May 27, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Seasonal Tricks and Treats | Halloween Roundup

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Bach, Annie. Monster Party! illus. by Annie Bach. 24p. Sterling. Aug. 2014. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781454910510.
PreS-K –Blue monster is caught up in the delight of a friend’s party. Through a rhyming text, readers follow preparation, disco dancing, a pin-the-tail game, piñata, bug-topped pizza, a pink-cupcake-tower food fight, and presents. A tantrum ensues when it’s time to depart, but luckily for Dad, there’s another party invitation in the mailbox. As in Bach’s Night-Night, Forest Friends (Penguin, 2013), dark backgrounds emphasize the cheery cartoon creatures’ ice cream colors. Their square bodies gain humorous variety with unique features like beaks, wings, or horns. These little monsters demonstrate a typical preschool celebration.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

Baguley, Elizabeth. Ready, Steady, Ghost! illus. by Marion Lindsay. 32p. Disney-Hyperion. Aug. 2014. RTE $16.99. ISBN 9781423180395. LC 2013023377.

PreS-Gr 1 –Gilbert doesn’t feel ready to “haunt somewhere huge.” While searching the woods at night for a small “cozy house” to haunt, he predictably encounters other spooky creatures, including a wolf, a snake, and a dragon. Gilbert finally finds what he thinks is a house, but it turns out to be a castle, which is much too big and scary for the timid ghost—until he finds a miniature castle in the attic complete with a tiny king and queen who are coincidentally looking for a ghost to haunt their tiny turrets. While the illustrations, done in black, shades of blue, and orange, are just right for a ghost story aimed at a preschool audience, the story concept isn’t unique and the castle-within-a castle solution is an odd ending to Gilbert’s journey. The book will appeal to those who enjoy the not-so-spooky-little-ghost story line, but most can pass on this one without so much as a “shiver-me, shake-me.”–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Brendler, Carol. Not Very Scary. illus. by Greg Pizzoli. 40p. Farrar. Aug. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780374355470. LC 2013011139.

PreS-Gr 2 –Melly encounters some unexpected visitors when she walks to her cousin Malberta’s Halloween party. As she wanders down the street, she first meets a black cat (“not the least bit scary”), then a duo of dancing skeletons, and her ever-so-slight creeps and chills grow. The list of spooky creatures builds and builds as Melly continues her evening stroll. Her dynamic expressions correspond with the goblins and ghouls around her. Melly responds, “Not especially scary!” when “seven frenzied fruit bats” appear on the scene, and her comments increase in urgency; she cries, “Not extraordinarily scary!” when she stumbles across “eight spindly spiders.” Melly is a sight to behold with her sharp horns, green face, and striped stockings; she looks like she fits right in with the cast of only oh-so-eerie characters she meets along the way. When she arrives at the festivities, she realizes that her accompanying menagerie includes friendly partygoers instead of the spooky haunts she believed them to be. This fast-paced read aloud will suit the many young listeners interested in just a dash of spookiness with their Halloween adventures.–Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC

Clough, Lisa. Petal and Poppy and the Spooky Halloween! illus. by Ed Briant. 32p. (Green Light Readers). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Aug. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 978-0544336025; pap. $3.99. ISBN 9780544336032.

K-Gr 3 –This beginning reader highlights the fun and fright of Halloween. Poppy, initially disguised as a devil, scares Petal until Petal realizes that she can make sparkling fairy wings as a fun alternative to the frightening costumes readily available. When they set out for the party, a flat tire on their bicycle leaves them abandoned outside of an eerie house, and Petal fixes it with the help of a little ghost. Poppy’s earlier statement offers a dose of encouragement to Petal as the pair address their spooky surroundings: “Don’t be a scaredy-cat. It is only a costume.” When a gang of unusual creatures greets Poppy and Petal at the Halloween party, the friends realize their fear is all in good fun. Angular, digital animal cartoon characters keep the tone upbeat, while large panels emphasize each detailed scene with cheerful colors. A howling good addition that celebrates a favorite holiday.–Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC

Deàk, Erzsi. Pumpkin Time! illus. by Doug Cushman. 32p. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781402295263.

PreS-Gr 1 –Evy is up to something. Her distraction starts in the spring. She’s so engrossed in her books and work that she overlooks the most unusual occurrences around her—cows parading in fancy hats, donkeys sailing across the sky, and sheep having a picnic. In summer, Evy doesn’t notice the buckets literally falling from the sky or the animals playing badminton. In autumn, sweaters fall from above and animals stomp grapes. Page after page, the text asks, “What was Evy doing?” Attentive readers will pick up on the obvious clues, as the child is often depicted farming and researching pumpkins. In late autumn, all of the animals gather and Evy finally unveils her hard work: a huge pumpkin pie. The watercolor and ink illustrations feature abundant visual puns and incorporate pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns into the scenes, and the endpapers feature fun facts and recipes.–Laura Hunter, Mount Laurel Library, NJ

Graves, Keith. The Monsterator. illus. by Keith Graves. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596438552. LC 2013016728.

K-Gr 2 –In this fiendishly fun novelty book, Master Edgar Dreadbury is suitably bored by typical Halloween attire and chooses to bypass his usual costume store for The Monster Shop, which he had not previously noticed. There, he finds a contraption called the “MONSTERATOR,” and with a nonchalant “Oh, why not,” the child drops his dime into the old fashioned–looking machine and is suddenly transformed into a monster. With his fearsome roar, sharp fangs, pointy horns, and reptilian feet, Edgar joyfully scares everyone in his path. “He horrified the tall./He terrified the small./Edgar Dreadbury frightened them all.” It’s all well and good on Halloween night, but when Edgar grows tired of being a monster, he discovers that the shop has disappeared and he is destined to remain one forever. The simple plot is heightened by a humorous rhyming text (including many monsterly sound effects) and large, kid-friendly, digitally enhanced acrylic illustrations that are more funny than creepy. But the true pleasure and surprise of this book are the final pages that serve as a flip toy, allowing youngsters to “monsterate” Edgar themselves by selecting from several layers of monstrous heads, faces, bodies, and feet. Sturdy pages will survive dozens of flips and give kids lots of incentive to create their own Halloween costume mash-ups. Purchase multiples for lots of horrific holiday fun!–Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

Haas, Jessie. Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season. illus. by Alison Friend. 56p. (Bramble and Maggie). Candlewick. Aug. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763649555; pap. ISBN 9780763662516; ebk. ISBN 9780763664503. LC 2013952844.

K-Gr 2 –Maggie and her horse, Bramble, are back in another beginning chapter book. With a slightly mischievous, frisky attitude in the cooler fall weather, Bramble takes risks and pretends to be fearful, while Maggie introduces her to the sights and sounds of autumn. Both grow into their partnership and maturity as Bramble overdoes her imitation of anxious jumpiness, thoughtlessly unseats her rider, and finally accepts responsibility and returns home safely. Maggie is back in the saddle again with a final chapter, taking the lead and guiding her horse through a succession of surprises on a dark night of trick-or-treating. Softly colored gouache illustrations illuminate expressions and follow the action from a variety of perspectives and have appropriate visual clues and generous white space for younger readers. Dialogue, Maggie’s occasional reflections, and a bit of onomatopoeia allow the narrative text to flow nicely as a trusting relationship develops between horse and rider. A solid addition for general purchase.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

KETTEMAN , Helen . At the Old Haunted House . illus. by Nate Wragg. 32p. Amazon/Two Lions. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781477847695.

K-Gr 2 –An old haunted house is home to an assortment of creatures from “a warty green witch and her wee witchy one” to goblins, vampires, bats, black cats, werewolves, spiders, and more. Written in the pattern of the popular poem “Over in the Meadow,” each page starts with the repeated phrase “At the old haunted house” and, on each page, the creatures increase in number from one to ten. The rhyme ends with three trick-or-treaters arriving and a Halloween fright party, which the creatures have been preparing for, bursting forth in celebration. The vibrant painted illustrations are dark, goofy, and mildly spooky. The text is simple rhyme with the creatures practicing spells, making strange noises, stirring brews, weaving webs, and other Halloween activities. Although the rhyme is occasionally awkward, this title will be in demand at the holiday and beyond. A rousing storyhour selection.–Paula Huddy, The Blake School-Highcroft Campus, Wayzata, MN

McGhee, Alison. The Sweetest Witch Around. illus. by Harry Bliss. 32p. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Aug. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781442478336; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442478381. LC 2013017903.

PreS-Gr 1 –The fearless heroine and her endearing orange cat introduced in A Very Brave Witch (S. & S., 2006) are teaching the Witchling about the scary world of humans. Though other witches are afraid of people and their strange ways, the protagonist and her little sister are curious about them. Once Witchling learns about Halloween, she develops a taste for candy and goes trick-or-treating. When some older kids try to take away her hat full of sweets, her sister swoops in to the rescue and takes her home. Borrowing a few elements from comic books, the text consists exclusively of speech balloons, and there are two panelled pages. Full-page ink and watercolor spreads contain some funny details, like “Graveyard Barbie” or a can labeled, “Slugs, Organic.” A sweet but optional addition to Halloween collections.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

Muncaster, Harriet. I Am a Witch’s Cat. illus. by Harriet Muncaster. 32p. HarperCollins. Aug. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780062229144. LC 2012022152.

PreS-Gr 2 –A child dressed as a cat is just certain that her mom is a good witch. What other explanation is there for the strange potions she keeps in the bathroom? There are also the eyeballs and fingers she buys from the grocery store and the magical herbs she grows for the bubbling brews. She cackles with her friends while exchanging books and even whirls around a broomstick once a week. Mom has to be a witch, and every good witch deserves a black cat who adores her and serves as her faithful sidekick. Created with a variety of media, including fabric, watercolor, and pen and ink, this masterly book has tiny, almost three-dimensional scenes that will leave readers lingering on each page to soak in all the details. The illustrations are bright and whimsical, filling the pages in perfect synergy with the text. Children will love the idea that their parent might have a top-secret, super-cool life. This charming title will be a hit year-round.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

O’Connor, Jane. Lulu and the Witch Baby. illus. by Bella Sinclair. 48p. (I Can Read!). HarperCollins. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062305176; pap. $3.99. ISBN 9780062305169. LC 2013043185.

K-Gr 2 –Lulu is not happy. She glowers at her sister as she receives her baby gifts: a bat rattle from Aunt Boo Boo, a witch doll with a broomstick from Cousin Hazel, and a Dracula-in-the-box from Uncle Fuzzy. Her sister’s annoying behaviors also receive no consequences from her parents; “‘Witch Baby is just a baby,’” explains her mother. Left in charge of her sibling, Lulu Witch reaches her wit’s end when the child destroys her favorite piece of artwork. The older girl creates a witchy concoction, though she is missing the 17th cat hair she needs for her spell, and she attempts in vain to make her sibling disappear. When she finally believes her spell is successful, Lulu Witch is immediately repentant. Quickly reunited with her little sister, Lulu Witch learns to appreciate her sibling. Though the story transitions a little too quickly for nuanced character development, this tale is appropriate for emerging readers. Cartoon illustrations with darker colors reinforce the brief story line. With barely a touch of spookiness, there’s no spell about it—this is a standard treatment of the dynamics found in sibling relationships.–Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats. illus. by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. 32p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Aug. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781596436329. LC 2013016658.

PreS-Gr 1 –Dog and Bear are back, and they’ve got some tricks and treats ready for Halloween. Whether it’s picking out costumes, manning the ding-donging front door, or going trick-or-treating in a tricky way, the two friends are always ready to help each other out with a smile and a laugh. Seeger once again infuses the three episodic stories with lighthearted humor. Full of simple wordplay and kindhearted irony, each mini-story begins with a title and ends with a clever twist. The humor strengthens the friendship of the eager and fun-loving characters in an amusing and inclusive way. The acrylic paint and India ink illustrations are painterly with broad brushstrokes and thick black outlines, while the simple white background keeps the spotlight on the action. A wonderful choice for bedtime reading, this could also be a fun book for beginning readers to take turns sharing with their caregivers. This is a great addition to Halloween collections, as it focuses on the fun, rather than the fright, of the holiday.–Amy Seto Musser, Denver Public Library

Siddals, Mary McKenna. Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors. illus. by Jimmy Pickering. 32p. Random. Aug. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780385369992; lib. ed. $15.99. ISBN 9780375971815; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780375981661. LC 2012951184.

PreS-K –Can colors other than orange and black be associated with Halloween? Upbeat rhymes make the case for a multihued holiday. For instance, blue can be found in “Darkness falling,/Wizard’s robe,/Touch of magic,/Crystal globe,/Chilly-spilly, gloomy-doomy, dreary-weary/Wash of blue.” Green is in an eerie glow; white is “A skull, a spook/A face gone \pale…”; and so on. Cartoon illustrations of nonmenacing monsters, as well as an adorably smiling bat-winged, one-eyed creature that appears on every page, soften the edges of what could be macabre verses if they stood on their own, e.g., “burning-churning, blushing-gushing/Stain of red.” A nice summary of all the colors appears at the end, as if the aforementioned wizard conjured up a spell to make a perfect Halloween. A solid and fun read-aloud.–Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

SOMAN, David & Jacky Davis. Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma. illus. by David Soman. 40p. Dial. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803735842. LC 2013017979.

K-Gr 2 –Deciding what to be for Halloween takes a lot of thought and creativity, especially if you’re Ladybug Girl and are already known for your awesome superhero costume. When her older brother makes her doubt her decision to trick-or-treat as her red-tutu-clad-superhero self, Lulu begins thinking of other costumes she can put together on short notice. After rejecting a robot, a silent movie star, an octopus, an alien, and, most uniquely, a vampire panda, she is forced to give up her costume-creating to go apple picking with her family. While there, she worries about her options, and it isn’t until she goes into full Ladybug Girl mode to help a lost girl in the corn maze that she realizes she already has the perfect costume. Soman’s artwork combines the endearing sketchbook illustration style that readers have come to love with the warm hues of autumn, creating the perfect backdrop for this spunky heroine’s latest adventure. Fans of Ladybug Girl won’t be disappointed with this installment that weaves together favorite fall activities and the familiar message of staying true to yourself.–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Wunderli, Stephen. Little Boo. illus. by Tim Zeltner. 32p. Holt. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805097085.

PreS-Gr 1 –The life cycle of a pumpkin seed forms the plot of this story. Little Boo fails to scare various characters as he progresses from seed to flower, and he yearns for a day when its “boo” will terrify them. With encouragement from a friendly faced swirl of wind, Little Boo persists. Finally, as a smiling jack-o’-lantern, he puts its scare training to work and frightens all who pass by. Zeltner has layered paint and color to effectively convey changing seasons and shows a natural community that teems with anthropomorphic snowflakes, garden boots, and grasshoppers. This story resembles Margaret Wise Brown’s The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin (HarperCollins, 2006); it is a shorter option that delivers the same idea but lacks the complexity and rhythm of that earlier work. Although not a priority purchase, Little Boo will make a good supplement to Halloween collections.–Nora Clancy, Teachers College Community School, New York City

Yoon, Salina. Penguin and Pumpkin. illus. by Salina Yoon. 32p. Walker. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780802737328; RTE $15.89. ISBN 9780802737335; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780802737694.

PreS-K –In his third adventure, Penguin is curious about what autumn looks like, so he and six of his friends decide to go to a farm to find out. Penguin’s baby brother, Pumpkin, wants to come too, but the trip is deemed too far for him. Through the long journey across the ocean, comical spot art shows time passing: the iceberg on which the group rides grows smaller and smaller, until the penguins are left swimming to shore. In the farm’s pumpkin patch, every pumpkin reminds Penguin of his brother back at home, and so he plans a special surprise. Upon their return, they find that Pumpkin managed to pass the time imagining what fall would be like in outer space. Bright digital art with bold outlines and succinct narration with some dialogue make this story well suited for reading aloud. Occasionally the story line seems to totter off course, but fans of Penguin won’t mind a bit.–Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. This is honestly the first time I’ve seen book recommendations for Halloween. We get plenty for Christmas, but not for Halloween. Thanks!