Tag: Halloween

Review: The Scariest Thing of All by Debi Gliori

scariest thing of all

The Scariest Thing of All by Debi Gliori

This story of a very frightened young rabbit is uplifted by the marvelous illustrations.  Pip was a very little rabbit and had a huge list of things that he was scared of.  The list included rain because it reminded him of the sound a leggy wiggler makes in its web, bubbles in the water reminded him of a gobbler hiding at the bottom of the pond, and tree stumps were like the teeth of a giant wood troll.  He exhausted himself because he was so worried and frightened all the time.  He was so tired he fell fast asleep until dinnertime.  When he woke up, he heard a dreadful Raaar! Pip ran and ran, as far away from the sound as he could.  Finally, he stopped deep in the woods.  He saw a scary thing nearby, and heard the sound again.  Pip was going to have to be brave and smart to figure out what was making that horrible noise.

Gliori’s story of a small rabbit who is afraid of almost everything will resonate with children.  The ending has Pip becoming a much braver rabbit.  The book does conclude a bit too quickly and neatly.  Gliori spends much of her story developing the depths of fear and panic that Pip is living with.  All of that plays out very strongly, creating a firm foundation for the story. 

The art here really makes this picture book special.  It moves from the sunny warmth of Pip’s family and home to the dark blueness of a woods at night.  Throughout the woods scenes there is an incredible blue moon rising above him, giving a haunted feel to those pages that is marvelously chilling. 

This would make a great pick for a preschool Halloween story time because it has monsters and creepy things but won’t frighten.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon

robot zombie frankenstein

Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon

Two robots who are friends try to out-do each other as they dress in costumes.  It starts out with Robot Zombie and goes on from there, until they each have pirate hats, eye patches, capes, chef hats, space helmets, and much much more.  By the end, the two of them look very silly, dressed in all of that gear.  The competition continues until one robot pulls out a cherry pie and the two friends decide to drop the costume competition and share a treat.

A large part of the appeal of this book are the illustrations.  They have white backgrounds that really make the bright-colored shapes pop against them.  Simon uses simple shapes, wild colors and lots of creativity to make costumes for these characters.  Along the way, she shows just how little it takes to evoke a character, sometimes only a few stitches on the head, or a cape around the shoulders.

The writing takes a backseat here, simply supporting the wild antics in the images.  Its use of popular subjects like zombies and robots will get young readers to pick up this book.  The cover completely drew in my son, who just had to read this book immediately.

Halloween story times can be tricky, and this is just the right story to add to your not-scary-at-all version for the youngest listeners.  It’s also a book with plenty of humor and zip that will appeal to any youngster who enjoys a good giggle and a great costume.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.

New Halloween Books

Here are some newly released Halloween books that are sure to mix shivers and giggles:

skeleton meets the mummy

Skeleton Meets the Mummy by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Aaron Zenz

Sammy is looking forward to trick-or-treating with his best friend on Halloween night.  His mother catches him before he can leave and asks him to run some soup to his grandmother.  To get there, he has to head through the woods.  He gets scared along the way by a bat, the wind, and even a tree that looks like a monster.  So he’s already jumpy when he hears the footsteps behind him and sees the mummy chasing him!

Told in straight-forward prose, the illustrations are a large part of the appeal here.  They are crisp, clean and vivid.  The characters glow against the dark Halloween backgrounds.  This is a story with a funny twist, plenty of appeal and even a couple of bumps in the dark.

sleepless little vampire

The Sleepless Little Vampire by Richard Egielski

Little Vampire can’t figure out why he is having trouble falling asleep.  It could be the spitting spider.  It could be the flitting bats.  Maybe the cockroaches crawling on the floor?  Or the werewolf howling?  More and more Halloween characters enter the story and create their own noises:  a witch, skeletons, ghosts.  But none of them are the reason he can’t sleep.  Nope, it was just that he was trying too sleep too early.  It wasn’t morning yet!

Egielski bridges the pages brilliantly, moving from one possible cause of being unable to sleep to another.  The final reason will surprise most readers, though as they see the sky lighten they will be able to guess the ending on the final page.  The illustrations get increasingly busy as more characters enter.  The detail makes this a better pick to use one-on-one or with a small group of children. 


Frangoline and the Midnight Dream by Clemency Pearce, illustrated by Rebecca Elliott

Frangoline was a perfect child, neat and clean.  Until the deep of night, when she put on her black cape and escaped the house.  The moon tried to warn her about being in bed, but Frangoline replied, “I’ll do exactly as I please!  I’m Frangoline!”  She climbed down the tree outside her window, ran across the lawn, blew raspberries.  She woke the forest animals but then yelled so loud that she scared them all away rather than them ever scaring her.  She danced and pranced in the graveyard and woke up the ghouls.  When they chased her up the church steeple, she finally got worried.  But where can she go if she’s cornered up there? 

There is a wild delight in this book and in the naughtiness of a little girl having such fun alone in the middle of the night.  The moon plays a big role in the book, warning her of the dangers but also being a sort of parental figure on each page.  The story is silly, clever and has the dark night creepiness along with the ghouls.  But nothing is drawn in a particularly scary way, instead it stays inviting with a strong sense of fun.

All three books are appropriate for ages 4-6. 

All were provided for review by Scholastic.

A Couple of Fall Board Books

go baby go

Go Baby Go! by Marilyn Janovitz

As baby gets fussy, they head out to the garden where baby is distracted by all sorts of things.  The bubbles going pop, pop, pop.  The blocks tumbling down and clickity clacking.  There are mud pies, water from the hose, even treats to munch.  Then everything gets quiet as baby falls asleep.

This charmer of the picture book has a jaunty rhythm mixed with plenty of repetition to catch the attention of very small children.  Everything that happens here is what a child would find in their own backyard, making the book all the more interesting to children who will see themselves in it.

scariest thing in the castle

I’m the Scariest Thing in the Castle by Kevin Sherry

This board book has the same colorful, bold artwork as Sherry’s previous picture books.  Here his creature is a merry bat who declares himself scarier than all of the other monsters in the haunted castle.  And he does manage to play pranks and frighten all of the others, until the lights go out. 

This jolly Halloween board book will appeal to small children with its bright colors, humor and the not-very-scary tone.

Book Review: Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann

bone dog

Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann

Right before his dog Ella died, she promised Gus that she would always be with him.  After she died, Gus didn’t feel like doing anything, not even leaving the house, but he did.  He didn’t feel like trick-or-treating, but he put on his skeleton costume and headed out anyway.  But when Gus started to head back home after his bag was full, he passed through a graveyard where it got dark and windy and creepy.  In moments, Gus was surrounded by skeletons, real ones.  At first the skeletons thought he was a real skeleton too, but when they found out that he was a boy, they threatened to steal his guts.  Just before anything happened, Ella showed up as a skeleton dog.  But what in the world can a small boy and a small skeleton dog do to stop a crowd of skeletons? 

If that paragraph above read like a rather strange storyline, then I wrote it correctly.  This is not a “normal” picture book.  It has a wonderfully shivery, scary part to it combined with the loss of a beloved pet, and then a great funny twist at the end.  It is not a disjointed book at all, but rather one that is unexpected which makes for a fun read. 

Rohmann’s art is done in his signature style.  The thick black lines mix successfully with the deep and subtle colors.  What grabs the eye is Rohmann’s layout of the pages, where whitespace is used as more than space for the words to appear.  The style stays consistent throughout the book, but the perspective is intriguing and adds much to the book.

A strange and superb choice for Halloween reading, this book should be shared throughout the year too as a celebration of intriguing, unique picture books.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

If You’re a Monster and You Know It


If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley

A great pick for a preschool Halloween party, this book will have kids wiggling and giggling to the silly monster movements.  Set to the same song as If You’re Happy and You Know It, children will immediately be able to sing right along.  Children will be growling, snapping their claws, stomping their paws, and twitching their tails along with the monsters in the book.  Those monsters are done in neon-bright colors against a black background, creating a very dynamic book for children to enjoy.  I recommend finishing up with some black paper and bright colored scraps and letting the children create their own monsters to take home.

Completely child friendly, this book will have even the most reluctant listeners paying attention and playing along.  Happily, the song takes more enthusiasm than skill, so everyone can join in and not have to worry.  The Emberleys have created a book that fills a niche in story times, a monster book that is non-scary but not babyish.  What a treat!

Appropriate for ages 2-4.  Make sure to have this one in your trick-or-treat bag for fall!

You can listen to the song here.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.

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Zen Ghosts


Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth

The wonderful Stillwater the panda returns for a third time with another picture book filled with Zen.  In this book, Stillwater spends time with the children as they prepare to go trick-or-treating.  Then after they are finished, he brings them to a place where a panda tells them the story of Senjo.  In the story, Senjo is in love with her best friend from childhood.  But when her father gets ills, she is forced to marry a wealthy man.  Ochu, the man she loves, leaves the village because he cannot bear to see her marry someone else.  But as he is leaving, he sees Senjo on the bank and they run off together.  Years later, Senjo feels she must try to reunite with her father.  When they return to the village, Ochu speaks to her father and then discovers that Senjo has been ill in bed since the night Ochu left years ago.  The two Senjos meet and merge together into one.  So the question asked is which Senjo is the true one?  It is a marvelous Koan that is not meant to be solved.  Modern children may be frustrated by this type of story, but all the more reason for them to hear it.

Muth takes the setting of Halloween, combines it with a ghost story of sorts, and turns the holiday into something new.  The children in the story are always talking about their candy and their costumes.  Just as in the other Zen books by Muth, the children remain children completely.  They ponder new ideas and discover new ways of thinking, but they are children still.  Muth’s water colors are rich and autumnal here until the story within the story begins and the colors fade to whites and grays.  Muth offers several great double-page spreads that really capture autumn and Halloween.

This is a very different Halloween story, but one that really has a place in every library.  It is beautifully written, illustrated with elegance and offers a new perspective for readers.  What more could one want?  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.