Friday, October 21, 2011

13 Books for Halloween: A Poem

from Scott Gustafson's Eddie.
Creeping, sneaking across the pages.
Ghouls and witches, a demon rages,
Thirteen books from cute to scary,
some are gentle, some are hairy.

Half are charmers, picture heavy,
Bone Dog, Hampire, lovestruck zombie.
Monsters prowling, ghosties too,
A few just want to nibble at you.
Or gnash their teeth, spew some goo,
Eat some mold your icebox grew.
For those you'll need a wry-good primer:
To avoid their breath, deter their hunger.

Then it's time for grand adventures:
Longer reads and fantastic creatures.
Goblins, mudmen, tombfolk too,
A beast that quakes from under a lagoon.
Howling clouds with lightning eyes,
Snatching kids into gloomy skies.
Some are there to spook you silly,
Make you gasp, then chuckle, "Really?"
Funny scary, you know the kind:
Ghouls both horrid and undignified.
A parade of crazies, bottled up tight,
With body parts out of sight,
Or balanced where they shouldn't be,
A head held by a demon's knees.

Links to 13 Books of Halloween

from Little Goblins Ten, Harper-Collins, $16.99
 To read my full reviews, click a live book title or scroll down the page.

1.  Bone Dog -- A ghost dog trots down from the sky to save her boy.

2.  Hampire! -- Farm yard animals fear a fanged hog will suck their blood.

3.  Zombie in Love -- A zombie looks for the undead girl of his dreams.

4.  Little Goblins Ten -- Ghouls count up to 10 in a cute twist on "Over the Meadow."

5. Gibbus Moony Wants to Bite You! -- A fruit vampire dreams of biting into a neck.

6. The Monstrous Book of Monsters -- A monster expert confirms kids worst fears.

7. The Undrowned Child -- A girl and Gondolier's son take on a demon in Venice.

8. The Black (Morpheus Road, Book 2) -- A ghost tries to stop a demon from destroying the living world.

9. Seven Sorcerers (Book 1) -- A girl tries to save her little brother from the clutches of a vengeful immortal.

10. The Inquisitor's Apprentice -- A Jewish boy with a sight for magic helps a New York detective capture a dybbuk.

11. This Dark Endeavor -- A teenage Victor Frankenstein searches for the elixir of life to save his twin.

12. The Isle of Blood (Monstrumologist, Book 3) -- A young apprentice searches for a gruesome beast and his mentor.

13.  Eddie (The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe) -- An imp and raven inspire the horror tales of a young Poe.

1. Bone Dog

Written and illustrated by Eric Rohmann
$16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

As a dog comes to the end of her life, she promises her boy she'll always watch over him, then stays true to her word, pattering down from the sky on Halloween to scare away graveyard goons.

In this uplifting, sweet picture book, Caldecott Medalist Rohmann shows a boy confronting the pain of losing a pet, but finding comfort in the thought of his dog's spirit following along above him.

Gus has loved Ella for as long as he can remember; he's loved riding on her back as she charged across the field with a pack of dog friends at her side. But now, Ella's coming to the end of her life and it's time for her to say goodbye.

As a harvest moon slides up over the hill, Gus sits in the grass with his arm around Ella as she tells him she'll soon go away, but that she'll always look over him. "A promise made under a full moon cannot be broken," she says.

2. Hampire

By Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrated by Howard Fine
$16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

A hungry duck makes a late-night dash for a snack, as a fanged beast prowls the farm yard for his next delicious victim, in this hilarious story of misunderstandings. 

Until now, no farm animal dared to step a talon or hoof out of its pen when the moon was bright for fear of becoming prey for a great cloaked hog known as Hampire.

They'd seen enough grisly remains from Hampire's feedings, the sticky red fluid dripping off the grass and the red stains on his canines as he returned to his pen.

But on this night Duck is too hungry to be sensible. The rumbling in his tummy is keeping him awake and all he can think about is snacking on the jelly rolls and ice-cream bowls in Farmer's kitchen.

3. Zombie in Love

Written by Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrated by Scott Campbell
$12.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

A zombie goes online to find the girl of his dreams, an undead gal with chipped up teeth, in this hilarious love story that's as cute for Halloween as it is for Valentine's Day.

Mortimer, a bulgy-eyed fellow with sallow skin and shredded clothes, longs for love but as Valentine's day approaches, he seems to be looking for love in all the wrong places. 

At the bus stop, he offers a box of chocolate-covered worms to a girl on a bench but she scooches away. And when the mail carrier rings his door bell, he thrusts a beating heart in her face, but she cringes.

Even the waitress at the dinner gives him the cold shoulder. "But why?" he wonders to himself. After all he did offer her a diamond ring -- all nicely presented in a hinged box, on a severed ring finger.

Poor Mortimer, he just doesn't have the touch. Perhaps what he needs are a few primers on dating. So, he buries himself in a pile of books about dead dates and graveyard love, then takes their advice and tries to look available.

4. Little Goblins Ten

Written by Pamela Jane
Illustrated by Jane Manning
Harper-Collins, 2011
$16.99, ages 3-7, 32 pages

Playful monsters lurch and moan with all their might in this adorable twist on the nursery rhyme "Over in the Meadow."

Counting up from one to ten are a delightful assortment of little ghouls, each anxiously awaiting their parent's cue for them to haunt about.

Instead of "over in the meadow in the sand and the sun" where animals live, the picture book takes place in a forest "where the trees hide the sun" and dark beasts play.

5. Gibbus Moony Wants to Bite You

Written by Leslie Muir
Illustrated by Jen Corace
Atheneum, 2011
$15.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages

When a little vampire wiggles out his baby fangs and sees the tips of big ones coming in, he flaps his wings in glee. Now, at last, he can bite something.

And not just anything. Gibbus Moony wants to sink his teeth into a nice juicy neck. The problem is, necks aren't what Moonys bite -- unless they're those of pears.

"We're fruit suckers, my boy," corrects Grandpa Waxing Mooney, a Wilfred Brimley-like fellow in an argyle-print sweater. "and proud of it."

That means, according to his prim-dressed Dad, Moonys are nectarians. "Not to be confused with those other vampire relatives," he adds, referring to portraits of caped bloodletters on the wall.

But as Gibbus flaps around in his cape, he hears only what he wants to hear, and adds a "k" to "nec" in nectarian. "I'm a necktarian!" he cries, dashing off to find his first victim.

6. The Monstrous Book of Monsters

Written by Libby Hamilton
Illustrated by Jonny Duddle
and Aleksei Bitskoff
Templar, 2011
$17.99, ages 5-8, 20 pages

As the scariest night of all nights approaches, here's a book to confirm your children's worst fears: the existence of monsters all around them.

Dr. Thomas Jelly, the book's fictional narrator, warns readers, "Don't be fooled," things do go bump in the night and all those sensible people who claim they don't, had better wise up fast…or else.

Just look at the bite taken out of the cover of Jelly's book -- and what about that big jiggling eye at the top? If that's not enough, Jelly offers plenty of flaps and fold-outs to get skin tingling (or should we say, get readers giggling?).

7. The Undrowned Child

Written by Michelle Lovric
$17.99, ages 9-12, 464 pages

When a magical book falls onto Teo's head, the 11-year-old orphan is thrust on a quest to save Venice from a vengeful ghost and his band of mutilated spirits, in this imaginative, brilliant debut.

Teo, who has lived in Naples as long as she can remember, has always yearned to go to Venice and now her adoptive parents have finally invited her to go as they research a troubling presence in the city of canals.

One day, while exploring the city, Teo wanders into an old bookstore and is knocked to the floor when a tome called, "The Key to the Secret City," tumbles off a shelf.

Just before Teo is taken to the hospital, the bookseller slips her the book. When she awakens in her hospital room, she discovers the book is still with her, and there's a menacing wooden statue near her bed.

The statue, put there by some mysterious force haunting the city, is bleeding from its mouth and seems to be coming to life. Suddenly, Teo loses consciousness and disappears.

8. The Black

Morpheus Road, Book 2
Written by D. J. MacHale
Aladdin, 2011
$17.99, ages 12 and up, 416 pages

A murderous spirit will stop at nothing to find a medieval battle-ax and wreak havoc on the Light, the land of the living, in this thrill-ride-of-a-book, the second in the popular Morpheus Road trilogy.

In this clever followup, author D. J. MacHale replays the events of the first book through the eyes of Marshall Seaver's dead friend Cooper Foley and reveals how those events were shaped from the Black, a weigh station for the dead on their final journey to the hereafter.

Cooper, who drowned in the first book The Light, arrives in the Black to discover he's entered a place of redemption, where dead people can make amends for mistakes they made in life. Whether they choose to better themselves determines whether they get to move on or they're condemned to oblivion.

There, he discovers that he can return to visions of his home as he remembers it, but no one who is still alive will be there with him, only those who are dead. He sees Gramps, his late grandfather, who has his own troubles to work through, and quickly discovers tensions brewing in the Black.

9. Seven Sorcerers

Written by Caro King
Aladdin, 2011
$15.99, ages 9-12, 352 pages

Ninevah Redstone fights off rabid clouds and death itself as she searches for her little brother Toby, who's been snatched by a bogeyman, in this first book in a magical new series from Britain.

One morning 11-year-old "Nin" wakes to discover Toby is gone, along with any trace that he ever existed, and the same shadowy beast that took Toby and his "memory pearls" (memories of his existence) is now after her.

The beast, Bogeyman Skerridge, has just erased Nin from her parents' memory and is about to stuff her in his bag, when she does what no child has ever done before: she gives Skerridge the slip.

As Nin escapes his grasp and runs out of her house, a thin, roughly dressed boy named Jonas calls out to her to follow him and leads her along a burned house to a gateway to a magical land called the Drift.

10. The Inquisitor's Apprentice

Written by Chris Moriarty
Illustrated by Mark Edward Geyer
Harcourt, 2011
$16.99, ages 9-12, 356 pages

A Jewish boy is plucked from the tenements of New York's Lower East Side to help catch magical criminals, only to find that he has to investigate the very people he loves, in this imaginative story set in the 1880s.

When 13-year-old Sacha blurts out that he sees his neighbor doing magic, the New York Police Department handpicks him to be an apprentice to their top detective, Inquisitor Maximillian Wolf, charged with preventing the misuse of magic.

This New York City is a magical melting pot, where every ethnic group has its own witchcraft and magic gangs. Although it is not illegal to be a wizard or Kabbalist, it is against the law to use magic for ill and the powers-that-be try to curb magic when they see fit, sometimes to their advantage.

J.P. Morgaunt, a manufacturing tycoon, wants to make magic obsolete for the working class so he can sell more machines. Without magic to do get things done, workers would have to rely on mechanical means. But he also thinks wizards like himself are above the law and should be allowed to use magic whenever they see fit.

Right from the start, Sacha finds himself in the thick of a criminal investigation. He and fellow apprentice, Lily Astral, are assisting Wolf in a high-profile case involving the attempted assassination of Thomas Edison, the Wizard of Luna Park. And the alleged culprit? A dybbuk. The demon from Jewish folklore who takes over a human body.

11. This Dark Endeavor

Written by Kenneth Oppel
$17.99, ages 12 and up, 304 pages

When twin brother Konrad falls ill, 15-year-old Victor scrambles to find an elixir of life to save him and awakens his obsession for alchemy, in this grim and marvelous take on Frankenstein's youth.

Victor, born just minutes after Konrad, has always felt inferior to him, in schoolwork even sword play, but now Konrad is sick and doctors are bleeding him pale with leeches. As Konrad sees it, it's up to him to save Konrad, and to do that he must turn to darker means. 

Against his father's wishes, Victor, his cousin Elizabeth and their friend Henry sneak into a forbidden lab deep beneath the Frankenstein castle for answers, and discover a book of ancient spells with a cryptic recipe for eternal life.

12. The Isle of Blood

The Monstrumologist, Book 3
Written by Rick Yancey
$18.99, ages 14 and up, 560 pages

Torn between the dark world of monster biology and his loathing of it, Will Henry must decide how far he's willing to go to save his mentor, in this third and final book in the riveting series Monstrumologist.

Over the last three years Will has transformed from a naive orphan to the world-weary apprentice to a monstrumologist, and felt his conscience waver and even go numb in the presence of all manner of dissections on the necropsy table.

Now, with the arrival of gruesome package at Dr. Warthrop's house, 13-year-old Will begins to confront his morality once and for all. Inside the package is a nest fashioned from human remains that, if touched, turns man into a monster.

13. Eddie

The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe
By Scott Gustafson
Simon & Schuster, 2011
$15.99, ages 8-12, 208 pages

Imagine a demon filling a boy's head with dark thoughts and that boy using them to write some of the greatest horror stories ever written, and you have the basis of Scott Gustafson's marvelous biography of young Edgar Allan Poe.

Spinning the truth into a fantastic narrative, Gustafson imagines a young Poe listening to and engaging a real-life Imp of Perverse as he writes his first horror stories and poems. At his side is also a talking Raven who tries to moderate the imp's wily influence.

An Imp of Perverse, as Poe fans will remember from his short story by the same name, is a spirit who causes people to commit morally questionable acts. Here, however, the imp, named McCobber, doesn't corrupt Poe into doing dangerous things, but rather gives him fodder for his imagination.

The tiny goblin-like spirit shows up on Poe's shoulder the night his childhood begins to unravel. Poe's father is drunk, and he's slipped into Poe's bedroom to kiss him goodbye before deserting his family. At that moment, the imp jumps from father to son, a bitter-sweet gift that will change Poe's life forever.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Monsters To Make Them Giggle

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters, (A Lullaby), written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, Candlewick Press, $14.99, ages 3-5, 32 pages, 2011. Two plump little monsters with cone-shaped horns creep and crawl, snarl and snarf their way to bedtime in this adorable picture book by the author of Caldecott Medal-winning Owl Moon. Like human children, the monsters go and go and go until their eyes just get too heavy to hold open. On the way home from school, through dinner and baths, they bounce and giggle, and when it's time to go to their caves, they wiggle and squirm, do anything they can to stay awake, only to be tricked into sleep by their own tired bodies as they sink into bed.

Frangoline and the Midnight Dream, written by Clemency Pearse, illustrated by Rebecca Elliott, Chicken House, $16.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages, 2011. Frangoline does as she is told -- except in the deepest dark of night. When all the world is sleeping tight, Frangoline puts on her velvet cape and a mischievous grin, and slips out of her bedroom window to prowl in the shadows. The moon, full overhead, sees her siren-red hair glisten in its glowing light, and is filled with fear and dread: "Little ones should be in bed!" it cries, warning Frangoline to go back inside. But Frangoline is a little minx and snaps back, "I'll do exactly as I please." But what will this precocious girl do when things begin to chase her and there's nowhere on Earth left to hide? Pearse's debut is a delicious tale about the folly of sneaking around at bedtime.

Count Dagmar!, written and illustrated by J. otto Siebold, Chronicle Books, $8.99, ages baby and up, 20 pages, 2011. Dagmar, the sugar-loving vampire from Vunce Upon a Time, invites readers to count up all of the things he needs for a spooky fun party in this sweet, lift-the-flap board book. The countdown begins with Dagmar's party place, a haunted castle behind a black cloud, and ends with ten (or is that 10 billion?) of his favorite candies, spilling out from behind a coffin. Being a vegetarian, Dagmar also needs to round up three vegetables from behind a flower pot, and of course, he's got lots of silly friends to invite, including fuzzy bats, fluttery owls and the spirits of the party, a band of chubby-cheeked ghosts.

Ten Little Beasties, written by Rebecca Emberley, illustrated by Ed Emberley, Roaring Brook Press, $12.99, ages 2-6, 32 pages, 2011. Black-and-white beasts dance their way to ten and back in this entrancing book of movements and shapes. From the granddaughter-grandfather team that brought us There Was an Old Monster! comes a frenetic, fun book of counting beasts. The book begins with a scalloped monster with floppy legs, then adds in a hovering creature with bat wings, and a snake with Chicklet teeth and an oversized eye. As the pages fill up, readers' eyes dart faster and faster, trying to keep track of where each beast has moved to. By mid book, a naughty beastie with a crocodile jaw begins to gobble everyone up until the only ones left are him and a little triangular beastie. But will this tiny guy be any match? For more fun, download Rebecca's song to the book at

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Century Later: The Secret Garden

Illustrated by Robert Ingpen, Sterling, $19.95 (hbk)
Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved tale of a neglected girl and the secret garden that transforms her life and the lives of her uncle and ill cousin turns 100 this year.

Published in 1911, The Secret Garden is the story of 10-year-old Mary Lennox, who goes to live with her reclusive uncle after her parents' death and restores a garden that inspires them all.

As she tends the garden, Mary transforms from a standoffish, sour girl who never knew love to a caring niece who helps her uncle overcome grief and her unhappy cousin find the hope to get better.

In celebration of its centennial year, I've posted two beautiful new editions of the book, one illustrated by the inimitable Robert Ingpen and the other with cover art by needlepoint artist Jillian Tamaki, along with favorite quotes and a fun fact.

Both of the following quotes are from Chapter 23, "Magic," after the garden comes alive and Mary, her friend Dickon and her wheelchair-bound cousin Colin are brimming with joy at seeing the plants burst to life:

Cover embroidery by Jillian Tamaki, Penguin, $16 (pbk)
The first describes the return of roses to the secret garden and echoes the positive feelings growing inside Mary and Colin as each realizes that thinking good thoughts can makes their lives happier.

"Rising out of the grass, tangled round the sun-dial, wreathing the tree trunks and hanging from their branches, climbing up the walls and spreading over them with long garlands falling in cascades -- they come alive day by day, hour by hour. Fair fresh leaves, and buds -- and buds -- tiny at first but swelling and working Magic until they burst and uncurled into cups of scent delicately spilling themselves over the brims and filling the garden air."

The second one is a quote from Colin. Once cross and self-pitying, he is now bursting with hope, as he watches buds determinedly push their way up through the soil in his late mother's garden.

"'Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,' he said wisely one day, ' but people don't know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.' "

And lastly, here's a fun fact about the book:

The working title for The Secret Garden was actually Mistress Mary, as Mary's obstinate demeanor at the beginning matched the personality of the character in the English nursery rhyme Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mo Shows His Metal

Photo by Kristin Angel @2011 The Eric Carle Museum
Mo Willems, the beloved creator of the Knuffle Bunny books, scales his art to new heights -- 5 feet to be exact -- with "The Red Elephant."

The 1,500-pound sculpture, designed by Willems and sculpted by artisan Sam Ostroff, was installed this Saturday at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.

"I began my career making small wire sculptures which somehow led to a life as a children's book maker," Willems said. "So the opportunity of combining my passions and placing a large sculpture at a picture book museum is too awesome to pass up."

Willems is also the author and illustrator of the Elephant and Piggie readers, and the acclaimed picture books Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Leonardo the Terrible Monster.