The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz – Book #15 in the Countdown to Halloween

Hello again! Hope everyone is getting geared up for the most wonderful time of the year! Halloween! For this entry I’ve selected a wonderfully illustrated tale about The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz.

The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz

“I am the ugly pumpkin, as you can plainly see. Of one hundred thousand pumpkins, none are quite like me.” And so begins this tale of a pumpkin who is trying to find a home, but no one will take him in. Everyone wants the other pumpkins in the patch, not a skinny pumpkin who is so sad. This “ugly pumpkin” travels through the month of October into November, and just as he thinks things can’t get any worse, a sudden discovery shows him that he has been wrong all along. He is not what he thinks he is. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, you’ll have to read the book to figure out what the “ugly pumpkin” really is! Think “The Ugly Duckling” for gourds.

This wonderfully written book is all in rhyme. You can feel the angst and worry of this pumpkin as he keeps hoping that someone will take him home and make a proper pumpkin out of him. The prose really give this pumpkin his character, they are a separate entity to the illustrations.

The illustrations, themselves, are stand alone artworks. They are beautifully done in (mostly) primary colors. The changing of the seasons is beautifully depicted as well as the close-ups of the pumpkin during his lowest and highest hours. I love the subtleties of the ugly pumpkin, once he realizes (and the reader realizes) what he is. It is fun to go back through the book and really look at the pumpkin. You will wonder how you missed it all!

A fun tale to read out loud, particularly for older elementary school children. Younger children may not get the subtle difference between what the ugly pumpkin actually is compared to what he thinks he is. I hope you understood all of this, just like the book it will probably make more sense once you read The Ugly Pumpkin.

Quick Facts:

Author: Dave Horowitz

Age: 2nd-5th Grade (younger children may not understand some of the subtleties in this work).

Publisher: Puffin Books, New York, New York

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I JUST COMPLETED MY FIRST EVER STORYTIME!

So I’m on a storytime high right now. Even though a lot of people did not come (not unusual for this time of night) and even though there were moments where I felt the crickets, overall IT WAS AWESOME! Unfortunately I found my groove, and earned the kids trust, and I wanted to keep going but I had no more material. So I wanted to quickly jot down some thing I learned and impression.

So my line up was as follows:

“Monster Mash” with the Count and Sesame Street Characters as people came in the door.

Get the Wiggles out rhyme that I screwed up at the end because I couldn’t remember it. But the kids thought it was funny.

Handing out of lollipops (gotta have the candy 😀 )

The Ugly Pumpkin (look for a blog post about this book tomorrow, it’s awesome!) Kids liked it, parents did too.

“Roll That Pumpkin Down To Town” with Elmo and the Count. Possibly will not use this song again. I thought it was fast enough, way too slow. I hadn’t developed enough trust with the one little girl for her to start dancing, the one little boy was just excited to have candy, and the 5 year old thought it was stupid. The toddler danced, but then headed out the door once she didn’t know what was going on. I should’ve used “Monster Mash” and not done a song as they came in the door.

The Runaway Pumpkin – tried to get the kids to say the alliteration of the “Bumpin’ Thumpin’, Bumpety Thumpety, Bumpin’ Thumpin’ Roll Away Pumpkin.” By the end I gave up and just said it. Again, the one little girl was still eyeing me, trying to decide if she liked me or not. Five year old thought it was stupid. Toddler was gone. Little boy was trying to say it to his Dad quietly.

“Where is Pumpkin” – Asked the kids to come up and take the characters off the board as I said there names. This went over really well. Except, the five-year old wanted to dominate. So I had to call out their names and ask them “Aiden, where is the spider?” We lost the whole singing part (good, because I can’t sing). I let the kids take home the characters (have extra characters at the ready next time) to trace and have for Halloween.

Even Monsters Need Haircuts – By now I had found my groove. The kids were sitting well and listening, I had almost completely won over the trust of the one little girl because now I had given her both candy and another fun thing to take home. Both the parents and the kids enjoyed this one. I skipped over a couple of parts because of the parents reactions and their demeanor (when the little boy leaves the house by himself and mentions it, I skipped that because I thought the one Mom may not like it).

My “Chocolate Chip Ghost” feltboard story – WENT OVER AWESOME! Again, though, the five-year old tried to dominate. I had to start calling out the kids names to get them to answer the colors so she wouldn’t always answer. Now I had really won over the one hesitant little girl, she was smiling and yelling out when I asked her what color she thought. The little boy was being very quiet and calm (the previous week he had been running EVERYWHERE!). The parents were smiling too and answering with their kids. I need to get more feltboard stories. I discovered that I’m a better storyteller than a singer. I need some better movement music that I don’t have to direct, that tells the kids what to do.

Shel Silverstein’s “Gruesome Story” Poem – the kids really got into this short poem. The parents were laughing when I said he was one of my favorites. It was a good segway and introduced a moment to explain poetry when the five-year old said “That’s a really short story.”

The final book was Where’s My Mummy – by now the little girl was on the floor in front of me. AN AWESOME AUDIENCE! This is the point I realized, she was just testing me out and seeing if she liked me. She sat down on the rug squares and “eeked” and tensed at all the right parts. The five year old knew the story, so when I “tromped, tromped, tromped” or “stopped and listened” she was mouthing the words with me. The little boy was half asleep in his father’s arm.

SO! After all that (bless those who read this far), I’ve discovered I’M AWESOME AT STORYTELLING! But I really need to find some better music and some feltboard characters that I can make up stories about. I’m even considering puppets, but I’ve never used them without feeling foolish. So perhaps I will stick with feltboards and awesome picture books for now. But, I’ve gotta say, THAT WAS AWESOME!! AWESOME!! I wish I could do it all over again and I could make these changes….hopefully there will be another time…..

Check for a new blog post tomorrow, and it’s almost Halloween!!

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott – Book #14 in the Countdown to Halloween

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott

ONE MORE WEEK! ONE MORE WEEK! Yes, I’m very excited. I, also, have my very first storytime tomorrow! It’s going to be so much fun!

Hope all is well with everyone! And now onto a very fun book about a little boy and his unusual barbering skills.

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott is about a young boy whose father is a barber. Once a month, on the full moon, the little boy sneaks out of his house (accompanied by Vlad) to the barbershop. They set up for a night of trims, styles, and monsters. This little boy is the hairdresser to the Monsters.

This book is fun to look at and read. It’s pace is very even, almost slow. You get a feeling that this little boy has no fear over the creatures that come walking through the door. He is very level and composed. The author plays on words, as well, adding to the fun. With supplies such as “rotting tonic,” “horn polish,” and “shamp-ewww” this boy has everything he needs to make sure that all the monsters get exactly what they want.

The pictures are wonderfully done. The monsters are somewhat comical (taking some of the “scariness” away from them for younger readers) and the haircuts that are shown (Frankenstein’s buzz cut, Medusa’s braiding) are interesting for young kids to look at and strike conversation about these different characters. Personally, I love the look on the boy’s face as he tries to figure out what the skeleton would want for his haircut.

A fun read for all ages, this is a great bedtime story during the Halloween season!

Quick Facts:

Author: Matthew McElligott

Ages: All

Publisher: Walker & Company, New York, New York

Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi – Book #13 in the Countdown to Halloween

Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi; illustrated by Gris Grimly

Hello Again! Just 11 more days until Halloween! And just five more days to my first ever storytime! It’s going to be based around Halloween, and some of the picture books I’ve discussed here will be incorporated! I’m so nervous and excited! I hope it will be fantastic!

Anyways, for this entry I’ve chosen a book by Carolyn Crimi; illustrated by Gris Grimly called Boris and Bella.

Bella Legrossi, the messiest monster in Booville, and Boris Kleanitoff, the tidiest monster in Booville, are next door neighbors who rarely got along. One Halloween both of these monsters decide to host a party. When no one RSVP’s and decides to go to a different get together, Boris and Bella crash Harry Beastie’s party to see what is so special. As the two of them brood over how much better THEIR parties would have been, the band strikes up. They decide to show the other guests how it is done, and set aside their differences for a dance or two. They figure out that things aren’t always how they appear. How a person is on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the same on the inside.

The writing in this tale is fun and playful with the names and places of the monsters being the most interesting part (the Howling Wolfman Band, Cy Clops, and Baggo Bones for instance). The story is somewhat predictable, but the dialogue used by Boris and Bella are what help tie it all together. They use puns and play on words to show their distaste and eventual like of each other.

What really sets this book apart are the illustrations. The grays, blacks greens, and purples that help set that creepy tone are used well. Personally, I love how Bella always has flies swarming around her, depicted by perfectly placed squiggly lines ending in miniature winged creatures. The party scenes are packed with creatures, you can look at these pages over and over again and constantly find something new. The monster party highlights where the author and illustrator have come together. The pictures support the words, and much of the descriptions can be found in the illustrations.

This is a fun read and an adorable love story. I hope you enjoy it!

Quick Facts:

Author: Carolyn Crimi

Illustrator: Gris Grimly

Ages: K-4th

Publisher: Harcourt, Inc., New York, New York

Scary Godmother by Jill Thompson – Book #12 in the Countdown to Halloween

Hello, hello, hello! Just 13 more days to Halloween! Hey! That means Family Channel will be running some good shows and movies soon! Better set my DVR!

For this entry I have selected a fabulous graphic novel by Jill Thompson which includes my all time favorite set of characters ever created. Scary Godmother is a collection of four stories that have previously been published as separate graphic novels. Jill Thompson has collected them all together in this fabulous book and also included some fun additional information about how she breathed life into her characters and the world that they live in.

Scary Godmother by Jill Thompson

All the stories in this book center around little Hannah Marie. In the first story we are introduced to this adorable child who is excited to go out trick-or-treating with the big kids and no parents. This is the first time ever she has been allowed to do this. Hannah, however, is a bit afraid of the possible ghosts and monsters that she may encounter. Her mother reassures her that her Scary Godmother will make sure that nothing happens to her.

And indeed, that is what happens. Hannah’s mean older cousin, Jimmy, decides he doesn’t want to play babysitter and attempts to scare little Hannah to get her to return home. Jimmy wants to gather as much candy with his friends as he can, and Hannah is slowly them down (at least in Jimmy’s eyes). Just as brave little Hannah can take no more, POOF, her Scary Godmother appears. From that point on Hannah is not afraid of any of the monsters, ghosts, skeletons or vampires of Halloween. In fact, Hannah and her new friends teach the big kids a lesson. Each subsequent story includes yet another installment in Hannah’s involvement with the goofy and loveable monsters of the Fright Side and explores what life is like for the monster’s as they wait for the next year’s Halloween.
The illustrations in this novel are fantastic as should be expected in a graphic novel. From the Scary Godmother, to Boozle (Scary Godmother’s ghost cat), to Bug-A-Boo (the monster under the bed), to Skully Pettibone (the skeleton in the closet) each character is unique, detailed, and perfectly fitted in the roles that they play. Jill Thompson does a amazing job in showing the evolution of all the characters over the years.
The text and the graphics are well mixed. This is really a chapter book, a lot of the writing is shown in between the graphic images. It is not set up like a “comic strip,” but like a picture book that happens to have a good amount of text within the pictures. For younger children not yet familiar with the “cadence” of reading a comic book, this may be very helpful. Also, the inclusion at the end of fun facts and insights from Jill Thompson about her creations is fun for adults to read and for showing how a graphic novel is made.It educates children on how one would go about making a graphic novel and the labor of love that Jill Thompson produced.
An awesome read for those late elementary/early middle schoolers as well as high schoolers and those adults who refuse to grow up. It’s also a great book to use for those who tell you “I hate to read.” No one will hate reading this graphic novel. I fell in love with the cast of characters after the first ten pages, and I know you will too.
Quick Facts:
Author/Illustrator: Jill Thompson
Ages: 3rd grade and up
Series: You can purchase each graphic novel in this collection separately. “Scary Godmother” has also been made into two DVD movies (that are often shown on Nickelodeon during the Halloween season). Jill Thompson also has a number of individuals comics out about different characters from the Scary Godmother series as well as a separate series about “Magic Trixie” that would be good for the same age range.
Publisher: Dark Horse Books a Division of Dark Horse Comics, Milwaukie, Oregon

The Three Bears’ Halloween by Kathy Duval – Book #11 in the Countdown to Halloween

Hello again! Just 18 more days until Halloween. I wonder, every year, if this is too early to carve pumpkins. I just can’t wait to have those funny and scary faces on my porch, but I’m always afraid that the pumpkins will spoil!

For this entry I’ve selected another picture book, but one that any age can enjoy. The Three Bears’ Halloween by Kathy Duval; illustrated by Paul Meisel is a must read at this time of year!

The Three Bears' Halloween by Kathy Duval; illustrated by Paul Meisel

Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear get all dressed up and go trick-or-treating on Halloween. As they make their way through the forest Baby Bear yells “Boo!” to all his friends in order to get his treats. Baby Bear believes himself to be very scary, that is why his bag is so full! When the family knocks upon the door of a very scary looking house, the door swings open. Just as the family is about to turn away, they hear a “Tee-hee-hee” coming from out in the yard! Frighten the family rushes inside and shuts the door. As they investigate the house (in a way that many readers will recognize from another tale with three bears) they are constantly scared by whoever is “Tee-hee-hee” -ing! Just as the family can’t take the fear and anticipation anymore the “monster” reveals herself and scares the Bear family out the door.

This story is a reversal of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Instead of Goldilocks being the one investigating a stranger’s house, the Bear family has been forced inside by Goldilocks’ scary laughing and attempts to frighten the family in a very fun Halloween fashion. The writing is very fast paced and relies heavily on the dialogue between the family members. The dialogue is, also, mimicking the Goldilocks story. Every time one Bear speaks, the other two chime in and add details to what they are seeing. For example:

“Someone’s outside!” said Papa.

“Someone’s peeking in the window!” said Mama.

“Someone with a scary broom!” said Baby Bear.

Children will remember similar dialogue from the original story.

“Someone has been sitting in my chair!” Roared Papa

“someone has been sitting in my chair!” Exclaimed Mama

“Someone has been sitting in my chair! And now it is broken!” Sobbed Baby Bear

This type of storytelling brings a beat to the words that will make following along easier for younger children while allowing for older children to participate by guessing what the next bear will say.

The illustrations really enhance the suspense that the bears are feeling. The shadow of Goldilocks that the reader sees changes as more and more parts of her costume are recognized by the bears. The illustrations are very detailed as well. Once inside Goldilocks’ home, a tiny mouse dressed up as a vampire can be seen in almost every picture. Usually he’s eating candy or hiding along with the bears. It’s fun to try to find him on each page.

This book will be a fun read for all ages. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Quick Facts:

Author: Kathy Duval

Illustrator: Paul Meisel

Ages: All ages

Series:  The Three Bears’ Christmas

Publisher: Holiday House, New York, New York

Can’t Keep Trackula of Jackula by Lisa Mullarkey – Book #10 in the Countdown to Halloween

Hi all! Just 21 MORE DAY UNTIL HALLOWEEN! Got Megan’s Halloween costume figured out (She’s going as the White Rabbit and I’m going as Alice. I’m always chasing after her, so may as well have a costume that fits), gotta figure out if I”m making or purchasing mine yet.

For this entry I’m varying from the picture books I’ve been looking at thus far and changing gears to a good early reader chapter book. One of those difficult “next step up from the readers” books that I get asked about on an almost daily basis. Katharine the Almost Great is a good series for both boys and girls. Can’t Keep Trackula of Jackula by Lisa Mullarkey; illustrated by Phyllis Harris focuses around Katharine’s baby brother (Jack) and the influence of Halloween on Katharine’s wild imagination and her flair for the dramatic.

Can't Keep Trackula of Jackula by Lisa Mullarkey; illustrated by Phyllis Harris

Katharine the Almost Great, dubbed by her parents as “Almost” because they consider her a work in progress due to her dramatic nature, doesn’t like to admit that she is still scared of the monster’s of Halloween. After watching the movie Dracula with her cousin Crockett and her baby brother Jack (who loved whenever Dracula came on the screen), Katharine is spooked but not willing to admit it. After laying down on the couch for a short nap, she is awakened by someone biting her toe; her brother Jack. Katharine (basing her rationale around the movie), begins to believe Jack (who is teething) has become a vampire: JACKULA! As Jack struggles with his teething, sprouting teeth randomly and being up at all hours of the night, Katharine tries to convince her family that this is not her baby brother anymore, this is a vampire!

Katharine is further convinced when Vanessa, aka Miss Priss-A-Poo, hands her a book 101 Ways to Tame Monster Siblings and says that she (Vanessa) believed her little brother to be Frankenstein. As Katharine follows the tips in the book to prove that Jack is now Jackula, Katharine finds that she is getting in more and more trouble with her tired parents and eventually is accused by the school principal of stealing some Halloween costumes. Katharine will need to prove that not only is Jack a vampire, but that she did not steal the costumes before the Halloween parade on Friday!

This is a funny tale of a big sister dealing with her baby brother and her family as they all struggle through a very trying time, TEETHING. The Halloween atmosphere plays into Katharine’s imagination and her dramatic tendencies create trouble and stress on her mother and father. Older siblings will connect with Katharine as she tries to figure out why her cute little brother has suddenly turned into this “biting little monster.”

The dialogue and first person narrative really give young readers a character that they can connect with. Katharine, whenever she is in trouble or is stalling for time, will recite a random fact from her calendar of 365 useless facts (Did you know that cats have 290 bones and 517 muscles in their bodies?). This will often lead to an inner monologue that bounces around in a chaotic normal third grader fashion that children will enjoy, but also does not vary far from the topic.

The illustrations are dispersed to help break up chapters (which are nice and short). The paragraphs are blocked, indented, and double spaced so that each new paragraph is obvious. This is often helpful to early readers; it gives clarity to who is speaking and helps them see the breaks in written language which will carry into the next level of books and eventually their writing. This is a great Halloween story for those just gaining confidence in their reading. Katharine the Almost Great is a fun character and one that many girls and boys will connect with.

Quick Facts:

Author: Lisa Mullarkey

Illustrator: Phyllis Harris

Age: 2nd-4th grade

Series: Katharine the Almost Great: Uses her Common Sense, The Biggest Star by Far, Major Mama Drama, The Red, White, and Blue Crew, and Bent Out of Shape

Publisher: Magic Wagon, Edina, Minnesota

On A Windy Night by Nancy Raines Day – Book #9 in the Countdown to Halloween

Hello all! Just 23 more days until Halloween!! I know that I’m busier than ever!

For this entry I’ve chosen On A Windy Night by Nancy Raines Day; illustrated by George Bates.

On A Windy Night by Nancy Raines Day; illustrated by George Bates

This books tells the story of a trick-or-treater heading home one Halloween. As the clouds hide the moon, creating darkness and shadows, the boy’s imagination begins to run away from him when he thinks he hears a voice in the wind whisper “CRACKLETY-CLACK, BONES IN A SACK. They could be yours – if you look back.” As the boy races home and his fears grow bigger and bigger, the moon suddenly comes out and the boy finds out what is really chasing him on his way home.

A fun book to read aloud with the repetitious “Cracklety-clack, bones in a sack…” allowing children to chime in multiple times throughout the book. The writing really builds the suspense and anxiety that this young boy is feeling as his imagination runs wild on his way home. The fears and possibilities that a Halloween eve inspires really come full force when the moon hides behind the clouds.

The illustrations in this book also add to the suspense. The illustrator has done a great job in showing what the boy thinks he is seeing and overlaying these sights on top of the actual objects. When the moon finally shows itself, children will be able to recognize the skeletons as the cornstalks and the heads as pumpkins. The illustrations are very dark (because the moon is behind the clouds, after all), so it is a book that needs to be looked at up close and personal.

This book will really add suspense and enjoyment to bedtime or any other time. It’s a great look at what our imaginations can do to us, particularly on a night like Halloween when the spooks and creatures of the night are known to prowl! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Quick Facts:

Author: Nancy Raines Day

Illustrator: George Bates

Ages: PreK thru 3rd (the “uneasiness” that the book can bring out when read may not be good for younger readers).

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York, New York

Ollie’s Halloween by Olivier Dunrea – Book #8 in the Countdown to Halloween

Hello again! Only 28 more days until Halloween! Hope you are all getting as excited as I am! For this entry I’ve chosen a great book for the very young readers/listeners out there: Ollie’s Halloween by Olivier Dunrea.

Ollie's Halloween by Olivier Dunrea

It’s Halloween Night and “Goslings are on the prowl!” Fans of this series will already recognize Gossie and her friend’s Gertie, Peedie, BooBoo, and of course little quirky Ollie. These five goslings are all dressed up and out trick-or-treating and creating some mischief on the farm. This story, with its very simplistic and blocky prose, will keep younger children engaged while they share in the fun of these little goslings.

As with all the other books in the Gossie and Friends series, the pictures are what really help keep children engaged. The adorable little goslings in their cute (and scary) costumes are fun to look at. The illustrations use very subtle colors (very “autumnal”) and recognizable farmyard places to help younger children connect with the goslings and the tone of the book. The pictures and the feelings that they generate will help younger children understand the story and stick with it until the end. The adorable costumes fit the characters of these goslings so well (my favorite is Peedie’s dragon). As always, each character is individually introduced to children so that they will be able to follow them throughout the book.

A great read for Preschoolers and younger. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed with this fun Halloween edition!

Quick Facts:

Author: Olivier Dunrea

Series: There are at least twelve books in this series that I’m aware of. They include: Gossie, Gossie & Gertie, Ollie, Ollie the Stomper, BooBoo, Peedie, Gossie & Friends, Gossie’s Busy Day, Gossie Plays Hide and Seek, Merry Christmas Ollie!, and Ollie’s Easter Egg

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, New York, New York

Halloween Night by Majorie Dennis Murray – Book #7 in the Countdown to Halloween

It’s OFFICIALLY OCTOBER! Just 30 more days to All Hallows Eve!

This entry I’m going to look at Halloween Night by Marjorie Dennis Murray; illustrated by Brandon Dorman.

Halloween Night by Marjorie Dennis Murray; illustrated by Brandon Dorman

This book tells the story of a house full of monsters preparing for Trick-Or-Treaters on their favorite night of the year! Halloween! This story is based on ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. Beginning with “‘Twas Halloween night, and all through the house every creature was stirring, including the mouse…”, fantastic illustrations and a cadence in the storytelling that children will recognize, this is a fun story to share just before bed!

The illustrations and words complement each other well and generate both a sense of “creepiness” and humor on every page! My favorite part is “By the fire in the kitchen, the witch stirred her brew; to make it more smelly, she threw in a shoe.” You can perhaps imagine the illustration accompanying this section of the rhyme.

The illustrator has used very bright colors, focusing mostly on greens and purples to give the creatures there “creepiness” but drawing the attention to their comical facial expressions with the use of some lighter colors. Each page is crammed with fun things to look at as the monsters set up the house for their guests. Children and parents will enjoy not only reading this story but scanning the pages to find new and fun things every time the look at it!

Quick Facts:

Author: Marjorie Dennis Murray

Illustrator: Brandon Dorman

Ages: PreK and up.

Publisher: Greenwillow Books, New York, New York