Monday, October 23, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading? Halloween Favorites - A Picture Book Roundup

It's hard to believe it is almost Halloween, again. We have been busy reading some old and new favorite picture books to celebrate the day and would like to share some of them with you.

The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Chronicle Books, 2017, 40 pages, age 5+
I have wonderful memories of fall - of roller skating and eating pomegranates when we stopped for a rest, so I can totally understand why the kids in this small town would want to get some of the red juicy fruit from the legendary old pomegranate tree. The only problem is the tree is haunted by an old, mean witch. Then, five friends decide to storm the tree, but ,alas, their efforts are thwarted by the witch. Four kids retreated, but one snuck up to the tree, plucked off a juicy pomegranate, and shared it with his friends. Luckily, on Halloween, when the witch is away, her kind, friendly sister welcomed the kids with cider and treats - and that’s no trick. But, wait, could the witch and the kind sister be one and the same?  A close reading will generate lots of speculation. And don’t forget to think Halloween costume.
Since my young readers have asked to be read this again and again, I can say with certainty that this is really a delightful Halloween story that will not disappoint. Doyen tells her story in a rhyme that never falters, and Wheeler’s the India ink and watercolor illustrations have just the right amount of eeriness to them so little ones won’t get scared (and yes, we did enjoy a few pomegranates, inspired by this story).

Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Atheneum BFYR, 2013, 40 pages, age 4+
It’s Halloween and Farmer Brown doesn’t like it. He puts out a bowl of candy on the porch, locks up the house and puts out a “Do Not Disturb” sign, then he goes to bed. Little does he know that while the animals in his barn love Halloween and are having a party, a dark, spooky creature is heading towards Farmer Brown’s house. When Farmer Brown hears a tap, tap, tapping on the front door, he opens it and sees the bowl of candy is gone. But there’s a note on the door, and there’s lots of noise coming from the barn. What could his barnyard animals be up to on Halloween night? A big surprise for Farmer Brown? 
This is a fun Halloween book, especially for kids who might be a little nervous about all the costumes, and decorations associated with it. The text is lighthearted, with repetitious sound words adding to the spookiness throughout the story. Lewin’s watercolor illustrations, in the colors of Halloween, along with her goofy costumed animals add to the fun of Farmer Brown’s big surprise at the end.  

Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Joyce Wan
Beach Lane Books, 2017, 40 pages, age 3+
Now that Pug and Pig are best friends, it’s time to think about going trick-or-treating together. Pug and Pig’s costumes make them look like skeletons. They fit nice and tightly, which makes Pig. Pig even likes the mask so no one will know who he is. But Pug is not at all happy with the tight fit of his costume, or his mask - no one will know who he is. Can these siblings find a way for both Pug and Pig to be happy? Umm…looks like Pug has an idea.
This is a great story about how simple problem solving can avoid disappointments and possible meltdowns, showing young readers how effective a compromise can be. Wan’s simple illustrations really capture the emotions each pig feels, and she even manages to depict movement as Pug runs out the doggy door after coming up with his idea. A lovely second book for new and old fans of Pug & Pig, and anyone who like a gentle Halloween tale.  
You can download a Pug & Pig Halloween Party Kit HERE
You can also download a Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat Teacher's Guide HERE 

Zip! Zoom! On A Broom by Teri Sloat, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
Little, Brown BFYR, 2017, 40 pages, age 4+
“One goes zip./Two go zoom./Three witches glide from room to room.”  Readers count the 10 witches all throughout the house, busy doing witchy stuff. But when all 10 witches decide to ride together on a broomstick, it’s a little too crowded and a little too heavy: “Ten take off, packed too tight./Ten witches bicker, start to fight.” One by one the witches begin to fall: “Nine witches squabble, squirm for room./ One topples from the plunging broom.” But don’t worry, in the end, all are fine
I thought this was a jolly counting book as it doesn’t feel like learning to count to ten so much as a story that just happens to involve numbers 1-10. Bonnet’s india ink and watercolor illustrations are a bit dark, but are also chockablock with all the images a kid could want in one book รก la Halloween, and they will spend lots of time going over the pages to see what’s there. 

I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien
Candlewick Press, 2017, 32 pages, age 3+
A little purple monster tells an unseen author that he wants to be in a scary story. The only problem is that every time the author begins a story, it’s too scary for little purple monster. The dark and scary forest, the spooky house, witch inside the spooky house, the ghost inside the spooky house all prove to be too much for little purple monster. Maybe it would be better if little purple monster were in a funny story about a tweet-weeny monkey and his friend - a ginormous monkey. Scared, the little monster runs off, but in the end, he’s the guy in a scary story who get the last laugh. And, yes, little purple monster wants to be in another story the next day. 
Julien’s bold ink and digitally colored illustrations done in a palette of Halloween colors add lots of scary ambience to the story. Though the word Halloween is no where to be found, this is a perfect story to read around that time, but it works year round, too.

The Scariest Book Ever written and illustrated by Bob Shea
Disney-Hyperion, 2017, 40 pages, age 4+
A fearful ghost invites the reader to explore the dark scary woods outside his house, but conveniently spills some orange juice on himself and tells the reader to go without him. The woods turn out to be colorful trees full of woodland creatures preparing for a spooky costume party, and there are crafts and cupcakes. Ghost thinks the reader is pulling his leg whenever there is a report about what’s happening in the woods. Can Ghost be convinced that the woods are scary in time to go to the party? 
This is another fun, not just for Halloween book. The conversation is one-sided, with Ghost making all kinds of misinterpretations about what’s going on, but that will surely invite young readers to turn this into an interactive story. Shea’s illustrations alternate between light pastels in the woods to dark and spooky oranges, blues, yellows, and black in the house - just the opposite of what kids would expect. A fun book that may help kids overcome their own Halloween-type fears.

Behind the Mask written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006, 40 pages, age 5+
When young Kimin can’t decide what to be for Halloween, his mother suggests he look through his grandfathers belonging. Inside one of the suitcases, he finds a mask that he recognizes - he had been frightened when he had seen his grandfather wearing it as a young boy, but now he realizes his grandfather was a professional Korean dancer and the masks were part of his dances. Kimin decides to honor his grandfather’s memory by wearing the mask and robe that once had scared him. Trick or treating with his friends is a real success, but Kimin receives a real treat when a note to him from his grandfather is discovered. Be sure to read the Author’s Note about Talchum, or traditional Korean mask dancing.
This is a nice Halloween story that shows how our immigrant heritage can become part of our American cultural traditions without losing any of its meaning or importance. And Choi’s softly painted illustrations add much to the atmosphere of this beautiful intergenerational story.  

Keeping the Halloween theme going, we are planning on reading Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream by Monica Brown and some Edgar Allen Poe.

What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It’s Monday! What are you reading? - from Picture Books to YA is a kid lit focused meme just like the original and is hosted weekly by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. The purpose is the same: to recap what you have read and/or reviewed and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. Twitter: #IMWAYR 


  1. All of these delightfully themed books look wonderful. I just wish I could get my hands on a copy of The Pomegranate Witch.

  2. Wonderful post, Alex. I just ordered The Pomegranate Witch, will have it soon. The others are new to me, will see if I can find them at the library. Halloween is very popular at the bookstore and I think we're out of Halloween books now. Thanks!

  3. What a fun list of Halloween books! I love Halloween Hustle :)

    Happy reading this week!

  4. The Pomegranate Witch sounds interesting.

  5. This is such a great list! I get a lot of little ones looking for books that are a little bit spooky, but not too scary!


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