Tag Archives: seasonal-fall

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween

9 Oct

Today’s book review is for Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween, by Melanie Watt, published by Kids Can Press. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween book cover

Get ready for Halloween with Scaredy Squirrel! Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween is a helpful holiday safety guide brought to you by one lovably neurotic rodent. Scaredy Squirrel is scared of almost everything–from robots, pirates, and vampires to empty bottles of hand sanitizer and cavities–but he’ll still show you how to have a fun Halloween while you laugh at his ridiculous levels of fear.

Watt has a great sense of humor that shines through in her writing and illustration. As I read, I kept giggling and snorting at the advice contained within. Some of it is actually fairly sound advice for kids, but Scaredy Squirrel’s justifications for it are so absurd. I’m certain that children will find it just as entertaining–and easily envisioned my 10-year-old nephew cracking up while I was reading.

Fun infographic-style illustrations are used to convey the advice and information shared by Scaredy Squirrel. I love infographics and found them to be such a clever approach for this book. There are charts, diagrams, checklists, quizzes and more to keep children engaged and amused. All of the illustrations are done in a cute cartoon style, which adds to the absurdity of Scaredy Squirrel’s fears, because there is absolutely nothing in his world that looks scary. Even the vampires and monsters are adorable!

One of the things that I think is cool about this book is that it might make other children feel more comfortable about their own fears. A lot of kids can feel embarrassed about being afraid of things, especially when their peers are not (or at least don’t seem to be). Seeing someone with as many fears as Scaredy Squirrel could help them to feel more normal.

If you’re looking to get in the Halloween spirit while having a laugh at the same time, this is a great choice! There are lots of opportunities to discuss rational and irrational fears. There are creative suggestions for fun activities. There are even some legitimate safety suggestions buried among the humor. So, I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars–partly because of the above and partly because I just plain liked it.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Book Review: Black and Bittern Was Night

8 Oct

Today’s book review is for Black and Bittern Was Night, written by Robert Heidbreder, illustrated by John Martz, published by Kids Can Press. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Black and Bittern Was Night is a Halloween story told entirely in nonsense verse. Skul-a-mug-mugs have come to town and frightened all of the adults into canceling trick-or-treating. The children, however, refuse to be intimidated. They band together to take back the night in this humorous book.

“The Jabberwocky” is one of my favorite poems, my 23-month-old daughter can already recite some of it, so I’m no stranger to nonsense verse. In fact, that was one of the elements that made me request to read this book. Sadly, Heidbreder is no Lewis Carroll. The nonsense language was often excessively dense, making it incredibly challenging to decipher what, exactly was going on in the story. One of the joys of nonsense verse is being able to envision a story, even when you have never encountered the words used to tell it. The invented words should still conjure up strong imagery through sound. These ones didn’t. Part of that might also have been because it was difficult to read them–the combinations of letters felt awkward and non-intuitive.

I wasn’t terribly enamored of Martz’s digital illustrations, either. I did like the Halloween color palette–which conveyed a clear tone and sense of place. He also used a sort of cute, simplified cartooning style that made clear that this was a fun story and not a scary one. The rendering of the children in the town was alright–nothing special, but nothing awful, either. However, I found that the backgrounds of the town felt really flat. It was an artistic choice, of course–just one that didn’t work for me.

As far as Halloween books go, it’s nicely designed. I appreciate that the publisher took care to try to put together a quality product. Too often it seems that holiday books get thoughtlessly churned out, splashed with glitter, and put onto the market with no real thought as to content or design.

I’m going with 2 out of 5 stars here. The book was okay. And I give the author credit for taking a gamble on nonsense verse. Even when it’s executed flawlessly, it can be hard for a lot of folks to swallow. As for me, I hold nonsense verse to the same standards that I hold traditional verse–flow, rhythm, meter, sound, etc should all work together to produce an outstanding final product. That didn’t happen here.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Book Review: Peek-a-Boo Monsters

1 Oct

Today’s book review is for Peek-a-Boo Monsters, by Charles Reasoner, published by Picture Window Books (an imprint of Capstone Young Readers). I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Peek-a-Boo Monsters is a peek-a-boo style board book featuring die-cut windows on each page that allow you to look through to a small piece of the following page. Although it’s a great selection to put you in the mood for Halloween, it’s not a Halloween-themed book–meaning that monster loving toddlers can enjoy reading it year round.

Reasoner’s simple rhyming text is easy to follow. And while this seems like just a fun, silly book, the author still manages to sneak some educational concepts in as well. On the pages, toddlers will be introduced to opposites such as up/under, big/small, short/tall.

His accompanying illustrations are cute and quirky. These are monsters that will make little ones giggle–or give out big hugs. Many of the monsters have speech bubbles which add to the playfulness of the book. On one page a little monster says “Grrr!” while a much larger monster leans away saying “Yikes!” And every page features cheerful colors to keep roaming eyes focused.

I enjoy the overall design of the book. The font selections are appropriate and fun. They fit well with Reasoner’s illustrations and the tone of the text. In addition to the expected peek-a-boo cut outs, cleverly arranged on each page, the outlines of the pages are also adjusted to add additional visual interest. Everything comes together to create an attractive product.

I give Peek-a-Boo Monsters 3 out of 5 stars. It’s not revolutionary, but it is a fun little book. It would make a fun Halloween present for a special little one. Or it could be used for a Halloween-themed story time, with a smaller group of children.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.