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Horn BOO! 2014

Something wicked this way comes with our annual 
selection of “spooktacular” new books for Halloween,
 with reviews written by the Horn Book staff.

baguley_ready steady ghostReady, Steady, Ghost!
by Elizabeth Baguley, 
illus. by Marion Lindsay
Preschool, Primary    Disney-Hyperion    32 pp.
8/14    978-1-4231-8039-5    $16.99    g

Leave castle-haunting to the bigger ghosts; little ghost Gilbert longs to 
find “a homey house to haunt, a cozy house, a little house!” The scaredy-cat protagonist tentatively makes his way through the woods, drifting past a “gobble-me wolf,” a “squeeze-me snake,” and a “sizzle-me dragon,” to what he thinks will be the perfect place — and to where a surprise awaits. Baguley’s text features lots of kid-friendly pattern and repetition (“Shiver-me, shake-me”). Lindsay’s mixed-media illustrations, which go from eerie nighttime blues and black to cheery, Halloween-y orange, play well with the tissue-paper translucence of our diminutive hero. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

brendler_not very scaryNot Very Scary
by Carol Brendler; 
illus. by Greg Pizzoli
Preschool, Primary    Farrar    40 pp.
8/14    978-0-374-35547-0    $12.99

When little monster Melly gets invited to her cousin’s house for a big surprise on the scariest night of the year, she boldly decides to walk there, boasting that it’s “not the least bit scary.” But when she notices that she’s being followed, her confidence gradually fades. With each page turn, Pizzoli’s uncluttered spreads begin to fill up with various creepy (but benignly illustrated) creatures until this cumulative Halloween tale (à la “The Twelve Days of Christmas”) is bursting at the seams with things that go bump in the night — and they’re all ready to party. SHARA L. HARDESON

graves_monsteratorThe Monsterator
by Keith Graves; 
illus. by the author
Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    40 pp.
8/14    978-1-59643-855-2    $17.99

Underwhelmed by his Halloween costume choices, Master Edgar Dreadbury wants to be “something screamingly scary. Something fanged and foul and terribly hairy!” The “monsterator” machine fulfills his wish, transforming him into a multicolored creature with fur, horns, fangs, claws, and a tail. Edgar’s “fiendish fun” continues post-
Halloween once he makes the welcome discovery that his monsterated features are permanent. Graves’s acrylic illustrations accentuate the marked contrast between Edgar’s vibrant appearance and his dull surroundings. A five-creature partitioned flipbook creatively extends the humorous rhyming tale so readers can “monsterate” Edgar themselves. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

haas_bramble and maggie spooky seasonBramble and Maggie: Spooky Season
by Jessie Haas; illus. by Alison Friend
Primary    Candlewick    52 pp.
8/14    978-0-7636-6450-3    $14.99

“Bramble loved fall…The weather made Bramble feel spooky. It made her feel frisky and full of fun.” In this third first-chapter-book series entry, friends Bramble (a horse) and Maggie (a girl) face some scares but find strength in each other. Maggie helps Bramble get over her fear of scarecrows; Bramble helps Maggie get back in the saddle after a fall. In the third and final chapter, set on Halloween night, Bramble and Maggie use what they’ve learned to keep their cool and have a good time — while consuming a lot of treats. Clear, lively prose and soft, expressive gouache illustrations combine for a Halloween friendship story. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

huser_elevator ghostThe Elevator Ghost
by Glen Huser; illus. by Stacy Innerst
Intermediate    Groundwood    168 pp.
8/14    978-1-55498-425-1    $14.95    g
e-book ed.  978-1-55498-427-5    $12.95

A less formidable Mary Poppins, Carolina Giddle shows up at the Blatchford Arms apartment house one Halloween and disappears on the next, in between dispensing candy and babysitting and stories — and truth and courage — to the children who live there. Drawing upon traditional lore and urban legend, Carolina’s stories, slightly scary and unobtrusively bibliotherapeutic, nicely punctuate the episodic novel. The Blatchford Arms’ resident ghosts, as well as Carolina’s pet tarantula, add to the fun, and a concluding party for all concerned provides a satisfying sendoff for readers and for Carolina, off to chase a ghost of her own. ROGER SUTTON

ketteman_ghosts go hauntingThe Ghosts Go Haunting
by Helen Ketteman; 
illus. by Adam Record
Primary    Whitman    32 pp.
9/14    978-0-8075-2852-5    $16.99    g

An elementary school is beset by ten hordes of ghoulies, to the rhythm of “The Ants Go Marching.” On the final spread, the monsters — some of them, at least — are revealed to be kids costumed for the school Halloween party. Despite the verse’s sequential nature, the number of creatures portrayed doesn’t consistently match the number in the text (e.g., the two-by-two spread shows two pairs of witches, while five-by-five shows five monsters in total). However, a chart helps sort out the math, and the catchy rhyming verse and humorous cartoony illustrations are enough to warrant an encore or two. KATIE BIRCHER

mcghee_sweetest witch aroundThe Sweetest Witch Around
by Alison McGhee; illus. by Harry Bliss
Primary    Wiseman/Simon    32 pp.
8/14    978-1-4424-7833-6    $15.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-7838-1    $10.99

Witchling listens attentively as her sister (from A Very Brave Witch) teaches her about humans’ odd Halloween customs. When the lesson turns to “something disgusting that they call candy,” however, little Witchling’s sweet tooth takes over. Grabbing her sister’s broom, Witchling chases her sugar high to “Candy land,” a.k.a., a human neighborhood on Halloween night. Older sister cluelessly attempts a rescue mission — “free the hostage!” — while the friendly cartoon drawings make clear that Witchling is on this trick-or-treat mission of her own free will. The visual treats and dead-funny wordplay in Bliss’s autumnal illustrations extend to the endpapers. KITTY FLYNN

seeger_dog and bear tricks and treatsDog and Bear: Tricks and Treats
by Laura Vaccaro Seeger; 
illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    32 pp.
8/14    978-1-59643-632-9    $14.99

In the latest Dog and Bear offering, the two best friends prepare Halloween costumes (Bear gets distracted when he spies “another Bear” in the mirror); receive trick-or-treaters (Dog eats more treats than he gives out); and go trick-or-treating themselves. The simple text is satisfying in its specificity and characterizations, while the illustrations support the text and illuminate the characters’ emotions, particularly with their expressive eyebrows. The pictures reinforce the text, with plenty of white space, as required in easy readers. But Seeger’s art also slips in some extra plot points, making this great for a picture-book audience as well. The wordless last page changes everything in the final story. LOLLY ROBINSON

yoon_penguin and pumpkinPenguin and Pumpkin
by Salina Yoon; illus. by the author
Preschool    Walker    40 pp.
7/14    978-0-8027-3732-8    $14.99
Library ed.  978-0-8027-3733-5    $15.89    g

In Penguin’s fourth book, it’s fall, but “very white on the ice, as always,” and Penguin wonders what the season is like elsewhere. So Penguin and the gang — sans little brother Pumpkin — travel by ice floe to experience autumn on a farm. As expected, it’s glorious — brimming with pumpkins and falling leaves, some of which they bring home to share with Pumpkin. The story line meanders, and there is some potentially confusing wordplay for preschoolers. But the appeal here, as usual, is Yoon’s thick-lined digital illustrations with clean, saturated colors and adorable characters. KATRINA HEDEEN

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Comments

  1. Oh, but you forgot my favorite newcomer! “I Am a Witch’s Cat” by Harriet Muncaster. We can’t get enough of it in our house (the girl and her mom are strangely familiar…), and the diorama illustrations are pretty amazing.

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