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
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.
Duck & Goose Go to the Beach by Tad Hills, (Schwartz & Wade Books 2014, $17.99, ages 3-7), is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.
Duck & Goose Go to the Beach by Tad Hills, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014.
It’s summer, and Duck is eager to explore. Goose, however, is reluctant to leave their perfect little meadow with its tree stump, hollow log, stream, lily pond, and shady thicket.
“A TRIP? A trip sounds far away. I like close…An adventure? That sounds scary,” Goose honks.
But Duck is determined, and Goose grumpily follows him on their hike. When they arrive at the beach, Duck gets more than he bargained for. The waves are loud, the sand is hot, the ocean is big, and the beach dwellers are different. The beach isn’t what Duck expected, but it isn’t what Goose expected either, and, suddenly, he’s up for the adventure!
Goose stared at the vast stretch of sky, sand, and sea. “Isn’t it magnificent?” he said.
“Oh dear, the beach has SO MUCH water,” quacked Duck. “I feel tiny.”
“Have you ever seen SO MUCH sand?” honked Goose.
“It’s getting in my feathers, and it’s too hot on my feet,” said Duck. “Let’s go.”
“Go swimming? Good idea, Duck!” said Goose, and he raced to the water’s edge.
Duck & Goose Go to the Beach is a story of many levels. It presents the idea of having an adventure and doing something new. It deals with facing fears and being open to changing your mind. It’s a fun summer read. Most of all, it is charming and humorous. Duck and Goose are adorable characters. They are who they are, and that trait is so appealing to young readers (and their parents).
The oil paint artwork is almost too cute. The images of the feathered friends running down the hill and peeking over the sand dune are picture perfect. The artwork adds to the massive appeal of the book.
Whether they’re in a meadow, at the beach, or in your home, your kids will delight in Duck and Goose.
Did you read yesterday’s post when we introduced a fun fall giveaway? In order to be eligible to win, go back and check out yesterday’s review and then, after reading today’s as well, enter if you dare. You just might be the winner of over $150 worth of Halloween books!
Halloween’s just 22 days away! And to get the excitement brewing, we’re giving away a bunch of books for boys and ghouls (and one for parents as well) to enjoy before their big night out. Scroll to the bottom for more info after reading all the reviews.
Vampirina Ballerina writtten ($14.99, Disney/Hyperion Books, ages 2-6) by Anne Marie Pace with pictures by LeUyen Pham, is wicked and whimsical with arabesques and a twist. Pace takes a typical budding ballerina tale and turns it on its head in the best possible way! Add the plethora of vampiralicious puns coupled with killer artwork from the ever talented Pham, and this ballerina picture book rises above the others, or should I say flies, soars and sweeps? If Vampirina just follows her mom’s advice (remembering not to turn into a bat or trip on her cape to name a few), she’ll achieve her goal. Fangs a lot for this fab read.
The Secret History of Hobgoblins ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 8 and up) by Professor Ari Berk had me at Hob! I have been fascinated by the lore of of these little folk since falling for J.K. Rowling’s Dobby so it came as no surprise that I found myself studying every last word on each elaborate page. The old-world style in which the book is presented will no doubt capture your child’s attention as it did mine. Full of detailed artwork in color and black and white, fold-out spreads, flaps to flip and facts to glean, The Secret History of Hobgoblins (is that a tongue twister?) fascinates as it entertains. We learn from the book’s opening that the Secret Folk (who thrive on hospitality and domestic order) are sharing their privately held practices with us in order to “herald a swift return to the hospitable practices of the past.” Hear! Hear! Learn about where they live, what their spells and charms are and how to peacefully cohabit with them. Frankly, while I could really use a hobgoblin at home, I must resign myself to just reading about them in Berk’s engaging new book.
The Monster Alphabet ($7.99, Price, Stern, Sloan, ages 3-7) by Michael P. Spradlin and illustrated by Jeff Weigel provides a field day for monster hunters like narrator Morgan Marvin Marshall. This intrepid traveler will take children around the world searching for monsters from A-Z. There’s the Abominable Snowman hiding in the mountains of Nepal, the Ogre found “most everywhere” and Zombies (aka living dead) who will “eat the brains straight from your head,” and Spradlin’s monster hunting Marshall will find them all. Now I am not sure I want to read this to a 3-year-old at bedtime, but with the light-hearted illustrations that definitely don’t scare, I certainly would not hesitate to illuminate my little one about gargoyles, hydras and imps around Halloween. And it’s told in uncomplicated rhyme, too. Kids may even find a bit of costume inspiration from Weigel’s artwork. Bonus feature: For each alphabet letter illustrated, there are 3 hidden objects beginning with the same letter to be found on every page.
Haunted Castle ($15.95, AZBooks, ages 5 and up) by Nadezhda Shumovich is the perfect Halloween book for pop-up book fans. It’s Halloween night in a small village where threesome Nick, little Alex and Kristy find themselves bored after their local trick or treating is soon finished. Kristy suggests they visit the castle at the forest’s edge for some more exciting entertainment. Who should greet them when they arrive but a vampire butler along with a slew of other costumed party goers or so they think! It’s not until they notice no mirror reflections of these dressed up ghouls that the kids realize they might be the biggest treat at this gathering. Some quick thinking saves the trio but not before readers get to share the spooking with REALLY SCARY SOUNDS in this sound effects and “Nightmarish 3D” book.
Duck & Goose Find A Pumpkin ($10.99, Schwartz & Wade Books, ages 2 and up) is yet another delightful board book for the preschool set and for story time by author/illustrator Tad Hills. The pages are large and durable, the art is adorable, bright and inviting and the story is just simple enough for your littlest reader. Duck and Goose go in search of a pumpkin after they see the one Thistle has found. It’s not long before the pair are looking in a log, a pile of leaves, up in an apple tree, in a pond, on top of a stump all for naught! But with Thistle’s help, perhaps the pair’s luck will change. Learn more about this award-winning author and his other Duck & Goose books by clicking here.
It wouldn’t be Halloween without mentioning the always popular Scream Street series, Book #7, Invasion of The Normals ($5.99, Candlewick, ages 8-10) by Tommy Donbavand available in paperback. As the first page professes, “The fiendish fun continues at www.screamstreet.com” so what are you waiting for kids? This is an ideal choice for reluctant readers with short chapters, imaginative illustrations and even free collectors’ cards inside the back cover! Take a walk down this street, but you’ve been warned! Something strange is going on and it could be NORMAL!
On Monday, October 8 and then again on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 we’re reviewing and/or briefly mentioning books that we’ve read recently then giving them away the following week! So **read both posts before entering. And guess what? If you LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by midnight on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 you’ll be entered to win a prize package of all 11 books covered (worth a value of $153.77) just in time for Halloween!! Remember to write Halloween Book Giveaway in the subject line. **YOU MUST LIST ALL BOOKS COVERED IN THE 2 BLOGS as part of your entry eligibility so be sure to read the blog every day!! Click here now for more detailed rules. Good luck!
This book may have been written for children, but it certainly resonated with today’s reviewer, Debbie Glade.
Looking at the adorable front and back covers of Rocket Writes a Story ($17.99, Schwartz & Wade Books, Ages 4-8) by Tad Hills, made me eager to read what’s inside. And I wasn’t disappointed. Rocket is a lovable mutt who loves to read. (An earlier book, How Rocket Learned to Read was a NY Times Bestseller and a winner of several children’s book awards. Click here for our review.) Rocket also loves to write down words on small pieces of paper, and he hangs them on a beautiful tree. His friend and teacher is a tiny yellow bird, who encourages Rocket to write his very first story.
But Rocket experiences something all too familiar to me and all the other writers out there – writer’s block. Ugh! He walks through the wilderness by day and looks up at the stars by night searching for inspiration for his story. He gets frustrated and irritated and he doesn’t know what to do. But then one day, he meets a bright-eyed owl, who is perched up in her tree on a nest. That owl inspires Rocket to start writing his story. Will meeting that owl be enough for Rocket to finish what he starts? Read the book and find out.
What I love about Rocket Writes a Story is that it lets kids know that writing doesn’t always (actually maybe never) comes easy. You’ve got to work at it. The way Rocket writes words down is also a great tool for teachers of young readers, since that’s one of the best ways to learn new words. Kids will see Rocket’s frustration and determination by reading the story and looking at the wonderful illustrations. They too will know that this is a perfectly normal part of the learning process. Now we all know that writer’s block is not just for people; it’s for dogs too!
Author/illustrator Tad Hills has a dog named Rocket at home, which obviously inspired him for the character in this book. Even though Rocket is clearly original, I have to wonder also if another dog inspired him to write his stories? Let’s just say he’s a well known white dog with black spots, who has a small yellow bird as a sidekick.
This book is a real winner. It’s beautiful to look at, inspiring to read and it enchants the reader. I’d even buy it as a gift to some of my fellow (adult) writer friends. After reading this, it’s all the inspiration I’m going to need to get me through my writing deadline this afternoon. I think I’ll start with jotting down a few words and hanging them on a tree . . .