October 29 – National Frankenstein Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who in 1818 at the age of 18, penned one of the most influential books of all time. Considered the first modern science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus incorporates elements of horror, psychology, love, abandonment, and acceptance. These themes and Shelley’s enthralling storytelling created a book that is always current. In fact, the monster she envisioned continues to inspire writers to create stories of all types from humorous to the truly frightening – or a combination of the two, as you’ll see in today’s book!

That Monster on the Block

Written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt | Illustrated by Luke Flowers

 

Someone was finally moving into Vampire’s old house. Monster, who lived next door wondered who it might be. He hoped it might be an ogre who would invite him “to swim in his mucky, murky swamp.” Or maybe it would be a “greedy goblin with piles of gold to jump into.” Perhaps it would be a dastardly dragon who would throw greasy barbecues. As Monster practiced how he would say hello to his new neighbor, he watched the movers carrying a trampoline, a unicycle, and lots of trunks.

At last his new neighbor emerged. He was wearing “big floppy shoes” and had “wild orange hair” and “a round, red nose. It was…a clown?” Monster couldn’t believe it. He immediately called the neighbors. “‘Unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh,’” said Zombie when he heard the news. Mummy shrieked, and Yeti roared. They all agreed that the neighborhood would never be the same again. None of the neighbors welcomed Clown to their block, so he went around to each house to introduce himself. But no one answered the door. Clown left notes and surprises at each house and went back home. When monster found his gift gummy worms, he threw them in the trash. Clown, meanwhile, sat on his porch “and waited. And waited and sat. No one came around.”

But Clown was naturally happy, so he perked up his dreary house, played a happy tune,  and erected a tent. “Monster called a neighborhood meeting. ‘This is out of control!’” he shouted. But Zombie was busy delighting some neighbors with the brain cake Clown had left him, and Mummy was having fun scaring up laughs with the mummy in the box she’d gotten. Yeti was enjoying tricking others into smelling her trick flowers and then spritzing them with water.

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Image copyright Luke Flowers, 2020, text copyright Sue Ganz-Schmitt, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

No one was listening to Monster, so he decided to do something about the interloper himself. At midnight, he rattled chains and banged on a garbage can lid. But Clown didn’t hear it. He was out doing good deeds to help his new neighbors. In the morning Monster was awakened by circus music. He immediately picked up the phone, but no one answered his calls. “‘It’s time for me to have a word with that bozo!’” he said. He stomped over, but on the way he couldn’t help but find the music catchy, the smell of popcorn enticing, and Clown’s invitation to cartwheeling class at his circus school at least a little intriguing.

Inside the tent, he discovered all of his friends having doing circus tricks. When he learned that Clown was “zero percent creepy” and lots of fun, he decided to him a chance. He enjoyed the day so much that Monster even invited him to tea on Sunday. As Monster poured out the tea and passed around sludgeberry swirl scones, a moving van rolled up the block. Out popped a…well, you’ll have to welcome them yourself, just like all the other neighbors!

Sue Ganz-Schmitt turns somersaults with the usual tropes involving diversity in her story as it honestly portrays truisms about prejudice and how both injustice on one hand and understanding on the other spreads through a community. While Monster’s reaction to immediately alert the neighbors and hold a meeting seems to get a big response, readers will see that by the time the meeting takes place, most of the neighbors welcome the newcomer and the positive changes he’s brought. Ganz-Schmitt’s well-paced and superb storytelling is loaded with personality, puns, and the perfect light touch that will have readers taking her story and lesson into their hearts.

Luke Flowers does wonders with larger-than-life characters, and his depictions of Monster, Clown, and all the neighbors are pitch-perfect. Flowers sets up his visual delights early with the image of Vampire’s old house, which is gray and foreboding with detailing that subtly turns the stone structure into a bat. Later Clown converts these same details into clown faces that will charm kids. Just as in the circus, Clown makes a surprise entrance, one that little readers will guess at with glee. Snapshots of Monster calling up his neighbors appear to show that Mummy, Zombie, and Yeti are on board with his dismay, but Ganz-Schmitt’s monster-sound reactions are cleverly noncommittal. Add in the neighbors’ obvious delight with the gifts Clown leaves (a full-page jack-in-the-box image will bring shrieks of laughter), and readers will happily be in on the vibe at the meeting-turned-party.

Contrasting illustrations of Monster trying to bully Clown into leaving and Clown helping out around the neighborhood give kids and adults opportunities to talk about important issues that arise at school and in the news. While images of Monster having fun at circus school show his changing attitude toward Clown, when his displeasure seems to rise again with the entry of another unexpected neighbor, readers will see that this time he has a different and more welcoming reaction. (Added note: Make sure to inspect each page carefully for added visual humor.)

A clever story that delivers important messages about preconceptions, discrimination and acceptance with humor and respect for the intelligence and awareness of children, That Monster on the Block is a must for home, school, and public library story times all through the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542005333

Discover more about Sue Ganz-Schmitt and her books and find That Monster on the Block coloring pages on her website.

To learn more about Luke Flowers, his books, and his art on his website.

Scare up some fun with this book trailer!

 

Frankenstein Friday Activity

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Rock Jack-O-Lantern

 

Rocks make perfect jack-o’-lanterns or pumpkins to decorate your home at Halloween or all through the fall! 

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

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You can find That Monster on the Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 21 – Celebrate the Thrills and Chills of Halloween

As Halloween grows closer, you can enjoy all the thrills, chills, and giggles of the holiday with these books and crafts that are perfect for the holiday and throughout the fall.

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Elsie Clarke and the Vampire Hairdresser

By Ged Adamson

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.

Ages 4 – 8

Sky Pony Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1620879832

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Five Little Pumpkins

Illustrated by Ben Mantle

Ben Mantle’s adorable take on the Halloween classic nursery rhyme for babies and toddlers offers cozy shivers, sweet smiles, and cute wide-eyed wonder for little ones dazzled by this spooky fun holiday. Saturated blues, purples, and greens set off the brilliant orange of the playful pumpkins as they abandon their post on the gate to have a midnight romp. The wide grins on all of the holiday haunters—witches, whose brooms paint starlight across the sky, tiny pink monster bats, hopping toads, a bounding cat, hairy-legged spiders, and gauzy ghosts—will make young readers giggle with delight as they roll into bed while the five little pumpkins return home.

Five Little Pumpkins, with its soft padded cover and sturdy pages, is an enchanting book to add to home bookshelves for the fall season, Halloween, and beyond.

Ages 2 – 4

Tiger Tales, 2010 | ISBN 978-1589258563

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The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by Mary Sullivan

Leslie Kimmelman introduces each type of grammar with sound and clear descriptions that will help children to understand what its purpose is and to recognize it when reading and writing on their own. She follows this up with sentences full of puns and macabre situations that will tickle kids’ funny bones. Mary Sullivan then does an outstanding job of reinforcing the lesson with her community of monsters, zombies, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and kids interacting in funny, spellbinding illustrations. Her typography calls out the particular punctuation mark or words of the lesson in red.

It’s hard to overstate how comprehensive, captivating, and educational The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is for its target audience, whether the reader is an avid grammarian or struggles with the rules. Leslie Kimmelman knows how kids learn and what makes them laugh, and Mary Sullivan uses her cartoon-style art to create eye-popping spreads that will get kids lingering to catch all the ghastly details while they soak up the lesson. In addition the text and illustrations on each page can easily be used by teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and other educators as prompts for extended writing practice to reinforce the rules of grammar. The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110953

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Gustavo the Shy Ghost

By Flavia Z. Drago

Flavia Z. Drago’s message of perseverance and courage will remind your little ones that it’s ok if making friends is hard. Drago reassures kids that the best way to introduce yourself to new people is to simply be yourself, just like Gustavo. While the October season can be a spooky time, this book is great chance to bring more fun and less unease about what’s lurking in the night. Not all spooks are scary, and in fact, some just want a friend.

Drago’s illustrations will have you captivated from the first moment you see Gustavo floating a teapot across the page. The vibrant, warm colors throw you into a new world full of monsters and spooks, and gets you in the mood to hear a tale of the lesser-known paranormal beings. The illustrative details – like Gustavo’s family portrait, his handcrafted invitations, and his kitty cat peeking around the door – give the reader so much to explore within each and every page!

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2020, | ISBN 978-1536211146

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How to Build a Haunted House

Written by Frank Tupta | Illustrated by Kyle Beckett

Frank Tupta’s energetic story about building a haunted house for a very particular family will have kids in suspense as all their favorite monsters race the sun to construct the house in one night. Clever monster-talent match-ups, puns sprinkled throughout, and a mischievous mouse will have kids laughing as the monsters work together to build the house with all the trappings of a true haunted house.

With a palette of purples, greens, and golds, Kyle Beckett creates a ghost town where enthusiastic monsters get to work clearing and smoothing a graveyard by the light of a very large full moon. Kids will love the monster trucks these eager neighbors use to fell trees, dig the basement, and stir concrete. As Frankenstein digs a hole with the help of an enormous hand, the ground is appropriately filled with arms and legs and a few errant bones. While the mummy can’t put the skeletons back together, the witches chime in with a fiery bubbling brew that saves the night just in the nick of time. With a group hug, the monsters celebrate their success before driving their machines out of Vampire Valley and getting some much-needed sleep.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542005432

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How to Haunt a House

Written by Carolyn Crimi | Illustrated by Edward Miller

Carolyn Crimi puts an adorable twist on the definition of scary in her clever Halloween romp. Her jaunty rhymes are sure to get kids shrieking with laughter and wanting to join in on with their ghostie peers with moans, groans, stomping, singing, and other ghoulish tricks of their own. Crimi’s solution to how to haunt an already haunted house will prompt readers to do some creative thinking too.

Edward Miller’s action-packed illustrations will have kids giggling as the three ghosties play practical jokes on the unsuspecting families and are rewarded with shakes, shivers, and Madam Grey’s approval. When the ghosties hit on the perfect way to scare the Frankensteins, kids will love all the cuter-than-cute “spookiness.” Fun details and lots of Halloween favorites make for lingering looks.

Full of silly scary fun to get preschoolers and young readers excited for Halloween plus out-of-the-box thinking to keep the fun going throughout the year, How to Haunt a House is sure to be a favorite on any bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 7 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807534267

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How to Make Friends with a Ghost

By Rebecca Green

Rebecca Green’s spirited tribute to true friendship is sweet and funny and applicable to all pals—ghostly or not. Through her ghostly guide, Green reveals that a new friend may be of an unexpected sort and might even be someone who has been invisible to you. Her tips show that embracing a new friend is as easy as saying hi and making them feel important with special treatment, understanding, and sharing favorite activities. Friendships can suffer when two people grow up and grow apart, but Green suggests that with careful attention, a friendship can last forever.

Green’s adorable gouache and colored-pencil illustrations have a timeless feel rendered in soft beiges and grays punctuated with red accents. Green’s clever text is enhanced by images of false ghost sightings, a classification guide, ghost snacks, hiding places and hazards, and the expressive little ghost friend as it laughs, plays, sleeps, and smiles. As the girl grows older, the ghost takes the lead in activities the two enjoy, leaving readers with a satisfying and comforting feeling.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101919019

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If You Ever Meet a Skeleton

Written by Rebecca Evans | Illustrated by Katrin Dreiling

While skeletons seem spooky to the kids at first, Rebecca Evan’s lyrical rhyming prose about skeletons’ parts helps readers to realize they’re not so scary after all. The story contains an underlying message encouraging readers to not be scared of making friends that may seem different at first glance. The story of friendship is simple, sweet and a delight to read. It’s a perfect bedtime story for anyone who may be frightened of (or excited by) spooky Halloween creatures. Treat yourself by getting into the Halloween spirit with this quirky read!  

Katrin Dreiling is well known for her spooky, yet adorable drawings. She says, “the spooky is a fascinating genre to work with because you need to create a certain atmosphere in a spooky illustration. Also, it is very challenging to achieve a balance so that the finished work is neither too scary nor too bland.” Her multi-medium illustrations in If You Ever Meet a Skeleton accomplish this exactly. The skeletons and children mirror each other with the same cute and spooked expressions. With spreads that are fully black and white, adding to the late-night Halloween scene, pops of red, gold and green draw attention to the diverse cast of children and glorious candy details of the story.

A creative tale of friendship and festivities on Halloween night, If You Ever Meet a Skeleton combines spooky and sweet framed by the tradition of trick-or-treating. The story can also provide a fun way to introduce anatomy to young readers throughout the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645672159

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If You’re Scary and You Know It

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Noël Ill

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.

Ages 3 – 6

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701464

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It’s Halloween, Little Monster

Written by Helen Ketteman | Illustrated by Bonnie Leick

Helen Ketteman’s third book in the Little Monster series shines with bouncy rhymes that are full of spooky prowling and highlight the excitement of Halloween while reassuring kids that all the frights are just for fun. Little readers will find all of their favorite monsters here enjoying treats and only a few tricks, which will bring giggles instead of shivers. Ketteman’s perfect rhythm creates a story that’s perfect for dramatic read alouds, and the sweet relationship between Little Monster and Papa will have kids asking to hear the story again and again.

Kids will love spending Halloween with Little Monster and Bonnie Leick’s enchanting, not-too-scary illustrations where—among the witches, vampires, and ghosts—bunnies, chickens, fairies, and other cute-as-a-button characters trick-or-treat under a full moon. Little Monster’s street and the neighbor’s houses are cleverly decorated for the holiday, and readers will want to linger over each page to see all the fun. The spooky graveyard, especially, invites a careful look, as the inscriptions on the stones show that those who lie beneath were more monstrously kind than monstrous.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542092081

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Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Julia Sardà

With atmospheric and riveting details, Linda Bailey captures the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the influences on her imagination that resulted in Frankenstein. Bailey’s use of the present tense is inspired as it reflects the continued currency of the novel while encouraging today’s readers to embrace their “castles in the air.” Facts about Mary’s travels, new scientific discoveries, and favorite books sprinkled throughout the story inform readers on how the imagination combines experiences to create art.

One look at Júlia Sardà’s spellbinding cover tells readers that they are in for an extraordinary reading experience. Muted tones of red, green, gold, blue, and plum cloaked in black create a thrilling backdrop to Bailey’s story. Ghostly winged creatures fly over Lord Byron’s home on a stormy night, smoky monsters emerge from Fantasmagoriana, a frog sits up in its coffin, and the spectre of the monster leans over Mary and sleeps at her feet as she writes her novel. At once spine-tingling and cozy, Júlia Sardà’s illustrations will draw children into this superb story of a ghost story.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770495593

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Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale

Written by Lynn Marie | Illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo

Lynne Marie’s monstrously cute take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears offers up a tale of a family who would love to add another member to play, eat, and work with. When Moldilocks wanders into their empty house and makes herself at home, her discovery by Papa, Mama, and Baby answers all their “nightmares,” and they happily welcome her into their family. Full of spooky puns and funny allusions to monster culture, Marie’s storytelling will have kids howling with giggles. A gently suspenseful twist reveals the deeper layer to this fractured fairy tale—one of inclusion, belonging, and adoption.

David Rodriguez Lorenzo’s eerie and comic illustrations abound with bats, tombstones, spiderwebs, skulls, and bubbling cauldrons, and readers will love the spookily stylish décor of the Scare’s home. But the heart of the story lies in Lorenzo’s depictions of the monsters as a close family and Moldilocks as a little zombie looking for a place to call home.

Ages 4 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454930617

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Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters

Written by Rachel Kolar | Illustrated by Roland Garrigue

These appropriately numbered thirteen verses are cleverly creepy takes on favorite nursery rhymes for little ghouls and booys. Grisly details, eerie backdrops, and plenty of skeletons, witches, spiders, bats, and monsters serve up super supernatural shivers and laughs for Halloween and beyond. A bit of literary fun can be had in comparing these poems to the original Mother Goose rhymes.

Deep purple skies shroud graveyards, gnarled trees, and haunted houses as wispy specters, sly skeletons, and toothy monsters run rampant through hill and dale. Each two-page illustration is a gloriously ghastly reimagining of Mother Goose with details that the zombie- and vampire-loving set will love to pore over.

Whether Rachel Kolar’s Mother Ghost is read in small bites or swallowed whole, kid’s will dig hearing these poems again and again. It’s a book that will resonate past Halloween, and would be a fun addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363926

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Sammy’s Spooktacular Halloween

By Mike Petrik

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 to the experimental tricks to multi-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. The final two-page spread of the family’s haunted barn is a showstopper that kids will want to explore.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503901797

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The Scariest Book Ever

By Bob Shea

Bob Shea has written a scary good book for little readers, who will laugh at the juxtaposition of frightening and cute and the ghost’s examples of “scary” stuff. Shea’s chatty ghost, who sends readers into the woods and then wheedles, scoffs, and chides them afterward, is an adorably sympathetic spirit—one that kids will take to heart from the first page. Shea’s unique style and humor as well as one very cool printing trick that allows for a “naked ghost” to appear on the page will make readers Oooo and Ahhhh. Black-and-blue toned pages alternate with yellow ones to mirror the ghost’s deep, dark fears and the festive reality.  The Scariest Book Ever is not just for Halloween as readers will love the garrulous ghost and the giggly, gentle nudge to try something new any time of the year. Ages 4 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1484730461

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Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals | Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

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. Siddals presents all the spine-tingling  places, characters, and objects that make this holiday such chilling, thrilling fun. With giggles, ewwws, and a few shivers, kids will delight in the original and imaginative phrasing in this clever concept book.

Jimmy Pickering’s vibrant illustrations ooze, flash, and swirl with the colors of Halloween. For Green, a “queasy-peasy” web-eared reptile slurps a “vile brew” as an evil scientist looks on. Purple sparks fly as the reptile transforms into a goblin who leads readers to meet a tricky ghost, a spell-casting wizard, a floating candlestick, a howling werewolf, a dancing caldron, a clumsy demon, and a trio of trick-or-treaters. 

Ages 2 – 7

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

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Sir Simon, Super Scarer

By Cale Atkinson

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.

Atkinson’s 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.

Ages 4 – 8 

Tundra, 2018 | ISBN 978-1101919095

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Spooky Pookie

By Sandra Boynton

Sandra Boynton is always pitch perfect for her young audience, and Spooky Pookie is another adorable addition to her holiday stories for little ones to love.  Infused with just a pinch suspense and plenty of giggles as cute Pookie tries on costume after costume, Spooky Pookie is a little rhyming gem that sets a sweet tone for this trick-or-treat read.

Ages 1 – 5

Simon and Schuster Little Simon Board Book, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481497671

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That Monster on the Block

Written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt | Illustrated by  Luke Flowers

Sue Ganz-Schmitt turns somersaults with the usual tropes involving diversity in her story as it honestly portrays truisms about prejudice and how both injustice on one hand and understanding on the other spreads through a community. While Monster’s reaction to immediately alert the neighbors and hold a meeting seems to get a big response, readers will see that by the time the meeting takes place, most of the neighbors welcome the newcomer and the positive changes he’s brought. Ganz-Schmitt’s well-paced and superb storytelling is loaded with personality, puns, and the perfect light touch that will have readers taking her story and lesson into their hearts.

Luke Flowers does wonders with larger-than-life characters, and his depictions of Monster, Clown, and all the neighbors are pitch-perfect. Flowers sets up his visual delights early with the image of Vampire’s old house, which is gray and foreboding with detailing that subtly turns the stone structure into a bat. Later Clown converts these same details into clown faces that will charm kids. Just as in the circus, Clown makes a surprise entrance, one that little readers will guess at with glee. Snapshots of Monster calling up his neighbors appear to show that Mummy, Zombie, and Yeti are on board with his dismay, but Ganz-Schmitt’s monster-sound reactions are cleverly noncommittal. Add in the neighbors’ obvious delight with the gifts Clown leaves (a full-page jack-in-the-box image will bring shrieks of laughter), and readers will happily be in on the vibe at the meeting-turned-party.

Contrasting illustrations of Monster trying to bully Clown into leaving and Clown helping out around the neighborhood give kids and adults opportunities to talk about important issues that arise at school and in the news. While images of Monster having fun at circus school show his changing attitude toward Clown, when his displeasure seems to rise again with the entry of another unexpected neighbor, readers will see that this time he has a different and more welcoming reaction. (Added note: Make sure to inspect each page carefully for added visual humor.)

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542005333

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The Vanishing Pumpkin

Written by Tony Johnston | Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

The team of Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola never fails to delight kids with books they want to read over and over again. In The Vanishing Pumpkin Johnston introduces an old woman and an even older, cantankerous pumpkin pie loving man who have had their fattened up gourd “snitched on Halloween day. The imps they meet on their search are as silly as the little ones being read to can be, and Johnston’s feisty dialogue will make kids giggle. His repetitive phrasing allows for plenty of interactive read aloud fun, and you can bet there’ll be lots of clapping.

From the moment when Tomie dePaola’s mystical old woman and old man  discover their pumpkin missing and fairly fly off to find it, kids will happily tag along to discover Halloween mischief  created by a green, pointy-eared ghoul, a cloaked rapscallion, a glowing varmint, and even a confused wizard who are a little scary but mostly sweet. dePaola’s color palette provides all the Halloween atmosphere readers expect, and the final spread of the gobbled up pie presents a satisfying ending.

Ages 3 – 8

Puffin Books, reprint edition, 1996 | ISBN 978-0698114142

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Which Nose for Witch?

Written by David Crosby | Illustrated by Carolina Coroa

Just in time for Halloween, when kids’ thoughts turn to transforming themselves into all things witchy and scary, comes a humorous and bewitching story of confidence, self-love, and the courage to be yourself. David Crosby’s clever concept—that witches choose their own distinguishing facial feature as a rite of passage gives kids a lighthearted way to think about their own uniqueness in looks, personality, talents, thoughts, and other traits. Along the way they can empathize with Grizelda as the noses she chooses just aren’t right for her. Grizelda’s pluck in resisting the pressure of the crowd and her mother’s scolding while realizing that she’s perfect just the way she is is a reassuring message for kids who might feel the undue burden of peer pressure or expectations.

Carolina Coroa’s charming illustrations of witches and warlocks sporting prominent noses include plenty of spooky details to keep kids enchanted. As a baby at home, Grizelda’s grandfather dangles a spider for her to play with while a crow sits on his shoulder and a Venus flytrap plant sits on a nearby table. Grown up and shopping for noses, Griz rides a broom, wears a spider in her hair, and completes her outfit with the requisite cape. The shelves of noses, each in its own jar, will have readers stopping to choose their favorites—for themselves, their mom and dad, their siblings, and other family members and friends. Coroa’s image of Grizelda gazing into the shop window happy to have found the perfect nose is cunningly conceived to keep kids guessing until the surprise twist ending is revealed. The final illustration of a confident Grizelda taking her place in the sky with other grown-up witches will delight readers.

An enchanting and uplifting story to inspire kids to be true to themselves, Which Nose for Witch? is magical storytelling for the Halloween season and all year through for all kids on the path to growing up and self-discovery.

Ages 4 – 9 

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867789

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Witches

Written by Cheryl Christian | Illustrated by Wish Williams

Cheryl Christian’s bouncy, bounding rhyme bubbles with the excitement and joy kids feel on Halloween night. Transformed by costumes into witches that want more treats than tricks, favorite animals, personal heroes, mythical creatures, and spooky haunters, children relish the abandon of going door to door collecting goodies, meeting their friends, and “screeching screeches”—and all in the mysterious deep, dark night when they might usually be going to bed. Kids will love Christian’s focus on them and the activities that make Halloween such a looked-forward-to holiday.

Wish Williams’ luminous celebration of Halloween night radiates a glow-in-the-dark feeling that lends the story an element of the fantastical even as it illuminates the traditional fun kids have on this special night. A distinctive color palette of deep turquoise, magenta, green, purple, and orange lit with an eye toward creating an atmosphere of spooky coziness, makes each two-page spread a joy to explore. 

Ages 3 – 7

Star Bright Books, 2011 | ISBN 978-1595722836

Halloween Crafts

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Haunted Graveyard

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Vampire Treat Box

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Acorn Pumpkins and Jack O’Lanterns

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Halloween Mobile

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Rock Jack O’Lantern

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And check out The Hollydog Blog for this Make-Your-Own Ghost Water Bottle Craft

Picture Book Review

August 30 – National Frankenstein Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who in 1818 at the age of 18, penned one of the most influential books of all time. Considered the first modern science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus incorporates elements of horror, psychology, love, abandonment, and acceptance. These themes and Shelley’s enthralling storytelling created a book that is always current. During this 200th anniversary year of the publishing of classic novel, discover (or rediscover) the spellbinding thrill of reading Frankenstein.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Júlia Sardà

 

Mary was a dreamer. She liked to spend time alone, thinking and imagining “things that never were.” Mary called these daydreams “‘castles in the air.’” Mary loved to write stories too, but her daydreams were even more thrilling. When Mary wanted to read and dream, she went to the graveyard and sat next to her mother’s grave. Mary’s mother had died when Mary was only 11 days old.

While Mary loved her father, she didn’t like the way he punished her. Mary didn’t like his new wife, either. Mary’s father is friends with many famous people, and he invites them to visit. One night “a writer named Samuel Taylor Coleridge recites a strange, eerie poem—The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Mary loves such poems.” Even though she was supposed to be in bed, she hid and listened, shivering “with fear at the spine-tingling tale of a ship full of ghosts.” Forever after, Mary remembered that night and that poem.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

By the time Mary was fourteen, she was unhappy at home and causing trouble. One night, when she was sixteen, she and her stepsister, Claire, ran away with a “brilliant, young poet” named Percy Bysshe Shelley. They traveled through Europe, one day finding themselves outside a “ruined castle. It’s called Castle Frankenstein. Such an interesting name! Does it stick in Mary’s mind?”

Eighteen months later, the three traveled to Switzerland, where they became friends with Lord Byron—the most famous poet in the world. One night as torrential storms crashed around Lord Byron’s house, he read ghost stories from Fantasmagoriana. After reading, Byron challenged his friends, who also included a doctor named John Polidori, to write a ghost story. Eighteen-year-old Mary, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Polidori accepted the challenge. But Mary could not think of a good story idea.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Soon, Shelley and Polidori gave up on their ghost stories, but their talk of new scientific experiments excited Mary. “Electricity can make the muscles of a dead frog twitch. Could it bring a dead creature to life? The idea is both thrilling and frightening.” The idea captured Mary, but instead of a frog, she imagined “a hideous monster, made of dead body parts, stretched out—and coming to life!” Mary suddenly realized she had the idea for her ghost story.

It took nine months for Mary to finish her story. When it was published, some people thought it had been written by Percy Bysshe Shelley—they didn’t “believe young Mary could have done it! How could a girl like her come up with such a story?” But she was a writer, assembling bits and pieces, ideas, and scientific changes in her imagination until they turned into the book Frankenstein. In the two-hundred years since the novel was first published, the story has become a classic. It has sparked movies, inspired other writers, and become a favorite all around the world.

An extensive Author’s Note about Mary Shelley, her life, and inspiration as well as Linda Bailey’s thoughts on the story behind Frankenstein follows the text. A full-page portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and a list of sources rounds out the informative backmatter.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

With atmospheric and riveting details, Linda Bailey captures the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the influences on her imagination that resulted in Frankenstein. Bailey’s use of the present tense is inspired as it reflects the continued currency of the novel while encouraging today’s readers to embrace their “castles in the air.” Facts about Mary’s travels, new scientific discoveries, and favorite books sprinkled throughout the story inform readers on how the imagination combines experiences to create art.

One look at Júlia Sardà’s spellbinding cover tells readers that they are in for an extraordinary reading experience. Muted tones of red, green, gold, blue, and plum cloaked in black create a thrilling backdrop to Bailey’s story. Ghostly winged creatures fly over Lord Byron’s home on a stormy night, smoky monsters emerge from Fantasmagoriana, a frog sits up in its coffin, and the spectre of the monster leans over Mary and sleeps at her feet as she writes her novel. At once spine-tingling and cozy, Júlia Sardà’s illustrations will draw children into this superb story of a ghost story.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is sure to spark the imagination of children who love literature, art, and writing. The book would be a thrilling addition to classroom libraries for literature and writing classes as well as an inspiring favorite on home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770495593

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Júlia Sardà, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Frankenstein Day Activity

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Monstrously Good Puzzle

 

See if you’re a Frankenstein scholar by filling in this printable puzzle full of words and phrases about the novel!

Monstrously Good Puzzle | Monstrously Good Puzzle Word ListMonstrously Good Puzzle Solution

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You can find Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review