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
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly is reviewed by the newest member of our team, Mary Malhotra.
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly, Disney Publishing Worldwide, 2014.
Deep Blue, (Disney Publishing Worldwide, $17.99, Ages 9-12), released May 6, 2014, is the first in a planned four-book fantasy series, The Waterfire Saga, about six gifted teen mermaids from different realms who come together to save the ocean from an ancient monster. The story takes readers on an adventure exploring diverse cultures under the sea (and inside mirrors, too — a shadow world that has always fascinated this reviewer!). The mermaids do magic by singing, a skill they call songcasting. In addition to enchanting Mer creatures, the book features ghosts, zombies, and other supernatural figures, and some explicit battle gore.
The world of Deep Blue, first envisaged by a creative team at Disney, is brought to life by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Donnelly. Donnelly is the author of A Northern Light, a historical fiction YA set at the turn of the nineteenth century (winner of Britain’s Carnegie Medal and a Printz Honor), and Revolution, a story about a troubled present-day teen pulled into the world of a girl living in revolutionary France. Deep Blue will probably appeal most to a tween audience. Disney suggests the book for ages 9-12.
In the book’s prologue, water witches summon the six mermaids, warning that a four thousand-year-old monster capable of destroying entire civilizations has been awakened. As the story begins, we meet two Mer princesses, Serafina of Miromara and Neela of Matali. Sera and Neela are best friends, together for Sera’s betrothal to Neela’s brother Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali. Sera and Mahdi’s betrothal, intended to unite the two underwater kingdoms in peace, is interrupted by a brutal attack led by the cruel Captain Traho. Many at the party, including Sera’s parents, are injured or killed, but Sera and Neela escape.
The princesses soon discover they have both dreamt of the witches and the monster. Now they must find the four other mermaids described in the witches’ chant and join up to battle the monster. Captain Traho pursues Sera and Neela, so they have to use their wits and their growing special talents to stay a step ahead of him and figure out who or what is behind his evil ambitions. Destined to lead the other mermaids, Sera tightly holds on to the hope that her mother, the queen of Miromara, is still alive and will return to make everything all right. Will Sera grow to accept her role as leader? Can the six chosen mermaids gain the confidence and skill needed to battle the monster?
Deep Blue is a fun read, and a doorway to imagining a complex and magical world under the sea. Author Donnelly says Disney’s The Little Mermaid was a favorite at her house when her daughter was younger. Now her daughter is ten, an age Donnelly says is “fearless and full of wonder. Bemused by boys. Fierce about friendships. Standing at the borderlands of childhood, suitcases in hand.” Donnelly hopes her readers will find Sera and her fellow teen mages to be “worthy travel companions” as they embark on the soul-searching and increasing independence of their own teen years.
Click her to see →Deep Blue by Author Jennifer Donnelly – WaterFire Saga on Disney Video
For more on Waterfire Saga: waterfiresaga.com
Find Jennifer Donnelly on line: jenniferdonnelly.com
Or on Twitter: twitter.com/jenwritesbooks
Or visit her on Facebook: JenWritesBooks
About Reviewer Mary Malhotra – After your typical career as a database designer/schoolteacher/small-business CFO, Mary Malhotra is focusing on the next obvious thing, short story and novel writing for the YA market. A member of SCBWI, she has participated in writing workshops at UCLA Extension and the Writer’s Center (Bethesda, MD). Her YA novel COMMON HOURS is on its first full revision (and fourth working title). She lives in La Canada, California with her husband and lots of pictures of her grown kids. Find her on Twitter @MCMalhotra or at www.Facebook.com/MCMalhotra.
This year there has been a deluge of dark, demonic books for the ghoul next door. I cannot pick a favorite but here is a sampling of what you can read to your kids or give them to read on their own. Just remember, keep a flashlight close at hand!
How To Be A Zombie (Candlewick Press, $14.99, ages 12 and up) by Serena Valentino – A gruesomely good read for those of you “who crave brains.” Find out what the undead in your neighborhood are up to. There are tips to share, fantastic photos and artwork as well as info on Zombie fashion, terminology and so much more.
On a Windy Night (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95, ages 4-8) by Nancy Raines Day with illustrations by George Bates – “Clacklety-clack, bones in a sack. They could be yours – if you look back.” I don’t know about you, but I’m outta here! It’s a windy Halloween night below the light of a full moon. Creepy creatures abound on the street and in hidden images throughout this imaginatively rendered book with pictures resembling wood cuts. A little boy is finishing up with his trick-0r-treating and unlike you or me, goes home through the dark woods and scares himself silly imaging all sorts of frightening sounds and spirits out to get him.
Octavius Grimwood’s Graveyard Guide (Barron’s Educational Series, $9.99, ages 8 and up) by Rod Green – “Prepare to be scared” is how this book touts itself and it’s absolutely right. Learn all about the supernatural, spooky and weird, but memorize Octavius’ secret spell first to keep you safe. Turn the pages at your own risk as youdtravel near and fear (oops, I meant far) exploring haunted houses, unmasking wicked witches and unfathoming phantoms.
Zen Ghosts (Scholastic Press, $17.99, all ages) by Jon J Muth is one of those timeless tales that will captivate the entire family. Stillwater, the wise and friendly Panda returns in a spine-tingling story set under a full Halloween moon. Inviting his young friends Addy, Karl and Michael to meet a special storyteller who’ll tell a ghost story, Stillwater (or the mysterious storyteller) introduces the children to some Zen Buddism concepts, imparting his unique Panda wisdom to the listeners and readers alike. The water-color artwork only adds to the atmospheric tale and takes us right onto the pages alongside the characters.
Chills and Thrills: The Ultimate Anthology of The Mystical, Magical, Eerie, & Uncanny (Welcome Books, $16.95, all ages) Edited by Lena Tabori & Natasha Tabori Fried and designed by Timothy Shaner is an indispensable guide to all things scary, superstitious and spine-tingling! Overflowing with curses, spells,tales of magic and fantasy, magic tricks and more, Chills and Thrills is a creepy compendium you’ll feel compelled to keep on your bedside or coffee table. Whether you seek a classic poem like Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven or a recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds, it’s included here.