Fall into Good Books

For many of us, October heralds a change in temperature and the arrival of Halloween. Below are two selections that celebrate this distinctive season.

Anne Sibley O’Brien invokes magical incantations to toast autumn in Hocus Pocus, It’s Fall! Shazam! A gust of wind encourages youngsters to pull a leaf-filled flap to find a forest carpet of foliage, while other rites of the season–picking apples, donning heavier clothes, scanning the skies for migrating flocks–are enchanting when infused with the youthful sense of wonderment that permeates the book. Susan Gal’s mixed-media illustrations of chubby-cheeked chipmunks and cherubic children reveling in the natural world are bathed in tones of gold, orange, and russet. Warm and inviting, this charming tale will put a spell on you. (Abrams Appleseed; $12.95, 24 pages, ages 2-5)

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Meanwhile, for those of you who eagerly await the arrival of Halloween might enjoy Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil by Jen Darcy (Hyperion; $40.00, 192 pages, all ages). This update on the 1993 publication by Frank Thomas celebrates Disney’s darkest characters, from Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmations to Tangled’s Mother Gothel to the duplicitous Hans of Frozen. Sheathed in a dust-jacket highlighting a blood-red illustration of the Evil Queen, this coffee-table book includes concept art, photographs,and movie stills, while the text explains the origins of evildoers and their influence on popular culture. Organized thematically, those moviegoers who find themselves rooting for the bad guys will happily revel in all this book has to offer. 

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In, by Nikki McClure; Abrams Appleseed, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 2-6.

Master cut-paper artist Nikki McClure (May the Stars Drip Down; How to Be a Cat) has crafted another stunning story full of bold images that demonstrate the deft skill of a professional at her best. Here readers meet a young boy who decides that today is just too cold and wet to venture outdoors, but perfect to explore the simple pleasures of playing make-believe. McClure’s books are generally done in black and white with one major pop of color – here it’s yellow, highlighting a toy giraffe, a yellow flag, and even a jar of marmalade. Keep an eye open for owls – McClure filled In with 35 different kinds of the bird of prey. Then check the last page to see if you found them all.

This joyous celebration of downtime will speak to overscheduled youngsters (and their parents), reminding us that unsupervised moments are blissful manna for the soul. 

Lullaby & Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby, by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Alyssa Nassner; Abrams Appleseed, $15.95, 44 pages, ages 0-3.


Babies love being read to, and they will adore listening to this lyrical collection of original poetry curated by poet Lee Bennett Hopkins. The anthology’s thirty selections are divided into five topics, ranging from food to bedtime. Parents will notice some A-list authors among the group, including Marilyn Singer, (the Tallulah series) Jane Yolen (How Do Dinosaurs….? series) and J. Patrick Lewis (World Rat Day: Poems About Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of.). The sturdy, casebound board book is perfect for exploring little hands, and artist Alyssa Nassner’s bright and engaging illustrations make this a delightful introduction to all the sensory joys of poetry.

Wish, by Matthew Cordell; Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, 48 pages, ages 3-6.

Sometimes parents wait a long time before children come along. They plan, live, cope with disappointment, until one day their wish comes true. Matthew Cordell’s charming elephant couple explores what it means to begin a family, and how adults deal with unexpected challenges. “We listen…. And we wait… but you never come. And everything stops.” will no doubt resonate with some families more than others. One day, while the patient pachyderms stroll along the beach, a crack of lightning splits the ocean apart, and a baby arrives on a small sailboat. There’s nothing preachy or overly saccharine here – Wish is a wonderful, simple and totally heartfelt way for parents to remind their children how much they are loved.