TEENY TINY TINGLY TALES

Van Laan (Tickle Tum!, p. 59, etc.) presents a collection of three not-too-scary rhyming tales populated by Chess’s (The Beautiful Butterfly, 2000, etc.) wickedly loathsome, dark-eyed creatures. The first story is of the unsavory Old Doctor Wango, an unpleasant character who has starved his dog Towser, his cat Mouser, and his poor gaunt horse Sam by feeding them just pebbles and grass. He then takes a ride and all are blown away by a wahooing wind. A bit of a let-down. The second describes a gruesome being pulled together piece by piece: “Two legs inside a pair of pants / came bounding down the stairs. / They danced a jig and spun around / Then something else came wooshing down.” Right, the arms inside a shirt, and so forth. And the final installment in this trilogy of horror is an old favorite of the up-past-midnight sleepover set: An old woman is picking peas (the bright green pea pods are as long as her arm) and finds a detached hairy toe on the ground. She buries it and that night the original owner haunts her to get it back. This version is kinder and gentler than usual, thanks to the rhyming and the lack of the traditional jump, but it’s creepy enough for a younger scare. Children will enjoy Van Laan’s storytelling cadence and the sheer fun of the language—and you can’t beat Chess’s ghoulish creatures with a hairy toe. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-81875-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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THE TALE OF HILDA LOUISE

Her parents having ``disappeared in the Swiss Alps,'' Hilda Louise lives with the other 109 residents of the affectionately named ``Chez Mez Petits Choux orphanage at 97, rue Saint-Julien-le- Pauvre, Paris.'' Through no particular longing or design of her own, Hilda Louise develops a ``newfound talent''—floating. One day she's simply swept away, escaping the boredom of the orphanage (``Already she had embroidered 2,357 handkerchiefs''), floating over a field where a painter has set up his easel, past the spires of Notre Dame, into the open window of the painter's studio. The painter turns out to be none other than her long-lost uncle. Hilda Louise gets a new home, while back at the orphanage another child hovers overhead. Dunrea (The Painter Who Loved Chickens, 1995, etc.) has created a tartly written fantasy that lacks any sense of motivation, but the paintings are among his finest ever. Like Madeline-through-the-looking-glass, the scenes are precise and magical at the same time. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-37380-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968)...

MONSTERS AREN'T REAL

Beaten down by a ubiquitous chorus of denials (see title), a monster suffers an existential crisis.

Surrounded by emphatic claims that it doesn’t even exist, a monster sets out not only to prove the contrary, but to establish its scariness credentials too. Alas, neither blasting the world with graffiti and printed fliers nor rearing up menacingly over a baby in a carriage, children at the barre in a ballet class and other supposedly susceptible victims elicits any response. Juggling some cows attracts attention but not the terrified kind. But the monster’s final despairing surrender—“That’s it! It’s over! I give up! ... /  Monsters aren’t real (sniff)”—triggers an indignant denial of a different sort from a second, smaller but wilder-looking, creature. It takes the first in hand and leads it off, declaring “We’re two big, strong, scary monsters, and we’ll prove it.” In truth, it won’t escape even very young readers that neither is particularly scary-looking. Indeed, the protagonist-monster is depicted in the sparsely detailed cartoon illustrations as a furry, almost cuddly, bearlike hulk with light-blue spots, antlers and comically googly eyes, certain to provoke more giggles than screams.

A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968) so discomfiting. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61067-073-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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