Monday, October 13, 2008

Halloween Hoopla

Finally, here I am with that promised Halloween Book Review! Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, it was hard to narrow down the review to just one book. So, I picked five. Each title shares the common theme of Halloween, but each one comes at that theme in very different ways. You will find all the publishing particulars for each book in the post immediately below this one. Enjoy!

Whooo's There 
Written by Lily Jones, illustrated by Chris Demarest

This one is a delight for the littlest guys.  Two kids set out for a Halloween party, but on the way they meet up with some scary characters, shrouded in shadows. Since they can't see what's making all the noise, their imaginations run wild. What's really out there? When will they ever make it to the party? And, does that bush look suspiciously feline to you?

The rhyming text and colorful, cleverly drawn illustrations let your little guys be a little scared, but only enough to have fun - no really, really scary stuff here. They will love pushing the button when they get to the little ghost icon as they read each page - releasing a fun, eerie noise and activating blinking green lights. Along the journey, kids can guess along with the book characters as to what is lurking behind this spooky tree, and that waving bush, and this billowing sheet. For those faint of heart, not to worry! All is revealed and nicely wrapped up. A very fun read, and one your smallest Trick-or-Treaters will thoroughly enjoy.

The Hallow-Wiener
Written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

"There once was a dog named Oscar who was half-a-dog tall and one-and-a-half dogs long." And he is teased unmercifully by the other dogs because of it. Usually it bothers him a lot, but not now, when it's almost time for Halloween. Oscar dashes home from obedience school, planning to work on his scary Halloween costume. But, his mom surprises him with a costume she already made for him. And then is when things get...punny!

Dav Pilkey, of Captain Underpants, and the Dumb Bunnies fame, is in full form with this book. It will get your slightly older kiddos into the swing of Halloween fun with puns and jokes better understood by them than the teeniest kids. Behind the silliness, though, there's the issue of bullying and teasing - which Pilkey deals with in true light comedic style. Your kiddos will giggle at the things Oscar endures as he tries not to hurt his mom's feelings. They will feel for him as things start to go a bit sour on the Trick-or-Treat trail. And they will howl and laugh out loud when Oscar finally catches a break and the other dogs get a little taste of their own medicine! 

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything
Written by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Put together a little old lady, a cottage in the woods, and a solitary walk through the forest, and what do you get? A delightful add-on yarn with a fairy-tale feel that kids from little to not-so-little will enjoy. The little old woman, out to gather herbs and such from the forest, comes upon some rather unusual characters in her walk. Each time one confronts her, she tells it, "I'm not afraid of you!" But, she starts walking a little faster each time until she is running back home, followed by the things she meets in the forest. At first, she is a bit afraid, but then she realizes how to fix the situation quite nicely for all of them.

This is a fun story to read aloud - it has just enough scary stuff to keep kids on the edge of their seat, but only enough to be fun-scared - and not truly scared. Teachers might find this book leads into a nice activity on problem-solving, or perhaps a "making lemonade from lemons" type of discussion, or create an art activity or flip book to illustrate each item that begins to follow the little old lady, then show how she gets them all together to solve their dilemma.

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
Written by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Ivan Bates

A mouse family lives in the corner of the cellar, and the little ones are curious to know what lurks in "the dark at the top of the stairs" where they are sure a monster lives. The wise old mouse who lives with them tries to convince them to do something else, but the little ones are determined, so he agrees to take them in the morning. The closer they get to the top, the more their little minds work...and then... they see it!

This book is a lighthearted, well-paced, suspenseful tale, perfect for those little ones who want a "scary story," but not too scary. It also works well for kids who are a little older, as they can have fun trying to figure out just what those little mice might find at the top of the stairs.

The Spider and the Fly
Based on the Cautionary Tale by Mary Howitt
Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi

This tragic poem was originally written in 1829, and Tony DiTerlizzi's all black-and-white illustrations immerse readers in that time period. It has the feel of a silent movie as the reader follows the tenuous dance between the suave but creepy spider, and the wholesome, dainty fly. Mary Howitt's text tells the main story as DiTerlizzi's pictures throw desperate ghostly hints toward the hapless fly. Will she notice? Will she heed their warnings? Or, will she become dinner?

Older readers looking for a bit more (but not too much) darkness to their Halloween will enjoy this tale. It even includes a letter from the Spider himself at the close of the tale, and a history of both author and illustrator, as well. Teachers and librarians can pair this story with a unit on the time period in which it was written - behavior, clothing, culture, etc. It also lends itself well to a discussion of the old silent movie formats. Or how about a literary lesson on how the illustrator used foreshadowing, as the ghosts try to warn the Fly of her impending doom. One could always discuss this as a story with a moral or lesson, as "a cautionary tale" implies. Or, a unit on all things Gothic might be interesting too... 

Well, that was fun! Be sure to check out the post below for all the publishing particulars for each book listed here.

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