Library Books Enjoyed, 10/31/13: Halloween Edition

We apparently checked out Halloween books early and often this month, so here they are. Happy Halloween!

10 Trick-or-Treaters10 Trick-or-Treaters by Janet Schulman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness. This one gets a five for the sheer amount of enjoyment my kids have gotten out of it. I don’t know if it’s the colorful Halloween pictures, the rhyme, the counting down (which my kindergartner was especially attuned to) or what, but they LOVED this and we read it OVER and OVER, and even had to keep it out an extra week.

Basically, it follows 10 trick-or-treaters on their Halloween, and the numbers dwindle as one trick-or-treater is scared off on each page. There’s nothing really very scary here (good for my crowd…and their mother), but lots of Halloween characters (a witch, a mummy, a bat, etc.) make appearances.

Pumpkin EyePumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A short (great for a late bedtime story!), sweet Halloween book. Bright pictures, simple rhyme. Enjoyed all around.

(This one was borrowed by my kindergartner from his school library rather than our public library…we are expanding our horizons!)

Monster Needs a CostumeMonster Needs a Costume by Paul Czajak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a cute Halloween story about a monster who has trouble deciding on what costume to wear…a dilemma familiar to many parents. I really enjoyed the story, and the conclusion, and I think my kids loved it as well. The pictures are very vivid and add to the comedy (although the little boy who’s in charge of Monster seems to be very sympathetic to him).

I have one persnickety problem with it, which is that Monster is obviously a boy in the story, but when he wants to be a ballet dancer, he is dressed as a girl ballerina with a pink tutu. My problem is not with any gender-bending, but with the fact that this completely ignores the fact that boys can be ballet dancers, too! And when boys and men dance, they dress differently from girls and women, and to be a ballet dancer does not just mean to wear a pink tutu. Ok, that’s the end of my rant.

Monster Needs a Costume is a great Halloween story, and you should enjoy it with your kids as soon as you can get your hands on it at the library.

Zen GhostsZen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven’t read Zen Shorts, so I didn’t know what this would be like going into it. It was a beautiful story, and absolutely beautiful pictures that gave just the right atmosphere of fall and spookiness.

Trick or Treat, Marley!Trick or Treat, Marley! by John Grogan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let’s just be honest and say I didn’t like this. I have read, and did enjoy, Marley and Me, but I am a little perturbed by all the spin-offs it has spawned. I think two things bothered me the most about this: the kids’ character names did not even slightly correspond with Grogan’s kids in the original (yes, you could make an argument for the kids’ privacy, but if you are doing a spin-off, it should be an accurate spin-off, right?) and, after all the trouble Marley got in, they put him in charge of handing out candy? Really?

However, I’m still featuring the book in the “Halloween Books Enjoyed” because the target audience at our house ate this right up. The combination of cute dog and Halloween is just too much for them, apparently.

Ol' Clip-Clop: A Ghost StoryOl’ Clip-Clop: A Ghost Story by Patricia C. McKissack

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grabbed this, first because it was by Patricia C. McKissack, who has written lots of great picture books (until earlier this year, with her husband, Frederick L. McKissack), and also because it looked fun, historical, and a little spooky. I purposely did not share it with my kids…I read it myself, and then decided I didn’t want to share it with them quite yet.

This is mostly a spooky tale who’s atmosphere is conveyed by suggestion…describing how mean the main character, John Leep, is, repeating the clip-clop sounds (and making them get faster and faster), and the dark (as in colored dark pictures)…but it’s a jump tale (the right reader could really go crazy with this in an elementary school read-aloud setting), and the last page has a somewhat scary picture (a skeleton-like ghost coming to swallow up John Leep). I am definitely on the “chicken” side for judging scary stories, but I would recommend this for 1st or 2nd grade up through about 4th…maybe 5th, but “kids these days” seem harder to scare than I am. ūüėČ

Although I didn’t read this aloud, I think it’s a fun story, and the pictures are great…definitely worth it for the right audience.

Betty Crocker Halloween CookbookBetty Crocker Halloween Cookbook by Betty Crocker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My three-year-old saw this on display and insisted we check it out, and all three of my kids have been poring over it since, to decide what they want me to make out of it…we have finally settled on one or two recipes that I will photocopy and try to make sometime this month.

As a cookbook, I don’t think much of it (most of the recipes include such ingredients as Bisquick, premade cinnamon rolls, cake mix, etc…nothing wrong with using those, but they don’t really tell you how to make most of the food). As a decorating book, however, it’s pretty great…and the recipes we’ve decided on are basically easy ways to decorate a sheet cake and pudding in cups to look like witches.

As a picture book, this is also great, because I think the kids have enjoyed it as much for looking at the pictures as for any actual treats that they get out of it.

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Library Books Enjoyed, 10/24/13

Dog in ChargeDog in Charge by K.L. Going

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought going in that this would end up as a classic “dogs vs. cats” problem story–and I think the author purposely sets it up to look that way–but that’s not how it ends. A cute story about pet chaos while the owners are away.

Lost in the WoodsLost in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this one up because it was on display and happened to look interesting, and we all enjoyed it. It’s done by a husband and wife wildlife photographer team, and it’s basically a story made up based on a series of photos they took. The story is fine, but nothing that I found overly wonderful, but the photographs really make the book. It’s neat to see such up close photos of the fawn in particular, but also all the other woodland animals. My son was especially taken with the photo where you see a shadow of a wolf. Don’t worry, all turns out well for the fawn.

Rescue BunniesRescue Bunnies by Doreen Cronin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I grabbed this one because it was a Doreen Cronin book I hadn’t heard of before…and it was a hit with my kids. Newbie, the Rescue Bunny trainee is about to complete her field exam while the Rescue Bunnies team rescues a baby giraffe who’s stuck in the mud. She doesn’t do everything by the book, but as her Chief says at the end, she’s “got heart,” and it’s clear she is now a full member of the Rescue Bunny team.

I was a little taken aback by the bluntness with which the possibility of leaving the baby giraffe behind if the approaching hyenas get too close is mentioned, but it didn’t seem to phase the kids. Otherwise, it was a fun read for both kids and adults, and the book was laced with cliched movie lines that the adults might get an extra laugh out of.

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Field Trip: Duke Gardens

Duke Gardens is one of our favorite places that we don’t visit often enough. Over the spring, summer, and early fall, we stop by¬†every single week to pick up our produce box, but we don’t take time to go and enjoy the gardens every time. This summer, we got there about 3-4 times total. Duke Gardens is a beautiful gardens on Duke’s campus that’s open to the public. You have to pay for parking, and you can buy duck food in the garden gift shop, but it’s overall an inexpensive outing. My kids love feeding the ducks, and since we almost always go in the afternoons, it’s a good place to get wiggles and crazies out in the before-dinner hour.

I’ve enjoyed going to Duke Gardens since before I had kids…one of my best library school friends and I made an outing there in between our two years of school just to enjoy reading in the sunshine. There’s a beautiful variety of plants and types of gardens. I don’t think I’ve explored anywhere near everything there is, but some of my favorites are the terraced garden (weddings are often held here, but they don’t close off the whole gardens, so you can glimpse wedding parties in their finery on many weekend days!), the duck pond (of course), and the rose garden near the entrance. I’ve only been to the native plants garden once, and I’d like to explore there more, and we also have not visited the Discovery Garden, which is supposed to be perfect for kids…so hopefully we’ll make a few more visits before we leave the area.

Back in August, I managed to grab a few pictures (all on my phone, and I’m not a great photographer even with a real camera, so temper your expectations accordingly) during one of our exploration/duck feeding expeditions:

The rose garden and fountain.

The rose garden and fountain.


Terraced Garden

Terraced Garden.


Lily pads in the pond at the bottom of the terraces.

Lily pads in the pond at the bottom of the terraces.

Huge goldfish in the lily pond.

Huge goldfish in the lily pond.


Duck pond (ducks not really in view).

Duck pond (ducks not really in view).

Sorry, but I didn’t get any pictures of feeding the ducks–managing three children who aren’t sure whether or not to be afraid of hungry ducks is all I can manage during duck feedings.

I definitely recommend Duke Gardens as a place to enjoy the outdoors, with kids or without. Here’s their website for more information:¬†

Library Books Enjoyed, 10/17/13

Urgency Emergency! Itsy Bitsy SpiderUrgency Emergency! Itsy Bitsy Spider by Dosh Archer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 2nd Urgency Emergency! book we’ve read–the first one, which we heard at library storytime, involved a choking (Big, Bad) Wolf. This one has a spider who has suffered a serious head injury. I would consider this series in the category of “won’t work for everyone”–it’s kind of an odd m√©lange of explaining the way hospitals work and mixing up fairy tale characters–but I happen to find them quite funny, and my kids seem to enjoy them, too. One interesting quality with both of the ones we’ve read before is that something that is mentioned or happens at the beginning–but does not seem essential to the story–comes back to be important near the end. I think these would also be fun for those who are not quite reading chapter books but pretty fluently reading on their own.

Pete at the Beach (Pete the Cat: I Can Read)Pete at the Beach by James Dean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My kids have become avid Pete the Cat fans, and this one is an easy-reader Pete adventure. I was a little surprised that Pete started off the story by being scared (in the picture books, part of the point seems to be that Pete isn’t flustered or upset by much of anything), but it was an enjoyable story, and the easy one-two-three approach to learning to surf amused me. We reread this one several times!

Shoe-La-La!Shoe-La-La! by Karen Beaumont

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We found this on the new book shelf, and both my daughters LOVED it (and I loved that they both added another “la” and called it “Shoe La-la-la”). My son also sat through several readings without complaint. I think the girls mostly loved the different kinds of shoes and that the pictures involved glitter. I liked that, although the book was all about shoes and shoe-shopping, the girls’ final decision involved some creativity of their own. This is by the same author (although a different illustrator) as Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, and I was impressed that she conveys the same sense of fun in two completely different scenarios.

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Shadows by Robin McKinley

I’ve been finished with¬†Shadows¬†for over a week, and I’m still trying to think about how to discuss it intelligently. Mostly, I just want to gush, so I guess I will do that first, and then try to make one or two intelligent comments to finish up.

Alright, gushing first: I have been a Robin McKinley fan since my mom handed me Beauty in 5th or 6th grade, and Beauty¬†has remained my favorite of her books (with¬†Spindle’s End a close second) ever since. I still have my original copy of¬†Beauty and I probably reread it every few years.

I may have a new favorite Robin McKinley book. 

I’m a little surprised by this, because I can’t quite pinpoint why I like Shadows so much, but it was just a completely satisfying read for me. I don’t want to reread it again right now, but I feel like I¬†will want to reread it again in the next year…and then who knows how many other times. I like that it has a more contemporary feel (another of her “alt-modern” books), but it’s a¬†different contemporary world than either¬†Dragonhaven¬†or¬†Sunshine. I like the different languages that play a part (Japanese and some invented languages) and that it deals with the issues of borders and safety and how people choose to deal with the dangerous stuff that the world throws at us, but it doesn’t preach about any of these topics. I like that the “evil stepfather” is presented as a way to introduce the story, but that Maggie (the main character) is willing to reconsider once she realizes that her stepfather is not evil, just magical. I also like the “critters” everywhere…I am not really a critter person (one cat is just right for me, thank you), but the critters are both endearing and¬†normal, which helps draw you into Maggie’s world.

I also like that, while the ending of the book is a little ambiguous (you don’t know if and how all the big issues are going to be resolved), you know who is who in Maggie’s group of friends and family…I can take a lot of plot ambiguity if all the relationships I’m interested are nicely settled!

Ok, I still don’t have anything especially critical or not-gushing to say. Everyone can have some blind spots with their favorite authors, right?¬†Maybe after I reread this 2 or 3 times, I’ll be able to look at it a little more critically, but in the meantime, I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes: fantasy, magic, dogs, Japanese, origami, hot chocolate, magical creatures, teenage protagonists, or romance. Oh, and anyone who hates math. You won’t be disappointed.

Library Books Enjoyed, 10/10/13

Patrick Eats His Peas and Other StoriesPatrick Eats His Peas and Other Stories by Geoffrey Hayes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I put this one on hold because my son enjoyed his first Patrick book (Patrick in A Teddy Bear Picnic) so much, and it did not disappoint him. This is another collection of short vignettes in graphic novel form, and this one seems to focus on an ordinary day at home (eating veggies, taking a bath, etc.)–because of that, it seemed more coherent to me than the first one. The Toon Book imprint is quickly becoming our go-to imprint for graphic novels for my graphic novel-loving kindergartner.

The Patterson Puppies and the Rainy DayThe Patterson Puppies and the Rainy Day by Leslie Patricelli

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When the Patterson Puppies run out of things to do on a rainy day (and to be fair, it does sound like they kept pretty busy up until the book starts!), they decide to have an indoor beach day…a fun idea that goes a little awry when their imaginations run ahead of their common sense. I think my kids especially enjoyed this because a similar situation occurred on a recently watched episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”

I assume there are other Patterson Puppies books, but I’ve not encountered them before. They were fun, and the pictures were vivid and colorful. Nice solid picture book.

Yoko Writes Her NameYoko Writes Her Name by Rosemary Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rosemary Wells is always a favorite around here, and I grabbed this one since my kindergartner has been working hard (and succeeding, with a long name, too!) at writing his name. Yoko’s difficulty is not fine motor skills but learning to write in two languages, and the territory of getting teased for being different is well-considered here. There are several other Yoko books and we’ve enjoyed all of them.

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Guest Blogging!

I had my first ever public blog post published today at YALSA’s The Hub:

I’m hoping to get to blog their occasionally in the coming year…it will give me a good reason to continue trying to keep up with the YA lit world.

Incidentally, I finished Shadows this weekend and hope to get a review up in the next week.

Happy Tuesday!