Saturday, October 17, 2009

Halloween Picture Book Reviews Part I

In preparation for Halloween, I chose some old favorites and some newer finds to review. This is the first of two postings. As with most picture books there are 100’s to choose from on any one topic, but there are some that are autumnal classics.

Frankie Stein
Author: Lola M. Schaefer
Illustrator: Kevan Atteberry
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books
Pages: 32
Ages: 4 to 8

Mr. and Mrs. Frank N. Stein are excited over the arrival of their baby son, Frankie Stein, but something is not quite right. “He’s….cute.” says his mother. “Why doesn’t he look scary like us?” asked his father. So begins the story…

This play on the Frankenstein story tells the tale of the green-skinned monstrous parents trying to adjust to their adorable, pink-skinned, blonde haired toddler. After the initial shock that their son does not look or behave like them, the Stein’s try to teach Frankie how to be scary, how to act scary, and how to look scary. They paint his hair purple, add a few “green bumps”, and teach him how to walk like them. When Mr. Stein attempts to show Frankie how to moan and groan like a monster, Frankie is only able to produce a squeak. Mrs. Stein tries to tell him the history of all the monsters in the family as inspiration, but to no avail. Frankie tries practicing to be scary, but then discovers his own way to be scary. In the end, the Steins agree that Frankie is the most scary Stein of all.

Kevan Atteberry’s bright and bold illustrations bring Lola M. Schaefer’s story alive. Younger children will delight in the antics of the Stein family and will enjoy imitating Frankie’s attempts to be scary. I enjoyed the book and especially appreciated the story’s lesson that embracing individuality is important.

My Rating: ****

Too Many Pumpkins
Author: Linda White
Illustrator: Megan Lloyd
Publisher: Live Oak Media
Pages: 32
Ages: 4 to 8

When Rebecca Estelle was a child, money was scarce and pumpkins were all her family had to eat for a month. As an adult, Rebecca Estelle refuses to eat pumpkin in any form and won’t even plant it. However, one day “long after Rebecca Estelle’s hair had turned snowy white”, a giant pumpkin crashes onto her yard. Not only is she left to clean it up, but she attempts to remove the whole thing from her memory. This lasts only until the spring time, when she sees new sprouts in her garden. As the pumpkin vines begin to grow, Rebecca Estelle tries everything she can think of to destroy the new plants. Despite all of her attempts to ignore the pumpkins, they continue to grow until her backyard is covered with the round orange gourds. Now what to do with all these pumpkins?

As a fan of Megan Lloyd’s illustrations, I was immediately drawn to Linda White’s Too Many Pumpkins. This is really more of an autumnal harvest tale than a Halloween story. Nonetheless, the bright, vibrant drawings and the main character’s aversion to pumpkins will enchant young children as they discover how Rebecca Estella solves her dilemma of “too many pumpkins”.

Though I truly enjoyed this tale, I would caution that younger children with shorter attention spans may require some of the text to be summarized in order to remain fully engaged with the story.

My Rating: ****

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
Author: Linda Williams
Illustrator: Megan Lloyd
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 32
Ages: 4 to 8

For parents and teachers looking for a “just right” scary story for small ones, Linda Williams’ The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything would be my first pick. The rhythmic language that repeats and builds with each page provides enjoyment for the listener as well as the independent new reader. Listeners and readers alike will delight in the way the little old lady fearlessly faces each piece of clothing that appears to her in the woods. The accompanying sounds provide the book with its own unique soundtrack. In the end, children will delight in the little old lady’s clever solution to her eerie problem.

During my first year of teaching, I discovered Linda Williams’ The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything and my love affair with this story has never waned. Megan Lloyd’s wonderful illustrations only enhance an already fabulous story. Even after literally hundreds of readings, it has been a book that I have enthusiastically read every fall since. This is a must have book for any library and for any fall reading list.

My Rating:*****

So, what are you waiting for…grab a book, find a kid and start reading…
- Aly B

Rating Scale:

***** - it was amazing, definitely recommend it
**** - really liked it, recommend it without reservations
*** - liked it, recommend it
** - it was okay, recommend with reservations
* - didn’t like it, don’t recommend it

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