A haunted journey worth taking.

SPOOKYTALE

From the Trail Tales series

Two friends and their pup trek through a dark wood toward a haunted house.

Spooky but not-too-scary moments abound in this lift-the-flap board book. Each turn of the page or flip of the fold reveals the friends moving closer to the house in the distance; the opening spread looks like a map displaying the path to the house. During their journey, they cross a rickety bridge (complete with a troll), trudge across a dismal swamp, and tromp through a graveyard. When they arrive at the house, expecting a scare, they discover a raucous Halloween party. The rich vocabulary includes words like dismal, deserted, and rotting. There is plenty for eager eyes to observe and linger over on each page. Cutouts allow for animal faces to peek through pages that have been turned, and even the dog has its own experiences with critters and slightly frightening moments. All of the creatures of the night are nonthreatening—even adorable—which makes for age-appropriate scares. The illustrations are eye-catching, and the gatefolds allow for a playful approach to vertical space and height. One child has pale skin and red hair; the other, light-brown skin and dark hair. The suspense inherent in the journey, coupled with the positive relief of tension at the end, makes this a fun Halloween tale.

A haunted journey worth taking. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5019-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Fun format; bland text.

LOVEBLOCK

From the Block Books series

A hefty board book filled with ruminations on the nature of love.

While love is the topic of this board book, it’s the inventive gatefolds and charmingly vintage illustrations that readers will fall for. Brimming with sweeping declarations along the lines of “Love is / strong. // You have my back and I’ll always have yours,” the text sounds like a series of greeting cards strung together. It’s benign enough, but are most toddlers interested in generic proclamations about love? Some statements, like the ones on “unsinkable” hippos or a panda parent holding a cub “steady,” could introduce new vocabulary. At least there’s plenty of winsome critters to fawn over as the surprisingly sturdy flaps tell dramatic little ministories for each cartoon-style animal species. A downcast baby giraffe looks longingly up at a too-high tasty branch; lift a flap to bring an adult giraffe—and the delicacy—down to the baby, or watch an adventurous young fox retreat into a fold-down–flap burrow to learn that “my heart will always be home with you.” At points, the pages are tricky to turn in the correct order, but clever touches, like a series of folds that slow readers down to a sloth’s speed, make up for it. The book concludes with a gatefold revealing a vibrant playground populated with racially and ethnically diverse humans; two are wheelchair users.

Fun format; bland text. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3153-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery.

FIVE BLACK CATS

A troop of cats traverse a spooky landscape as they make their way to a party hosted by ghosts.

Each double-page spread shows the felines’ encounters with the likes of an owl, jack-o’-lanterns or a bat. One or two of these creepy meetings may be too abstract for the youngest readers, as the cats hear eerie noises with no discernible source on the page. The text, which consists of one rhyming couplet per scene, mostly scans despite a couple of wobbles: “Five black cats get a bit of a scare / As the flip-flapping wings of a bat fill the air.” The sleek, slightly retro art, likely created using a computer, depicts the cats cavorting at night through a shadowy cityscape, the countryside and a haunted house; they may scare some toddlers and delight others. A brighter color palette would have given the project a friendlier, more universal appeal. Luckily, the well-lit, final party scene provides a playful conclusion.

For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58925-611-8

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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