Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cybils Nominations: Halloween picture books

I have a little selection of monster/witch/Halloween-themed Cybils nominations for this Halloween day!

First, there's Lisa Brown's Vampire Boy's Good Night. The premise of the story is familiar - a vampire and witch child enter the human world and attend a Halloween party, where everyone thinks they're costumed as what they really are. The fun is in the many gruesome details, from the titles of the books in vampire Bela's tower to the bandaid on the butler's neck. The illustrations are beautifully designed and executed. This is a good choice to add to your Halloween collections or for a scary storytime for older preschoolers or kindergarteners. You could use it with smaller children, who won't pick up on the scary details, but they probably won't understand what a vampire is and older children might find the tone of the book a little childish.

ISBN: 9780061140112; Published July 2010 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from the library

Next, we have the latest installment in the Splat series, Scaredy-Cat, Splat! by Rob Scotton. Splat is excited about the school Halloween party and desperately wants to be the scariest cat of all. But Splat just isn't scary...or is he?

This is a cute series with lots of popular appeal. The cartoon illustrations and bulging eyes of the characters are very humorous and Splat's stories convey a lot of familiar childhood fears and worries in a sympathetic way. A good choice for your holiday shelves and Halloween storytimes.

ISBN: 9780061177606; Published August 2010 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Tammi Sauer's Mostly Monsterly, illustrated by Scott Magoon, is a delightful twist on two familiar monster tropes - the unexpectedly nice monster and the monster who is too nice to fit in with other monsters. Bernadette is "mostly monsterly" on the outside, but on the inside, she's....just too nice. Can Bernadette be monsterly enough to fit in?

Her gruesome solution is ickily perfect, combining her own sweet side and the monsterness her class demands. The clean illustrations have a delicious blend of gross and pretty, with lots of little funny jokes and a sympathetic depiction of Bernadette herself. This is a more general monster book and I'd recommend it for your general picturebook collection, not the holiday section.

ISBN: 9781416961109; Published August 2010 by Simon & Schuster; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

In Helen Ketterman's Goodnight, Little Monster, illustrated by Bonnie Leick, a large, furry monster baby gets ready for bed. His familiar night-time rituals include picking bugs out of his ears, finding his stuffed slug, and getting his hair tangled. The conceit doesn't really hold up, since the monster has a very thorough bath, which doesn't match getting his hair tangled. One would also expect the monster to be afraid of the light not the dark. The rhyming text and lots of sentimental mommy-and-monster interaction feels like it's aimed at a very young crowd, but the emphasis on eating bugs (lots and lots of dead beetles) and the gruesome details of the illustrations (the monster's night light is an eyeball) would be more appropriate for older children. If you have very small children who want "really scary stories" this might be a good selection. There are plenty of monster bedtime books though, from Where's My Mummy by Carolyn Crimi to I need my monster by Amanda Noll. This is an additional purchase for library collections.

ISBN: 9780761456834; Published August 2010 by Marshall Cavendish; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

The Cold Water Witch by Yannick Murphy, illustrated by Tom Lintern isn't really Halloween fare, but it has a fairly creepy witch, so it's going in this stack. An evil and yet rather enchanting icy queen attempts to lure a little girl into coming with her to her frozen kingdom. In a series of clever tricks, the little girl outsmarts the witch and finally melts her completely, revealing the lonely little girl trapped inside.

There are some strong passages in the story; some of the language describing the cold lands is lovely and the little girl has some brisk and funny dialogue. The plot is weak though - the cold water witch's sudden melting doesn't make sense, since earlier in the story the little girl was trapped when she touched the witch, then the second time the witch is melted. The fairy tale elements such as pushing the witch into the refrigerator instead of the oven, are clever but there are too many different parts to the story that don't fit well together.

The illustrations fit the storyline well - Lintern's pencil and Photoshop technique creates lacy art that's perfect for the icy landscapes and characters, as well as giving the little girl a simultaneously realistic and fanciful air. An additional purchase if you need more quasi-fairy tale stories.

ISBN: 9781582463308; Published August 2010 by Tricycle Press; Borrowed from the library

Broom, Zoom! by Caron Lee Cohen, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier. I think the main appeal of this very simple story, at least in most of the reviews I've looked at, is Sergio Ruzzier's art. Since I don't find his art attractive (heh, that sounds like I'm trying to date it) this book didn't really work for me. There's only a few lines of text, varying on "I want it" and "I need it" as a little witch and a monster fight over a broom. Their fight is resolved when they share the broom to clean up a mess and then fly off towards the moon. This simple story would probably work well with toddlers. A good choice if you need additional Halloween books or titles suitable for young listeners.

ISBN: 9781416991137; Published August 2010 by Simon & Schuster; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

Last title! AlphaOops! H is for Halloween by Alethea Kontis, illustrated by Bob Kolar is the sequel to the first AlphaOops! book, The Day Z Went First. In this story, the alphabet letters are once again putting on a production, and each letter has a scary Halloween thing they're representing - except poor letter B. Lots of little jokes, emphasis on various sounds and letters, and attractive digital illustrations make this book a sound choice for your core Halloween collection at the library.

ISBN: 9780763639662; Published July 2010 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

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