October 4 – Kids Music Day

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About the Holiday

Kids Music Day was established in 2016 by Keep Music Alive to raise awareness of the importance of music education for children. The day includes events like student performances, opportunities for kids to see and try a wide range of instruments, instrument donation drives and more. On the first Kids Music Day, 80 music schools in 24 US states took part. In 2017 that number jumped to over 400 participants in more than 40 states and Canada. Last year 600 music schools and retail shops in 10 countries participated with free music lessons and other activities. Keep Music Alive is a nonprofit whose mission is to demonstrate the importance of music in everyone’s life from listening for pleasure to participating as an instrumentalist or composer to partaking in music therapy and more. To learn more, visit keepmusicalive.org and kidsmusicday.org

I received a copy of If You’re Scary and You Know It! from Familius for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Familius in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

If You’re Scary and You Know It!

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Noël Ill

 

Your kids have it, right? That giddy energy as they prepare for the big night of chills and thrills and decide on the most pressing question: What will I be? Carole Gerber and Noël Ill know exactly how that feels, and their book, a rollicking adaptation of the participatory favorite “If You’re Happy and You Know It” will keep readers moving and giggling all month long—and beyond.

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Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Perfectly suited for singing or reading, If You’re Scary and You Know It! Introduces eight adorably creepy characters for kids to play and play with. Kids under the Halloween spell may be feeling a bit witchy these days. If that’s true, there’s only one thing to do: “If you’re witchy and you know it, mix a brew. / Throw some frog legs in your potion—icky poo! / Cackle as the cauldron bubbles. / Add a taste of trolls and troubles. / If you’re witchy and you know it, mix a brew.”

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Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Kids got a taste for spooky tricks instead? Then they’ll love to “…moan and groan. Float around and haunt the people in your home.” Especially any younger siblings! Now that the fun is truly out of the bag, kids can brandish their pirate sword, flash a fiendish vampire smile, howl at the full moon, shoo crows away from the pumpkin patch, and perform other bits of mischief.

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Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

By this time their teeth may be chattering and their bones rattling. Well then, “If you’re bony and you know it, touch your toes. / You can bend and twist to strike a funny pose. / Spread your arms and bend your knees— / move in any way you please! / If you’re bony and you know it, touch your toes.” Finally, that most anticipated day arrives! What now? You know! It’s time to “meet up with your friends out in the street. / Walk together door-to-door, to get candy and lots more! If you’re scary and you know it—Trick or Treat!

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Image copyright Noël Ill, 2019, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Kids and adults alike will fully get into the spirit of Halloween with Carole Gerber’s clever and enticingly impish rhymes that will have them moving their feet, yowling ghoulishly, and laughing together. Gerber’s rich language and detailed action-packed storytelling are a joy to sing or read aloud and give kids plenty to imitate as they listen. Children will love joining in on the repeated phrases, and older kids will learn the jaunty verses in no time.

In her delightful, spritely illustrations, Noël Ill replicates the eerie autumn atmosphere that adds to the thrill of Halloween while also clearly depicting motions that children can perform with each verse. Ill’s diverse kids float, dance, growl, screech, and shake with the same enthusiasm as little readers. The final two-page spreads invite children to that nighttime world of magic and treats.

A must inclusion in any Halloween collection, If You’re Scary and You Know It! is a book you’ll want to keep out year-round for energetic, active story times. It is a perfect book to share with groups and as an activity at Halloween parties. Published in a board book format, this book will also appeal to older children.

Ages 3 – 6

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701464

Discover more about Carole Gerber and her books on her website.

To learn more about Noël Ill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Carole Gerber

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Poet and author Carole Gerber has written sixteen picture books, three chapter books, and more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. Her picture book, A Band of Babies, was named a 2017 Best Book for Children by Amazon editors. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and has taught middle school and high school English as well as college newswriting and factual writing at OSU.

I’m thrilled to be chatting with Carole Gerber today about how adults can have fun with her new book, how she gets everyone participating at school visits, and a favorite part of her writing routine.

The rhythm of If You’re Scary and You Know It comes from a favorite child’s interactive song, but your clever verses go well beyond the simple repetition of the original. What inspired you to adapt this song for Halloween? I love the examples of scary that you chose and your other fun, evocative words. How did you choose your scary adjectives and develop each verse?

It’s much easier to write a story or song based on an existing one, because the structure is already there. Most kids and adults know the tune “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” so I decided to use it as a template. I then looked on Amazon to see what similar Halloween books were already on the market. If there were dozens, I would not have written mine. Luckily, I saw only one. It was titled If You’re Spooky and You Know It. I love the word “spooky” and had at first thought to use that word in my title. However, I did not want my book to compete with a title already published. I wanted a story/song that kids could act out, so I chose eight characters and thought up different silly but logical actions for each. For example, the pirate shouts “Yo ho!” and waves his sword, the witch “cackles” as she mixes her brew, the black cat arches her back and spreads her claws, and so on.

If You’re Scary and You Know It lends itself to singing and acting out as well as reading. Do you have any advice for adults on sharing this book with kids and “playing” with it?

Get into it along with the kids! Be playful and happy and sing your heart out. Kids love it when adults act silly. It’s fun to cackle like a witch, shout like a pirate, and shout “Meeeoow” as you spread your “claws.” Plus, the funny-sounding descriptors like “vampy,” “fiendish” and “hairy” are fun for everyone to sing. And, without realizing it, kids will learn some interesting vocabulary.

Noël Ill’s enchanting illustrations are adorably kid-centric. They also really invite kids to join in on the fun. Did you get to collaborate on the illustrations? I know it must be hard to choose a favorite illustration—but do you have one?

The publisher’s art director let me choose among the work of three artists he thought would do a good job. All were talented, but Noël’s illustrations were so sweet, bright, and clever that I knew she would come up with pictures that perfectly complemented my words. And she did! As is customary, I got to see sketches before she did final illustrations, and my input was honored. The first thing she illustrated was the cover – and I was thrilled! When all illustrations were complete, I learned from her short online video that the illustration of the black cat is based on her own childhood Halloween costume. After seeing the resemblance, the black cat became my favorite illustration! You can see it here: https://youtu.be/NPsn7syYvJo

You sponsor children around the world through World Vision. Does this experience influence your writing in any way?

Some of the money I earn as a writer helps children in less fortunate parts of the world get fed and educated. I became a World Vision sponsor 34 years ago when my daughter Jess was born and began adding more children as she grew up. I became a sponsor for another Christian relief organization, Feed My Starving Children, 20+ years ago when I learned about their amazing organization while researching an article for a magazine. Contributing regularly to these charities for children is one small way I can consistently thank God for giving me the opportunities I’ve had as a writer and also the great good fortune to be born in the United States. 

In addition to your fiction for children, you’ve authored a long list of school reading and science texts for all grade levels and about a wide range of topics. How did you get started writing for this market? What kind of research goes into each book? Do you have a favorite and why?

 I got into the education market as a result of writing textbook ad copy for McGraw-Hill. The product manager put me in touch with some editors. Each book I wrote had to be written at a specific reading level, and often I was required to use certain vocabulary words. Many of them required extensive research, which I mostly did online using reputable sources. One of my favorites was Once There Were Two: The Negro Baseball League. It was enlightening to learn about how African-Americans were forced to play in a separate league and had to stay in “colored” hotels. The most challenging were the books I wrote as part of a series called “Retold Classics.” I had to summarize and rewrite very simply The Iliad and other stories based on an oral tradition. Eeek! It was challenging to boil these lengthy tales down to their “bones.”

Your school visits sound amazing – especially the “poetry jams” and creating a class poem collaboratively with students. Can you talk about what you love about visiting schools? Do you have an anecdote from one you’d like to share?

After showing a funny slide show of my “creative process,” I let kids use the microphone (which they love) to do the talking. They read from my book Seeds, Bees, Butterflies and More: Poems for Two Voices. I also wrote funny, tricky riddle poems specifically for school visits that kids read in pairs. The poems give clues about common objects (i.e., pencil, basketball). The first student in the audience to guess the correct answer chooses a partner and they read the next poem. To guess correctly, students must LISTEN! 😊. At the end, those who haven’t yet participated read from my poem for 13 voices titled “Cats!” Kids who are shy or not good readers get their chance to shine. As a lesson extension, the teacher is given a format for collaboratively writing a class poem if she or he chooses.

Do you have a special place you like to write or routine while writing?

I prefer to write on my desktop computer, which is in my home office. I have a laptop I can use if I am away, but I prefer the keyboard on my desktop. My routine requires me to drive to Starbucks to buy a chai latte before I seriously spend any time writing. I periodically attempt to stop this addiction. I did quit once for a few months but went back to buying one as an occasional treat and soon was back my costly morning habit. Sigh.         

What’s up next for you?

I have another holiday book out this year: The Gifts of the Animals, A Christmas Tale. It is loosely based on an old Latin hymn and tells in verse about gifts the stable animals gave to prepare the manger. It is beautifully illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara, who lives in Japan and speaks very little English. There’s an interesting story about how she was chosen. I’d love to share it with your readers if you invite me back.

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

Clearly, I love both Halloween and Christmas! I have had two Halloween books published and three Christmas books. I grew up in a small town in a simpler time. My mother helped us make our Halloween costumes and my sister and I went trick-or-treating with our neighborhood friends. Everyone’s parents stayed home to hand out treats. At Christmas, we participated in church children’s productions.

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday (or holiday-themed book) that you’d like to share?

I admit to soaping a few windows of people who turned out their lights and did not answer their doors on Halloween. This was one of the “tricks” played on those did not “treat.” Once for the church Christmas play, my sister and I got to play the parts of shepherds. We wore our chenille bathrobes as costumes and got to sing a Christmas song with nine parts in which each letter of “Christmas” had a line. I don’t recall her letter, but mine was “A’s for all he stands for.”

Thanks so much, Carole! It’s been wonderful learning about your work and about your love of chai lattes—they’re my favorite too!  I can’t wait to talk to you again soon about your upcoming Christmas book The Gifts of the Animals, A Christmas Tale!

If You’re Scary and You Know It! Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with Familius in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of If You’re Scary and You Know It!, written by Carole Gerber | illustrated by Noël Ill

To be entered to win Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet one of my giveaway tweets.

Bonus: Reply with your favorite Halloween creature for an extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 4 through October 9 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 10.

Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Familius.

Kids Music Day Activity

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Rock Jack-O-Lantern

 

With carefully chosen rocks you can create one jack-o’-lantern or a whole pumpkin patch!

Supplies

  • Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
  • Orange craft paint, and other colors for a multi-hued pumpkin patch
  • Black permanent marker or black craft paint
  • Short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush

Directions

  1. Clean and dry the rock
  2. Paint the rock, let dry
  3. Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
  4. Glue the short twig to the top  of the rock pumpkin

celebrate-pciture-books-picture-book-review-if-you're-scary-and-you-know-it-coverPicture Book Review

You can find If You’re Scary and You Know It! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 20 – National Love Your Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Whether you have a dog or cat, hamster or fish, parakeet, iguana, or horse, your pet is one of the most loved parts of your family. Sharing your life with a furry friend and their funny antics, eager personalities, and unconditional love simply makes things better. Today’s holiday encourages people to spend more time with their pet or pets by taking a longer walk, extending playtime, and giving special treats that show your them how much they mean to you. If you don’t have a pet, but have been considering getting one, maybe today’s the day!

A Pet for Petunia

By Paul Schmid

 

You might say that “Petunia likes skunks,” but that wouldn’t be quite right because “Petunia LOVES skunks!” She loves everything about them from their nose to their tail, and the best thing of all is that they have stripes. Petunia loves stripes. Petunia likes sharing her love of skunks with everyone. Of course, Petunia doesn’t just love skunks, she wants one of her very own. Sure, her plush skunk is great, but “Petunia wants, wants, wants! a REAL pet skunk.”

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She hops up and down and uses please and begs her parents for a pet skunk. Her parents try to explain, but Petunia has jumped in with her list of all the things she’ll do for her skunk. She’ll feed it everyday, and walk it, and play with it, and even empty the litter box. “‘Every week. Day! Hour! Whatever! Promise! Please, please, please may I have a pet skunk? Please!’”

Petunia is shocked when her parents say no. She can’t understand why not. “‘They stink,’ say her parents.” Petunia is incensed. She explodes in a tirade of how unfair it all is, she defends the aroma of skunks up and down, she compares her parents to Katie’s parents (who “would get her a skunk), and lets them know that she has to run away from home.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She flees out the front door and towards the woods where she half hopes a bear eats her, knowing that then her lunkhead parents would get her a skunk. And, lo and behold, there on the path is a real-life skunk complete with “cute little nose. Big black eyes. Stripes.” They stare at each other, and “Petunia gives a joyful gasp.” But the gasp comes with a horrible smell. “Smell” isn’t even strong enough. “It is a STINK!” With tears in her eyes, Petunia turns and races back home.

After a little while in bed to contemplate, Petunia decides that “Skunks…are…so…AWESOME!” But looking at her cute little toy skunk, she also “decides she already has a perfectly awesome pet.” Until…well, you’ll just have to see….

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Paul Schmid’s pitch-perfect story of a little girl who just has to have a skunk for a pet will delight kids and adults with its adorably earnest Petunia and her realistic dialog. Petunia’s long list of promises leads into the perfectly shocked expression when she discovers that her parents are saying “no” to a pet skunk. A page full of bold, italics, fancy, and shrinking typefaces that lay out Petunia’s argument follows, mirroring the barrage of words that flow from this disappointed little girl. To her credit, when she is presented with (confronted by?) her heart’s desire and treated to its particular talent, Petunia makes a smart choice—until…. Kids will no doubt appreciate Petunia’s sincerity while adults will understand it on a more experienced level. And both will laugh at Petunia’s exasperation and stinky predicament.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Schmid is well-known for his expressive illustrations, and Petunia is a shining example. Schmid’s simple line drawings combine just-right body poses, skipping, jumping, somersaulting, and eventually running with sweet smiles, wide grins, and surprise to create a lovable and loving child that readers of all ages will embrace. Her pet skunk is adorable too—and, like all favorite toys, possesses a true personality of its own. Tinted with purple and a hint of orange, the clean, black-and-white images put the spotlight on endearing Petunia.

For pet lovers, toy lovers, and book lovers, A Pet for Petunia is a charming and captivating story to add to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2011 | ISBN 978-0061963315

To learn more about Paul Schmid, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Love Your Pet Day Activity

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A Sweet Match! Puzzle

 

These sweet skunk twins got separated! Can you help them find their match again in this printable puzzle?

A Sweet Match Puzzle

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You can find A Pet for Petunia at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 22 – National Color Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday has a pretty simple goal—to encourage people to appreciate all the colors that make up our world and to use color to express their feelings, their personality, and their creativity. The stunning beauty of changing leaves makes fall the perfect time for celebrating color, and October is usually when this gorgeous natural phenomenon is at its peak. To have fun with today’s holiday, experiment with color—you may see the world in a whole new way!

Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

 

Have you ever thought, “What color is Halloween?” Sure, we all know it’s orange and black—but what about the rest of the color wheel? Tell me—what’s your favorite color? Purple? Let me look through Shivery Shades of Halloween…Yes! Halloween is purple—“Twilight, / Shadows, / Monsters lurking, / Secret potion— / Poof! It’s working! Dusky-musky, bruisy-oozy, cruelish-ghoulish / Blotch of purple.”

Hey! This is fun! Give me another one! Gray, you say? Hang on…. Yes! Halloween is Gray! “Tombstone, gargoyle, / Dungeon wall, / Rats and rubble, / Haunted hall, / Dusty-fusty, dimly-grimly, shady-fraidy / Shroud of gray.”

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, 2014, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals, 2014. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Okay, now it’s my turn. I’m choosing…Red. Yep! Halloween is also Red: “Tip of fang, / Flash of cape, / Horns and tail, / A gash, a gape, Bloody-ruddy, burning-churning, blushing-gushing / Stain of red.”

Wild! And that’s just the beginning! There are also spirited, spooky rhymes about brown, yellow, blue, white, green, and, of course, orange and black.

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, 2014, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals, 2014. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Mary McKenna Siddals brings joy and a love of words—their sounds and their effects—to her verses that transport kids to the throbbing heart of Halloween on the broomsticks of color. In Shivery Shades of Halloween, Siddals presents all the spine-tingling  places, characters, and objects that make this holiday, and any mystery, so much chilling, thrilling fun. With giggles, ewwws, and a few shivers, kids will delight in the original and imaginative phrasing in this clever concept book.

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, 2014, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals, 2014. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers.

Jimmy Pickering’s vibrant, full-bleed illustrations ooze, flash, and swirl with the colors of Halloween. For Green, a “queasy-peasy” web-eared reptile slurps a “vile brew” from a test tube as an evil scientist looks on and the walls seep with a thick green sludge. Purple zaps and sparks as the reptile is transformed into a smiling goblin with bats’ wings and five legs. This goblin then leads readers from page to page where they meet a tricky ghost, a haunted graveyard, a spell-casting wizard and crystal-ball-reading witch, a floating candlestick in a haunted house, a howling werewolf, a dancing caldron, a clumsy demon, and a trio of trick-or-treaters. Each painting incorporates touches of the other colors introduced, creating eye-catching and suspense-building pages.

Shivery Shades of Halloween is a book that kids will want to hear and you will want to read over and over. For teachers, the book makes a wonderful resource for writing lessons and to show the power of evocative words not only around Halloween, but at any time of the year. Shivery Shades of Halloween is one concept book that transcends its holiday theme and would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well as school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0385369992

Take a peek at Victoria scaring up some fun by reading Shivery Shades of Halloween!

To learn more about Mary McKenna Siddals and her other books, visit her website! You’ll also find lots of activities as well as activity sheets to extend your enjoyment of Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors as well as her other books.

Here’s a link to Shivery Shades of Halloween Activity Sheets.

You can also connect with Mary McKenna Siddals on her Shivery Shades of Halloween Facebook Page, where you’ll find more fun and a whole community of readers.

Discover more about Jimmy Pickering and view a gallery of his illustrations, paintings, sculpture and more on his website. 

Halloween Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-halloween-mobile

Halloween Hang-ups

 

With glue, glitter, and your imagination you can make your love of Halloween and its ghosts, ghouls, pumpkins, and more colorfully transparent to all!

Supplies

  • Printable Halloween figure templates | Template 1 | Template 2
  • Poster board or other heavy stock paper or cardboard
  • White glue
  • Glitter in a variety of colors
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Wax paper
  • Popsicle or craft sticks
  • Needle
  • White thread (or any color)
  • Fine-tip permanent marker
  • Hot glue gun or regular glue

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Directions

  1. Print the Halloween Figures templates
  2. Cut out the figures
  3. Trace the figures onto the poster board
  4. Cut out the figures around the outside edge and also along the inside edge
  5. Lay out the figure templates on the wax paper
  6. Gently pour some white glue into the center of the figure template
  7. Smooth the glue completely to the edges of the figure template, adding glue if needed
  8. Sprinkle glitter on the glue, as much or as little as you’d like

To dry the glue

  1. Let the figures sit overnight OR:
  2. Place the figures on the wax paper in a warm oven. Turn the oven on to 200 – 250 degrees and let it come up to heat. Then turn the oven off and place the figures inside. Check after 15 minutes and check frequently until dry.

After the glue is dry

  1. Add faces to the ghosts with a permanent marker
  2. Add googly eyes with the hot glue or regular glue
  3. If desired, color the edge of the template to match the color of the glitter

To hang figures

  1. Thread a needle with the desired length of thread and gently push the needle through the glue near the top of the figure.
  2. Tie the thread around a chandelier, curtain rod, or any other place you would like to decorate

Picture Book Review

October 19 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

Holidays are always better with books! Books about holidays can make the time seem more festive, can teach you about other traditions, and can prolong the excitement for those one-day events. This month kids and adults celebrate Halloween, which combines the spooky and sweet into one fantastic extravaganza. Decorations, costumes, parties, special treats, and, of course, Halloween-themed books charge the cool, crisp weather with chills and little hearts with thrills.

Sir Simon: Super Scarer

By Cale Atkinson

 

Be careful as you open the book because if you’ve never seen a ghost, you’re about to—“Boo!” It’s ok if you were scared, the ghost says as he displays his business card, which reads “Sir Simon / Super Scarer / Ghostest with the mostest.” This professional scarer has “haunted and scared all sorts of things” from a whole forest and an unimpressed bear to a boat and a bus stop to a pizza, a ukulele, and a potato.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Finally, though, Sir Simon is “being transferred to a house.” While Simon is happy about having a haunted house all to himself, he’s not so thrilled about all the Ghost chores a house requires. What kinds of chores? Well, all of those eerie sounds and creepy circumstances don’t happen by themselves. They’re all Simon “stomping in the attic” with an old shoe on each hand, “flushing the toilet” in the middle of the night, “hiding and moving stuff around,” and “standing creepy in the window wearing old-timey clothes.” And it’s only after these chores and more that Simon can do what he really likes to do.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

It seems in his afterlife Simon likes to dabble in the arts, learn French, and even write a thriller. Once Simon is ensconced in his new digs, he hears that grandparents are going to be moving in. He’s happy with this news because on “the pyramid of haunting,” old people are at the top since they sleep a lot, require fewer chores, and are oblivious to ghostly presences. But just as Simon is welcoming his new family home, he discovers that it includes a kid. A kid who sees him right away. A kid who has a lot of questions and a lot of comments. A kid who wants to be a Ghost too.

Simon is more than a bit miffed at this turn of events. It means more chores and less free time. Unless… Simon suddenly thinks Chester “would make a top-notch Ghost.” He takes Chester up to the attic, where he just can’t help looking through all of Simon’s stuff—much to Simon’s consternation. Simon gets Chester all suited up in the appropriate Ghost garb, gives him a list of “activities,” and sends him on his way. First up is making scary animal noises.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

As Simon happily types away on his novel, he hears Chester’s “Moo. Mooooooo. MOOOOOOOOO!” Incensed, Simon finds Chester at the heating vent and lets him know that “spooky and cow do not go together.” In fact, Chester does not seem to have a scary gene in his body. After trying and failing at every chore on the list, Chester is so exhausted he falls asleep with a thud.

Simon puts Chester to bed and then looks around his room. He sees that he and Chester actually have a lot in common—from the ukulele to drawing and writing to moving a lot. But does Simon feel bad for tricking Chester into doing his chores? No! Well… yes. The next morning Simon comes to offer his help with Chester’s chores, but they’re not as easy as they look. Simon has to admit that while “Chester isn’t the best at being a Ghost,” he’s “not so hot at being a human.” But there is something that they are both good at and that’s being friends.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Cale Atkinson’s unique take on the ghostly life—or afterlife—is laugh-out-loud funny as Sir Simon Spookington goes about his spectral chores with pride tinged with exasperation at the time they take away from his preferred creative pursuits. When he discovers that a kid has moved into his house—and, what’s more, wants to be a ghost too—Atkinson’s apparition with attitude turns prickly with the disruption Chester causes and perfectionist when Chester’s haunting doesn’t live up to his standards. Simon’s strict chore schedule, his haunting pyramid, and his wisecracking responses to Chester are droll and hilarious, and Chester’s attempts at ghosting are silliness at their best.

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Copyright Cale Atkinson, 2018, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Readers will fall in love with Simon from the moment they open the cover to find twenty-four snapshots of the little ghost doing his chores. Atkinson’s free-wheeling creativity makes each page a showstopper as this haunted house is packed full of clever details and allusions to favorite scary and adventure movies and books in every nook and cranny. Atkinson also uses juxtaposition to great effect in images of  Simon floating through his chores with a frown and furrowed brow followed by those of a happy and relaxed Simon as he paints, writes, and does cross-stitch as well as in two cutaways of the house—one at night while Chester does Simon’s chores and one during the day as Simon attempts to do Chester’s. The final spread of Simon and Chester hanging out as friends is endearing and heartwarming.

Sir Simon: Super Scarer is a must for fans of ghost stories, funny stories, and friendship stories and will be enjoyed by adults as much as by kids. This book will be asked for again and again, making it a spooktacular addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 

Tundra, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101919095

National Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-haunted-graveyard-craft-3

Spooky Haunted Graveyard

 

With a few items found in a backyard or park and a few from home, kids can make a spooky haunted graveyard to decorate their room or add to the family’s Halloween décor.

Supplies

  • Ten to twelve small to medium stones that have a triangular or rounded shape and can stand on their own (or close enough to be glued down)
  • Shallow cardboard box or plastic container
  • Small sticks or branches for the tree
  • A small amount of dirt, small dry leaves, moss, etc.
  • Poly fill for the fog (optional)
  • White craft paint
  • Small bit of clay
  • Paint brush
  • Black marker
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-haunted-graveyard-craft

Directions

To Make the Ghosts

  1. Paint 5 or 6 stones with the white paint, let dry
  2. Add eyes and mouth with the black marker

To Make the Tombstones

  1. Add RIP, names, and dates to 5 or 6 stones with the black marker

To Make the Tree

  1. Use one or two small branches or twigs to make the tree
  2. Stick them into the clay for stability

To Make the Graveyard

  1. Draw a fence inside and outside on the rim of the box (optional)
  2. Scatter the tombstones around the box and glue in place
  3. Scatter the ghosts near the tombstones and around the graveyard, and glue them in place
  4. Stick the small branches or twigs in the clay

To Make the Ground

  1. Scatter dirt, leaves, moss, around the tombstones and ghosts
  2. Add wispy bits of poly fill around the ghosts and tombstones and in the tree (optional)

Display the haunted graveyard!

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You can find Sir Simon Super Scarer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 27 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

As all the major holidays start rolling around, it’s fun to find new books to celebrate them with. Kids all over are looking forward to Halloween—devising costumes, creating spooky decorations, building eerie haunted houses, and dreaming of candy, candy, candy! Books about this most frightful of holidays is part of the excitement too! If your kids can’t wait for Halloween night, they’ll love meeting Sammy—who thinks about it all year around!

Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween

By Mike Petrik

 

On Halloween night all the kids looked forward to visiting the Loomis’s barn, where “the biggest, creepiest, jump-scariest haunted house in the neighborhood” took place. Everyone in the family helped out as witches, spirits, and vampires and in making lots of thunder, fog, and eerie sounds. Sammy, especially, wanted to make “sure to give the trick-or-treaters a fang-tastically fun time.”

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

On the morning after Halloween, the whole family gathered for pumpkin pancakes to relive the thrill of the night before. This year, Sammy could hardly concentrate on his pancakes because he already had so many ideas for the haunted house next year. Sammy’s older siblings, Luke and Molly, thought Sammy was too young to think of cool ideas, but his dad told Sammy to “give it a whirl.”

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

After a couple of weeks, Sammy began testing his ideas on the family. There were a few missteps – especially the jack-o’-lantern turkey and spiders and bats décor at Thanksgiving. And a Zombie Christmas really wasn’t what the rest of the family had in mind. As the winter wore on, Sammy perfected his scares. Molly’s sleepover was bone-chilling when Sammy made a skeleton skateboard through the living room.

Instead of a marshmallow egg Easter, Sammy conjured up a Happy Hallow-Easter egg hunt. But when the family’s Fourth of July barbecue was “rained out” by the sprinkler hiding in the tree, Sammy’s dad put his foot down. “‘Your ideas are wonderfully creepy,’ said Dad, ‘but Halloween has taken over everything.” He put the kibosh on all further haunting until everyone was onboard.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy's-spooktacular-halloween-haunted-house

Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

Sammy was feeling pretty down until Molly and Luke told him they thought his tricks were real treats and offered to help him create more. Under Sammy’s direction, they came up with amazing new hauntings. When the barn was finally decorated,  “Mom and Dad were spellbound.” Dad said, “‘We admire how you’ve stuck with it all year long,’” and Mom added, “‘So we’re naming you Halloween Spirit this year.’”

On Halloween night, Sammy welcomed all the neighbors with a spooky “‘HAPPY HALLOWEEN!’” and a “‘beware what lurks in the dark. Muah ha ha!’” The trick-or-treaters were shivering as they passed a skateboarding skeleton, an electrified Frankenstein, roiling fog, bubbling cauldrons, and bats, spiders, and ghosts galore. For Sammy, it was the best Halloween ever—and he was already planning for next year.

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Copyright Mike Petrik, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions.

Young Halloween lovers—i.e. all kids—will find Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween frightfully funny and, no doubt, inspirational too. From the list of Sammy’s haunted house elements titled “Scares! Spooks!” on the front cover to the experimental tricks to the other holiday mash-ups, Sammy’s imaginative ideas will enthrall kids. Engineers-in-the-making will eagerly await each page turn as they mull over the possible ways to recreate Sammy’s devices. While Sammy learns that a bit of moderation in his year-long quest for the best Halloween ever may be in order, Mike Petrik’s inclusion of helpful siblings and supportive parents is heartening and will please readers—especially youngest family members.

Petrik’s pages are electrified with bold, vibrant colors and Sammy’s thrilling Halloween haunts that move, shiver, and shake. A house full of fog, ghosts that rappel into Dad’s cereal, a turkey carved like a jack-o’-lantern, and a crew of zombie snowmen are just some of the delights awaiting readers. Images of Luke and Molly assisting Sammy and Mom and Dad’s happy faces as they reward Sammy for his hard work will bring a smile. The final two-page spread of the family’s haunted barn is a showstopper that kids will want to explore.

A terrific book to inspire Halloween fun and sibling harmony, Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween would be a super (natural) selection for home and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503901797

To learn more about Mike Petrik, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Jack-o’-Lantern Bookend or Decoration

 

With carefully chosen rocks you can create one jack-o’-lantern or a whole pumpkin patch! Use your rock jack-o’-lanterns as decoration for Halloween or as a boo-tiful bookend to keep your books tidy!

Supplies

  • Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
  • Orange craft paint, and other colors for a multi-hued pumpkin patch
  • Black permanent marker or black craft paint
  • Short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush

Directions

  1. Clean and dry the rock
  2. Paint the rock, let dry
  3. Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
  4. Glue the short twig to the top  of the rock pumpkin

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sammy's-spooktacular-halloween-cover

You can find Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

October 30 – Checklist Day

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About the Holiday

The origins of Checklist Day may be found in early aviation history when pilots devised a system to ensure that all procedures and safety measures had been completed before takeoff. With so many dials, buttons, and measurements to attend to, a checklist made it easier to keep track of what had been done. The idea was applicable to almost every endeavor, and people quickly adopted it for all types of business and personal uses. As Halloween approaches, use today’s holiday to make sure you have everything you need to celebrate. Got a costume? Check! Got candy? Check! Got a Jack-O’-Lantern? Check! And make sure you have all the colors of Halloween represented with today’s book!

Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

 

Have you ever thought, “What color is Halloween?” Sure, we all know it’s orange and black—but what about the rest of the color wheel? Tell me—what’s your favorite color? Purple? Let me look through Shivery Shades of Halloween…Yes! Halloween is purple—“Twilight, / Shadows, / Monsters lurking, / Secret potion— / Poof! It’s working! / Dusky-musky, bruisy-oozy, cruelish-ghoulish / Blotch of purple.”

Hey! This is fun! Give me another one! Gray, you say? Hang on…. Yes! Halloween is Gray! “Tombstone, gargoyle, / Dungeon wall, / Rats and rubble, / Haunted hall, / Dusty-fusty, dimly-grimly, shady-fraidy / Shroud of gray.”

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Okay, now it’s my turn. I’m choosing…Red. Yep! Halloween is also Red: “Tip of fang, / Flash of cape, / Horns and tail, / A gash, a gape, / Bloody-ruddy, burning-churning, blushing-gushing / Stain of red.”

Wild! And that’s just the beginning! There are also spirited, spooky rhymes about brown, yellow, blue, white, green, and, of course, orange and black.

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Image copyright Jimmy Pickering, text copyright Mary McKenna Siddals. Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Mary McKenna Siddals brings joy and a love of words—their sounds and their effects—to her verses that transport kids to the throbbing heart of Halloween on the broomsticks of color. In Shivery Shades of Halloween, Siddals presents all the spine-tingling  places, characters, and objects that make this holiday—and any mystery—so much chilling, thrilling fun. With giggles, eewwws, and a few shivers, kids will delight in the original and imaginative phrasing in this clever concept book.

Jimmy Pickering’s vibrant, full-bleed illustrations ooze, flash, and swirl with the colors of Halloween. For Green, a “queasy-peasy” web-eared reptile slurps a “vile brew” from a test tube as an evil scientist looks on and the walls seep with a thick green sludge. Purple zaps and sparks as the reptile is transformed into a smiling goblin with bats’ wings and five legs. This goblin then leads readers from page to page where they meet a tricky ghost, a haunted graveyard, a spell-casting wizard and crystal-ball-reading witch, a floating candlestick in a haunted house, a howling werewolf, a dancing caldron, a clumsy demon, and a trio of trick-or-treaters. Each painting incorporates touches of the other colors introduced, creating eye-catching and suspense-building pages.

Shivery Shades of Halloween is a book that kids will want to hear and you will want to read over and over. For teachers, the book makes a wonderful resource for writing lessons and the power of evocative words not only around Halloween, but at any time of the year. Shivery Shades of Halloween is one concept book that transcends its holiday theme and would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well as classroom and other libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0385369992

Take a peek at Victoria scaring up some fun by reading Shivery Shades of Halloween!

To learn more about Mary McKenna Siddals and her other books, visit her website! You’ll also find lots of activities as well as activity sheets to extend your enjoyment of Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors as well as her other books.

Here’s a link to Shivery Shades of Halloween Activity Sheets.

You can also connect with Mary McKenna Siddals on her Shivery Shades of Halloween Facebook Page, where you’ll find more fun and a whole community of readers.

Discover more about Jimmy Pickering and view a gallery of his illustrations, paintings, sculpture and more on his website. You can also find him on Facebook!

Checklist Day Activitycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-halloween-hanging-figures-black-background

Spooky Halloween Mobile

 

With glue, glitter, and your imagination you can make your love of Halloween and its ghosts, ghouls, pumpkins, and more colorfully transparent to all!

Supplies

  • Printable Halloween figure templates | Template 1 | Template 2
  • Poster board or other heavy stock paper or cardboard
  • White glue
  • Glitter in a variety of colors
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Wax paper
  • Popsicle or craft sticks
  • Needle
  • White thread (or any color)
  • Fine-tip permanent marker
  • Hot glue gun or regular glue

 

Directions

  1. Print the Halloween Figures templates
  2. Cut out the figures
  3. Trace the figures onto the poster board
  4. Cut out the figures around the outside edge and also along the inside edge
  5. Lay out the figure templates on the wax paper
  6. Gently pour some white glue into the center of the figure template
  7. Smooth the glue completely to the edges of the figure template, adding glue if needed
  8. Sprinkle glitter on the glue, as much or as little as you’d like

To dry the glue

  1. Let the figures sit overnight OR:
  2. Place the figures on the wax paper in a warm oven. Turn the oven on to 200 – 250 degrees and let it come up to heat. Then turn the oven off and place the figures inside. Check after 15 minutes and check frequently until dry.

After the glue is dry

  1. Add faces to the ghosts with a permanent marker
  2. Add googly eyes with the hot glue or regular glue
  3. If desired, color the edge of the template to match the color of the glitter

To hang figures

  1. Thread a needle with the desired length of thread and gently push the needle through the glue near the top of the figure.
  2. Tie the thread around a chandelier, curtain rod, or any other place you would like to decorate

Picture Book Review

October 28 – It’s Bat Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Bats are popular during the Halloween month of October for many reasons—they fly out of caves and nooks and crannies at night, they look kind of spooky, and they have that cool association with Dracula and other vampires. With over 1,300 species of bats around the world, however, these small fliers play a vital role in the welfare of our planet. Some bats are important for insect control, while others are pollinators and still others disperse seed. Unfortunately, bats have been in the news in the past few years for their declining numbers due to habitat destruction, disease, and hunting. Today’s holiday promotes awareness of the value of bats and urges people to help protect them.

Elsie Clarke and the Vampire Hairdresser

By Ged Adamson

 

“Elsie Clarke was a brave little girl”…until she had to get her hair cut. Whenever her tresses reached a certain point and it was time for that appointment, “she would scream in her horriblest, loudest voice ‘Hairdressers are scary!’ I’m never going again! EVER!’” But Elsie’s dad thinks she might like his barber. Boris Lazzario, Hairdresser of Quality reads the business card he hands her.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

The card piques Elsie’s curiosity, so she heads down to 110 Turning Lane. She enters the door to find a very unusual looking boy rushing toward her. He has a comb in one hand and a scissor in the other, and his delighted smile reveals two sharp fangs. “‘A customer! Come in! Come in!’ he exclaims. “Boris Lazzario at your service!’” Before Elsie knows it, Boris has taken her hand and is showing her to his chair, while his cat, a ghostly Jasper, leads the way.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

Before Boris can look at Elsie’s hair, however, she tells him that she is afraid of haircuts. Boris has heard it before. He shows Elsie a portrait of his father, Count Lazzario. “‘Everyone’s terrified of him,’” Boris explains, but “‘he’s scared of haircuts, just like you.’” He plays an old movie for Elsie, revealing that his dad wanted him to be a “proper vampire.” To escape this life, Boris tells Elsie, he ran away and is sure his dad is glad that he did.

Just then the door flies open and the house rings with a “blood-curdling HOWL!” It’s Count Lazzario—not looking very glad at all. The Count chases Elsie and Boris upstairs and downstairs, all the while shouting “‘My son a hairdresser! Oh, the shame of it! You’re a disgrace to vampire kind!’” Finally, Elsie has had enough. She stops and pointedly tells the Count in her “horriblest, loudest voice that he should be proud of his son. “‘He’s not a monster like you,’” she shouts.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

The Count breaks down in tears. “‘I just wish Boris did something that wasn’t so scary,’” he wails. Suddenly Elsie sees how silly it is to be afraid of a haircut. She musters her courage, reassures the Count, and tells Boris he has two customers. Boris shampoos, rinses, and cuts. While Elsie and the Count sit under the hairdryer, they read magazines while enjoying tea and chocolate cookies.

When the two see their new ‘dos they can’t believe their eyes. The Count proclaims his a “triumph,” and Elsie thinks hers is “‘the coolest, most amazing hairstyle in the world!’” As Elsie turns to go, the Count thanks her. He realizes how ridiculous he’s been and even thinks he may “start a new career as a model.” Elsie gives a final wave before heading home to show her mom and dad not only her new haircut but how very brave she really is.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy gedadamson.com

There’s a wonderful free-range silliness to Ged Adamson’s books that brings a smile to your face as you read them. The great thing is that they are based on a kernel of truth, which anchors the story and gives it broader resonance. In the case of Elsie Clarke and the Vampire Hairdresser it’s a fear of haircuts—a scenario I know well from my own son who for a time received his cuts from a very understanding woman who sat with him on the salon’s play rug while she cut his hair. Adamson’s knack with humorous and believable dialogue paired with laugh-inducing action makes the story a page-turner with the kind of suspense that keeps kids giggling from the first page to the satisfying last.

Adamson’s lush illustrations, in a palette of purples, pinks, yellows, and greens, set on backgrounds of plaid tweed, herringbone, denim and other fabrics as well as ornate Victorian wallpapers, offer all the spooky details readers could want from a vampire’s hair salon. Kids will marvel at the old film projector, and the black-and-white home movie of Boris and his dad is a clever touch. Readers will root for cute Elsie and Boris, and have a change of heart when the tyrant Count tears up.

For those times when a fear needs to be overcome—or for any story time—Elsie Clark and the Vampire Hairdresser is monstrous fun and would be an amusing addition to home libraries that kids will really sink their teeth into.

Ages 4 – 8

Sky Pony Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1620879832

Discover more about Ged Adamson and his books on his website!

This Elsie and the Vampire Hairdresser book trailer is shear fun!

Bat Appreciation Month Activity

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I Vant to Eat These Treats! Vampire Goodie Box

 

Would you like your gift of homemade or store-bought cookies, candy, or other treats to have a little bite to it? Deliver them in this vampire box you can make yourself!

Supplies

  • Recycled pasta box (or any box with a cellophane window in it)
  • Black Paint
  • Silver Paint
  • Black felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Red felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet or heavy stock paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Black paper, heavy stock or construction paper
  • Fabric glue
  • Regular glue or double stick tape
  • Hot glue gun (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Paint the entire box silver, leaving the window unpainted, let dry
  2. With the black paint create the pointy hairstyle, with the point descending about 1 inch from the top of the box and the curves ending about 1 ½ – 1 ¾ inches from the side of the box (see picture).
  3. Paint around the sides and back of the box in line with the ends of the curves
  4. From the black paper make eyebrows—these can be pointy or rounded
  5. From the index card make the nose and teeth
  6. I painted the nose darker silver by combining silver and a little black paint
  7. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the eyebrows and nose to the box
  8. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the teeth to the window, fitting them slightly up into the rim of the window.
  9. Attach the googly eyes

To make the cape

  1. Holding the black felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece about 4/5 as tall as the box
  2. Holding the red felt or paper horizontally, cut a piece of red felt so that there will be a ½-inch border of black along the top and sides
  3. With the fabric glue attach the red felt to the black felt. Use craft glue on paper. Let dry
  4. With the hot glue gun, fabric glue, craft glue, or double stick tape, attach the felt or paper to the back of the box
  5. Fold the felt or paper around the sides of the box and attach along the bottom edge with tape or glue
  6. Fold the top of the felt or paper back to make the collar
  7. Attach the bottom portion of the collar to the box near the front edge with the tape or glue.

Fill with your favorite treat!

Picture Book Review