Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Boo! Halloween Picture Books

It’s that time again—time to pull out all the best recent and old favorites for Halloween at home, at school, or in the library.

Here’s a great group for story times with the very young and for older, more sophisticated trick-or-treaters.

For starters, Lauren Thompson brings us a reassuring tale about a very small soul  (Mouse) facing very big Halloween fears (rustling leaves and leering pumpkins). Mouse’s First Halloween (Simon & Schuster, 2000) has a recurring line “‘Eeek!’ Mouse squeaked” for all to join in on and lovely illustrations by Buket Erdogan.


A more recent title, Just Say BOO!, by Susan Hood (Harper, 2012) also features friendly art (by Jed Henry) and an even simpler refrain: “BOO!” Without being at all pedantic, it also teaches first-timers the two other essential Halloween phrases: “Trick-or-Treat!” and “Thank you!”



If your story time crowd is feeling a little squirrely at this point, then pull out another old favorite: Michael Rex’s Brooms Are for Flying! (Henry Holt, 2000). A young witch invites listeners to stomp their feet, rattle their bones, and flap their (bat) wings, getting everyone moving and in a Halloween mood.



Slightly older children will love the cartoony humor of Jan Thomas’s Pumpkin Trouble (Harper, 2011). A duck who’s not exactly the brightest candle in the jack-o’-lantern tries to carve one, with hilarious results.



Last but not least, school-aged kids will love this strange collection: The Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Stories by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Paul Meisel (Dutton, 2011). 


Typically, when Dad tells stories to the kids at bedtime, he’s not trying to scare them silly. But Frannie and Frankie’s dad isn’t typical, and neither are they. 

They’re ghosts, and they’re about to have their socks scared off by these (not really so scary) tales of hamburgers, grannies, and a diaper. 

A word of warning: what's scary to a small ghost like Frannie or Frankie will have young human readers laughing their socks off. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall Harvest of Picture Books: Beans and Broccoli


Fresh veggies are still coming to farm stands in my area, but they won’t be for long. It’s time to harvest up the best of new and old books for young readers on beans and broccoli.

First up is the new picture book How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans (Dial, 2013) written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Mark Fearing.

She knows green beans are bad. 

That’s why she refuses to eat them.

But Martha has no idea just how bad green beans can be until…a passel of gun-toting, mustache-wearing, grizzled green beans kidnap her parents.


That’s just the start of this romp—great for a fall story-time that goes beyond apples. 

You’ll find silly fun and themes a-plenty: vegetables we love to hate, the perils of having our wishes fulfilled, and the nastiness of facial hair when seen on green beans.

If Martha’s story doesn’t get young readers eating their veggies, then Josh Schneider’s Tales for Very Picky Eaters (Clarion, 2011) should do the trick.

Short, simple chapters in this beginning reader book cover a very serious topic: nasty, repulsive foods we’d rather not eat. The first is “The Tale of the Disgusting Broccoli.”

I won’t be a spoiler but will say that one of the silliest alternatives to broccoli proposed is “fine gum, carefully chewed one thousand times by special children with very clean teeth.” (You’ll have to check out the illustrations to see how and why this got me laughing.)

Tales for Very Picky Eaters has amusing art and slimy eggs. It’s also a 2012 Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, so it should appeal to even the pickiest beginning readers.

Lastly, although it’s not recent, I have to mention a personal favorite: Green Beans by Elizabeth Thomas, illustrated by Vicki Jo Redenbaugh.

This was the first original picture book I edited when working at Carolrhoda Books, part of Lerner Publishing. 

Many years have passed since it first came out (all the way back in 1992?!!), but it’s still a great read about trust, love, patience…and vegetables.