Cannon: Scaring up a few good Halloween picture books
I love kids' picture books. I love Halloween. Is it any surprise, then, that I double love kids' picture books about Halloween?
I know! It's not even October yet!
But still. I can't help myself from taking a sneak peek. And if you can't help yourself either, you might be interested in checking out a few of the following titles, too.
My favorite new Halloween book this year (hands down!) is Frankenstein: a Monstrous Parody by Ludworst Bemonster, the pen name for Utah writer Rick Walton and Utah illustrator Nathan Hale. The story begins with a send-up of the famous Madeline stories: "In a creepy old castle/ all covered with spines,/ lived twelve ugly monsters/ in two crooked lines." Walton's text is at once smart and silly, while Hale's amusing illustrations pay playful homage to Bemelmans' iconic images.
I also love Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs, written by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen and illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. Adult readers will especially enjoy the clever wordplay found in epitaphs with titles such as "Owl Be Seeing You," "Mourning a Dove," and "Not Gone on Porpoise." My favorite? Hard to say, although one called "Good-bye to a Rowdy Rooster" (Too cocky by far, he head-butted a car) comes close.
Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown (who wrote and illustrated the wonderful Children Make Terrible Pets), is another good holiday choice. Jasper Rabbit is crazy for carrots, and just like Peter Rabbit of old, he isn't above helping himself to a few from a local carrot patch until (cue dramatic music) the carrots start to follow him home. Menacingly. And, as everyone knows, there is nothing scarier in this world (or the next) than carrots that menace.
The Monsters' Monster by Caldecott winner Patrick McDonnell is about three little monsters who combine their talents to create one really, really big monster a monsters' monster. And the monster they create is not only really, really big, he's also (to his creators' shocked disappointment) really, really polite. Will gratitude and good manners carry the day? Or is it back to the old monster drawing board for the three partners in crime?
And, of course, this is an excellent time of year to revisit old favorites, such as Tony DiTerlizzi's epic black-and-white rendering of the classic poem "The Spider and the Fly." (Author's note: My mother used to read this to me when I was little, thus instilling within me a lifelong fear of all things spider. So WAY TO GO, MOM!)
The Best Halloween of All, written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh (creator of the divine Martha Speaks), is also good for a smile. Parents and kids both may see themselves in this story about a boy who is forced to endure his family's efforts to create the perfect Halloween costume for him.
Finally, if you were marooned on a deserted island and could only pick one Halloween picture book to keep you company (because people marooned on deserted islands need Halloween picture books to keep them company, OBV) The Hallo-wiener, written and illustrated by Dav Captain Underpants Pilkey, should be your clear go-to choice. This story about a dachshund whose mother makes him a hot dog costume for Halloween is as fresh and funny as it was when first published nearly 20 years ago.
Well. There you have it. Feel free to scare up a few favorites of your own and give them a shout out on my Facebook page.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.