Monday, October 25, 2021

New Picture Books for Halloween and Thanksgiving

I love seasonal picture books! Today, I have a list of brand-new titles to help young readers celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. All of these titles were sent to me by their respective publishers in exchange for honest reviews.

Here Comes Fall!
written by Susan Kantor and illustrated by Katya Longhi (Little Simon) is a cheerful rhyming story about saying goodbye to summer and enjoying the crisp air, delicious apples, and crunchy leaves that come in the fall. Each page shows sweet anthromorphic creatures celebrating the season in cozy scenes of family fun. My 19-month-old son fell in love with this book instantly. He loves the faces on the little animals, as well as the shades of orange and red the illustrator used for the leaves. This is a fun book to share with little ones who might not yet be ready for true Halloween content. 

Boo! Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton (Little Simon) is a Halloween take-off on her popular Moo! Baa, La La La. There isn't much to the story other than a sort of call-and-response exchange between a cow saying Boo and a sheep saying Baa, but the rhythm of the text and the exaggerated faces of the figures really appealed to my 19-month-old daughter, who eagerly snatched the book from me after I finished reading it aloud. You truly can never go wrong with Sandra Boynton books for toddlers.

Knock Knock, Trick or Treat! by Amy E. Sklansky, illustrated by Chiara Galletti (Little Simon) is a lift-the-flap book that follows the format of a guessing game. On each page, there is a house decorated to suit its spooky occupant, and then the text invites the reader to figure out who will be found lurking behind the door. I read this aloud to my 19-month-olds and my four-year-old, and my six-year-old and almost-eight-year-old were nearby listening in. Everyone was engaged by this book! The four-year-old was able to guess most of the creatures correctly, but a few were challenging for her, and the older girls figured them out. I was disappointed that this review copy didn't come in time for my Halloween-themed story time. I'm putting it on my list for next year.

Another fun lift-the-flap book is How to Hide a Ghost by MacKenzie Haley (Little Simon). The text in this one was a bit confusing for me to read aloud, but the pictures are adorable. The child characters are all dressed in fun costumes, and the ghosts are playful and friendly. It's another great choice for kids who want to get in on the festive fun, but for whom a more traditional ghost story would be too much. 

Friendly ghosts also make an appearance in Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). The title house worries that its strange creaking and shrieking noises mean it's haunted, and it worries that no one will want to live in it. Thankfully, a family of ghosts finds that it is just the place for them. None of my kids got from the illustrations that the family members were meant to be ghosts, so that made me realize how much scaffolding on an adult's part would be required to help this go over well in story time. Still, the onomatopoeia of the house's spooky noises just begs to be read aloud, so it's probably worth the little bit of extra explanation that might be required at the end. 

In addition to ghosts, pumpkins are also the perfect theme for this time of year. The Robin Hill School series includes a book called The Pumpkin Patch, written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by Mike Gordon (Simon Spotlight). Though this is meant to be an easy reader book, I actually think it works as a good read-aloud to prepare kids for visiting the pumpkin patch, or to help kids (read: mine) who won't get to the pumpkin patch this year understand where the grocery store pumpkins originate. A pumpkin in the story is also baked into a pie, which makes this a book you can keep out on the shelf through Thanksgiving.

Similarly, How to Help a Pumpkin Grow by Ashley Wolff (Beach Lane Books) introduces the process behind the growing of pumpkins. A dog gardener encounters a series of animals in his fledgling pumpkin patch. Though the animals at first glance seem like they might destroy the patch, the dog invites them to help the pumpkins grow instead. At the end, there is pumpkin pie for everyone, and a bunch of glowing jack-o'lanterns. This is another book that can bridge the month between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The minimalist text and bright expressive pictures make it a strong story time contender for toddler and preschool audiences.

Finally, I'll finish this list with two Thanksgiving titles. 

Thankful, written by Elaine Vickers and illustrated by Samantha Cotterill (Paula Wiseman Books), is not explicitly a Thanksgiving story, but it certainly suits the theme of gratitude. In December, a little girl and her family write down the things for which they are thankful and add them to a paper chain. The text of the book is a litany of the items the girl includes on her links of the chain: everything from her dog and her heart, to seat belts and snow. The diorama-style illustrations have really interesting and eye-catching details that are fun to pore over. The text may be somewhat abstract in its listing of random pieces of the girl's life, but the pictures are very particular and precise, and they paint a warm portrait of a loving family whose members appreciate their blessings. The only thing that would improve this book for me would be for the family to acknowledge to whom they are directing their thanks, but I know my own kids will intuit that it's meant to be God even if the author doesn't necessarily intend that. 

The other Thanksgiving book I'm really excited about is the board book version of Thanks a Lot by Raffi (Random House Children's Books), which is illustrated by Jaime Kim. This is a song I have used in Thanksgiving story times for years, but I'm so thankful to have a book to replace my poorly put together flannel board. The pictures are very bright and cheerful, depicting a young black boy who ponders all the natural wonders for which he is grateful. Again, there is no clear indication in the book that the child is thanking God, but it won't be hard to spark a discussion with my preschooler about who created the sun, clouds, moon, etc. I am planning to read this to the story time group that meets at my house at our last meeting before Thanksgiving.

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