Children's Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal, October 1999
Page Three of Three

On Halloween by Lark Carrier

HarperFestival, August 1999.
Picture Book, 40 pages
ISBN: 0694012920.
Ordering information:
Amazon.com. | Amazon.co.uk


On Halloween
by Lark Carrier Talented artist Lark Carrier has crafted a charming Halloween gem with On Halloween. The story begins with, " On Halloween/We treat you to a fright.../We go boo in the night/." The rhymes are coupled with fabulously colorful illustrations of ghosts, with the eyes cut out so that you can see to the page behind. The rhyme continues with "We glow with jagged light," illustrated by the flames in the jack-o-lanterns, with the eyes cut out so that you can see the flames behind them. The rhyme continues with bones of the skeleton, witches and bats in flight, cats...and those who gobble every bite. The last two pages is a mural of all the creatures that have been seen before, and it is revealed that all the scary creatures and things in the books were nothing to be scared of at all -- they are really children in Halloween masks. Carrier's illustrations are bright, bold and evoke a sense of wonder. An excellent book for reading with children during the weeks leading up to Halloween.


The Teeny, Tiny Ghost by Kay Winters, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Trophy books, August 1999.
Paperback Picture Book
Reading Level: Ages 3 - 8
ISBN: 0064435903.
Ordering information:
Amazon.com. | Amazon.co.uk


The Teeny, Tiny Ghost
by Kay Winters, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger The teeny, tiny ghost has big problems. He's quite timid. Every day he goes off to haunting school to learn how to be a proper ghost. He assiduously pratices booing and whooing, but he ends up scaring himself silly. Halloween is fast approaching, but to the teeny, tiny ghost it just sounds terrifying. Then, one night when he is all alone, with just his two teeny, tiny cats for company, some really loud voices call out to let them in and he hears a loud banging at the door. The teeny, tiny ghost tries to hide, but the voices grow louder. So he screws up his courage and, "He booed, and he whooed, till he felt very bold. He howwwwwled, and then he yowwwwwled, and he sounded very loud." The next thing he hears is clapping and cheering. It is Halloween night and all the ghosts are so proud of the teeny, tiny ghost for being a proper ghoul! Then all the ghosts dress up and go out to celebrate Halloween in style.

The Teeny, Tiny Ghost is a marvelous tale of a ghost who is a little scarier looking than Casper, but still fairly non-threatening. All children will relate to the difficulty of learning tasks at school and longing to fit in. Lynn Munsinger's illustrations are vivid and appealing, with just the right touch of spookiness. The Teeny, Tiny Ghost is sure to appeal to very young readers, as will the repetitive, alliterative prose. Snap this one up for a fun Halloween read with your child.


Vanishing by Bruce Brooks

Laura Geringer Books, June 1999.
Hardcover, 160 pages
Reading Level: Baby-Preschool
ISBN: 0060282363.
Ordering information:
Amazon.com. | Amazon.co.uk


Vanishing
by Bruce Brooks Vanishing deals with a very serious problem that affects many teenaged girls: voluntary starvation. Alice finds herself in a situation which she feels she cannot control. She had hoped to live with her father when her parents broke up and for a while that is what happened. Then she develops bronchitis and the coughing gets on her grandmother's nerves. Her father, who lived in the grandmother's house told her that the "experiment" was just not working out. And that was that. Alice finds herself sent to live with her mother who drinks too much and a stepfather who does seem to like her -- too much. Finding herself hospitalized for her bronchitis, Alice thinks she can find a way out of her difficulty by not eating.

Rex is a young patient at the same hospital, who walks in to make Alice's acquaintance. Rex appears to not care very much about anything, and he has an iconoclastic attitude toward the hospital and staff. Rex is dying and he knows it. He does not get the encouragement that he needs from his parents, but he does appear to get some pleasure out of his visits with Alice when he shares his views on what a disappointment his world offers him. When Alice hears from her mother that Rex is no longer in remission and is in intensive care, she decides that she will get to see him no matter what. In order to prove herself healthy enough to visit Rex in intensive care, Alice begins to eat. Seeing Rex in his final hours and listening to his final advice ("dying sucks") changes Alice, and she decides to embrace living.

Bruce Brooks gets his message to the readers in a way that they can respect. Picking up on the disgust that many young teens feel with life, the author gives a strong message through his heroine. The last message that her dying friend sends her is, "Tell her that all you get by giving up stuff is the Big Nothing." Teens should enjoy the irony and dialogue, as well as the relationship that develops between the boy that doesn't want to die, but has no choice, and the girl who is literally vanishing herself through her own choices.

--Sarah Reaves White


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