Horn BOO! 2022

Witches, monsters, ghosts, and even creepy crayons (yes, you read that right!) are among the stars of this year's roundup of thirteen (gasp!) recommended new and reissued picture books for the season. For more spooktacular reads, visit hbook.com/HalloweenBooks. Happy Halloween from the Horn Booooook!

A Wee Boo
by Jessica Boyd; illus. by Brooke Kerrigan
Preschool, Primary    Orca    32 pp.    g
9/22    978-1-4598-2763-9    $21.95
e-book ed.  978-1-4598-2765-3    $16.99

Pink-cheeked, wide-eyed ghost Wee Boo is too small and cute to be scary. At Ghost School, her teachers make allowances, but finally she’s down to her last chance to earn her haunting license. In her assigned human household, no one pays Boo any attention except the baby, who thinks she’s hilarious and laughs ­uproariously. The parents find that “kind of creepy” (they can’t see Boo), which earns Boo her license at last. However, Boo realizes that what she really wants to be is the baby’s imaginary friend. The book is snappily paced; Boo is an endearing protagonist; and the humor in both text and mixed-media art will keep readers engaged. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

Leila, the Perfect Witch
by Flavia Z. Drago; illus. by the author
Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.    g
7/22    978-1-5362-2050-6    $17.99
Spanish ed.  978-1-5362-2538-9    $17.99

“Far and wide, Leila Wayward was known for being an extraordinary little witch.” But despite her desire to win the Magnificent Witchy Cake-Off, Leila can’t seem to master the Dark Arts of Patisserie like the other Wayward women. When she accepts help, tips, and tricks from her three older sisters, Leila is finally ready to compete…and has learned that having fun makes her feel like a winner no matter what. Drago’s colorful mixed-media illustrations are full of interesting and funny details that complement her playful story, from the pictures on the front endpapers introducing her family to the décor in their gingerbread house to the not-so-scary creatures that inhabit Leila’s witchy world. Concurrently published in Spanish as Leila, la brujita perfecta. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

The Witchling’s Wish
by Lu Fraser; illus. by Sarah Massini
Preschool, Primary    Bloomsbury    32 pp.    g
7/22    978-1-5476-0906-2    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5476-0907-9   $12.59

A lonely little witch who lives in a cozy cave wants to magic herself a friend, but she’s missing a key ingredient for her spell: “some furriness from a one-eyed teddy bear.” She imagines a “huge and hairy…extremely scary” creature; nevertheless, she’s determined to do whatever it takes and bravely heads out on her broom. Her crystal ball guides her to young Lily and her (not terrifying) well-loved bear, Ted, who work their own friendship magic on the witchling: “That’s what a friend would do! / You thought of me, you thought of Ted, / you didn’t think of…YOU!” Fraser’s warm rhyming text and ­Massini’s fanciful mixed-media illustrations cast an inviting spell. KITTY FLYNN

Scary Stories
by Tony Johnston; illus. by Tomie dePaola
Primary    Wiseman/Simon    32 pp.    g
7/22    978-1-6659-0431-5    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-6659-0432-2    $10.99

An imp, a goblin, and a scalawag attempt to outdo one another in the telling of scary stories. Each includes what they collectively believe to be the scariest creature of all — but when that creature actually does appear, it wins them all over by proving its own storytelling prowess. Previously published as Four Scary Stories (in 1978), this creative, metafictive, silly-not-spooky tale features lively, vivid-hued illustrations starring dePaola’s recognizably round-faced characters with their easy-to-read thoughts and funny facial expressions. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

A Monster Is Eating This Book!
by Karen Kilpatrick; illus. by Germán Blanco
Preschool, Primary    Holt    40 pp.    g
7/22    978-1-250-81759-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-89300-0    $10.99

What creature has the story’s characters (and readers) whispering and tiptoeing to avoid waking it? Reminiscent of The Monster at the End of This Book, this interactive tale provides a few facts about the initially unseen monster (it likes to eat words) in the hope that a little knowledge will keep the beast at bay. Unfortunately, the furry narrator wakes up the monster with all its chatter. What will happen now? Kilpatrick’s text ably balances humor with suspense, and Blanco’s digitally rendered illustrations depict cute, brightly colored, big-eyed creatures. Storytime fun year-round, but especially enjoyable during the ­Halloween season. SARAH THRELKELD

A Spoonful of Frogs
by Casey Lyall; illus. by Vera Brosgol
Primary    Greenwillow    40 pp.    g
7/22    978-0-06-289029-0    $17.99

An apron-clad witch who’s the host of her own TV cooking show walks readers step-by-step through her recipe for Frog Soup. After heating the cauldron and adding spices and veggies, she reaches for the pièce de resistance: a “spoonful of frogs.” Unfortunately for her, but hilariously for readers, the would-be ingredients repeatedly, cleverly hop away, evading the stew, stirring up trouble, and ultimately providing inspiration for a brand-new recipe. Lyall’s spare, mostly restrained text uses ear-pleasing, catch-phrase-worthy repetition and variation (“Put. The FROGS. On. The SPOON”) while Brosgol’s retro-chic, increasingly frazzled digital illustrations are a chef’s-kiss of comic timing. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

A Costume for Charly
by C.K. Malone; illus. by Alejandra Barajas
Primary    Beaming    40 pp.    g
9/22    978-1-5064-8405-1    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5064-8406-8    $12.99

“Charly rummaged through the mishmash in the old costumes box for something that showed they were both a girl and a boy.” (An appended note identifies Charly as bigender.) The Red Riding Hood costume they find feels too feminine; the Dracula one, too masculine — neither expresses wholly who they are. Then Charly has an idea: to create “one [costume] from two.” And on Halloween night, out trick-or-treating with friends, they feel “one hundred percent Charly.” Cartoony illustrations capture Charly’s determination to find the right costume, and the way wearing it ultimately makes them feel “joyfully jazzed” and “harmoniously hopeful.” MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

Blood!: Not Just a Vampire Drink
by Stacy McAnulty; illus. by Shawna J. C. Tenney
Primary    Godwin/Holt    40 pp.    g
8/22    978-1-250-30405-6    $18.99

The “I Don’t Vant to Suck Your Blood” smoothie shop is a vegan establishment, but a thirsty vampire fails to notice (although viewers will, courtesy of the comical illustrations), and orders “a pint of your best blood…” The young (vampire) proprietor launches into an enthusiastic explanation of why blood is “too important to humans for us just to drink it,” describing how it travels through the cardiovascular system and why. Meanwhile, the elder vampire grows increasingly desperate: “Vhen does it flow into my mouth?” As in McAnulty’s Brains!: Not Just a Zombie Snack, accessible text and art balance lightly macabre humor with clear information, making the biology lesson easy to swallow. A “Dear Blood-Filled Reader” note, additional facts, and a source list are appended. KITTY FLYNN

If Animals Trick-or-Treated [If Animals Kissed Good Night]
by Ann Whitford Paul; illus. by David Walker
Preschool    Farrar    32 pp.    g
8/22    978-0-374-38852-2    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-39136-2    $10.99

On Halloween, Owlet finds that every animal celebrates the scariest time of the year differently. From Hatchling and Papa Crocodile’s segmented croc-o’-lantern with the “sneee-eeery smile” to Raccoon’s “garbage-fudge squares,” each animal’s traditions feel unique to its species. Refreshingly, Halloween regulars (such as bats) mingle with animals not often featured (such as an armadillo). As in previous entries in the series, lines of text sometimes curve (like a smiling jack-o’-lantern) or sway (like an eerie breeze), which is appropriate and effective for this particular book’s design given the subject matter. Walker’s brightly colored critters contrast nicely with the dark and starry night. JAKE KONISZEWSKI

Creepy Crayon! [Creepy Tales!]
by Aaron Reynolds; illus. by Peter Brown
Primary    Simon    48 pp.    g
8/22    978-1-5344-6588-6    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-6589-3    $10.99

Reynolds and Brown (Creepy Carrots!; Creepy Pair of Underwear!, rev. 9/17) are back to haunt another innocuous item: your crayons! Jasper Rabbit could use some help with his schoolwork, and he gets it from a purple crayon with an expressively drawn cartoon face. That at-first-friendly visage eventually shows its sinister true colors as the crayon goes from helpful (magically improving Jasper’s spelling) to downright possessive (scrawling “YOU NEED ME” on a mirror). Purple pops as the only color besides the noirish black-and-white of the illustrations (other than cameos by green underwear and orange carrots). Harold and the Purple Crayon meets Faust, and the imaginative, humorously written result is so ridiculous that it’s hard to stay really scared. SHOSHANA FLAX

If Your Babysitter Is a Bruja
by Ana Siqueira; illus. by Irena Freitas
Preschool, Primary    Simon    32 pp.    g
8/22    978-1-5344-8874-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-8875-5    $10.99
Spanish ed.  978-1-5344-9884-6    $18.99

If your babysitter is a bruja, Siqueira’s enthusiastic text with frequently incorporated Spanish words (a bath is “a bubbling cauldron with starving ­COCODRILOS!!!”) has plenty of advice to offer. But when one suggestion works, you might just regret it…and the book has your back then, too. Freitas’s cartoonish digital illustrations in mostly cheerful hues show a witch and her babysitting charge in a cat-and-mouse game whose object, ultimately, is friendship and a pleasant bedtime. Brujas-in-training make the best sitting charges. Concurrently published in Spanish as Cuando tu niñera es una bruja. SHOSHANA FLAX

Beatrice Likes the Dark
by April Genevieve Tucholke; illus. by Khoa Le
Primary    Algonquin    32 pp.    g
9/22    978-1-64375-157-3    $18.95

Beatrice loves the dark and wearing black, while her younger sister, Roo, prefers the light and wearing “pink and red and purple.” They’re polar opposites who don’t understand each other, but after they each dream about the other one night, Beatrice leads Roo to their farmhouse attic to make a “Roo Potion” to help her enjoy the dark, and the next morning Roo teaches Beatrice a song to “help her like the light.” This story of sibling appreciation relies on repetition (“Beatrice likes the night night night and the night night night likes her”) to create narrative rhythm and a little mystery, and the bewitching ethereal illustrations set a Halloween mood. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

So Not Ghoul
by Karen Yin; illus. by Bonnie Lui
Primary    Page Street    32 pp.    g
8/22    978-1-64567-557-0    $18.99

Timid Chinese American ghost Mimi wishes she looked like all the other ghosts. On the first day haunting a new school, she is ridiculed by the popular ghouls because of the “old-fashioned,” traditional Chinese garb her relatives insist she wear. But when clique leader Lisette steals Mimi’s look, Mimi stops being a “good Chinese girl ghost” and behaves like a very scary ghoul indeed — all ending with an apology from Lisette that leads to new friendships. The text of this caught-between-two-cultures ghost story contains much wordplay (“It isn’t long before Mimi and her ghoulmates model all kinds of haunt couture”), and the illustrations capture Mimi’s early misery and later empowerment. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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