Frankenstorm Reads!

With the pending arrival of the “Frankenstorm” here on the East Coast, parents may find themselves homebound this Halloween. Perhaps these spooky titles will help weather the storm.  If we could hand out books instead of treats on Halloween anyway, we would tuck these into outstretched bags instead of candy.

“The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” illustrated by Richard Egielski, paper engineering by Gene Vosough; Atheneum Books, $19.99, 12 pages, ages 2-4.

Millions of people on the East Coast will likely experience the effects of Hurricane Sandy this week, so why not read about a spirited little spider in baseball cap and overalls who also faces an oncoming deluge.  This version of the classic hand rhyme gets an update with the arachnid climbing up the side of a building in a bustling downtown area constructed just for insects – salt shakers and teapots are transformed into apartment buildings, and bright daisies are the towering flora in this neighborhood.  Caldecott-winner Egeilski’s charming illustrations jump off the page with the help of paper engineer Gene Vosough, whose other books include “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and “Here Come the Firefighters.” 

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“Icky Sticky Monster,” by Jo Lodge; Nosy Crow Press, $12.99, 12 pages, ages 3 and up.

“Icky Sticky Monster has an itchy nose. He pokes his grubby finger in – and all around it goes!” And so go the exploits of this “super yucky” monster in this delightfully disgusting pop-up book. Preschool children will delight in searching for the monster’s whereabouts in the overflowing potty and will squeal when he guzzles a jug of cabbage juice spiked with bits of slimy slugs.  Five pop-ups in blindingly neon hues accompany rhymes about this revolting, nose-picking, garbage rummaging blue troll. Bestselling author and paper engineer Jo Lodge has crafted a bright and quick reading romp that harnesses the power of all things smelly and grimy to entertain young readers. 

“The Monsters’ Monster,” by Patrick McDonnell; Little, Brown & Co, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 4-7.

While parents may tire of “Icky Sticky Monster” before their children, both parties will enjoy  “The Monsters’ Monster” over many reading sessions. Patrick McDonnell, Caldecott honor winner and creator of the syndicated comic strip MUTTS , crafts a story of three self-described “bad” monsters whose ambition is to breathe life into the meanest monster who ever lived. Wreaking destruction and striking fear into the local villagers may be the trio’s ultimate goal, but Monster has other, less dastardly plans that involve pats on the head and jelly doughnuts. Indeed, this green giant bounds around the village repeating the phrase “Dank You,” to everyone he meets.  Adults will pick up on the “Frankenstein” send-up, from the bolts and wires sticking out of Monster’s body to the green skin-tone to the life-giving bolt of lightening.  A story of gratitude makes “The Monsters’ Monster” a timeless tale that will carry this book from the Halloween reading rotation throughout the rest of the year.

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“The Insomniacs,” by Karina Wolf, illustrated by Ben and Sean Hilts; Putnam Juvenile, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4-6.

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Mrs. Insomniac takes a job that is twelve time zones away, and her family makes the journey by ship across the cerulean sea to their new home. Unfortunately, the Insomniacs’ internal clocks never adjust to the new place, and the foreigners are stymied by their inability to sleep at night. Exhausted by daytime activities and unable to remedy their nocturnal rousing, the Insomniacs make the bold decision to renounce the day and to become “a nighttime family.” Mother, Father and little Mike blossom and embrace their new world. This enchantingly beautiful tale is a knockout debut picture book by Kira Wolf. A celebration of diversity and quirkiness is treated to moody illustrations of pencil and charcoal courtesy of Ben and Sean Hilts, the fraternal illustrating team who gave “The Insomniacs its decidedly Edward Gorey flair.

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“The Dead Family Diaz,” by P.J. Bracegirdle, pictures by Poly Bernatene; Dial Books, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 5-7. 

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The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) is presented from the point of view of the departed but certainly not lifeless participants in this Mexican holiday. Angelito is a plucky bow-tie wearing skeleton boy whose family is preparing to visit the living, and he is unsure what to expect – he’s heard so much about the living’s hot, squishy skin, red tongues and bulging eyes. But perhaps the most frightening of all is that on Halloween, the living carve creepy faces into pumpkins to scare the dead away.  The boy reluctantly joins his family on the elevator up to the world of los vivos (the living) and unknowingly meets a fleshy boy who changes Angelito’s perspective on the yearly trek. Illustrator Poly Bernatene’s digitally saturated images are brilliant, reflecting the same pigments found in traditional Day of the Dead decorations. However, the white skeletons with their dark, hollow eye-sockets and visible spinal columns may make this book better suited to kindergarten-aged children and older. A brief explanation at the end provides helpful background information on the holiday. 

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