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Penguin and Pumpkin

Salina Yoon. Walker, $14.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8027-3732-8

In Yoon’s fourth book about Penguin, the affable bird and his posse travel onboard a piece of ice to see what fall looks like away from the cold and snow. But Penguin’s younger brother, Pumpkin, is too young to come along: “I’m sorry, Pumpkin. But it’s too far for a fledgling,” Penguin tells him. Once the penguins arrive on a distant farm filled with pumpkins, they collect a harvest bounty, including leaves and pumpkins of all different shapes and sizes. After floating back home in one of the giant hollowed-out gourds, the travelers share their experience and goods with loved ones, including Pumpkin, who imagined autumn in locales as far-flung as outer space during his brother’s absence. As in the previous books, Yoon creates an idiosyncratic cartoon world of heavy outlines and flat pools of color. Her squat, chunky penguins and their quirky adventures should find a sweet spot with toddlers. Ages 3–6. (July)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Not Very Scary

Carol Brendler, illus. by Greg Pizzoli. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $12.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-35547-0

In a delightful Halloween romp that’s part counting book, part tongue twister, Brendler and Pizzoli introduce a green-skinned monster named Melly who is heading to her cousin Malberta’s house for a “surprise.” Along the way, Melly realizes an entourage is growing behind her, starting with a “coal-black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail,” which Melly dismisses as “not the least bit scary.” But then come “two skittish skeletons,” “four mournful ghosts,” and “seven frenzied fruit bats,” and suddenly Melly isn’t feeling so brave. Pizzoli crams the pages with comically ghoulish chaos, and his smiley creatures (Melly included) are more cute than bloodcurdling. Amid the mounting tension (which results in an epic party), readers also get a crash course in adverbs: “Not significantly scary!” says Melly when six mummies show up. “Not especially scary!” she shouts on the next page. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Ready, Steady, Ghost!

Elizabeth Baguley, illus. by Marion Lindsay. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4231-8039-5

In a story first published in the U.K., Gilbert, a nervous blob of a ghost, has trepidations about going haunting— because he’s on the small side, he’s looking for “a homey house to haunt, a cozy house, a little house!” While roaming an eerie forest, what Gilbert thinks are two glowing windows are actually “eyes that belong to a big, gobble-me... wolf!” Other frightening encounters follow, and eventually Gilbert makes his way to the attic of an ominous castle, where he meets a doll king and queen who rule their own tiny castle—just the right size for Gilbert to haunt. Baguley’s suspense-driven page turns and Lindsay’s pale blue forest create a just-scary-enough journey for Gilbert (and readers). The cozy shades of orange that suffuse his attic destination conjure a real sense of comfort and relief as Gilbert finds a new home that’s “homier than homey and cozier than cozy.” Ages 3–5. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma

David Soman and Jacky Davis. Dial, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3584-2

What does one dress up as for Halloween when one spends the other 364 days of the year in a ladybug outfit? That’s the question facing Lulu as she tries to come up with the perfect costume, even though it’s already Halloween day. A robot costume made from a cardboard box isn’t the most mobile option, and there’s a critical flaw in the Chaplinesque getup she puts together next: “A silent movie star can’t ask for candy!” A trip to an apple orchard, where Lulu helps a small girl who gets lost in a corn maze, leads to an epiphany—one that probably won’t surprise many of Ladybug Girl’s fans. Soman’s watercolors are right at home with autumn’s muted hues (the slightly melancholic orchard scenes are especially lovely), helping make this thoughtful story another winner for Ladybug Girl. Ages 3–5. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Shivery Shades of Halloween

Mary McKenna Siddals, illus. by Jimmy Pickering. Random, $12.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-385-36999-2

Impish monsters, ghosts, bats, pumpkins, and vampires bring dashes of humor to this color primer, which opens with the question, “What color is Halloween?” In the pages that follow, answers come in the form of often-chilling rhymes that evoke the moods of 10 colors. “Halloween is black. Cat and cauldron,/ Cloak and hat,/ Mouth of cave,/ Vampire bat,/ Inky-slinky, hairy-scary,/ creepy-seepy/ Blot of black,” writes Siddals; elsewhere, she makes the case for red (“Tip of fang,/ Flash of cape,/ Horns and tail,/ A gash, a gape”). Pickering balances out the menace in some of the rhymes with cartoon characterizations that are far from frightening—on the “red” spread, a pint-size devil covered in bandages glowers at the vampire on the opposing page who, just maybe, has been testing out his fangs on him. Ages 2–5. Agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Shannon Associates. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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My Pumpkin

Lily Karr, illus. by Doreen Mulryan Marts. Scholastic/Cartwheel, $4.99 (12p) ISBN 978-0-545-49332-1

A bouncy Halloween rhyme and a friendly doglike monster guide readers through this board book, which is die-cut in the shape of a squat pumpkin and embellished with foil on its covers. The simplicity of Karr’s verse (“Pumpkin, pumpkin, orange and round./ Growing on the patchy ground”) means that Marts’s digital cartoons are responsible for establishing the sunny book’s mood and the sanguine personalities of the un-scary monsters, who are seen picking pumpkins and showing off their costumes while trick-or-treating. Ages 2–5. (July)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Spooky Castle

Andrea Lorini, illus. by Laura Rigo. Barron’s, $6.99 (6p) ISBN 978-0-7641-6734-8

Disconnects between text and art, some odd turns of phrase, and poorly formatted text that masks the verse’s rhyme scheme mar this Halloween story. On the first page, readers meet guitar-playing skeleton Benny Skully, who wears a red cape and backwards blue baseball cap (referred to as “his large hat,” though there’s nothing notably large about it). Subsequently Benny, a witch, a cat, and a ghost dance, enjoy a “Halloween dinner roast,” and get candy from “Jumping Jack, the black-dressed pumpkin man.” Rigo’s art is full of pleasing details to explore, but it’s the book’s weaknesses that linger. Ages 2–5. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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I’m a Little Vampire

Sonali Fry, illus. by Sanja Rescek. S&S/Little Simon, $5.99 (16p) ISBN 978-1-4814-0504-1

Fry recasts the nursery rhyme “I’m a Little Teapot” to feature a vampire toddler: “I’m a little vampire, short and stout./ If I don’t get candy, I might pout.” In warm, smudgy-textured illustrations, Rescek gives the vampire bright blue eyes, a wide smile (with tiny fangs), a purple hood, and red cape. He looks the picture of innocence, but this vampire isn’t afraid to shout or scare his way to getting more sweets—an attitude that’s just mischievous enough for Halloween. Simultaneously available: The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin. Ages 2–4. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Llama Llama Trick or Treat

Anna Dewdney. Viking, $5.99 (14p) ISBN 978-0-451-46978-6

In his sixth board book, Dewdney’s Llama Llama is in a great mood, and who can blame him, between costume picking (“What would Llama like to be?/ An astronaut? A bumblebee?”), pumpkin carving, and the promise of candy to come. Classmate Nelly Gnu can be spotted in a few of the scenes, including a closing spread of trick-or-treating, whose dark, rich colors really pop after all the white space on the preceding pages. A cheerful outing for kids just starting to enjoy Halloween. Up to age 3. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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