May 13, 2013

Spooky, Scary...


Okay, I have to warn you, this one is going to be long. Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the year (and I say that without putting quotes around holiday intentionally) and there are just too many books with too many Halloweeny undertones. So let’s divide up the Halloween vibes, shall we?



First we have the books that put you in the mood. One totally awesome book that does this is Jeremy Holmes’ THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY. I actually mentioned it last year but never really described it. That was wrong. It deserves describing. Beautifully crafted, designed, and illustrated, Holmes creates a highly interactive book that proves to be a wonderful interpretation of the famous nursery rhyme. With a unique and innovative design, the book highlights the creepiness of the woman who continues to swallow animal after animal as the reader turns page after page over her stomach. The illustrations are dark and the end of the book is even darker as the woman shuts her eyes with the turn of the final page. Perfectly done. Other wonderfully dark books are those by Gris Grimly and Edward Gorey. Anything they touch is gold. Right now my favorite Grimlys are WICKED NURSERY RHYMESBORIS AND BELLA, and his illustrated version of Edgar Allan Poe’s TALES OF MYSTERY AND MADNESS. I think my favorite Goreys have to be THE GASHLYCRUMB TINIES and THE CURIOUS SOFA. Each of these books features dark, shadowy illustrations with dark messages attached to them and virtually every character in each book does meets a gruesome, if not deadly, fate. I also want to quickly throw in Brian Anderson’s THE PRINCE’S NEW PET and Mary Howitt’s and Tony DiTerlizzi’s THE SPIDER AND THE FLY; they each feature dark, heavy illustrations with strong shadows, both of which are perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit.
If you’re looking for something spirited but not necessarily gruesome or dark, check out then look no further than SPELLS by Emily Gravett. She’s one of my absolute favorite illustrators and she creates a fantastically creative book with interchangeable flaps so readers can mix and match different spells. And, of course, there’s a surprise ending. Lisa Wheeler’s and Mark Siegel’s BOOGIE KNIGHTS is also a low key but super fun book with multiple story lines that are perfect for getting you into the Halloween spirit. A pseudo-counting book, Boogie Knights tells the story of a prince who watches the armored knights in his castle come to life and throw a wild party with the ghosts, witches, and goblins that roam the halls. But even better is the illustrated-only storyline of the prince making friends with the girl in the painting. Again, not scary but perfect for Halloween.
Now for the category of “yes, they have monsters but they’re adorable monsters so it’s not scary.” A couple of new books out this year are FRANKENSTEIN by Rick Walton and Nathan Hale, VAMPIRINA BALLERINA by Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham, and HUBBLE BUBBLE, GRANNY TROUBLEby Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger. Each features an adorable set of monsters while still maintaining some level of cynicism and dark humor that makes the illustrations engaging and helps highlight the spirit of Halloween. There’s also a lot of buzz around Patrick McDonnell’s THE MONSTER’S MONSTER. In all honesty, I haven’t had a chance to check it out but School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews (or the Big 4, as I like to call them) can’t stop talking about it. Check it out, let me know what you think. Finally, two previously-mentioned-but-still-great favorites are MOSTLY MONSTERLY by Tammi Sauer and Scott Magoon and ZOMBIE IN LOVE by Kelly DiPucchio and Scott Campbell: still funny, still Halloweeny, and still wonderfully dark.
So those are my favorite Halloween books. What are yours?
Hauntingly yours,
Mel