Ack! Shivers down my back—is that a black widow going on a stroll on my tingling neck?! Oh no, it’s just happy shivers because it’s the month of Halloween. It’s a time that brings out some wonderful picture books, some creepy and some just wacky fun.
From the Patterson Picks archives, don’t forget about The Halloween Kid and Dying to Meet You in the 43 series.The Hallo-Wiener is a family favorite by Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame. Oscar, a dachshund, is dressed up by his mom as a giant hot dog in a bun. His mom is so excited about the costume he doesn’t have the heart to say no to this awful getup. So his friends tease him on Halloween night. Worse yet, he can’t keep up with them in his cumbersome costume. But then a hideous black monster with a pumpkin head chases all his dog friends into a lake. Naturally Oscar saves the day. I can’t tell you the ending. But suffice it to say a couple sneaky cats are brought to justice.
Ready to move around? It’s time to Shake Dem Halloween Bones! This is a 1997 Scholastic paperback written oh-so-infectiously by W. Nikola-Lisa and illustrated in big, bright oils by Mike Reed. It seemed like a nice book in my 2nd grade classroom, but it got a life of its own being read aloud at home. The refrain goes
Shake dem bones now.
Shake dem bones now.
Shake dem bones
At the hip-hop Halloween ball.
A whole cast of characters parade through like “Li’l Red” (Little Red Riding Hood), Tom Thumb and Goldilocks.
The rhythm and drive of it is irresistible. Excuse me, I have some shaking to do!
Have you ever been to a doctor’s or dentist’s office? If so, you’ve probably seen the little hardcover Popcorn with tear-out cards inside to buy books in the series. In fact our copy says on the cover
WAITING ROOM COPY
PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE
It’s a 1979 book and I’m happy to say we acquired our copy by honest means. Popcorn is subtitled A Frank Asch Bear Story. Sam the Bear on the cover is dressed in his Indian Halloween costume, a headband with a feather. Behind him is a huge kettle overflowing with popcorn. His parents have left him alone on Halloween night (remember it’s 1979) and he has a costume party of his own. Turns out everyone brings popcorn. I’ve read this countless times and I pledge to you it’s still fun when the popcorn fills up every cubic centimeter in the house. What can you do but chow down?
The illustrations are super simple. All the better to survey the popcorn spilling off the pages. The gag at the end is obvious but perfect.
What kind of Halloween season would it be without a mutant pumpkin as big as a truck hurtling downhill and mowing down anything in its path? Fortunately we have The Runaway Pumpkin (2003) written with fiendishly catchy rhythm by Kevin Lewis and illustrated in exhilarating cartoon style by S. D. Schindler.
Somehow at the top of a hill two kids manage to budge it. And then it just builds up speed. Listen:
“Round and ‘round across the ground
Makin’ a thumpin’ bumpin’ sound
Came that thumpety bumpety thumpin’ bumpin’
Round and roll-y RUNAWAY PUMPKIN!
As it knocks down fences and pigsties, the adults stand frozen watching, thinking of pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. Some visual highlights are pigs and squirrels hanging from tree branches and a chicken flattened and sticking to the pumpkin. Don’t worry, she’ll be fine. And so will you if you pick up The Runaway Pumpkin.
The Pumpkin Man is an unassuming little beginning reader from 1998 written in a pleasant rhyming style by Judith Moffatt. Moffatt illustrates the text with bright cut paper scenes with a nice sense of shadow and depth. It’s a nice little narrative that tells how to make a pumpkin man with a pumpkin head and old clothes and boots you stuff with leaves. Through absolutely no initiative on my part it has inspired pumpkin men on our front porch several different Halloweens.
Thank you Ms. Moffatt and original Pumpkin Man.
Aren’t we just about due for a little vacation getaway? Why not make it a trip to Monster Town? Welcome to Monster Town by Ryan Heshka is a 2010 paperback issued by Scholastic, but it might as well have been put out by the Monster Town Chamber of Commerce. It’s got it all. The cover is a postcard-style design highlighting friendly skulls, bats and mummies. At the bottom of the cover, a friendly green boy about age six or seven waves to us.
Things get started when the sun goes down, zombies stumbling to work and green kids hopping on the Ghoul Bus with their lunchboxes. Each spread is an ingenious scene. My favorite is “Giant Squid serves the best midnight brunch in town.” He’s behind a round lunch counter doing it all with seven of his legs, like pouring coffee, flipping a green egg, stirring green slime.
Even if you don’t book a tour to Monster Town read the book for the cheeriest spooky scenes you’ve ever seen.