THE BEST HALLOWEEN PICTURE BOOKS OF 2017
by Christine Van Zandt
Creepy Pair of Underwear!
Written by Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Brown
(Simon & Schuster BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
Two things are clear from the start of this book: Jasper needs some underwear and, he’s not a little bunny anymore. He persuades his mother to buy a pair of underwear advertised as, “So creepy! So comfy!” That night, Jasper wears them to bed and the trouble begins.
In Aaron Reynolds’s 48-page picture book, Jasper soon decides that, even though he’s a big rabbit, the underwear’s “ghoulish, greenish glow” and magical powers are a bit much. Instead of bothering his parents or confessing why he’s jumpy, he finds ways to rid himself of the dreaded underwear. When they keep coming back, Jasper self-reliant attitude conflicts with his fears
Interior spread from Creepy Pair of Underwear! written by Aaron Reynolds with illustrations by Peter Brown, Simon & Schuster BYR ©2017.
Peter Brown brilliantly conveys the somber mood in black and white images, offsetting the unusual underwear in neon green. When Jasper finally entombs his problem, Brown rewards the reader with a two-page wordless spread of darkness followed by Jasper’s eyes, surprised and oversized at the absolute blackness he has achieved.
The text’s refrain cleverly changes along with Jasper’s perspective. Acting like the big rabbit he professes to be, Jasper solves his own dilemma. Reader and rabbit receive an illuminating conclusion.
The team of Reynolds and Brown scored Caldecott honors with their previous book, Creepy Carrots! Featuring the same rabbit and a humorous plot, Creepy Pair of Underwear! will haunt you to read it again.
Duck & Goose, Honk! Quack! Boo!
Written and illustrated by Tad Hills
(Random House Children’s, $16.99, Ages 3-7)
Duck & Goose, Honk! Quack! Boo! brings us a Halloween adventure with this pair of favorite feathered friends Duck and Goose. This 40-page picture book will engage young children who, during this time of year, are eager to ask, What are you going to be for Halloween?
Goose, unclear on the concept states he’s going to be himself, of course, because “it’s important to always be yourself.” And, rightly so. But, fun soon follows when their friend, Thistle, appears and boldly states that she’s not telling them about her costume. It’s a secret. Then she cautions them to beware of the swamp monster tomorrow when they go trick-or-treating.
Of course, the mention of that ghoul haunts Goose that night and the next when he sets out, ready to collect candy. All seems okay until he’s told the swamp monster is looking for them!
In this book, Tad Hills continues the beloved series wherein emotions are explored in a gentle manner. Throughout, his illustrations, are expressive, capturing Goose’s trepidation. Particularly well depicted is the forest trick-or-treating scene—such fun to see how animals celebrate.
Children can relate to the slight apprehension surrounding Halloween that is paired with the excitement of get dressed up and, in the end, sorting their bounty.
Halloween Good Night
Written by Rebecca Grabill
Illustrated by Ella Okstad
(Simon & Schuster BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
Halloween Good Night, a rhyming 32-page picture book, counts from one to ten using charmingly ghoulish families. Rebecca Grabill employs some standard spooky Halloween creatures such as vampires, zombies, and werewolves. Refreshing additions include wood imps, globsters, and boggarts. “Lurking in the swampland, lanterns glowing like the sun, sits a massive mama globster and her bitty globby one.”
The captivating cadence of the lines is spiked with clues enticing the reader to question where everyone is going. Soon, we find ghosts “sail through your door” and boggies wait in your closest for “your bedtime once again.” This removal of the so-called fourth wall makes the audience part the story.
A not-at-all-spooky conclusion is followed by a quick countdown from ten to one. Because the number sequences are handled with interest even older kids will engage with this “counting book”—there is much more to the story.
Ella Okstad delightfully illustrates the funny scenes (such as seven goblins dumpster diving with Granddaddy Goblin). Colorful images infuse the shadowy darkness with mischief and humor.
Halloween Good Night shows us that monsters can be playthings like dolls or stuffed animals. Instead of fright, they bring delight.
Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com
If you know any little ones already thinking
about Easter egg hunts and
baskets full of chocolate candy,
this roundup of new Easter board books
IS FOR YOU!
Tucker Digs Easter!
Written and illustrated by Leslie McGuirk
(Candlewick Press; $7.99, Ages 2-5)
Everyone’s favorite, Tucker, is back in Tucker Digs Easter! This adorable white dog is excited about the arrival of spring “when there’s lots of soft dirt for digging!” In fact, he’s such a pro at digging all kinds of holes to hide his bones and toys that it’s no surprise when the Easter Bunny recruits him to help dig holes for the big Easter egg hunt. But what happens after the pair dig and hide so well that the children cannot find any eggs? Then it’s Tucker to the rescue to dig, dig, dig again to find those well hidden eggs and bring smiles to all the children’s faces. This 28 page board book is a great way to make new Tucker fans while getting youngsters excited about the upcoming holiday.
The Easter Egg
Written and illustrated by Jan Brett
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons; $8.99, Ages 3-5)
Do you love Jan Brett? Then you’ll be delighted The Easter Egg is now available in board book format with a gorgeous foldout spread adding to this book’s appeal. Hoppi is going to decorate his “first-ever Easter egg!” and he wants it to be extra special. Searching for ideas, Hoppi visits various friends for inspiration. Everyone is so helpful and eager to assist him, offering super suggestions and samples. But everything looks so hard to do. It’s only when Hoppi spots a fallen blue robin’s egg that he realizes what he must do. After caring for the egg and eventually befriending the baby robin, Hoppi’s good deed is rewarded by the Easter Bunny in the most satisfying way. As always, Brett’s artwork is a treat to behold. Easter-themed borders surround each sturdy page and pictures of Hoppi’s rabbit friends busy creating their egg masterpieces hug the sides. Be sure also to point out to children all the robin activity woven into each border at the top of almost every page because that’s a whole other story in itself!
The Story of The Easter Bunny
Written by Katherine Tegen
Illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert
(Harper Festival; $7.99, Ages 4–8)
Now a charming 32 page board book, The Story of The Easter Bunny transports readers to what appears to be a quaint English village filled with thatch roofed cottages and cobblestone streets. It’s here that “,,, a round old couple were making Easter eggs.” As they dutifully toiled away, their little rabbit watched. He watched until he learned their tasks by heart so that one day, when the round old couple overslept, the little rabbit knew just what he had to do. The tables turned and now the round old couple were helping their little rabbit until one day they were simply too old to continue. Afraid that the village children would find him out, the little rabbit moved to “… a shadow-filled wood nearby.” There, with help from his friends, he carried on the tradition he had learned so well and to this day the Easter Bunny continues to spread cheer by delivering his baskets to children everywhere. Sharing this store requires carefully studying the stunning spreads so as not to miss a single detail Lambert’s included. I think some yummy chocolate should be required to accompany very reading!
PEG + CAT: THE PIZZA PROBLEM
Written and illustrated by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
(Candlewick Entertainment; $12.99, Ages 3-7)
Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem is another wonderful book from the creators of the popular educational PBS show, Peg + Cat! You don’t need to be familiar with Peg + Cat to enjoy this book because their characters shine through in the text and illustrations.
Peg and her cat open up Peg’s Pizza Place and are excited to serve the first customers when she gets an order for half a pizza among the orders of whole pizzas. At first she doesn’t know what half a pizza is, but luckily her friends come and help her realize that half a pizza is just one pizza cut down the middle, a semi-circle. Peg and Cat continue to fulfill new orders and provide entertainment for the customers, but then there is a dilemma! Peg gets four more orders and there’s only enough ingredients to make two and a half pizzas. Luckily, some of the orders were for half pizza pies, so she just might have enough to satisfy everyone.
Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem is a terrific book for kids ages three through seven who will appreciate the bright and cheerful illustrations while learning helpful math concepts. The story really had some good twists and turns, so much that it kept me engaged because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. I’m always happy to see math concepts being introduced and taught in real-to-life scenarios so kids can grasp the concepts easily. I also enjoyed the part where Peg got so stressed and had to be reminded to count down from five to one to calm down–an important lesson kids and adults both need.
Thank you Jennifer Oxley and Bill Aronson for your great work with Peg + Cat! We look forward to what other fun math related books you create.
Download an activity kit here.
Read Lucy’s review of Peg + Cat: The Race Car Problem here.
One of the very first picture books I ever bought for my son was by Mercer Mayer. I love Little Critter’s character: rambunctious, sweet, and fun-loving – someone who kids of all ages can relate to. Much like other series books I enjoy (The Berenstain Bears and the Froggy series), Little Critter’s books give us an opportunity to see the central character in different snippets of life. In Just a Special Thanksgiving, we celebrate the holiday alongside Little Critter and learn that, though Thanksgiving activities and events may not go as planned, realizing the spirit of the holiday is what matters.
From the get-go we feel that exciting sense of “Thanksgiving is in the air.” In the classroom, Little Critter and his friends are drawing pilgrims and turkeys. When school is out, he must rush home to change into his turkey costume for the Thanksgiving play. While you can probably guess what his lines are, poor Little Critter forgets them and opts to sing a song.
At the “big Thanksgiving Day Parade” early next morning more surprises from Little Critter are in store for all participants. Tired from marching, our hero hops on a float proudly waving to his parents who, along with law enforcement and other parade goers, have become quite irate by his actions.
I love how Little Critter’s innocence tugs on our heartstrings and how blissfully unaware he is of the commotion his actions cause. What’s even more touching is the way he tries to “right” his wrongs (particularly in the scenes at the grocery store) which lead to even more disaster. Kids will enjoy the humor implicit in Little Critter’s goof-ups. At the same time, parents will be reminded that, no matter how bad things may seem, our children’s intentions are good; their hearts are in the right place. Little Critter’s excitement with helping cook and serve the meal at the community center reminds us what’s at the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday.
A great book to curl up with your little one-perhaps while the turkey is roasting in the oven! (Includes 20 stickers).
- Reviewed by Armineh Manookian
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A is for alphabet book!
Alphabet books are so important in fostering early literacy by teaching children to recognize letter shapes and their associated sounds, often in very creative ways. In addition, alphabet books, like R is for Rocket: An ABC Book, also help children build vocabulary recognition. We could have children chant “B is for boy,” but I bet they’d enjoy this more:
Bella balances on a ball while
a big blue butterfly watches.
The repetition of a single letter also creates a mood and a rhythmic effect, and, in longer sentences, encourages children to use words to expand beyond “C is for cat” and create sentences that contain multiple alliterative words. These in turn could be used to describe an activity or event:
Owl offers a cookie and a crayon to crow.
“Now will you stop cawing?” she asks.
What might children’s responses be if asked why was the crow cawing? How did this story begin or end? Can they think of other hard “C” words that could be used to tell their story? What a great precursor to creative storytelling/writing.
Tad Hills, the author and illustrator of numerous books, including the Duck and Goose books, depicts his well-known Rocket characters “ …having fun while learning the alphabet.” Unlike basic alphabet books, Hill’s popular Rocket characters are engaged in activities beginning with that letter, and accompanied by a short, alliterative sentence or two:
Rocket paints a picture of a peacock. Owl prefers her pumpkin.
My first and second grade students, already fans of Hills’ earlier titles, squealed with pleasure when I showed them the cover of this book. The students quickly caught on to the alliteration and soon the reading became dynamic and interactive as students discussed which sound they heard and how many times it occurred in each sentence.
While my students enjoyed Hills’ brightly colored and adorable characters, my favorite illustration is a two-page spread uniting letters E and F:
In the evening, Emma finds an egg.
Fred frolics with fireflies
Hills depicts a pleasantly darkening sky, dotted with “starry” fireflies. In the shadowy grass, Emma finds a delicate blue egg while Fred chases after glowing fireflies. This reminded me of a lovely summer’s night.
An extra bonus is that the book jacket doubles as an alphabet poster.
Highly recommended for schools and libraries where this author/illustrator is popular and where alphabet books play an important part in early literacy. Visit Tad Hills to learn more about his books.
LADYBUG GIRL AND THE BEST EVER PLAYDATE
Written by Jacky Davis
Illustrated by David Soman
(Dial Books for Young Readers; $17.99, Ages 3-5)
LADYBUG GIRL: THE SUPER FUN EDITION
Written by Jacky Davis
Illustrated by David Soman
(Dial Books for Young Readers; $18.99, Ages 3-5)
Ladybug girl first came into my older daughter’s life about 6 years ago when she was 6, and since then my 4-year-old now loves her! I must admit that I love her too! My favorite page is of Ladybug girl frowning in her room with tons of toys around her and “There’s nothing to do.” It truly reflects the child experience!
Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate
L adybug Girl: The Super Fun Edition
I grabbed the opportunity to review the Lady Bug Girl: The Super Fun Edition as well as the new book, Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate.
The original book, if you haven’t read it, is genius and is sure to bring you back to your childhood. Ladybug girl is rejected by her older brother, but that doesn’t stop her. She shows confidence and finds things to keep her busy and opportunities to serve.
The new Super Fun Edition come with a few punch out paper dolls and sticker outfits between the final endpapers. They are pretty easy to play with and you can see below how much fun my daughter had with them.
Exciting extras: With a poster (printed on the inside of the book jacket), a CD of the audio narration, and reusable paper-doll-style stickers, this gift edition has added value for fans of the series. A new, luxurious package, including redesigned cover with foil effects, makes this edition especially attractive and collectible.
The new book, Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate has many similar qualities as the original. The sweet message that life can be fun with the simple things. Ladybug girl is faced with a realistic event that happens in many children’s lives: A playdate. She is excited, but is she mainly excited to see her friend or the toy her friend is bringing? At first, it appears Lulu (AKA Ladybug Girl) only wants to play if they can play with the toy, but eventually she finds out that spending quality time with her friend means more than any toy.
Kids ages 3-5 (and maybe even 6) are sure to love the book! I think it is geared more toward girls, but boys may enjoy it just as much (especially with the awesomely cute hound, Bingo)