Veteran Bauer sends an intrepid trick-or-treater into a deliciously creepy forest full of fantastical frights and rattling menaces.
Any child with a sense of adventure, keen eye and touch of courage will eagerly follow the unmetered rhyming text that takes this black-caped child deep into a forest of bones on Halloween. The verse propels both the character and readers forward through each taunting spread. “Bat bones, / cat bones, / rat bones and all are / looking at / YOU.” “Take care! / Beware! / Despair! / You can bet / you’ve just met / your worst nightmare!” But the observant explorer carefully sidesteps such scariness and instead shouts “ ‘BOO!’ / or ‘POOH!’ / or even ‘WAHOO!’ ” and then dramatically reveals a skeleton costume underneath the cloak. Now the skeletal creatures turn from frightening to welcoming as the child raises a bright orange sack declaring, “Trick or treat! / Smell my feet! / Give me something / good to eat!” Shelley’s superbly detailed illustrations in pen, India ink and watercolor help build suspense as the child goes from the city into the intricately twining bony landscape. A dusky palette dominated by grays and muted pastels turns brighter when the child’s spunky confidence is revealed.
Elegantly designed, this collaboration shows a great respect for children’s sensibilities regarding the fine lines between fear, fun and bravery. This title should be at the top of the book pile come autumn. (Picture book. 3-6)