The Halloween Nightmare

THE ESCAPE OF THE WITCHES

This bare-bones supernatural story still entertains despite its indistinctive quartet of heroes.

Four friends visit a place where it’s Halloween every day, which inspires several witches there to escape and terrorize the friends’ town in Scygiel’s YA horror yarn.

Danny Hays, Bobby Brown, Jeff Casey, and Adam Holmes, all just past their teens, have been childhood pals and next-door neighbors for years in Oak Mill, Michigan, and they crave adventure. A Sunday trip to the local oak mills holds promise, but ultimately nothing comes of it. It’s there, however, that a magical crow spots them and follows them home. The next night, the same crow and a ghost named Charles visit each friend’s room; Charles drops off letters and mischievously leaves their bedroom doors ajar. The missives contain a time, date, and location back at the mills, where the crow and Charles, after having some fun scaring the friends, invite them to the Halloween Village, accessible through a secret room in the town’s Haunted Mansion. The village, where it’s Halloween 365 days a year, is populated by witches and mummies and boasts a wealth of candy. The affable residents tell the young men that they’re there to learn the history of Halloween and the 600-year-old town. The downside is that four witches take the opportunity to flee the village for the sole purpose of frightening all the people in Oak Mill. Scygiel’s short novel is a quick read that highlights all the fun of Halloween. It’s certainly enjoyable, though never outright scary, as nearly everyone in the village welcomes the four guys and the witches’ plan isn’t truly sinister. The author forgoes giving Danny and friends individual personalities, though, so they’re disappointingly interchangeable: they’re all 20 years old, live with their parents, and say many of the same things, such as, “You got that right.” The action is likewise repetitive: each friend is shown waking up, saying good morning to his mother and father, and asking about the open door and letter, for example. Nevertheless, Scygiel ups the ante in the final act as the four buddies determine to stop the witches and take them back to the village. There’s also a hint of another potential nightmare awaiting the friends at the end of the novel.

This bare-bones supernatural story still entertains despite its indistinctive quartet of heroes.

Pub Date: April 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-0595-7

Page Count: 116

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S CHRISTMAS

Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own...

The sturdy Little Blue Truck is back for his third adventure, this time delivering Christmas trees to his band of animal pals.

The truck is decked out for the season with a Christmas wreath that suggests a nose between headlights acting as eyeballs. Little Blue loads up with trees at Toad’s Trees, where five trees are marked with numbered tags. These five trees are counted and arithmetically manipulated in various ways throughout the rhyming story as they are dropped off one by one to Little Blue’s friends. The final tree is reserved for the truck’s own use at his garage home, where he is welcomed back by the tree salestoad in a neatly circular fashion. The last tree is already decorated, and Little Blue gets a surprise along with readers, as tiny lights embedded in the illustrations sparkle for a few seconds when the last page is turned. Though it’s a gimmick, it’s a pleasant surprise, and it fits with the retro atmosphere of the snowy country scenes. The short, rhyming text is accented with colored highlights, red for the animal sounds and bright green for the numerical words in the Christmas-tree countdown.

Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own tree that will put a twinkle in a toddler’s eyes. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-32041-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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