April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Smiling Skeletons and Ghouls Galore | Halloween Roundup

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BoyNton, Sandra. EEK! Halloween! illus. by Sandra Boynton. 22p. Workman. Jul. 2016. Board $6.99. ISBN 9780761193005.

PreS-K –The chickens know that something odd is going on. A duck wearing gigantic monster feet? Pumpkins with eerie faces? Their anxiety mounts until a friend pops up to reassure them: “Relax, silly chickens! It’s Halloween.” This bite-size board book is infused with the sense of whimsy that fans of the author’s work have grown to appreciate. She pairs readable text in verse with winsome, thick-lined, round-eyed illustrations to create a delightful introduction to this potentially frightening holiday. Readers will love the cast of enticing creatures—a pig wearing a chicken suit, a large elephant in a mouse costume, a pair of grinning felines in wizard and witch hats, and the soft-bellied chickens (an endearingly expressive bunch, looking around uncertainly and grimacing forlornly)—each placed against a simple backdrop. Boynton maintains a slightly eerie mood but keeps everything just gentle enough to appeal to the intended audience. VERDICT A great addition to board book collections, especially where Halloween titles are needed. Kids anticipating their first Halloween will be easily convinced, along with the initially nervous poultry, that the upcoming holiday is full of spooky fun.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Bozik, Chrissy. The Ghosts Go Scaring. illus. by Patricia Storms. 24p. Sky Pony. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781510712287.

PreS-Gr 2 –A group of ghosts make their way to a Halloween party, meeting a bevy of friends along the way. Bozik’s lively text is a reworking of “The Ants Go Marching” (“The ghosts go scaring one by one,/the little one stops to have some fun./And they all go scaring/out in the night,/to cause a big fright.”). On each spread, the number of ghosts increases by one; the final spread sees 10 ghosts bopping and bouncing at a mansion, joined by a vampire, a werewolf, Frankenstein, and a mummy. Though the color scheme is appropriate for a Halloween romp—a giant yellow moon, deep blues and purples for the sky—there’s a gentle tone that runs through this fairly tame outing, from the smiling vampire family who greet the trick-or-treating ghosts to a grinning group of bats to the fiddle-playing skeleton crew. Sporting costumes (bunny ears, cowboy hat) and making asides through speech bubbles, the ghosts are high on the cute factor, and the cartoonish illustrations ooze fun. VERDICT A solid option for those seeking a Halloween read-aloud or sing-along or an introduction to numbers and counting.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Bright, Rachel. Love Monster and the Scary Something. illus. by Rachel Bright. 32p. Farrar. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374346911.

PreS-Gr 2 –Popular Love Monster is back for more as he discovers his “brave-inside” by overcoming his fear of the dark. Many children will empathize with Love Monster’s plight as he tries to fall asleep and the sounds around him translate into something monstrous. Bright’s unique illustrations, created with a technique called solar etching, emphasize the shadows when appropriate, spilling font across the page in a rippling movement that begs to be read aloud. Onomatopoeic words highlight Love Monster’s fears, and the clever use of punctuation identifies long, drawn-out pauses. Alliterative phrases like terrible, twisterly toenails trip off the tongue and add to the nimble wordplay. As Love Monster conjures increasingly horrific images from the sounds he hears, Bright presents these imaginings in vivid, bold colors until the hilarious climax. What follows are a series of smaller panels that show how fears can magnify one’s reality unless one is willing to face them. VERDICT An endearing first purchase for most collections and a welcome addition to storytimes.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

Bruel, Nick. Bad Kitty, Scaredy-Cat. illus. by Nick Bruel. 32p. Roaring Brook. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596439788. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Bad Kitty, the character who reinvented cattitude, is back in time for Halloween. Bright pumpkin-orange endpapers frame the alphabet-focused tale of how Kitty became a scaredy-cat and how she recovers her courage with the help of 26 kinds of Halloween treats. We’re first introduced to the formerly Angry, Brave, Clumsy, Daring, Energetic, Fearless cat who was transformed one All Hallows’ Eve. Who can resist language like “one dark and foggy night, something terrible happened. Out of the darkness and into her doorway appeared the most horrible and frightening creatures Kitty had ever seen.” (The dramatic language is entertainingly offset by illustrations of Kitty sprawling on top of a cheery, drooling Puppy.) And who were these creatures? A Monstrous Mummy, Noisy Neanderthal, Odious Ogre, Putrid Pirate—oh, they’re so convincingly weird and wicked that Kitty has to hide her eyes and duck under the couch. But the reviving powers of apples, bubble gum, candy corn, dried fruit, and English toffee, all dropped by the aforementioned monsters, bring back the BAD in Bad Kitty, and readers can only feel sorry for the bemused trick-or-treaters whom she disrobes, if not dismembers. VERDICT Perfect for storytime or one-on-one sharing, this is a must-have addition for most holiday collections.–Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY

Caswell, Deanna. Boo! Haiku. illus. by Bob Shea. 24p. Abrams Appleseed. Aug. 2016. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781419721182.

PreS –A Halloween-themed follow-up to Guess Who Haiku. This picture book is just as clever as the first collection and just as much fun. Caswell’s various haiku provide enough clues (“broom across the moon,” coupled with Shea’s simple and graphic black hat) that preschoolers will be able to guess the answers (“Boo! It’s a witch!”) before they turn the page. Even the endpapers have graphic Halloween appeal. VERDICT This interactive title would be great to use in seasonal programs or for classroom writing prompts. Recommended for purchase.–Sarah Wilsman, Bainbridge Library, Chagrin Falls, OH

Denise, Anika. Monster Trucks. illus. by Nate Wragg. 32p. HarperCollins. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062345226.

PreS-Gr 1 –On a “Spooky Speedway,” a creepy collection of monster trucks assemble to race to the finish line. Bright, bold illustrations bring characters like Zombie Truck, Frankentruck, and Werewolf Truck to life. When a tiny VW-style van shows up to race, the big monster trucks think lunch has arrived. But Little Blue Bus has a spooky secret that will delight audiences as they cheer on the tiny underdog to the win. A good choice for a not too frightening read-aloud. VERDICT With lots of movement in the text and on the pages, this is a quick seasonal storytime selection that is sure to be popular around Halloween. Monstrous fun!–Jasmine L. Precopio, Fox Chapel Area School District, Pittsburgh

1609-halloweenrdupDiTerlizzi, Angela. Seeking a Witch. illus. by Allie Smith. 30p. S. & S./Little Simon. Jul. 2016. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781481469609.

PreS –A black cat who is in search of a witch describes the qualities required: “Should travel by broom/Wear a tall pointy hat/Love eye of newt/Adore your black cat.” The witch must love children, but not to eat, and be frightening on only one night, when it’s time to give treats—Halloween! This brightly colored board book features friendly black-outlined characters and solid-colored backgrounds that vary by page. VERDICT The rhyming prose and bold, appealing palette make this book an accessible Halloween treat. A winner!–Ramarie Beaver, Plano Public Library System, TX

Dolan, Elys. The Mystery of the Haunted Farm. illus. by Elys Dolan. 32p. Nosy Crow. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763686581.

Gr 1-3 –Something is terribly wrong on Farmer Greg’s farm, and he is really spooked. He calls the Ghost-Hunters to visit the farm and take a look around. When they arrive, the scene is like nothing they have seen before. There are dozens of zombie ducks, ghosts, bats, and more. However, nothing is registering on the Ghost-Hunters’ paranormal activity meter. Why could this be? Just as the Ghost-Hunters think they have gotten to the bottom of the story, something shocking happens to Farmer Greg that changes the way the farm runs forever. There is a lot for readers to see and absorb. More suited as an independent read, this picture book contains speech bubbles and detail galore for kids to explore. Sitting down with this volume will be an exciting and entertaining reading experience. It’s not a title to breeze through, but readers will remain engaged from start to finish. The mixed-media cartoon illustrations are colorful and fill the page. The text and pictures complement each other nicely, and the speech bubbles give important clues as to what is really going on. While the pictures make this look like a Halloween title, this selection can be enjoyed year-round. VERDICT A not so spooky adventure with a surprising twist, perfect for one-on-one sharing.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

Fronis, Aly. If You’re Spooky and You Know It. illus. by Jannie Ho. 16p. little bee. Jul. 2016. Board $5.99. ISBN 9781499801651.

PreS –In this board book, Fronis has turned the familiar childhood ditty into a song for the Halloween season. Six toddlers costumed as a skeleton, a witch, a mummy, a werewolf, Frankenstein, and Dracula cavort about as each introduces a verse from the song. These include “If you’re spooky and you know it,” “If you’re sneaky,” “If you’re wicked,” “If you’re naughty,” “If you’re hairy,” “If you’re creepy,” and “If you’re frightful.” The actions include “clap your hands,” “nod your head,” “stomp your feet,” “snap your fingers,” “jump up and down,” “honk your nose,” and, finally, “dance around.” With the possible exception of snapping fingers, most preschoolers will be able to mimic these actions. Though the last rhyme mentions the word frightful, none of the characters are frightening. VERDICT A fun choice to use in a storytime, especially in October.–Elaine Lesh Morgan, formerly at Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Gehl, Laura. I’m Not Trick-or-Treating. illus. by Joyce Wan. 40p. (Peep and Egg). Farrar. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374301224.

PreS –This cute, not scary Halloween story opens with Peep the chick, who is dressed as a butterfly and wants to go trick-or-treating. But Egg, also a chick, is scared and hiding behind a hay bale. Peep tries to persuade Egg to come along. Text and illustrations work well together in this lighthearted adventure. Illustrations set a happy, playful tone and are bright, colorful, and friendly. For example, Peep explains that the first place to go trick-or-treating would be the pond. The illustrations show eight ducklings wearing simple costumes. They look like adorable little yellow penguins with red bow ties paddling around in the pond. But Egg says, “Vampires.” Next would be the cows, who are wearing black-and-white costumes. But these welcoming cows look like mummies to Egg. Peep finally goes trick-or-treating without his friend. But when it gets dark, Egg changes his mind and runs after Peep, trying to catch up. Egg puts on a caterpillar costume and ends up having fun after all. The tale ends with the friends munching on Halloween candy in the pumpkin patch. VERDICT The large illustrations and simple text make this a solid choice for a preschool storytime on Halloween.–Robin Sofge, Alexandria Library, VA

Gerber, Carole. 10 Busy Brooms. illus. by Michael Fleming. 32p. Doubleday. Aug. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780553533415.

PreS-Gr 1 –Ten diverse witches take flight on Halloween night as they avoid nonthreatening monsters in this numerical concept book. Awkward rhyming stanzas accompany each page spread, starting with the number one, and climb higher as each adorable little witch escapes whatever trouble is brewing below her. Bright and cheerful artwork wars with vocabulary that conjures a degree of spookiness that never comes to fruition. For example, when a ghost haunts “a witch as she jump[s] in fright,” both are smiling at each other as if they’re old friends. As each witch hops on her broom to evade trouble, she brings with her an item that travels with her throughout the rest of the story. This may be a black cat, an owl, or even a pie (one witch is a baker). It becomes quite crowded on the page toward the end. As a concept book for small children, this selection will be rather cumbersome without ritualized dialogue support from an adult. VERDICT A cute but ultimately flawed additional selection for libraries in need of updating their Halloween collections.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

GOrmley, Greg. Fairy Tale Frankie and the Tricky Witch. illus. by Steven Lenton. 32p. S. & S./Aladdin. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481466264.

PreS-K –Frankie loves to read fairy tales. One day she awakens to find her favorite fairy-tale characters asking for her help in hiding them. Readers will be just as puzzled as Frankie, wondering why the characters are so eager to have the boy’s help. The answer will become more obvious at the conclusion, with a reference to a familiar game for an audience of this young age. Colorful illustrations show cartoon characters (including a green witch) with distinctive pop-out eyes of black pupils on a circle of white. Lenton employs a decorative technique of designing one spread to be turned to read vertically. The changes in text and font size add variety, as do the lines of sentences that float by, showing the witch’s movement on her broom from page to page. Nonetheless, the story is unsubstantial and unmemorable. VERDICT This is a supplemental, nonscary book that could be used for Halloween as well as other times throughout the year. Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA

Metzger, Steve. This Is the House That Monsters Built. illus. by Jared D. Lee. 32p. Scholastic/Cartwheel. Jul. 2016. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780545611121.

K-Gr 2 –“The House That Jack Built” gets a remodel when monsters, including a vampire, a ghost, a mummy, a witch, a black cat, a black widow spider, bats, and Frankenstein, move in. Although reminiscent of the source material, this has a definite Halloween bent. The mummy raises a wall. The werewolf puts in a door. The skeleton nails down the floor. The witch is cooking her “brew.” The zombie screams, and the ghost shouts “boo!” This causes the bats to fly about. Of course, all of this action is in rhyme. The characters in the brightly colored illustrations possess varying degrees of scariness, though the spider’s markings are more artistically drawn than those that would be found in a field guide. The spread showing the ghost shouting “boo!” is especially effective in its creepiness. VERDICT A great choice for a primary grade Halloween storytime.–Elaine Lesh Morgan, formerly at Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Murray, Diana. Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch. illus. by Heather Ross. 32p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062264480.

PreS-Gr 2 –Grimelda the witch would love to try a new recipe but can’t seem to locate the most important ingredient, pickle root. Realizing that cleaning her extremely cluttered house is the only way she’ll find it, she sweeps, scrubs, and organizes “all night and half a day” till the house is tidy and she finds the pickle root, among other important things. But what self-respecting witch lives in a clean house? Children will love the Seussian rhymes that don’t miss a beat and will enjoy following a tricky little spider determined to keep the missing ingredient from Grimelda. VERDICT The length is perfect for storytimes, and the illustrations are engrossing. A fun, nonscary selection for year-round sharing.–Melisa Bailey, Harford County Library System, MD

Rim, Sujean. Birdie’s Happiest Halloween. illus. by Sujean Rim. 40p. Little, Brown. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316407465.

PreS-Gr 2 –Birdie loves the fall. She loves apple picking, cool weather, and playing football with her friends, but most of all Birdie loves Halloween. She loves to dress up, go trick-or-treating, and carving pumpkins. Most times, she has no problem deciding what to be, but this year is different. She knows she can be anything she wants, but what does she want to be? During a trip to the museum, Birdie is introduced to an array of historical figures, but she doesn’t want to be Sandra Day O’Connor, Neil Armstrong, or Eleanor Roosevelt. If Birdie can really be anything she wants, then she is going to be the president of the United States. This timely holiday story is charming, and the message is clear. The magic of dressing up at Halloween is that we can let our imaginations run wild. In the end, Birdie dreams big and celebrates her best Halloween ever. VERDICT This lighthearted offering is a good addition to any library’s holiday collection, especially with this being an election year with the possibility of a female president.–Betsy Davison, Cortland Free Library, NY

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Yo Ho Ho, Halloween! illus. by Edwin Fotheringham. 40p. (Tony Baloney). Scholastic. Jun. 2016. Tr $6.99. ISBN 9780545908856.

K-Gr 2 –Ryan continues her early reader series about a lovable penguin. Tony Baloney, a macaroni penguin, has saved up all of his money to buy the fancy pirate Halloween costume that he has had his eye on. His crafty penguin family are miffed that he eschews their annual tradition of making their own costumes; however, Tony has had it up to here with his bossy big sister and his bothersome baby siblings! Unfortunately, Tony also flaunts tradition when he wears his costume to school before Halloween. He suffers the consequences of breaking the rules when his teacher confiscates his costume. Luckily, his parents and siblings come to the rescue by crafting an even fancier and more creative costume just in time. VERDICT This title might be a bit of a challenge for new readers, because of the busy conversations, but they will enjoy the wonderful illustrations and the expressive dynamic of the Baloney family.–Maria Alegre, The Dalton School, New York City

Stein, Garth. Enzo’s Very Scary Halloween. illus. by R.W. Alley. 40p. HarperCollins. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062380616.

PreS –Enzo the family dog becomes anxious as Halloween invades his home and neighborhood. It even transforms his owner Zoe into a fairy princess and her dad, Denny, into a scarecrow. When Zoe puts Enzo into a dragon costume, the pup begins to fret that he, too, is transforming. This cute picture book is a great way to explain Halloween to children who might be frightened by the festivities. As Enzo becomes uneasy about all the ghosts, pumpkins, and costumed creatures running around and believes the whole neighborhood will be haunted, children are able to see how silly his worries truly are. Young readers will identify with Enzo’s runaway imagination, and this story can help ease their own concerns about the “spookiest night of the year.” VERDICT This is a great book for one-on-one sharing with young worrywarts or children who might be apprehensive about Halloween. A solid addition for most libraries.–Shana Morales, Windsor Public Library, CT

Wohl, Lauren L. A Teeny Tiny Halloween. illus. by Henry Cole. 32p. Cornell Lab/ Persnickety. Sept. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781943978021.

PreS-Gr 2 –Every year the autumn leaves completely cover up the “teeny tiny woman’s teeny tiny house.” And so begins the familiar folktale that takes on a modern dimension designed by Wohl and Cole. With a palette of browns, reds, and yellows, the illustrations set the atmosphere with a multitude of leaves blanketing the landscape, while the three children dressed in their Halloween costumes (witch, cat, and ghost) add to the playfulness of the holiday season. As an aid to storytellers, the font size of the text is small for a tiny voice and increases in size for a louder voice. There is a twist on this tale: despite her dilemma, the homeowner decides to bake cookies. The children smell the delicious aroma and are resourceful enough to dig out her house. The reward is cookies for all. VERDICT This fun and engaging Halloween book is ripe for audience participation at the conclusion. Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA

Wunderli, Stephen. Little Boo. illus. by Tim Zeltner. 30p. Holt. Aug. 2016. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781627795579.

PreS –A little seed tries to scare everyone he meets but is unsuccessful because of his size. A leaf, a grub, and snowflakes all rebuff his “boos.” The wind encourages him to wait, and the seed falls asleep for the winter. When he awakes in the spring, he’s a sprout and he tries out another “boo,” but to no avail. He keeps growing, however, until he becomes a pumpkin. Eventually he turns into a jack-o’-lantern and is easily able to scare everyone. This board book version of the title originally released in 2014 has a muted palette and soft, painterly illustrations with pleasing repetition, and a plot that will resonate with young readers and those looking for a slightly spooky tale. VERDICT This selection will be enjoyed by those looking for a Halloween story.–Ramarie Beaver, Plano Public Library System, TX

This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Boo! Haiku is wonderful. Shea’s illustrations are perfect for this age.