A terrific Halloween title to share with those readers who prefer giggles to shivers.

NOT VERY SCARY

Monster Melly is invited to her cousin Malberta’s house “on the scariest night of all.” On her way, she notices she is being followed. Why? More importantly: by what?

Melly looks pleasant enough for a young monster, with her striped horns and fanged smile. What surprise could her cousin have in store for her? She has no time to think about that, as one “coal-black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail” seems to be stalking her. Melly tells herself bravely it is “Not the least bit scary.” The following spreads reveal an increasing number of spooky characters following her. “[T]wo skittish skeletons” and “three wheezy witches” join the procession in turn, until “ten vexing vultures” round out the silly and not-so-scary group of creepy characters. But by the time Melly rings Malberta’s doorbell, her teeth are chattering with fear. Her three-eyed cousin opens the door to welcome her to a surprise party. But the true surprise is that all the other guests are right behind her! Brendler’s cumulative tale uses silly rhymes and humorous descriptions to make this counting adventure one that invites participation. Geisel winner Pizzoli (The Watermelon Seed, 2013) chooses a muted palette of oranges, browns, greens and purples to allow the whites—on Melly’s horns, cheerful ghosts and friendly skeletons—to glow.

A terrific Halloween title to share with those readers who prefer giggles to shivers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-35547-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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