fierce, very scary pumpkin, inspired by the scarecrow he sees on the other side of the field scaring away birds. Sure enough, when October rolls around he has become "a fat little, round little, orange little pumpkin," perfect for Halloween.  And when three kids chose him to be their Jack-O'-Lantern, carving a scary face on him, his dreams of being a fierce pumpkin come true.  The bright illustrations are done in a palette of greens, golds, yellows, blues and oranges, perfect for the season and Richard Egielski's two page up-close-and-personal spread of the newly carved Jack-O'-Lantern is a wonderful surprise, this pumpkin's fierceness dream come true.

Black and Bittern was Night by Robert Heidbreder, illustrated by John Martz
Kids Can Press, 2013, 32 pages, age 5+ 
I picked up this book at the library on a whim, attracted to it by its cover.  And when I started reading it, I began to think this may not be a good book to include here.  But as I read it, I began to get into the swing of things, and by the end of the first reading, I found I liked it.  By the end of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th reading, I really liked it and so did the kiddos I read it to.  Written in what sounds like a nonsense language and in verse, it is Halloween night and the SKUL-A-MUG-MUGS are out and about town in force, and the frightened adults refuse to let their kids go out trick-or-treating.  The kids call a secret meeting and decide to take on the SKUL-A-MUG-MUGS, using the battle cry "Outbrave them! Out SKUL them!"  The language is a little tricky, but it doesn't take long to realize "big-talls" are adults and "Noras and Nicks" are kids.  The simple, cartoony illustrations are Photoshopped in blacks, blues, oranges and yellows and help to reassure young readers that this story is just for fun.  However, as much as I liked this book, I have to concede it is just not for everyone.   

Bonesville by Jean-Luc Fromental, illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet
Harry N. Abrams, 2016, 48 pages, age 5+
There are 1,275 skeletons living in Bonesville and that makes for a lot of bones (262,650 bones to be exact) and now a monster is on the loose, stealing one bone from each of the residents - a fibula here, a tibia there, and so on.  No one is safe, and everyone has a slightly different description of the bone stealing monster, but not to worry, Bonesville’s great detective Sherlock Bones is on the case.  Little by little, as more and more bones disappear, Sherlock Bones puts together the clues.  And just as he solves the mystery, along comes his sidekick, Dr. Watsbones who can explain exactly why people’s bones have been stolen.  And it’s a pretty good story that is sure to tickle more than a few funny bones.
I know this isn’t really a Halloween book but I decided to include it anyway.  Bonesville is creepy, it’s playful and it has lots of great puns.  I read a library copy so we couldn’t see the giant skeleton on the inside of the book jacket with all the names of the bones in the body on it, which was too bad, it would have been interesting.  The illustrations are quite jolly rather than scary and all done on a dark background, the better to see the skeleton population of Bonesville.  This is great for kids who are developing a real liking for mysteries.

Tony Baloney: Yo Ho Ho, Halloween! by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Scholastic Press, 2016, 40 pages, age 5+ 
It’s almost Halloween and this year, Tony Baloney doesn’t want to wear a homemade or a hand me down costume.  This year, Tony decides to take his savings and get a story-bought costume.  And he really loves the pirate costume he picks out, loves it so much he can’t stop wearing it.  When his parents tell him it will be ruined for the big Halloween costume parade at school, he stops wearing it.  But by the night before the parade, Tony realizes that  little by little each part of his costume is either ruined or missing.  Can the rest of the Baloney family help Tony make a new pirate costume in time for the parade?
This is a nice four chapter transitional reader for kids going from picture books to longer chapter books.  The digitally created illustrations are fun and kids will surely enjoy exploring each page. And the clear message for young readers - you don’t need to spend lots of money to have an great Halloween costume when you have a family willing to help you make one that is awesome.  Fans of Tony Baloney will be happy with this new edition to the series, and newcomers to it will want to read all the other Tony Baloney books.

It's Halloween by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Marylin Hafner
HarperCollins (Mulberry Road Read-Alouds), 1996, 56 pages, age 4+
A small book of 13 Halloween poems for young readers about all of the traditional icons of the season, such as ghost, goblins, a haunted house, pumpkins and kids trick or treating. The poems are fun, but gentle and the illustrations are sweet and compliment the text.  Our copy is rather worn out, but it was one of my Kiddo's first poetry books and I just could never bring myself to replace this well read copy.  My Kiddo's favorite poem is the last one.  I think after the build up to Halloween and all the excitement of trick or treating around the neighborhood, she was always glad to be home, safe and sound, with a nice bag of candy (minus any Twix I might have noticed in there):


It's late and we are sleepy,
The air is cold and still.
Our jack-o'-lantern grins at us
Upon the window sill.

We're stuffed with cake and candy
And we've had a lot of fun, 
But now it's time to go to bed
And dream of all we've done.

We'll dream of ghosts and goblins
And of witches that we've seen, 
And we'll dream of trick-or-treating
On this happy Halloween.

1 comment:

  1. I like the plot twist in The House That Monsters Built, such fun to think of Halloween creatures being scared of trick or treating kids.

    Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is such a well-loved story. I wonder if the fierce yellow pumpkin will be as successful. From what you have said it sounds as though it should.

    Happy Halloween Alex, I enjoyed reading about each of these books and loved the poem at the end.


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