Mothman’s Happy Cryptid Halloween

8th Circle Pr. (Cryptid Holiday Classics). Aug. 2024. 42p. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781949769609; pap. $13.99. ISBN 9781949769593.
K-Gr 3–An oddball Halloween celebration turns a small town upside down in this quirky tale starring not ghouls and goblins, but the fanciful subjects of cryptozoology. Mothman, a feathery, batlike silhouette with glowing red eyes, can hardly wait to welcome groups of school children to pick pumpkins on his farm. Unfortunately, a torrential downpour cancels the event. Things go from bad to worse when Mothman gets the bright idea to deliver the pumpkins himself (with the help of fellow cryptids Bigfoot, the Chupacabra, the Jersey Devil, and the Loch Ness Monster), but drops them from the air, plastering the whole town in pumpkin pulp. The children, however, are delighted by what turns out to be the pumpkin equivalent of a snow day, and all is well. Shaffer opts for endearingly goofy comedy over Halloween chills. Some moments of humor work particularly well, such as when the text declares, “It was a Halloween Miracle,” but the turn of a page hilariously reverses course: “Just kidding. It was a disaster.” Others, meanwhile, come off as self-consciously twee: “The news was calling it The Official Worstest Halloween Ever.” Flat digital illustrations sport thick, black lines reminiscent of woodcuts and eye-popping colors, most notably the sea of orange pumpkin mush and an eldritch magenta sky. Shaffer mines a surprising amount of pathos from Mothman’s unearthly appearance, using body language and the subtle suggestion of eyebrows to convey the emotional beats.
VERDICT Zany and offbeat, this Halloween caper will appeal to readers craving sheer silliness.

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