Oct 1998 issue of CT

Circle Time Book Reviews
Trick or Treat!

 
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
Barn Dance - Alice and Greta - Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Part of the fun of Halloween is being just a little bit spooked. To some kids, though, there is no such thing as *just a little bit spooked*. If you've ever spent a sleepless night trying to convince your child that there are no unauthorized visitors hiding in his room, you'll appreciate these kinder, gentler versions of some of the season's more frightening characters.
 
Kathy Bennett
 

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
written by Linda Williams
illustrated by Megan Lloyd
original copyright 1986
recommended age level - preschool, 4-8
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0064431835 - paperback
ISBN: 0690045840 - hard cover
ISBN: 0690045867 - library binding
 

My youngest daughter loves this book so much that if she hears us reading it to another child after she's gone to bed, she yells, "Boo lady! Boo lady!" and begs us to read it to her again. It's such a fun tale that we always do.

Once upon a time, a little old lady who was not afraid of anything walked home through the moonlit woods. She rounded a bend on the path and found two big shoes that go CLOMP, CLOMP by themselves.

"Get out of my way, you two big shoes! I'm not afraid of you," she said. She kept on walking, and the shoes clomp-clomped behind her. Next she met up with a pair of pants, then a shirt, and pretty soon she had an entire outfit following her. Each time, she ordered, "Get out of my way... I'm not afraid of you" and walked on just a wee bit faster.

Then she got to the "very huge, very orange, very scary pumpkin head." Walking a little bit faster was out of the question -- running wasn't. She ran all the way home,

"[b]ut behind her she could hear
Two shoes go CLOMP, CLOMP,
One pair of pants go WIGGLE, WIGGLE,
One shirt go SHAKE, SHAKE,
Two gloves go CLAP, CLAP,
One hat go NOD, NOD,
And one scary pumpkin head go BOO, BOO!"

When she bravely proclaimed that she was still not frightened, all the stuff that had followed her home didn't know what to do with itself. But she had an idea. She found a place for it in her garden, where it could scare all the birds away.

Part of the magic in this story lies in it's repetition. My kids love saying and acting out shake, shake, nod, nod, etc. (and I may be a very proud mom, but nobody says "wiggle, wiggle" cuter than my toddler). Another part of the magic is the illustrations. They're serious, but not scary. At one point, the little old lady pushes the shirt out of her way. In the next illustration, it's following her with it's sleeves crossed in the classic "humph!" pose so familiar to parents of strong-willed children.

Too Many Pumpkins is another book by the same team.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (paperback) (hardcover) (library)

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

Barn Dance!
written by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault
illustrated by Ted Rand
original copyright 1986
recommended age level - preschool, 4-8
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0805007997 - paperback
ISBN: 0805000895 - hard cover
 

Scarecrows aren't really scary unless you're a crow -- or a preschooler. My son was terrified of scarecrows until we found this book. Now, it's torn and tattered, and a favorite of both my boys and their older sister. It's the story of what goes on in the barn when (almost) everyone in the farmhouse is sleeping.

All except the skinny kid with questions in his head,
Much too full of wonderment to spend the night in bed,
He was up about and list'nin'. . .
. . .when the night owl said,
      Come a little closer. . .
      Come a little closer. . .
      Listen to the night. . .
      There's magic in the air. . .

The skinny kid can hear the sound of fiddle strings, and he looks out his window to see the scarecrow leading all the animals into the barn for a hoe-down. Intrigued, the skinny kid sneaks into the barn and hides. Pretty soon, though, the scarecrow spots him and invites him to join in.

Out came the skinny kid, a-tickin' an' a-tockin'
An' a hummin' an' a-yeein' an' a rockin' an' a sockin'.
An' he danced his little toe through a hole in his stockin'!

By this point in the story, my kids are itchin' to get up and dance, too. But, as the night owl points out, the magic can only last so long. The skinny kid sneaks back into his bed in the farmhouse to watch the sunrise. It might have been a dream, except for that hole in his sock.

In addition to the wonderful verse that sets toes a-tappin', my kids love the illustrations. My three-year-old always points out the skinny kid's progress as he sneaks out of the house, past the hound dog, into the barn, and back. All the kids giggle at the whirling pigs, who get so dizzy that they all fall down.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (paperback) (hardcover)

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>
 

Alice and Greta
written by Steven J. Simmons
illustrated by Cyd Moore
original copyright 1997
recommended age level - 4-8
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0881069744 - library binding
 

Besides living on the same mountain top, Alice and Greta have a lot in common. They are both witches. They both went to the Miss Mildred Mildew's School of Magic and learned the same spells. But that's where the similarities end. Alice uses her magic for good; Greta prefers to make trouble (but then, what can you expect from someone who starts the day off with a cup of pond slime every morning?).

Greta wasn't paying attention when Miss Mildew taught her pupils the most important lesson of all -- "The Brewmerang Principle: Whatever you chant, Whatever you brew, Sooner or later Comes back to you!" So while Alice helps a sailboat stranded on a sandbar; Greta uses the same spell to swamp a sand castle and sweep it out to sea. After Alice makes a lost puppy reappear; Greta uses the same spell to make all the balls at a soccer tournament disappear.

One day Greta dumps a load of sticky slimy marshmallow goo on some children in a playground. Before Alice can help them, Greta slimes her, too. Then Alice remembers the Brewmerang Principle, and invokes its application on Greta. Greta gets a taste of every nasty thing she's ever done.

The story could end there, but it doesn't. It ends with Greta brushing up on the Brewmerang Principle. Maybe there's hope for her yet.

Cyd Moore's beautiful illustrations add humorous touches to this charming tale. During flying lessons, Alice straddles her broom in proper witchy fashion, while Greta hangs upside down by her knees on hers. Alice chants her chants in a lotus position; Greta prefers to stand on her head. Best of all, on graduation day, all the new witches from Miss Mildred's have mortar board pointy hats, complete with tassels.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (library binding)

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

Go Away, Big Green Monster!
written and illustrated by Ed Emberley
original copyright 1992
recommended age level - preschool
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0316236535 - library binding
 

This book is the ultimate "empowering tool" for giving little ones control over their fears. It first builds a monster, adding a feature or two on each page through the use of cut-out pages. First the two big yellow eyes appear, then the long bluish-greenish nose. By the time you add the big, scary green face, you've got one scary monster.

But don't worry, because once Big Green Monster is all put together, he's taken apart again. "YOU DON'T SCARE ME!" reads the text, "So, GO AWAY..." Page by page and one by one, the scary features disappear as ordered. The book ends with "GO AWAY, Big Green Monster! And DON'T COME BACK! Until I say so."

Wow. If only I'd had this book when that scary clown was in my son's closet. Or when the mysterious cowboy was in his brother's room. Or when that nasty giant was hiding out in my parents' fireplace about thirty years ago.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (library binding)

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

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