Kid's Stuff -- Books About Halloween (and Pumpkins!)
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"And Then Comes Halloween"
Written by Tom Brenner
Illustrated by Holly Meade
(Candlewick, 2009)

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"In The Haunted House"
Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Susan Meddaugh
(Sandpiper, 1994)

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"Scary, Scary Halloween"
Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Jan Brett
(Sandpiper, 1988)

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"What A Scare, Jesse Bear"
Written by Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrated by Bruce Degen
(Simon & Schuster, 1999)

I'm not a big fan of the "Jesse Bear" series, but this is one of the best-written entries, with a rhyme pattern that scans easily all the way through and is mostly pretty fun to read. The Halloween-based story is about Jesse's first time going trick-or-treating; the little bear has to work out a few anxieties about scary masks, etc., but it's nothing too heavy, and in the end a good time is had by all. Lots of cute details in the artwork, and if you're headed towards Halloween, this is a pretty good book to help build the excitement. Worth a spin. (C+)


"Pumpkin Soup"
Written by Helen Cooper
Illustrated by Helen Cooper
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999)

(-)


"The Night Of The Paper Bag Monsters"
Written by Helen Craig
Illustrated by Helen Craig
(Candlewick, 2003)

A Halloween story from Helen Craig, illustrator of the famed Angelina Ballerina series, with dozens of cute, finely-drawn trick-or-treaters pouring out into the night. I do love her illustration style! (B)


"The Bumpy Little Pumpkin"
Written by Margery Cuyler
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
(Scholastic, 2005)

A fun Halloween book, in which Little Nell, the youngest of three sisters, goes out to the fields to pick a pumpkin for her own jack-o-lantern, but her choice -- of a little, lumpy squash -- is mocked by her two sisters, who prefer big, impressive pumpkins. Nell is hurt by their mockery, but sticks to her guns, and when her animal friends show up they help her carve a cute face for the jack-o-lantern, and Nell is happy. Sort of a cross between Cinderella and Ruth Krauss' The Carrot Seed. Nice, big artwork, and a slightly weird vibe. I didn't like how the sisters are made fun of through their physical characteristics (one's fat, the other's gangly) but this is still worth checking out. (B)


"Boo To You!"
Written by Lois Ehlert
Illustrated by Lois Ehlert
(Beach Lane, 2009)

(-)


"Angelina's Halloween"
Written by Katherine Holabird
Illustrated by Helen Craig
(Random House/Clarkson Potter, 2000)

One of the more disturbing and troublesome Angelina books. When going out trick-or-treating, Angelina is placed in charge of her little sister, Polly, who Angelina considers a pest, and who she is a bit mean to at the start of the book. As the girls go out, they are harassed by the bullies Sammy and Spike, who goad them into entering a "haunted" abandoned house. Exiting unharmed, Angelina goes on to star fabulously in the Halloween dance pageant, and is quite pleased with herself, until she realizes that the little "ghost" dancing with her is her cousin Henry, and not Polly, as she had thought. Ooops! She lost the baby! Angelina races about, retracing her steps until she finds Polly, still sitting at the haunted house, playing with some other kids. Seems like a lot of anxiety and negativity to pack into one little book... I skimmed through this once with my kid, then quietly tucked it away in the take-back-to-library pile. (C-)


"The Biggest Pumpkin Ever"
Written by Steven Kroll
Illustrated by Jeni Bassett
(Holiday House, 1984)

A fun halloween story about two young mice who separately find the same pumpkin in a large, sprawling garden and each -- one during the day, the other at night -- start taking care of it, with dreams of what people will say when they see the fully-grown, ginormous squash. Neither knows that the other is helping, and each boy has a different idea about what to do with the pumpkin when it's ready -- one wants to enter it into a pumpkin contest, and the other wants to carve out the world's largest jack-o-lantern. This is a wonderful narrative that works on different levels: it tells readers how to raise pumpkins (with tips on fertilizing and giving them sugar water boosters) and also is about cooperation and flexibility... When they finally realize that they haven't raised the pumpkin alone, the two boys don't get upset -- instead, they both laugh with surprise and then strike a deal: one will take the house-sized squash to the fair and win the size prize, and then the other will bring it home to carve up, with the help of all the neighbors. Along the way, we have as much fun watching the pumpkin grow as they do! (A)


"Froggy's Halloween"
Written by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
(Penguin/Viking, 1999)

As the sacred day grows nearer and nearer, Froggy spends all his time daydreaming about what costume we will wear for Halloween. Should he be a superhero? A pirate? A ghost? Finally, in the middle of the night, the day before Halloween, it hits him: he'll be the Frog Prince! This suits Frogalina just fine, since she's going as a princess... Naturally, she tries, once again, to lay a big wet one on him, and as Froggy madly dashes away to escape her embrace (girls! yuck!) he stumbles and lands -- flop!! -- on a neighbor's porch. Face = red. Froggy has a fun time trick-or-treating, though, and heads home with all his loot, except -- oh, no! -- all the candy fell out of a hole in his bag! It's okay -- Mom has plenty of chocolate-covered flies for him to eat when he gets back. A decent trick-or-treating story. This has the inevitable over-emphasis on candy and sweets, but it was surprisingly easy to edit it out. (B)


"Big Bob And The Halloween Potatoes"
Written by Daniel Pinkwater
Illustrated by Jill Pinkwater
(Cartwheel, 2002)

Mr. Salami, the harried teacher in Daniel Pinkwater's loopy Big Bob series, spars with the class leader, Big Doris, over whether the school's Halloween party will have pumpkins as its theme, or potatoes. (The joke is that potatoes are featured in all the Big Bob books... hah, hah.) The main emphasis of this book is the battle of wills between a forbearing teacher and a headstrong student. They compromise in the end (Mr. Salami mostly wins, but Doris finds a loophole) but some parents might find the role modeling a little troublesome. (C+)


"Halloween Day"
Written by Anne Rockwell
Illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell
(Harper Collins, 1997)

The kids in Mrs. Madoff's class dress up for the school's Halloween celebration and one girl, our narrator for this volume, identifies her in-costume classmates one by one, and walks us through their day, from meeting inthe morning to the big cupcake party at the end. With Rockwell's typical level of detail, the pages are filled with stuff to comment on: on the left hand pages we see each child in costume, while on the right we see them earlier, coming up with the idea for their disguise. For folks that like to read a book in more ways than one, these pages offer a great chance for in-depth examinations of the artwork. Meanwhile, where is Mrs. Madoff?? She hasn't been seen all day, although the teaching assistant has been joined by a glamorous fairy godmother... Oh, wait! When she takes off her mask and wig... it's Mrs. Madoff after all! Yaaaaaayy! (B)


"Moonlight, The Halloween Cat"
Written by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(Harper Collins, 2003)

(-)


"Snow Pumpkin"
Written by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Illustrated by Pierr Morgan
(Crown Books, 2000)

A nice wintertime story about an early snow that coincides with Halloween, allowing the narrator -- a young Asian-American girl -- to use a homegrown pumpkin as the head of her first snowman of the season. The action takes place in a friendly urban neighborhood, and as the kids are out playing in the snow, the girl's grandmother is busy making new Halloween costumes. I like the artwork, as well as the story's tangible, palpable feel -- you really feel like you know what her neighborhood is like, and I got a sense memory of having melting snow inside my mittens each time I read the story. The book was consistently engaging for my daughter as well. There are a couple places where the text was a little clunky; not in terms of the plot itself, but in the flow of words. Also, the author's insistence in placing the story into a rigid, awkward timeline -- the narrator is speaking "now" and refers back to action happening yesterday, this morning, etc. The point was to tie the story into the "tonight" of Halloween, but the payoff wasn't worth it. Everyone knows a book about pumpkins will be about Halloween anyway, and the book would have flowed better if all the text had been in the present tense. Other than that, though, this is a lovely book -- girl-friendly, multicultural, complex and entertaining, and with a lot of heart. Recommended! (B+)


"Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin"
Written by Mary Serfoszo
Illustrated by Valeria Petrone
(Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, 2001 )

Colorful artwork and serviceable story geared towards the littlest readers... A young tiger-boy named Peter goes out to pick a perfect pumpkin, and after considering the many things a pumpkin can be used for -- pudding, pies, soup -- he takes it home and carves it up into a prize-winning jack-o-lantern. An okay book if you're on a Halloween kick, although there isn't really that much to it. The bold, friendly artwork is probably the main attraction. (C+)


"Big Pumpkin"
Written by Erica Silverman
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler
(Aladdin, 1995)

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"By The Light Of The Halloween Moon"
Written by Caroline Stutson
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
(Marshall Cavendish, 1993)

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"The Pumpkin Goblin Makes Friends"
Written by Aaron Taylor
Illustrated by Gary Whitley
(Emerald Books, 2008)

(-)


"Pumpkin Moonshine"
Written by Tasha Tudor
Illustrated by Tasha Tudor
(1937)

First published in 1937, Tasha Tudor's Halloween classic still has a timeless innocence and appeal. It is a delightfully simple story of a little girl on a farm who picks a pumpkin and rolls it downhill to where she can make it into a jack-o-lantern (or a "moonshine," as they apparently called them in New England, way back when...) When the pumpkin runs away from her, chaos ensues in the barnyard, and little Sylvie-Ann must make amends. A simple, old-fashioned story made magical with clean storytelling and wonderful art. Great for little kids! (B)


"Pumpkin Cat"
Written by Ann Turner
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
(Hyperion, 2004)

An orange tabby cat gets lost during a rainstorm and shelters inside a book drop at a local library. In the morning the librarians find her, and decide to adopt her and call her Pumpkin Cat, making her the library's mascot during the Halloween season. Pumpkin Cat is happy and loves her new home, but finds it a bit lonely at night... After the library's big Halloween party, though, one of the kids leaves a little black kitten on their doorstep, and she becomes Pumpkin Cat's pal... Kitty cats, libraries and Halloween... who could ask for more?? The storytelling's a little stiff, but their hearts were in the right place. Nice seasonal offering. (B)


"The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything"
Written by Linda Williams
Illustrated by Megan Lloyd
(Harper Collins, 1988)

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"The Night Before Halloween"
Written by Natasha Wing
Illustrated by Cynthia Fisher
(Grosset & Dunlap, 1999)

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"Halloween Hats"
Written by Elizabeth Winthrop
Illustrated by Sue Truesdell
(Henry Holt & Co., 2002)

A joyful, good-natured Halloween book that follows a flock of kids as they descend on their neighborhood to go trick-or-treating. This book has a true synergy between pictures and words: the wittily crafted, rhyming text in a somewhat allusive manner, talks about the various costumes, but it all really only makes sense when you also look at the art. Each page is packed with visual appeal -- Truesdell's playful, cartoonish style is delightful and packed with details -- just talking about which kid is dressed like what will make this a rich reading experience. In the end, the kids all go to a big Halloween party and one of the games they play is to throw all their hats into the air... and mix their costumes up! (Sounds like a good idea -- I'll try it next year!) One of the nicer Pumpkin Day books we've read -- fun and definitely recommended! (A)




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