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Horn BOO! 2016

Not sure what to read on Halloween? Never fear! 
We’ve got you covered with picture books about ghosts, bats, and…trucks?

caswell_boo haikuBoo! Haiku
by Deanna Caswell; illus. by Bob Shea
Preschool    Abrams Appleseed    24 pp.
8/16    978-1-4197-2118-2    $12.95

Caswell and Shea return to the format of their earlier book, Guess Who, Haiku, and make it spooky — a little bit. On each spread, a haiku plus spot art hints at a Halloween character: “broom across the moon / pointed hat at the window / hair-raising cackle… Can you guess who from this haiku?” Turn the page for the answer (“Boo! It’s a witch!”) and the next seventeen-syllabled riddle. A brief appended note gives a little information about haiku basics. With its cheerful colors, welcoming smiles, and predictable, participatory pattern, this ghoulish gathering is more friendly than frightful. SHOSHANA FLAX

denise_monster trucksMonster Trucks
by Anika Denise; illus. by Nate Wragg
Preschool    Harper/HarperCollins    32 pp.
7/16    978-06-234522-6    $17.99

“MONSTER TRUCKS REV! MONSTER TRUCKS GO!!!” As a crowd of creepy creatures gathers to watch, five monster trucks — Frankentruck, Werewolf Truck, Zombie Truck, Ghost Truck, and Vampire Truck — prepare for a nighttime race. Suddenly, a “little blue bus” appears on the track “looking perky…and cute.” The larger, meaner trucks smell fresh meat, but after an exciting race, they’re left in her dust. The book goes beyond the simple underdog story, and the very end (“But HOW did she do it?”) offers a clever Halloween-themed twist. In the energetic rhyming text, exclamation points are plentiful and the action never stops. Vivid colors and textures give the cartoony acrylic and digital illustrations a bold and lively (despite the undead) look. COURTNEY BURKE

dolan_mystery of the haunted farmThe Mystery of the Haunted Farm
by Elys Dolan; illus. by the author
Primary    Nosy Crow/Candlewick    32 pp.
6/16    978-0-7636-8658-1    $17.99

Upon returning from a sleepwalking episode, Greg finds his farm overrun by zombie ducks, ghost cows, and other terrors. Who’s he gonna call? Three Pigs Ghost-Hunters! This trio eventually uncovers what fearless readers may have deduced from Dolan’s cheerfully chaotic mixed-media illustrations: the spooks are really farm animals in disguise. It’s an elaborate plot directed by Mother Hen from an underground command center/“fear factory” and designed to scare off a beast that “came last night when the moon was full and Greg was gone!” The art is packed with speech balloons, slapstick humor, and visual cues advancing the goofy story. Elementary-age readers will howl at the silly twists, turns, and transformations. KITTY FLYNN

gehl_peep and egg i'm not trick-or-treatingPeep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating
by Laura Gehl; illus. by Joyce Wan
Preschool    Farrar    40 pp.
8/16    978-0-374-30122-4    $16.99    g

Peep, dressed as a pink butterfly, can barely handle the excitement. “Trick-or-treating is going to be so much fun!” But when the little yellow chick inquires as to whether Egg (now also a fully emerged chick after the events of Peep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching) is ready to go, Egg says trick-or-treating is “too scary…I’m not trick-or-treating.” Peep tries to ease Egg’s fear, first by talking about all the other animal friends they’ll see (the illustrations anticipate their costumes) and then by cracking silly jokes. When neither approach works, Peep calls Egg’s bluff (“Okay, I’ll see ya later”), leading to a change of heart: “Peep! I want to come with you!” Bold colors, thick lines, and strategic use of white space and panels enhance this preschool-friendly tale about overcoming fears (and receiving candy). SIÂN GAETANO

metzger_this is the house that monsters buildThis Is the House That Monsters Built
by Steve Metzger; illus. by Jared Lee
Preschool, Primary    Cartwheel/Scholastic    32 pp.
7/16    978-0-545-61112-1    $9.99    g

“This is the werewolf who put in a door, / That stopped the spider who started to crawl, / That shocked the mummy who raised the wall, / Inside the house that monsters built.” Using a “House That Jack Built” structure, this book describes how various witches, vampires, and ghosts contribute to the (shoddy) construction of a “spooky” house, and the resultant chaos when trick-or-treaters come to the door. 
The monsters, it turns out, are as 
bad at being scary as they are at building a house. There’s good read-aloud potential here (although it requires practice; the verse’s meter is frequently challenging), and the pen-and-ink illustrations are frenetically funny. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

murray_grimelda the very messy witchGrimelda: The Very Messy Witch
by Diana Murray; 
illus. by Heather Ross
Primary   Tegen/HarperCollins    32 pp.
7/16    978-0-06-226448-0    $16.99

Young witch Grimelda delights in her cluttered home (“That’s the proper witch’s way”) until the mess prevents her from preparing a new recipe: “Where’d I put that pickle root?” She embarks on a not-so-witchy project — cleaning her house — and the hunt for the pickle root is both endearing and amusing. Playful, singsong rhymes will hold readers’ attentions while making Grimelda’s plight (having to clean her messy space) relatable. Bright, cartoonlike digital illustrations emphasize Grimelda’s haphazard life, and the circular ending (“Now…where’d I put that pickle root?”) will have readers giggling. SIMRAN P. GUPTA

rim_birdie's happiest halloweenBirdie’s Happiest Halloween
by Sujean Rim; illus. by the author
Preschool    Little, Brown    40 pp.
7/16    978-0-316-40746-5    $16.99

Birdie, who has a knack for dressing up (Birdie’s Big-Girl Shoes; Birdie’s Big-Girl Dress), is jazzed that it’s fall. She loves apple picking, “wearing big fuzzy sweaters,” and, most of all, “HALLOWEEN!” The problem: she doesn’t have a costume idea yet. Birdie and Mommy hit the museum for inspiration, but which historical figure inspires her most? Albert Einstein? Sandra Day O’Connor? Eleanor Roosevelt? The spunky story maintains tension, holding out on Birdie’s choice of (gloriously girl-powered) Halloween costume until just the right moment: Birdie isn’t dressed as a First Lady, she’s the president. Rim’s bright mixed-media art sparkles with style, much like our heroine. KATRINA HEDEEN

schertle_little blue truck's halloweenLittle Blue Truck’s Halloween
by Alice Schertle; 
illus. by Jill McElmurry
Preschool    Houghton    18 pp.
7/16    978-0-544-77253-3    $12.99

Little Blue Truck (Little Blue Truck, rev. 5/08; Little Blue Truck Leads the Way) and his toad friend are going to a Halloween party. Rumbling cheerily down the road, they stop along the way to pick up their other pals, all animals in costume. Schertle’s bouncy rhymes set up each encounter: “Who’s this clown / with a big red nose / and a cap that jingles / wherever he goes?” Lift-the-flaps on facing pages give the answers: “Under the mask / who do you see? / ‘Baaa!’/ says the sheep. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’” And at the party, there’s one more costumed friend to identify. McElmurry’s folksy, detailed illustrations provide some foreshadowing for the big, Little Blue Truck–centered reveal. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more Halloween reading, click on the tag Halloween books.

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