A comforting Halloween story about children being themselves, even (or especially) when dressed as costumed characters.

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Be The Grapes

A young boy faces a scary social situation in this tale of donning Halloween costumes and facing down bullies.

In this debut picture book, a boy is eager for Halloween and trick-or-treating, including all the sugar that comes with it. He’s also excited to dress up for the Halloween party; everyone in his circle will be there. But while all the other kids are interested in superhero and princess costumes, there’s just one that grabs his attention: a bunch of grapes costume built from big purple balloons. It’s love on first wear, and the boy serenades his costume in joy. But when he walks into the Halloween party, one of the superhero kids immediately mocks him: “That’s a really stupid costume, dude!” The boy hides in a corner and cries at the kid’s mean words, until his mother asks him to look around the room. It’s full of children (in diverse skin tones beneath their costumes) who look the same: princesses and superheroes, all wearing identical outfits. “If everyone were the same, how boring would that be?” asks Mom. The boy puts on a brave face and joins the party, and to his surprise, he enjoys the festivities, just by ignoring those nasty words. Fitzkoff delivers an unusual tale; many Halloween stories are more about ghosts and witches than the experiences real kids have at holiday parties. The rhyming text flows well, though the meter is not always perfect and initially presents a challenge to an adult reading the story aloud. Linehan’s entertaining, pastel-colored illustrations, reminiscent of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts characters or Mo Willems’ Sesame Street creation Suzie Kabloozie, make the child characters easy to empathize with. The grape costume proves especially charming. And while facing bullies can often be far more complicated than simply ignoring cruel words and having fun anyway, the advice to not let a cohort’s criticism ruin a party—and to embrace the things one loves no matter what others think—is a solid start toward building self-confidence.

A comforting Halloween story about children being themselves, even (or especially) when dressed as costumed characters.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-70230-7

Page Count: 28

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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LAST DAY BLUES

From the Mrs. Hartwell's Classroom Adventures series

One more myth dispelled for all the students who believe that their teachers live in their classrooms. During the last week of school, Mrs. Hartwell and her students reflect on the things they will miss, while also looking forward to the fun that summer will bring. The kids want to cheer up their teacher, whom they imagine will be crying over lesson plans and missing them all summer long. But what gift will cheer her up? Numerous ideas are rejected, until Eddie comes up with the perfect plan. They all cooperate to create a rhyming ode to the school year and their teacher. Love’s renderings of the children are realistic, portraying the diversity of modern-day classrooms, from dress and expression to gender and skin color. She perfectly captures the emotional trauma the students imagine their teachers will go through as they leave for the summer. Her final illustration hysterically shatters that myth, and will have every teacher cheering aloud. What a perfect end to the school year. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-58089-046-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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