Friday, October 21, 2011

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.

The rhyme, as much for Halloween as for learning to count, begins with one adorable little monster with a green horn on the top of his head and orange spotted ears that flop down from his hair like a rabbit's.

He's standing in front of his big mommy monster and he's at the ready: his legs are planted apart and his eyes are searching hers, waiting for her to tell him what he can do.

As readers turn the page to the next spread, Mommy Monster's one-tooth grin broadens, she arcs her arms over her head and she lumbers forward, making like she's going to get her little monster.

"'Scare!' said the mommy; / 'I scare,' said the one. / So he scared and he scampered / Where the trees hide the sun."

With each spread comes another refrain in the countdown and another family of cuddlesome monsters doing what they do best.

Next, two little ghosts peek over at Daddy Ghost with a mischievous sparkle in their eyes, and excitedly wait for him to cry out for them to start haunting.

Then it's off to the gnarled oak tree where old mother zombie shuffles forward with her tongue hanging out and bony purple arms stretched out in front of her.

"Stare!" she cries, as three little zombies begin creeping about with big lizard eyes and sprays of hair sticking out like ponytails from their balding purple heads.

Next, four little wolvies in baggy shorts and suspenders get their cue to howl, five little pigeon-toed mummies moan and six little witches with pointy shoes cackle.

Then it's on to seven little dragons with tufts of fur on their heads breathing fire, eight little skeletons dancing in their bones and nine goofy-grinned batties swooping out of a tree.

Finally, it's time for those ten little monsters from the title to make their rousing debut.

With some straddling the branch of a tree and others sitting cross-legged, the little green goblins look sidelong at their father, trying to anticipate the moment he'll give the word.

With a turn of the page, all ten jump forward off the branch at once. "'Leap!' said the father; / 'We leap,' said the ten. / So they laughed and they leaped / In the deep dark glen."

Every little monster bubbles with joy; their love of play is as infectious as it is among Maurice Sendak's animals in Else Holmelund's Little Bear series.

And the rhymes are so fun they quickly stick in readers' heads. In fact, readers may never want to go back to singing about meadow creatures again, though I must admit toadie is still awfully cute.

Now, if we can just use this charmer to get our little readers to listen to us better…

Hmm. Perhaps after reading Ten Little Goblins, we could add something like, "My, did you notice how those monsters waited so nicely for their parents?"

(Best of luck with that, mommy and daddy humans.)

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