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

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day promotes the correct usage of all those little marks that make reading clearer and more meaningful. Do you ever wonder just how to use the ; and what’s the real difference between – and —? It can all get a little confusing. But misplaced or misused punctuation can result in some pretty funny mistakes—or some serious misinterpretations. Whether you love punctuation, would like to understand it better, or just use it to make emojis, today’s holiday will make you : – ). To find information on the day, resources for using punctuation correctly, and a fun contest to enter, visit Jeff Rubin’s National Punctuation Day website.

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by Mary Sullivan

 

Afraid you’ll never find a grammar guide that’s effective, hilarious, and that kids will want to read just for the fun of it? Your search is over! The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar is packed with rules on punctuation, contractions, possessives, capitalization, tricky homophones, and more all explained with laugh-out-loud example sentences and milk-snorting illustrations.

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Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

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.

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Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Here are two excerpts to show what I mean:

About Commas

“Commas are tricky. They have many jobs. Just like periods they can tell you when to pause, but they come in the middle of a sentence, not at the end. Commas can separate items in a list.”

Example sentences include these:

To demonstrate the series comma: A ghost standing in line at the school cafeteria complains about that day’s lunch offering: “Oh boo! Brains, guts, and blood again.”

To show the importance of correctly placed commas: “Vanessa Vampire loves cooking, her parents, and her baby sister. Uh-oh! Without commas, Vanessa’s family is in big trouble!” How big? Vanessa’s shown stirring up a boiling vat of family stew. The ingredients? “Vanessa Vampire loves cooking her parents and her baby sister.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-commas

Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

About Contractions and Possessives

“Contractions are two words shortened and combined with an apostrophe to make one word. The apostrophe takes the place of a letter or two. / Possessives use apostrophes, too. But they have a different job to do. They show ownership. Where you put the apostrophe can make a big difference.”

Example sentences with accompanying illustrations include these:

A little green ghoul is sitting on his bed eating popcorn and surrounded by trash, bugs, and open bureau drawers: “Ghouls really gross bedroom. (The room belongs to just one ghoul.)” And the same room, now occupied by seven ghouls: “Ghouls really gross bedroom. (Many ghouls share this bedroom.)”

Featured contractions and possessives also show up in the discussions of tricky pairs and homophones, which include “It’s and Its,” “Who’s and Whose,” and “They’re, There, and Their” – a triple-threat that gets a two-page spread of a graveyard dance, where enthusiastic onlookers exclaim, “They’re doing the tombstone tango,” while two newcomers shout, “There they are!” and “Their tango is terrific!” The definitions of these three words read:  “They’re is a contraction meaning they are. / There means at that place. / Their is possessive, meaning it belongs to them.”

A short quiz at the end asks the reader to find the one sentence out of four that has no mistakes – a fun way for kids to show what they’ve learned.

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Written by Leslie Kimmelmon, 2021, text copyright Mary Sullivan, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

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

You can find an Activity Guide for The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar on the Sleeping Bear Press Website here.

Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Sullivan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Punctuation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Punctuation-Word-Search

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search

 

Have fun finding the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle!

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search Puzzle | Pick Out the Punctuation! Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ghouls-guide-to-good-grammar-cover

You can find The Ghouls’ Guide to Good Grammar at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

April 12 – D.E.A.R (Drop Everything And Read) Day

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About the Holiday

National D.E.A.R. Day is celebrated every year on April 12th in commemoration of Beverly Cleary’s birthday. D.E.A.R. stands for Drop Everything And Read and encourages families to set aside at least thirty minutes to enjoy reading together. Beverly Cleary, who recently passed away at the age of 104, gave the world such unforgettable characters as Ramona and Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, and the motorcycle-riding mouse, Ralph S. Mouse. You can learn more about D.E.A.R. Day and find resources and tips for reading with children on the Reading Rockets website.

Thanks to Lerner Books for sending me a copy of Pirates vs. Monsters for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Pirates vs. Monsters

Written by David Crosby | Illustrated by Lee Cosgrove

 

“Three pirates met up at the old Parrot’s Head, / to brag about monsters they’d each left for dead.” Over a few mugs of frothy grog, while the fog rolled in over the pier, Hector took the stage first. His gold teeth glinted in the light as regaled the others with his tale of besting the Hockler, who could “spit globs of poison straight into your eye.” While the pirates were enjoying deep belly laughs over Hector’s adventure, an eerie ship pulled into port.

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Image copyright Lee Cosgrove, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts/Lerner.

Next up was Pirate Sue. She climbed atop a barrel and told a hair-curling story of defeating the Crunk, “‘…a two-headed beast” who’s heads took turns feasting and sleeping. The three pirates were laughing so hard that they didn’t see three shrouded shapes leave the spooky ship. Finally, it was George’s turn to tell his story. Holding his peg leg aloft, he began. “‘The Muncher,’ he snarled, / ‘bites pirates on sight. / He ate my left leg but did / not get my right.” To beat him, George tricked the Muncher into swallowing an anchor festooned with sharp points all around by dressing it up like a pirate scarecrow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirates-vs-monsters-fog

Image copyright Lee Cosgrove, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts/Lerner.

The pirates were rolling on the floor in hysterics when a “BANG!” shook the door. The piano player screamed as in burst the Hockler, the Crunk, and the Muncher. The three pirates ran for their lives from the Parrot’s Head. Hector dove off the pier, Sue took off down the pier, and George leaped through the window.

With grog in their claws, “three monsters met up at the old Parrot’s Head, / to brag about pirates they’d faced and had fled.” But who told the truth and who was a liar while telling brave tales in the glow of the fire?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirates-vs-monsters-hockler

Image copyright Lee Cosgrove, 2021, text copyright David Crosby, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts/Lerner.

David Crosby’s story of three pirates and three monsters who love bragging about their exploits will have kids guffawing along with Hector, Sue, and George as they crack each other up with their tales of daring do. Crosby’s madcap rhymes are a joy to read aloud, especially using dramatic inflection to wring out all the arg-mosphere and suspense of this surprising story.

Lee Cosgrove’s cozy Parrot’s Head, with its crackling fire; wooden barrel tables; swords, swordfish, and skeleton décor; and scruffy piano player is the perfect pier-side hangout for a jovial tankard of grog. Even the dog wears an eyepatch. Images of the pirates and monsters will have kids giggling, and close examinations of the pages reveal plenty of humorous details like the island map on the wall of the Parrot’s Head that looks suspiciously like the “globs of poison” the Hockler spits, the curly hair sprouting from the skull on Sue’s hat that mirrors her own, and George’s heart-print underwear.

A treasure for kids who love pirates, monsters, and a funny story with an unexpected ending, Pirates vs. Monsters makes a fun go-to book for boisterous story times at home, in the classroom, and for public library collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts Publishing/Lerner, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867086

You can connect with David Crosby on Twitter.

To learn more about Lee Cosgrove, his books, and his art, visit his website.

D.E.A.R Day Activity

CPB - Bookworm Book (2)

Bookworm Bookmark

 

For all you bookworms out there who love to read, here’s your very own Bookworm Bookmark to color and put between the pages of your favorite story!

Supplies

  • Bookworm Bookmark template
  • Heavy stock paper (optional)
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print out the Bookworm Bookmark template
  2. Color the bookworm
  3. Cut out the Bookworm
  4. Cut the Bookworm’s mouth at the dotted line. The top part of the bookworm’s mouth hangs over the page and marks your place!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirates-vs-monsters-cover

You can find Pirates vs. Monsters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 15 – Triple Treat Halloween Two Lions Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

Today I’m celebrating three books for the Halloween holiday and beyond that are rollicking reads with excitement and heart. These books from favorite authors and illustrators offer distinctly different stories that bring the magic, wonder, and fun of Halloween and lovable ghouls to life. They include a new adventure for a favorite Little Monster, a spooky neighborhood that’s getting a surprising new neighbor, and a construction crew that builds haunted houses at night. 

Thanks go to Blue Slip Media and Two Lions Publishing for sending me the books for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with Blue Slip Media and Two Lions in a giveaway of all three books. See details below.

It’s Halloween, Little Monster

Written by Helen Ketteman | Illustrated by Bonnie Leick

 

It’s Little Monster’s first Halloween and time to for him to put on his costume to go trick-or-treating. He looks out the window with a bit of trepidation at all of the other creatures on his block—a bunny, a bee, a unicorn, a witch, a tiger, and a penguin. Papa puts the finishing touches on Little Monster’s Martian costume and they head outside. Little Monster grabs Papa’s hand and he reassures his little one: “All set to go! / You see things that are scary? / A pirate, a witch, a creature that’s hairy? // Don’t fret, Little Monster. / See there in the street? / That’s not really a ghost— / it’s a kid in a sheet!”

Little Monster and Papa make the rounds of neighbor’s houses as kids howl into the dark night. Papa tells Little Monster there’s nothing to fear, but is there just the tiniest bit of wariness in his own eyes? At one house a witch is “offering cups / of warm, bubbly worm juice!” Papa says, “Yum! Drink it up!” They pass a vampire and get in the middle of a group of “zombies in chains,” but Papa has a plan to fool them and make their escape.

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Image copyright Bonnie Leick, 2020, text copyright Helen Ketteman, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

On one porch four ghosts are floating around, but Little Monster doesn’t seem scared. Papa asks, “No shivers and shakes? / Oh, I see why you’re brave— / spider cupcakes!” Trick-or-treat is almost done, but there’s one final house—the scariest one of all. Papa points out: “The yard’s full of graves. / This could be tough. / Shall we trick-or-treat here? / Will you be brave enough?” But Papa’s gung-ho and he marches right through the graveyard where fanged creatures lurk. Then “Boooooooooo!!!” a skeleton jumps with a shout. Who screams? Who laughs? Read and find out!

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.

A sure hit for fans of Little Monster and any child looking forward to their first Halloween or who already know what this holiday is all about, it’s Halloween, Little Monster would be a lively addition to home and public library collections.

Discover more about Helen Ketteman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Bonnie Leick, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542092081

You can find It’s Halloween Little Monster at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-that-monster-on-the-block-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-that-monster-on-the-block-Interior

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!

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-build-a-haunted-house-cover

How to Build a Haunted House

Written by Frank Tupta | Illustrated by Kyle Beckett

 

Ghost town is getting a new family, and they need a house built lickety split. There’s just one catch—the house must be built before the sun comes up. The neighbors are game to get it done. The lot is cleared by “werewolf loggers on the prowl.” First, the foundation must be made, but how will it get done? “Over the hill, / a handy rig! / Frankenstein’s / here to dig.” Cyclops and witches help out to prepare the ground. Once it’s ready, Frankenstein’s bride pours concrete. When the concrete’s hard, the skeleton crew is called in to build the frame. Soon the “frame’s up— / it’s a brand-new house. / They’re almost done, but… / Eek! A mouse! The mouse chases round and round. “Hammer falls, nails splash. Bones crunch, toes smash.” The skeletons are scattered here and there—good thing the mummy doctor is on his way.

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Image copyright Kyle Beckett, 2020, text copyright Frank Tupta, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The sun is peeking over the hill, but the house is not quite done. With a lightning strike, the power’s on, and the witches bring their magic spells to bring the house alive just in time for the vampire family to move in. The vampires love their spacious house “‘complete with dungeon!’ / ‘And trapdoors, too!’ / ‘The scariest place!’ / ‘With the spookiest view!’” The monsters are proud of the job they’ve done. Their “big trucks rumble off the site…and sleepy monsters say Good Night.”

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.

Kids who love construction, big machinery, and helpful monsters will be charmed by the jaunty rhymes of the exuberant How to Build a Haunted House that’s perfect for Halloween or any gently spooky story time.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542005432

Discover more about Frank Tupta and his books on his website.

To learn more about Kyle Beckett, his books, and his art on his website.

You can find How to Build a Haunted House at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Triple Treat Halloween Books Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of It’s Halloween, Little Monster, written by Sue Helen Kelleman | illustrated by Bonnie Leick
  • One (1) copy of That Monster on the Block, written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt | illustrated by Luke Flowers
  • One (1) copy of How to Build a Haunted House, written by Frank Tupta | illustrated by Kyle Beckett

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite monster for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 16 to October 23 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 24. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Triple Treat Halloween Book Tour Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vampire-treat-box

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vampire-treat-box-side-view (2)

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!

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Two Lions

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-halloween-little-monster-cover

Picture Book Review

April 1 – Reading is Funny Day and Interview with Author Lori Degman

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About the Holiday

Nothing’s better than hearing the giggles of a child reading a funny book! And thanks to today’s holiday, that sound can echo through your home all day long. It’s easy to celebrate too. Just grab your favorite funny books or find read alouds by your favorite authors and illustrators and settle in for a day of laughs. Or do a bit of both! And if you’re looking for a new book to add to your shelf, check into ordering today’s book for a fun trip around the country!

Travel Guide for Monsters

Written by Lori Degman | Illustrated by Dave Szalay

 

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to travel with monsters from coast to coast across America, then pack your bags and let’s get started! First stop is San Fransisco, California, where we hop a trolley for sightseeing. But maybe before we go on you should know: “While riding on a cable car, / Your monster should be cautious. / The ups and downs of Frisco hills / can make a monster nauseuous!” After taking in all the grandeur of the Bay Area, head down to Hollywood, where you and your monster can do some stargazing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-travel-guide-for-monsters-geysers

Image copyright Dave Szalay, 2020, text copyright Lori Degman, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Traveling east, you can visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona and  take a tour of Wyoming. While there… “You’re likely to get thirsty when you / hike up in the mountains. / Make sure to warn your monster / that those geysers are not fountains.” South Dakota and Mount Rushmore are next on the itinerary then it’s on to Chicago for some “face time” at the ballpark. In Nashville, Tennessee, your monster will love to kick up his (cowboy booted) heels to some down-home fiddle music.

A swing through the south just isn’t complete without enjoying Florida’s amusement parks or a wild adventure: “Down south among the everglades, / your monster should wear waders / when playing ‘Marco Polo’ / with the crocodiles and gators.” If your monster likes swimming, he’ll love the beaches in Massachusetts—just watch his choice of snacks!

While on the East Coast, don’t forget to visit our nation’s capital in Washington DC and New York State, where your monster can get a bird’s eye view from the crown of Lady Liberty and make a splash at Niagara Falls. And when you finally get back home, you may have just one lingering question about your trip: “How will you explain your monster’s crazy souvenirs?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-travel-guide-for-monsters-statue-of-liberty

Image copyright Dave Szalay, 2020, text copyright Lori Degman, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Clever and funny, Lori Degman’s rhymed verses follow a high-interest itinerary across the country and will delight kids, who will very much wish they could join in the ultra-fun, little-bit-risky, and larger-than-life activities in each of the landmarks visited. These snapshots of America take in transportation, celebrity, grandeur, sports, music, and history and will spark an interest in learning more about each city and attraction.

Accompanying Degman’s story are Dave Szalay’s vivid depictions of each landmark, where some of the cutest—I mean most fearsome—monsters sightsee their way to hilarious result. Each image is framed with site-appropriate wallpaper, sporting a shield with the state’s name, a compass showing the state’s direction, and a little mode of transportation—from retro cars to trains to buses to airplanes. Szalay’s realistic portraits of each landmark will entice kids to look up the actual destination, and they’ll love picking out their favorite from among their whimsical travel buddies.

A laugh-out-loud and captivating travelogue for monster fans and monster fans of travel alike, Travel Guide for Monsters would be an often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110373

Discover more about Lori Degman on her website.

To learn more about Dave Szalay, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Lori Degman

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lori Degman Headshot

Today, I’m monstrously exited to be talking with Lori Degman about her book, traveling, and her special musical talent! My blog partner Jakki’s two sons also get in on the fun with a few questions of their own!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Kathy!

Jack would like to know: How did you get the idea for travel guide for monsters? 

Hi Jack! I actually got the original idea from another Jack – Colin Jack, the illustrator of my first book, 1 Zany Zoo. About eight years ago, Colin asked me if I could write a picture book about teaching monsters manners when traveling on public transportation. I tried, but I just couldn’t come up with anything I liked. About a year later I tried again and, instead of focusing on the type of transportation, I focused on location. I wrote the first stanza, “When traveling with monsters on a trip across the nation/this guide will give you tips to have a marvelous vacation”, then followed the same rhyme scheme and wrote couplets about different locations around the country.                                                 

Steve asks: Did you travel to places in your book? 

Hi Steve! I didn’t travel to any of the places to research them, but I’ve been to most of them on vacations in the past. I would love to go to each of them and talk to kids about the book at each place – maybe one of these days!                            

Steve and Jack were wondering: We really like the monsters. Do you know how Dave Szalay came up with them? Do you have a favorite monster?

I love the monsters too! I don’t know how Dave came up with them, so I went straight to the source and here is Dave’s answer: “I looked at the word history of monsters, mythology, legends, and folktales.  I read about the characteristics of monsters throughout history and then invented each monster based on what I learned.” 

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Dave Szalay chats about his monsters with Jack and Steve from his studio.

Me again – It’s really hard to pick a favorite monster because they’re all so great!  But, probably the monster in the Everglades is my favorite.  I especially love his waders. 

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Image copyright Dave Szalay, 2020, text copyright Lori Degman, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Hi Lori! Jack and Steve had some awesome questions, and I love your and Dave’s (thanks, Dave!) answers. I really enjoyed your clever rhymes and the monsters’ experiences. Could you take readers through a little bit of your process of writing this book?

Thanks so much, Kathy!  Once I established the rhyme scheme I was going to use and my plan to include different travel locations (as mentioned in question #1), I started listing places I’d been, like Mt. Rushmore, Statue of Liberty, Washington DC, and some places I’ve never been but want to visit in the future, like Niagara Falls and Cape Cod. Then I came up with ideas of some fun and silly things you’d tell your monster to do – or not to do – at these locations. Some of the locations went through several revisions with different tourist attractions. I think my hometown of Chicago had the most changes. First, I wrote about the elevated trains, then about the museums, and finally I wrote about Wrigley field – home of the Chicago Cubs. After writing the thirteen couplets, it was just a matter of getting the meter and rhyme just right.

You grew up and still live in Chicago. If you were going to take a trip, would you head north, south, east, or west? Why?

Within the United States, I’d like to take a road trip to all the states in the northeast. I’ve only spent time in New York City, Boston, and Washington DC, so I’d love to see all the other states up there. I’d probably go in the fall to see the changing leaves!

In your bio, you say that you love to write song parodies. How did you start doing them? Do you get to share these anywhere? Can you give readers a verse or two?

I wrote song parodies now and then, just for fun. But I started doing it a lot when I decided to write a musical for my long-time college friends and me. I wrote The Sound of MacMurray (our college) using the songs from The Sound of Music. Then I wrote a Christmas songbook for us, rewriting popular Christmas carols. When my friends and I turned 50, I wrote a song for each of them – and they wrote one for me. There are a lot of inside jokes in those songs, so I don’t think they’d be very funny to you. I did write a short song when my friend was diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis. It wasn’t serious or life threatening, otherwise I wouldn’t joke about it. But, when she told me the name of it, I knew I had to write a song about it! The song, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins fit perfectly. Here’s the song:                                                                                      “Hashimoto Thyroiditis, that’s her diagnosis / just a goiter on her neck so it’s a good prognosis / if she takes her medicine, that’s all the risk it poses / Hashimoto Thyroiditis, that’s her diagnosis.”

Just from reading your extensive 2020 event schedule, it looks like you love to meet with your readers. What do you like best about meeting with fans of your books?

As I’m writing this, I’m in my house for the 10th day in a row because of the Coronavirus! Because of that, my bookstore and school visits will most likely be canceled, which makes me really sad. I’m going to try to reschedule them for next school year. I was a teacher for 32 years and I’ve always loved children, so school visits are so much fun for me! I love motivating kids to read and write and use their imaginations.                                                                                               

Did your family take trips when you were a child? Do you remember one that made a special impression? Would you like to share a memory from a trip with your own kids?

Growing up, I had two sisters and one brother and my mom raised us by herself. She had to work a lot and we didn’t have much money, so we didn’t go on many trips. Sometimes we’d drive to our aunt and uncle’s cottage on a lake or to the Wisconsin Dells. The one big trip we took, when I was 9, was a driving trip to Washington DC and then down to Nashville to visit our cousins. That was before they had seat belts, so my three siblings and I squeezed into the back seat of our car the whole way. That was before cars had air-conditioning too, which made it a really long, hot drive.

The most exciting trip we took with my own kids was to London, England. Luckily for me, I won a trip for two there, including airfare and hotel, so we only had to buy the airplane tickets for our kids! Speaking of winning trips – I’ve also won trips to San Francisco and Hawaii! I’m pretty lucky I guess.

Traveling is always fun, but staycations are fun too. What’s one of your favorite tourist attractions in Chicago? What’s a favorite not-so-well-known spot?

I love the Art Institute of Chicago! It’s so huge, there’s always something new to see when you go there.  Plus, they have special exhibits all the time. All of the Chicago museums are really cool!

A fun not-so-well-known thing to do in Chicago is take an architectural boat tour. There are a couple of companies that will take you down the Chicago River and a guide will tell the history of the different buildings and their architects. It’s fun – but make sure to do it on a warm day!

What’s up next for you?

I don’t have any picture books under contract right now but I have several manuscripts out on submission, so hopefully that will change soon. In the meantime, I’m enjoying writing, doing school visits (once they’re open again) and spending time with family and friends!

Thanks, Lori! It’s been so fun chatting with you! Kids will have a blast traveling vicariously with your and Dave’s monsters!

You can connect with Lori on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Reading is Funny Day Activity

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Pack Your Bags for Fun! Board Game

 

If you love to travel, you know the first thing you have to do is pack your suitcase. With this printable game you can stuff your bag full of everything you’ll need for an awesome trip!

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print one game board and set of playing cards for each player
  2. Print one playing die
  3. Players can color their suitcase game board if they’d like
  4. Cut out individual game cards and give a set to each player
  5. Cut out and assemble playing die, taping edges together
  6. Choose a player to go first. Play continues to the right.
  7. Players roll the die to place items on their backpack
  8. The first player to get all six items is the winner

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You can find Travel Guide for Monsters at these booksellers

Anderson’s Bookshop | Barbara’s Bookstore | Between the Lynes | Booked | The Book Stall | Amazon | IndieBound 

Picture Book Review