In the library, these are the days when we get frantic parents looking for a Halloween book to read at their child's school and finding that all the books are gone. This may be you. But no fear, there are some great monster books around that will fill the Halloween gap and that are often overlooked by parents heading only to the shelf with the big pumpkin sign.
Where's My Mummy?
by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by John Manders
When Baby Mummy heads outside for a late-night game of "Hide and Shriek," he ends up searching for Mama Mummy in the deep, dark woods. Different monsters advise the little wrapped guy to go to home, but he trudges on unafraid, until a tiny creature gives him a big scare. But Mummy - or mommy - is there to give him comfort and take him to bed. The wonderful illustrations have just the right comical touch to take the edge off the spooky subject, and the story adds just enough suspense to the fun. Great for preschoolers.
Inside the Slidy Diner
by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Jaime Zollars
Edie is trapped inside the Slidy Diner for stealing a lemon drop, and gives a youngster a tour of the scary restaurant where patrons eat pig's heads and pies are garnished with eyeballs. This is definitely a book for the gross-out crowd, who will delight in the bug-filled flooded restrooms, the wall-mounted huge cockroach, and the most-questionable "chocolate milk." Detailed illustration supports the story with odd-looking patrons and clever visual jokes. Gruesome, creepy, and loads of fun for the school-age set.
Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
Frankenstein Takes the Cake
by Adam Rex
For some reason, people insist on giving these books to their preschoolers and then denouncing them because their precious tots aren't interested in these poems about various monsters. The smaller ones somehow fail to grasp the cultural and literary references or get the jokes. They aren't wooed by the detailed and varied artistic styles. So clearly, these parents claim, these books are not all that. HAH! And I say again, HAH! While shaking my head, of course, and noting that just because a book has pictures, it does not make it a "picture book." Sure, read it to your preschoolers if you feel the need, but it's the bigger kids who are going to appreciate the brilliance, the humor, the artistry of these amazing books. These are the perfect books to share in higher grades when the kids are wanting stories - especially to mark special times like Halloween - but parents don't think about sharing books in the classroom. I read the first one to my daughter's fifth grade class and they loved it. It was apparently very popular for the week I left it there, and I heard groans when I picked it up. Don't miss these fabulous poetry books, but do think about the right age of the reader. By the way, adults fall into that "right age" group.
I usually forget to talk about Halloween books until it's too late for parents to find them at the library or bookstore, but not this time. With the candy and costumes in the stores for weeks, it is getting hard to ignore what used to be a one day event with homemade costumes and sugar-frenzied children. So if we're going to extend the festivities, let's get a little reading in there too.
by Dav Pilkey
This is my absolute favorite Halloween book because it works for preschoolers to fifth graders. It's the story of a dachshund who is always teased by his doggie classmates, but especially after his well-meaning mother gives him a hot-dog costume for Halloween. But when his doggie friends are spooked by a ghoul, it's the little dog who saves the day. It's a funny book, but you can add a little spooky suspense when the ghoul comes into the picture.
The Halloween Book of Facts & Fun
by Wendie Old
This weekend I was introduced to this book, to which I had to say, "Where have you been all my child-rearing years?" What I love about this book is right there in the title - it's facts and fun. There are instructions for carving a pumpkin and having a Halloween party. There are safety tips and riddles. There are chapters about traditions, witches, jack-o-lanterns, Dracula, and more. There's even a full page bibliography. A perfect book for the classroom or home, maybe doling out a chapter a day in the build-up to the Big Event.
The Squampkin Patch
by JT Petty
Speaking of build-up, you'll find it in spades in this suspenseful, creepy and sometimes scary book for older kids. In the story, the Nasselrogt children hide from their parents, and end up getting shipped off to the Urchin House. When their parents show up to find them, their odd last name makes the files lost to the director. After a horrible time at the Urchin House, the children escape and end up at a mysterious house surrounded by a pumpkin patch -- or so they think. It turns out that patch holds something strange and frightening that is coming to a head on Halloween. Filled with dark humor and interesting characters, the book shows a very strong Lemony Snicket influence in the writing, which should make it a natural pick for lovers of the Series of Unfortunate Events books. A little odd, but certainly unforgettable.
For the last day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, here are three books for preschooler to tween.
What Can You Do with a Rebozo?
By Carmen Talfalla, illustrated by Amy Cordova
Bright, lively pictures show the many ways you an use a rebozo - a traditional Mexican woven shawl - from a cradle to a cape. The rhymes are a little labored, but the cultural portrayal is well-done and the feeling is fun. The artwork won the 2009 Pura Belpré Illustration Honor, and the book contains a brief historical discussion about rebozos.
Armando and the Blue Tarp School
by Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson; illustrated by Hernan Sosa
This book is based on the true story of a teacher who set up a school in Tijuana, Mexico with only a blue tarp. The poverty of the children is harsh, and their garbage dump surroundings vile. But with hard work and hope, the children begin to go to school. This is a picture book, but due the the theme and length is intended for school-age children. Interesting and inspirational, it manages to teach without being preachy. The real story is included at the end of the book, as well as a glossary of Spanish words.
by Diana Lopez
With lots of Spanish words and Hispanic culture, this isn't an issue book about being Latina. It's just the world that Lina Flores occupies with her boy-crazy best friend, her quiet, studious dad, and her own school worries. Gentle is a good word to describe this middle-grade book. It's gentle on conflict, issues, humor, and culture. Sweet and fun, the book also shares dichos - little sayings - that form the chapter titles and appear through the book, like "Los amigos majors son libros." Books are your best friends.
One Naked Baby
by Maggie Smith
This colorful, playful, lively counting book follows the adventures of one toddler baby through his day, starting with running from the bath and going outside, and counting down from playing outside to ending up back in the bath after a muddy outing. This is a simple and cute book to share with a little one.
Ha Ha, Baby!
by Kate Petty, illustrated by Georgie Birkett
“Today, our baby is not laughing. Not a hint of a dimple or a glimmer of a smile, but a face like thunder!” Though everyone in the family tries to get the baby to smile with tickling and peek-a-boo, bubbles and tricks, the baby won’t smile. Even the dachshund on the unicycle doesn’t work, and we all know how funny wiener dogs are. But when the older brother challenges baby to a staring contest with absolutely no laughing, the baby smiles, chuckles, and laughs. The pictures are have a gentle cartoon quality with soft lines and bright colors. There’s only one thing that I don’t get: What’s with all the costumes on the characters? I mean, the grandma is a fairy princess, the grandpa is a pirate, and there’s no explanation. Though I have to admit the outfits do make the book a little more fun. Great storybook for the preschool set.
written by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Carll Cneut
A counting book set in the city, where a baby sleeps through all the noise and busyness around her/him. Bright and detailed pictures make this a fun counting book with city themes dump trucks, taxi horns, and such. The art is on one side of the page, all lively and sometimes silly (notice the dog on the cell phone for nine annoying cell phones ringing.) On the other page, the text and a simple sketch of the baby’s sleeping face (line eyes with lashes, curved lines for nose and mouth, dots for freckles, and sometimes a curl). A fun title that would be especially perfect for city kids.
1. National Book Festival
I packed my pockets with tissues and cough drops, and went to the National Book Festival on a chillly, rainy day certain to exacerbate my cold. Totally worth it. The fifth grader and I went to the Mo Willems signing, while the teens tried for Rick Riordan's autograph waiting in a line that defied description. After missing out on his signature, the teens went to his author session early to make sure they didn't miss that too. The fifth grader and I went to see Mo Willems' presentation.
My daughter was picked to go up on stage and read/act the book Today I Will Fly, with her as Piggie, Mo's daughter Trixie as the dog, and Mo as Gerald the elephant! My heart was bursting with pride as my daughter turned in a wonderful performance for a packed house, and now we can't wait to see the webcast on the National Book Festival site.
The whole bunch of us also saw Jeff Kinney, who was delightful, funny and truly humble, and Rick Riordan, who shared the news of his upcoming books. Patrick Carmon talked about his new titles along with The 39 Clues Series. Judy Blume held the crowd mesmerized just by being there. My whole story is available in at MotherReader in two parts.
2. Banned Book Week
With everything I've got on my plate this week, I've let others carry the online efforts for Banned Book Week. Fortunately, they've done a wonderful job. While a Wall Street Journal op-ed questioned whether you can even call a book banned in this country, Colleen Mondor wrote a reply at Chasing Ray that amounts to the world's most eloquent Yes. My good friend Lee Wind has a exceptional two-part interview with authors of challenged books. A letter posted last year at MyLiBlog (and tweeted by Neil Gaiman this year) offers an incredible answer to a patron who wanted a picture book removed from a public library. I also can't help returning to the Banned Books Week manifesto, a jarring poem of Ellen Hopkins, "Burn every word to ash. Ideas are incombustible."
3. The Cybils
Nomination season has begun for the 2009 Cybils, also known as the Children's and Young Adult Blogger's Literary Awards. If you have a children's or teen book that you loved that was published in 2009, you can nominate it at the Cybils site. You can submit one book per genre, and nominations are accepted from today through October 15th. At that point, a panel for each genre reads, analyzes and discusses the books to come up with a shortlist of finalists on January 1, 2010. Then a second round of judges take those books and in the course of a month an a half come up with a winner for each category. With all the genres and judges and rounds, the Cybils involves many bloggers in the KidLit and Young Adult online communities making it a festival season for book lovers. This year I'll be the organizer and a panelist for the Fiction Picture Book category, so I'll be bringing you lots of the best picture books over the next few months. Of course, you don't have to look just to me. Check out the Cybils page for reviews of great titles across the genres.