Fall Holidays

   Crisp apples, colored leaves, seasonal celebrations–Autumn is filled with fun. Explore the many aspects of fall, enjoyable, educational, or eerie, with these titles.

Web links to additional information and activities about fall celebrations follow these reviews.

Contributor: Peg Glisson


The Apple Orchard Riddle

Margaret McNamara

Pictures by G. Brian Karas

When Mr. Tiffin takes his class to the apple orchard for a field trip, he throws a riddle out to his students to solve during the day: “Show me a little red house with no windows and no door, but with a star inside.” The audience joins the class in learning about several varieties of apples and how the ripening schedule allows the orchard to yield a crop over two seasons; the correct way to pick an apple; how apples are pressed into cider; how apples are commercially sorted for eating fresh or processing into other foods. As the kids poke around the orchard, they continually test observations against Mr. Tiffin’s riddle. Hmmm, the barn is red, has no windows, but has a door; the tractor is red, has no windows or doors, but has no star inside. It finally falls to Tara, a dilly-dallying daydreamer, whom the class smarty-pants describes as “The lights are on, but nobody’s home,” to solve the riddle. Tara notices that the apple she’s been gnawing deep into the core has five little seeds, and she has the spatial sense to imagine cutting the apple horizontally to reveal the “star” shape inside. Thus McNamara pulls off the double trick of an informative book about commercial apple cultivation, and a sensitive lesson on learning differences. As always, Karas’ paint and pencil smudge kiddie cast is diverse, adorable, and believable, and the focus on trees and machinery clarifies several apple-processing activities. With its solid storyline and additional “Apple Orchard Facts,” this will make a wonderful prelude to autumn trips to the orchard. Review 2013, Schwartz & Wade, Ages 4 to 7, $18.99 and $15.99.

REVIEWER: Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).

ISBN: 9780375847448

Apples and Butterflies

Shauntay Grant

Illustrated by Tamara Thiébaux-Heikalo

Fall books normally feature skeletal trees and crunchy leaves on the covers. This book, however, takes the reader on a different autumn trip to a land of full foliage apple trees. A little girl and her family take an early fall vacation to Prince Edward Island where walks on the beach are different than playing in the summer sun. Leaving behind the “bagged up” leaves at home, the child, her parents, her brother and her dog escape to a place where wildflowers still bloom and butterflies are everywhere in the sky. The refrain of “I want” defines the poetic yearnings of a child not ready to let go of summer’s magic. “I want to go/ go where the butterflies dance like children” expresses the same sense of movement pictured in pastels as the little girl extends herself to dance with her winged companions. This is, however, the time when seasons change and the rural island also has piles of leaves to play in and a jack-o-lantern scarecrow to dance around. I believe that the description of fall leaf colors as “piles of cherry-apricot leaves” is the most beautifully descriptive and color-rich expression I have ever heard. Both pictures and verse capture closeness of this particular family as they build ornate sandcastles, toast marshmallows, share snuggly cups of hot chocolate, and pick apples in fall air with the crispness and color of the fruit. This captures the feeling of a real family vacation, devoid of TVs, telephones, and computers in an oasis of “no alarm clocks and no chores.” Each word of Shauntay Grant’s verse is so carefully selected to create the feel of love, fun, and relaxation, while Tamara Thiebaux Heikalo’s pictures perfectly surround the swirling words with illustrations of matched movement and tone. 2013, Nimbus, Ages 5 to 8, 19.95.

Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781551099354

Autumn the Falling Leaves Fairy

Daisy Meadows

Rachel and Kirsty are two best friends who also happen to be secret helpers for the King and Queen of Fairyland. The girls are excited about the upcoming Fall Festival but when they arrive at New Growth Farm they are shocked to see that the fall crops are dying. A tiny fairy introduces herself to the girls as Autumn, the Falling Leaves Fairy. She explains that the evil Jack Frost stole the three magical objects needed to get fall started. These include a scarf, a pumpkin, and a ruby-red leaf. Autumn changes Rachel and Kirsty into fairies and together they attempt to locate the missing items. Will they succeed in finding the fall objects or will summer just turn into winter? The goblins they encounter along the way make their adventure even more challenging. Readers will enjoy the quick pace of this fun and fantastical book. At the beginning of the book there is a map of New Growth Farm as well as a short poem that explains Jack Frost’s evil intentions. Additionally, readers are encouraged to find the secret word by unscrambling the letters that are hidden in the leaves located throughout the book. Books about fairies are well-liked by young readers and this book will be no exception. It is a special edition book in the very popular “Rainbow Magic” series.

2013, Scholastic, Ages 7 to 10, $6.99.

REVIEWER: Denise Daley (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780545484954

Baby Loves Fall!

Karen Katz

Baby is bundled up for fall. Wearing a green plaid coat Baby sets out to explore his surroundings. Lift-the-flap of a basket to see what Baby finds—a matching fuzzy hat and purple scarf! Heading outside, Baby discovers what fun items can be found in fall: apple pies baking, acorns and a rake, apples on trees, squirrels munching on treats…what’s behind that silly scarecrow? Behind the flap are three pumpkins. Signs of fall are repeated throughout by the color palate and scenery of falling leaves, apples on trees, and windy skies. On the last page, Baby pulls open a barn door to find a big pile of leaves to jump in. “Wheeee!” Includes six two-page spreads with one large lift-the-flap on each right page. Katz uses sensory words (crunchy, furry, yummy) and brings together all the previous items on the last spread. Her familiar style will delight; a fun read during the fall for those too young to need back-to-school books. 2013, Little Simon, Ages 3 mo. to 2, $6.99. Reviewer: Emily Griffin (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781442452091

Click, Clack, Book! A Tricky Treat

Doreen Cronin

Illustrated by Betsy Lewin

The author and the illustrator who brought us Duck for President and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, have struck again, this time with a humorous take on Halloween and Farmer Brown’s fear of things that go “bump” in the night. While Farmer Brown does put out trick or treat candy, he heads to bed early so as to not be disturbed by anything Halloween. However, the animals on the farm have different ideas, evidenced by the mice showing up in tiaras and ball gowns, the cats wearing their best bat costumes, the dogs appearing as witches, and Duck eventually coming to Farmer Brown’s door dressed as Count Dracula. Duck leaves a note for Farmer Brown concerning the Halloween Party in the barn. Farmer Brown races to his barn, only to be confronted by his animals engaged in a “Best Costume” contest. Both text and illustrations provide strong action words and vivid pictures that will certainly delight younger readers. This is definitely a must buy before the Halloween season is upon us. 2013, Atheneum, Ages 3 to 7, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Jean Boreen (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781585366033

The Coldest Girl in Cold Town

Holly Black

In Black’s exquisitely imagined contribution to vampire lore, the creatures have shaken off centuries of clandestine existence and gone public, turning thousands into bloodsuckers like themselves. In an attempt to control their spread, the U.S. government has restricted vampires to ghettolike Coldtowns, where a glamorous, high-octane culture has developed, broadcasting its debauched parties to the world and creating a subculture of humans who fetishize eternal life and long to be turned themselves. Seventeen-year-old Tana wakes up after a wild night of partying to discover that almost everyone in attendance has been killed by vampires, “dried blood crusted on their clothing like rust… dotting their skin like freckles.” Wandering through the carnage, she finds her infected ex-boyfriend, Aiden, and a mysterious, half-mad vampire named Gavriel chained in a bedroom. Escaping the massacre, Tana drives them to the nearest Coldtown, knowing that if she enters, a quick death might be the best outcome. Replete with grisly violence, an intriguingly complex take on the mechanics of vampirism, and well-developed and memorable characters, this superior, dread-soaked tale will satisfy vampire addicts of all ages. 2013, Little, Brown, Ages 15–up, $ 19.00.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780316213103


Samantha Berger

Illustrated by Dan Santat

Crankenstein acts like a monster and roars when everyday events make him cranky. He has a green monster face and roars when he gets up in the morning, when it’s raining outside, or when it’s extra cold on Halloween. Long lines and cough syrup bother him, too. He especially hates bedtime. He responds by making a terrible face and blasting out a yell or two. The only time Crankenstein is any different is when he meets another Crankenstein. They both think the other looks so silly that they laugh together. Then instead of looking like green monsters, they look like regular kids and run off to play on the playground. Very large illustrations playfully show Crankenstein looking green, making horrible faces, and erupting with a huge roar on most of the pages. This is a great book for adults to read aloud to young children who will be amused at the humorous illustrations and Crankenstein’s yells throughout the story. Kids will identify with some of the things that upset Crankenstein. The pleasant conclusion, when Crankenstein runs off to play ball with his friends, is a peaceful contrast to the excitement of the rest of the story.

BIBLIO: 2013, Little Brown and Company, Ages 4 to 6, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Vicki Foote (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780316126564

Fall Ball

Peter McCarty

Autumn beckons in this nostalgic ode to football season, which features an after-school scrimmage among nine grade-school children. In all, seven boys and two girls bounce home on their school bus, disembarking in a safe, tree-lined neighborhood. “Football in the park in ten minutes!” Bobby tells his friends, before calling to his mother, “I’ll be back when it’s dark!” Except for Jimmy, who dutifully rakes leaves, the children initiate a game that is disrupted by Sparky, a mischievous golden retriever resembling Hondo, of McCarty’s Hondo and Fabian. McCarty insiders will notice many such cozy details from past books, from chicken- and rabbit-themed decorations to fond football references. In his familiar pen-and-ink and watercolors, McCarty pictures squat, doll-faced children bundled in woolly sweaters. These same-age, same-size, moderately diverse kids play outside until snowflakes fall and a blue haze announces twilight. As in Night Driving and Moon Plane, McCarty salutes an idealized middle-class Americana, down to the clunky TV on which a cohesive nuclear family watches an evening football game. Grandparents will be charmed—actual children, perhaps less so.

2013, Henry Holt, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780805092530

Five Little Monkeys Trick or Treat

Eileen Christelow

Christelow’s popular Five Little Monkeys enjoy nothing more than getting into mischief, and they accomplish plenty of it on Halloween night as they trick-or-treat with babysitter Lulu. At first, the monkeys are dressed as a banana, alien, ghost, goblin, and princess, but once they’re out on the streets, they start switching costumes with fellow trick-or-treaters, leading to five little cases of mistaken identity. Mama knows what’s what, though. “There must be some mistake,” she tells the five monkeys through narrowed eyes, after they appear on her doorstep in new costumes. “Because I am the mama of a banana, alien, ghost, princess, and goblin. And they are already home.” An all’s-well ending and some Halloween recipes wrap up this gently naughty romp. 2013, Clarion Books, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780547858937


Aaron Frisch

The book Ghosts is part of the “That’s Spooky!” series. This particular volume explains various things about ghosts to how to spot a ghost. Each page has one large picture with a caption (such as “Famous Ghosts”) and a short paragraph in a large font to explain information about ghosts. The “Famous Ghosts” page explains how many movies have ghosts in them, such as Ghostbusters. It does not actually talk about more than one movie…just gives enough detail to introduce readers to the fact that ghosts play a large role in many motion pictures. There are also random words that are in a different color and are in all capital letters. These words are highlighted so that youngsters will understand that they are listed along with definitions in the glossary in the back of the book. This book is just an introduction to the subject of ghosts and ends with “ghosts are not real…but acting like a ghost can be fun.” This helps young readers learn more about this iconic spooky creature without giving them too much information or nightmares about if ghosts will come visit them. 2013, Creative Education, Ages 5 to 8, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Joella Peterson (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 978-1-60818-246-6

Hailey’s Halloween

Lisa Bullard

Illustrated by Holli Conger

Halloween is tomorrow and young Hailey has no idea what she will wear. As she moves through the costume store, trying on various outfits, Hailey tells the readers all about her favorite holiday. She dresses as a dinosaur and a monster as she explains Halloween’s origin among the Celts as a celebration called Samhain. As Hailey dons a ghost sheet, she reveals the adoption of “All Hallow’s Eve” as a church holiday. Pirate Hailey speaks of the Europeans who brought the holiday to North America on big ships. Keeping her final costume selection a secret until the end, Hailey and her parents carve a jack-o’-lantern in anticipation of the big day. Though this title from the “Cloverleaf Books–Fall and Winter Holidays” is classified as juvenile nonfiction, it has plenty of entertainment value for young readers. Children will enjoy the colorful and entertaining illustrations which accompany Hailey’s browsing adventure. With a parent’s help, youngsters may even want to try out the included recipe for “Make It Yourself: Face Paint!” Educational side notes provide information that could be useful in curriculum support, such as the origin of many of our present-day Halloween traditions. The glossary, index, and list of additional resources make this an excellent book for those just learning how to perform research. Hailey’s story concludes with her big costume reveal as she goes trick-or-treating with her friends, and her Halloween spirit will surely be contagious. 2013, Milbrook Press, Ages 5 to 7, $23.93.

REVIEWER: Rachelle Andrade (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780761350835

Halloween Hustle

Charlotte Gunnufson

Illustrated by Kevan J. Atteberry

Told in rollicking rhyme, Skeleton receives an invitation from Ghost for the Halloween Hustle. As he dances down the street, he trips on a crack in the sidewalk, falls, and comes apart. He sticks his bones back together with rubber bands and gets on the bus with other Halloween characters. They stop at some shops where Skeleton buys a pink jacket and purple hat, but he falls apart when a black cat crosses his path. This time he uses tape and twine to hold his bones together. Now all the monsters walk to the party in time to do the Halloween Hustle. As Skeleton dances he trips over a Zombie is foot and falls apart. “Bones scatter! What a clatter! Spine is like a broken ladder!” is repeated after each fall. Now a girl skeleton sweeps him up and fixes him with super-strong glue. Then they dance together. The colored pictures show many cheerful monsters such as Frankenstein, a mummy, and a witch going with him to the dance. 2013, Two Lions, Ages 5 to 7, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Carlee Hallman (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 978-1477817230

Happy Halloween, Brobee!

Maggie Testa

Halloween is almost here and Brobee has not chosen a costume. The Gabba Gang will help him decide. Muno is dressing up as a cowboy so he can say, “yee-haw, pardner, razzle-dazzle and Giddy-up.” Pixie has chosen a wizard costume because magicians have fun, fun, fun. Foofa will be a fairy princess because she loves pink and fairy wings and fairy wands. Toodee has chosen a witch hat to go with her really loud cackling laugh. Wearing a plaid shirt, overalls, and a straw hat turns the narrator into a farmer complete an armload of vegetables. All his friends have chosen outfits that represent things they love. What does Brobee love? He loves ships and treasures and saying, “arrgh!” Brobee will be a pirate. His friends agree that this is a great idea. This sturdy board book with colorful characters appearing in Halloween scenes is sure to be an October favorite for young children. Part of the “Yo Gabba Babba!” series. 2013, Simon and Schuster, Ages 3 to 5, $5.99.

REVIEWER: Phyllis Kennemer

ISBN: 9781442474079

How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow?

Wendell Minor

Halloween is a day that sets imaginations spinning, and Minor encourages some pumpkin-themed thought experiments of his own—while boosting kids’ vocabularies and giving them a brief tour of the U.S. to boot. Minor’s dramatic gouache and watercolor paintings take center stage as he asks readers to consider the possibilities of a nation full of giant pumpkins. “Your gigantic pumpkin could glow like the skyscrapers,” he writes as a smiley jack-o’-lantern perches on the Brooklyn Bridge; “Would your giant pumpkin be boss in a jumbo cowboy hat?” he continues as a pumpkin with star-shaped eye holes nestles among Texas oil rigs. A picture book as American as pumpkin pie. 2013, Nancy Paulsen Books, Ages 3 to 5, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780399246845

How to Catch a Bogle

Catherine Jinks

Illustrated by Sarah Watts

Orphan Birdie McAdam, age 10, is apprenticed to Alfred the Bogler, who uses Birdie’s angelic singing voice to lure monsters out of their hiding spots in sewer pipes or fire grates, then kills them with Finn MacCool’s spear before they can kill Birdie. As risky as that sounds, Birdie loves her job, and she feels threatened when Miss Eames, an academic studying English folklore, starts accompanying Alfred and Birdie on their rounds and points out that Birdie’s occupation makes other Dickensian-era job opportunities for children seem positively wholesome by comparison. This is top-notch storytelling from Jinks (the Evil Genius series), full of wit, a colorful cast of rogues, and delectable slang. The tension-fueled plot moves forward on two tracks as Birdie and Alfred face increasingly perilous confrontations with a variety of monsters, and Miss Eames makes Birdie an irresistible offer—music lessons and a place in her comfortable home instead of near-certain death. What will loyal Birdie do? Prepare to wait to find out—this installment is the first in a projected trilogy. 2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 9 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780544087088


Loretta Seto

Illustrated by Renné Benoit

This is the story of the Chinese Moon Festival, as celebrated by a little girl and her Mama and Bapa. They begin by eating delicious mooncakes and lighting paper lanterns. Then, as she prepares for sleep, the little girl’s parents tell her three legends. The first is about Chang-E, a woman who drinks a special elixir and attains eternal life in the Jade Palace on the moon. The second is about Wu-Gang, a man who also desires eternal life but can only live forever if he chops down a cassia tree in the garden of the Jade Palace. What he does not know is that the tree cannot be chopped down; he must keep chopping forever or die. The last story is about the Jade Rabbit, who is rewarded for his kindness and generosity on earth by being taken by three magicians to live on the moon. All of these stories are told with sensitivity and charm. The large and delicately drawn illustrations in soft, calming colors befit a bedtime story. Little children and their parents will find much to enjoy in this story about families and Chinese culture. 2013, Orca, Ages 3 to 7, $19.95

Reviewer: Leona Illig (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781459801073

Night Terrors

Sean Rodman

Dylan is constantly troubled by screaming nightmares about the drowning death of his younger brother. In an effort to hopefully get past the terror, he takes a job working in a remote mountain summer resort. Then he volunteers to assist with the autumn shut-down; and that’s when things start to go terribly wrong. The sadistic resort manager seems to have it in for Dylan and the other employee, Josh. He assigns them impossible tasks and then slides into outright murderous rage, conveniently after a snowstorm strands the only other adult employee in a town several miles away. The increasing intensity and frequency of Dylan’s night terrors are nothing compared to the danger the two boys now face, particularly after Dylan discovers the remains of an employee who disappeared some years ago. That this all seems plausible is a credit to author Rodman’s ability to develop character and plot right out of the gate, and to maintain it for the duration of the story without seeming rushed or superficial. Although I am tempted to wonder if Rodman borrowed a little bit from The Shining, I think it is safe to say his novella has its own merits. 2013, Orca Book Publishers, Ages 11 to 18, $9.95.

REVIEWER: Lesley Little (Resource Links).

ISBN: 9781459804203

Patricia C. McKissack

Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

The dark palette and the opening lines set the stage for a fine spooky, ghost story. The story begins on Friday, October 13, 1741. It must be true. And yet, wonders the reader, can it be so? Stingy-hearted John Leep leaves his law office to evict the Widow Mayes who is behind on her rent. While riding along on horseback, he hears another set of hooves on the cobblestones. He calls out but no one answers. As he rides through the lowlands, he is convinced that someone is following him. He demands payment from the Widow. As she hands over the coins they spill on the floor and Leep attempts to cheat her. He returns home but is never seen again. Based on an old family folktale, this “jump” story, with its repetitive “clop clop clip clop” begs to be read aloud. Effective use of shadows and light create a spooky atmosphere. The colonial village setting and the realistic faces give credence to the tale. Faces are especially effective. The reader senses the sinister actions of Leep, the hopelessness of the Widow Mayes, and the intensity of Leep’s horse as it races to get him home. Pacing is important in this story, and McKissack gets it just right. Recommended for all libraries. Keep this in mind when looking for a scary picture book for older readers, whether for Halloween, around the campfire, or a classroom visit. 2013, Holiday House, Ages 9 up, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780823422654

Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes

Felicia Sanzari Chernesky

Illustrated by Susan Swan

Chernesky debuts with an autumnal picture book that prompts readers to find shapes in a pumpkin patch as they accompany a visiting family. “Gather ovals! Squash and corn./ Speckled eggs nest in the barn,” she writes as Swan deploys an array of patterns and textures—wood grain, filigree, photographs of hay—in a interior scene with plenty of ovoid eggs, prize ribbons, and corn kernels for kids to point out. Chicken wire hexagons, a triangular slice of apple pie, and scarecrows dressed in polka dots and plaid add to the homey, down-on-the-farm mood, and Chernesky’s bubbly rhymes keep the story moving swiftly. 2017, Albert Whitman, Ages 4–7, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780807565384

The Pumpkin Fair Problem

Katharine Kenah

Illustrated by Tammie Lyon

The triplets want to do something fun this Saturday. When Ana suggests the Pumpkin Fair, Carlos and Bella quickly agree. Once at the fair, they are faced with many choices of things to do. Their parents have told them to stay together. Ana wants to find a ride that goes up and down. Bella spots horses she would like to ride. Carlos is attracted to the band and listening to music. Each child yells a preference in hopes of convincing the other two to agree. No consensus emerges. Ana heads toward the Ferris wheel; Bella wants the petting zoo; and Carlos skips to the sound of music nearby. The bewildered parents look around for the triplets. Then they spot them—riding the merry-go-round which has horses that go up and down with music in the background. The Pumpkin Fair is perfect. Large, colorful illustrations depict a loving family. A Level 1 Reader with sight words, words to sound out, and simple sentences. Part of the “The Saturday Triplets” series. 2013, Scholastic, Ages 5 to 7, $3.99.

REVIEWER: Phyllis Kennemer (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 978-0-545-48144-1

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween

Melanie Watt

Who better than Scaredy Squirrel to educate readers about the safest ways to survive Halloween? In eight brief chapters, Scaredy explains how best to carve pumpkins (don’t use an ax or chainsaw, and “always go with a friendly look”), decorate one’s home (stick to “unscary” black and orange items like top hats and popsicles), pick a costume, and host a party (“Pipe organ music makes a great soundtrack for dancing. The very gloomy tempo will slow festivities down”). And if things get too scary, there’s always the most Halloween-worthy defense mechanism of all: playing dead. The timid and brave alike will laugh their way through this holiday addition to Watt’s series. 2013, Kids Can, Ages 4 to 8, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9781554534692

Sophie’s Squash

Pat Zietlow Miller

Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

Sophie picks out a squash at the market, but not for supper. It is “just the right size to love.” She calls it Bernice, gives it a face, wraps it in a blanket, and rocks it to sleep. She takes Bernice everywhere with her, from the library to the garden. When her mother suggests that they had better bake Bernice before she gets mushy, Sophie is horrified. She won’t part with Bernice; she is sure she will last “forever.” But when winter nears, Bernice gets soft and spotted. So in her favorite place, Sophie makes her a bed of soil, tucks Bernice in, and kisses her goodnight. When the snow falls, Sophie’s father brings her a new pet, a fish. Gradually she grows to appreciate him. But then, in the spring, Bernice presents her with a wonderful surprise. Transparent watercolors and a strong black ink and China ink outline set the stage on the jacket/cover where a slightly cartoon-y Sophie and Bernice play together under an autumn tree. All the double-page scenes and vignettes display this loving relationship. Wilsdorf has covered the end pages with a score of Sophies playing with Bernices in many joyous ways. The heart-warming tale is both sad and happy. 2013, Schwartz & Wade, Ages 3 to 7, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780307978967

Tap the Magic Tree

Christie Matheson

Was Matheson inspired by Hervé Tullet’s Press Here and its concept of analog interactivity? Or is this a case of convergent evolution? In any case, Tullet fans will recognize the sequence of commands that animates Matheson’s creations in her first picture book. An unseen narrator asks readers to take an apple tree through the seasons by tapping, brushing, shaking, and clapping. The commands are in verse: “There’s magic in this bare brown tree./ Tap it once. Turn the page to see.” After following the directions to tap, a page turn reveals a new leaf (“Tap again—/ one, two, three, four”); another page turn reveals more leaves. The bare tree appears against a white background and is adorned with collaged elements in bright colors. Pink flowers appear and fall, apples grow and are harvested by knocking on the trunk, and clapping brings snow, which melts as spring arrives by waiting: “Close your eyes and count to ten.” It’s a good on-the-way-to-bed activity—calming, but still requiring a modicum of concentration and action. 2013, HarperCollins, Ages 4 to 8, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780062274458

Trick or Treat: A Happy Haunter’s Halloween

Debbie Leppanen

Illustrated by Tad Carpenter

This collection of fifteen original Halloween-themed poems offers a playful variety of rhyming verses that mix longer descriptive pieces in with limericks and lists; the resulting collection is both entertaining and chock-full of crowd appeal. Humor abounds (“Can anybody tell me/ (if anybody knows)/ why skeletons aren’t freezing/ when they don’t wear any clothes?”), and the fear factor never reaches beyond playfully spooky, making it a great selection for the younger set. Poems from the point of view of ghosts, ghouls, and mummies are intermixed with tales about ordinary humans interacting with creatures of the night, and the varying perspectives add to the entertainment value. Carpenter’s high-contrast digital compositions are somewhat flat and slick, but they’re amusingly imbued with a retro graphic feel; most spreads are day-glo bright, with a multicultural cast of human/monsterly figures shining out against a dark purple nighttime. The occasional clunky rhyme makes a read-through mandatory before little listeners arrive for storytime, but overall the poems scan smoothly, and they’ll be accessible to a crowd. Make sure to allow time for visiting ghosts and goblins to explore the details in the pages before heading out into the night. 2013, Beach Lane, Ages 4 to 7, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Hope Morrison (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).

ISBN: 9781442433984

Vampires and Other Bloodsuckers

Ruth Owen

In 2013 we are still plagued with vampires. They are everywhere. Starring in blockbuster movies, helping you learn to count on Sesame Street and on breakfast cereal boxes. Who knew that centuries ago when our ancestors told tales of bloodsuckers living amongst us that they would have such lasting power? The strigoi of Romanian legends that needed to drink the bloods of humans to survive have lent themselves to stories and folklore alike. Through the years they’ve adapted from the horror stories of Dracula which came from the inspiration of Bram Stoker in the Nineteenth Century to the romantic lead of Stephanie Meyers “Twilight” series. For many centuries they’ve been hunted by self-proclaimed vampire slayers. So, let’s say that you want to rid your neighborhood of a vampire, you would stock your kit with holy water, garlic, a crucifix and of course, loads of wooden stakes. Maybe you just want to steer clear of them by hanging out in a church or putting garlic around doors and windows. Maybe you’re afraid of becoming a vampire, which happens when a vampire bites you and you then drink of their blood. In the distant past, people believed you could become a vampire if you were dishonest or violent or if you practiced witchcraft. From vampires around the world, to real life vampire bats, to vampire nests controlled by a regent, to burning in the daylight to the irresistible Edward Cullen this book covers it all with sharp, bold photos and straight to the fact text. If you need to find something quick there’s an index. If a word is new to you, there’s a glossary. Part of the “Not Near Normal” series that explains to the reader about the paranormal that just don’t die. If you’re new to vampires this will fulfill your vampire needs. 2013, Bearport, Ages 8 to 12, $26.60.

REVIEWER: Toni Jourdan (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781617727221

You Are My Little Pumpkin Pie

Amy Sklansky

Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

This follow-up to You Are My Little Cupcake gives parents another foodie analogy to express their love for their kids. “Your scent is just delightful—/ Like cinnamon and spice./ Each time I kiss your yummy cheek,/ I have to kiss it twice,” writes Sklansky as Shipman provides smudgy scenes of baby/parent duos baking a pumpkin pie and sharing a tender moment on a city street. A cozy and comforting read with bedtime book potential. 2013, Little, Brown, Up to age 3, $6.99.

REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).

ISBN: 9780316207140

Updated 10/01/13

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If you’re interested in reviewing children’s and young adult books, then send a resume and writing sample to emily@childrenslit.com.

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