Thursday, October 27, 2011

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

So, as you see, we're getting a little festive here at The Book Pantry.  In preparation for the upcoming All Hallow's Eve, I've decided to do some special, themed posts for the week.  Tonight's post will feature Halloween-themed books - for kids! (Because I'm too much of a fraidy cat to read something for adults).  Since this is a little different than your average book post and young children's books are a little on the short side, I'll be featuring a total of 4 books.  These range from cute to Halloweeny to down-right spooky, and hopefully you'll find something that'll fit the kid in your life (even if that's just you) from among them!

Squeeeeee! Kitty!
The Cute: Pumpkin Cat
This book was written and illustrated by Anne Mortimer and published by Katherine Tegen Books in 2011.

Pumpkin Cat is a pretty tame introduction to Halloween, since it's one nod to the holiday is the pumpkin theme. Otherwise, it's a book about gardening.  I love the cover (I mean, it's a black cat, come on!) and the illustrations.  Illustrations can make or break a children's book, and this one has adorable, realistic pictures done in paint (not sure what kind, but it doesn't look like watercolor) with nice vivid colors.  Mortimer incorporates a nice sense of movement and personality into her animals, which I found kept my attention engaged nicely. The story has a cute premise, featuring Cat who wants to know where pumpkins come from and Mouse who teaches Cat to grow one.  The book ends when the pumpkin is harvested and Mouse turns it into a surprise for Cat.  The book has a repetitious structure that's great for developing early literacy skills in kids, making it a nice choice from an enrichment standpoint, too.  I also thought the instructions for growing pumpkins at the end of the book was a neat addition and a potentially fun project. (And, did I mention the cat, cause there's a cat)

"I'll do you such a trick!"
The Halloweeny: The Vanishing Pumpkin
This book was written by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Tomie dePaola, and published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 1983.

The Vanishing Pumpkin is one of my absolute favorite children's books, Halloween aside.  Growing up, this was the Night Before Christmas of Halloween in our house.  This book covers a range in audience, being tame enough to read to a very young toddler but complex enough to be enjoyed by older children (hey, I still love having read to me).  It again features repetition, but in a more complex form.  It builds on itself, which makes it easy to hold kids' attention and encourage their participation as they catch on to the form. It also features some really great alliteration ("in fact, they fairly flew").  All of which are great for building reading skills.  The illustrations are fun and very cartoon-like and look to be done with mixed media. The story follows an 800-year-old man and a 700-year-old woman on a search for their missing pumpkin and pumpkin pie. It provides a great opportunity to do some voices as you read, like the old man, old woman, various critters, and wizard (my Da did great voices). It's just an all-around great Halloween choice, so be prepared for multiple reading requests.

D'awww.  Kitty.
The Witchy: Cat Nights
This book was written and illustrated by Jane Manning and published by Greenwillow Books in 2008.

Cat Nights again features a story great for a range of ages in kids.  In this book, we meet Felicity, who just turned 263 years old, gaining the ability to change into a cat 8 times; she loves being a cat, but if she changes a 9th time she'll be stuck as a cat forever. You'll have a great time guessing what she'll choose to do.  I liked the names in the book: Wanda, Willa, and Woo are model witches, while Felicity is more feline.  This creates some nice (though subtle) letter associations for kids to pick up on.  The illustrations are also very nice, with a unique cartoony style done in watercolor. You'll love how cute the warty little witches (I know, sounds oxymoronic) and Felicty's orange cat form are. There's also a nifty note at the end that ties the premise of the book to the Irish mythology surrounding cat nights.  This is definitely a new favorite of mine.

Those pumpkins are awesome!
The Spooky: The Bones of Fred McFee
This book was written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, and published by Harcourt in 2002.

Let me just say that this book would have scared the pants off me as a kid (my imagination is way too active).  That said, it's not really a horribly scary book.  In the story, a brother and sister hang a plastic skeleton in a sycamore tree that does a little bit more than dance in the wind.  The book has some great features from a reading and literacy standpoint.  There is a very distinct rhyme scheme, alliteration, and a definite pattern to the rhythm of lines that creates a constant "sound" to the book.  This also adds to the spooky feel.  The artwork is in a comic book style that combines ink and watercolor.  The dark, graphic lines of the ink enhance the overall creepy factor.  It's a fun book, but only read it to kids if you want to spook them a bit (it'd be a great campfire story).

So, I hope this inspires you to grab a book and a kid (your own, of course, don't be a creeper) and read together.  Hopefully you'll have some time to scurry to a library or bookstore and snag some of these great Halloween picks.  In the mean time, know that these books come with the Sebastian R. Gato seal of approval:

My name is Sebastian R. Gato, and I approve of this message.
(Not pictured: Cat Nights)


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