Share with kids who like their spooky stories more silly than scary.

SCARECROW MAGIC

What happens to a scarecrow under the glow of a full moon? He leads a night of fun and frolic with other nocturnal creepy creatures.

Masessa creates suspense with steady rhyming text: “Hung from a post, a man made of straw / Moves a finger, a hand, an eyebrow, a jaw. // The magic is building. The ground comes alive. / Troublesome creatures begin to arrive.” Readers will observe oddly shaped beings emerging from the soil and appearing in jagged silhouettes on the horizon. Fantastical ghouls of many types come running to join the scarecrow in his field. But a page turn shows him as “He jumps from his post, landing light as a pin. / With a zip and a swoosh, he slips out of his skin.” The double-page spread shows the scarecrow stripped down to his skeletal self (but for polka-dot boxers) and gleefully jumping into the pond. Soon the goblins are jumping rope and bowling with pumpkins and gourds, and each monster hides “while skeleton seeks!” But soon the sun begins to rise, and the creatures must “blend into the shadows” or “burrow down low” while Scarecrow “zips up his skin” and climbs back to his post. Myers expertly paints highly detailed and textured illustrations to bring all the nighttime antics to life. Even though the various creatures look scary at first glance, a closer look reveals their toothy grins and playful behavior.

Share with kids who like their spooky stories more silly than scary. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-69109-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in.

AT THE OLD HAUNTED HOUSE

A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of “Over in the Meadow.”

Although Halloween rhyming counting books abound, this stands out, with a text that begs to be read aloud and cartoony digital illustrations that add goofy appeal. A girl and two boys set off on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. As the children leave the cozy, warm glow of their street, readers see a haunted house on a hill, with gravestones dotting the front yard. Climbing the twisty path to the dark estate takes time, so the story turns to the antics inside the house. “At the old haunted house in a room with no sun / lived a warty green witch and her wee witch one. ‘SPELL!’ cried the witch. ‘POOF!’ cried the one. / And they both practiced spells in the room with no sun.” The actions of the scary creatures within may seem odd, but the rhyme must go on: Cats scratch, goblins dust, monsters stir, and mummies mix. Eventually the three kids reach the front door and are invited in for stew, cake and brew. At first shocked by the gruesome fare, the children recover quickly and get caught up in partying with the slightly spooky but friendly menagerie.

A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4769-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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