a list of…five very slightly shivery tales!

Halloween is coming, and we have many very happy memories of excited children dressing up as pumpkins and arctic explorers, candy bars and Thing 1 and Thing 2!  The one night a year when they could trot around the neighborhood with friends, ringing doorbells and being greeted by people happily doling out candy!  Magical!  I recall one of my children breathlessly exclaiming, “Let’s do this again tomorrow!”  Anyway.  It’s a good time of year to look at a few stories with just a smidgeon of delicious shiver to them.

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie, written and illustrated by Joel Stewart

Dexter Bexley is a savvy little boy who, nevertheless, one day scooters his scooter right smack into a Big Blue Beastie…a Beastie with a large blue belly, a small black bowler hat, tiny brown-shoed feet, and several terrible claws who thinks Dexter looks so small and tasty that he should probably eat him up!

Being so apt at thinking on his feet, however, Dexter is able to come up with a much better idea.  And when the Blue Beastie is bored with that, Dexter is able to think of another…and another.  Together Dexter and the Beastie scooter about, enter the flower-delivery business, become private detectives, and consume monumental amounts of ice cream concoctions.  Dexter’s quick mind seizes on one idea upon the next for distracting that Blue Beastie from gobbling him up.

Until.  He plum cannot think of another.  And.  The Blue Beastie is STILL hungry.  Oh dear!  What will happen to Dexter?  You’ll have to read to discover just how this adventure ends up!

Joel Stewart has created an incredibly delightful pair here, jam-packed with personality, and then brilliantly illustrated the book in a slightly Victorian, Edward Ardizzone styling.  Marvelous watercolor paintings with just-right colors, conversation balloons, old-fashioned fonts and some hand-lettered lines, all combine to create a riveting visual treat.  This is great fun!

Thelonius Monster’s Sky-High Fly Pie, A revolting rhyme by Judy Sierra with delicious drawings by Edward Koren

“Thelonius Monster once swallowed a fly, and decided that flies would taste grand in a pie.  That silly guy!”

In the same lilting rhythm as the old lady who swallowed a fly, this poem takes off in a wildly monstrous direction as Thelonius Monster — a scraggly, scruffly fellow with a long, toothy snout and way-cool shades —  decides that flies are quite delicious and sets about making a gargantuan fly pie!

Thelonius creates a very sticky crust to do the trick of trapping thousands of tasty flies in his pie.  He gleefully invites his friends to come share the tasty treat.  They arrive to find a pie which not only looks finger-lickin’ good, but hums melodiously, and…oh no! …flies away!  What will Thelonius do now?

In the end the eleventeen monsters Thelonius has invited do get to scarf down his incredible pie and declare that Thelonius is a fabulous cook!  How does Thelonius rescue his pie gone awry?

This is just a crazy, silly book.  Edward Koren employs his vast work as a cartoonist  to create a lovable, hairy monster and bring to life the ridiculous details of his creepy-crawly world.  The illustrations are done in black ink.  The only other color employed is a brilliant apple-green for the text, which bursts off the page in large, larger and ginormous letters.  Monstrous fun!

Go Away, Big Green Monster, by Ed Emberley

Here’s a book that was a racuous hit with my kids when they were small!

Emberley makes use of clever, die-cut pages to introduce us to an extremely-colorful, extraordinarily-kooky monster, one facial feature at a time.

The first page is completly black except for two canary-yellow eyes glowing out at us.  “Big green monster has two yellow eyes,” we are told, suspensefully.  On the next page, the eyes continue to stare at us, but there is a nose as well.  A long bluish-greenish nose.  Distinctly teal.  Muppet-esque.  Each succeeding page adds to our monster’s face:  a big red mouth with sharp white teeth, two little squiggly ears, scraggly purple hair…the monster’s face becomes complete at last and ooh!  how dreadful he is!


You don’t scare me! announces the text.

And from then on, we are in the driver’s seat, telling that monster in no uncertain terms that he can just Go Away!  “Go away scraggly purple hair!” we shout aloud, and ta da!  when we turn the page the hair is there no more!  Each page subtracts one more piece of the monster until finally…he is gone. 

Then, with a final triumphant voice we read, “And don’t come back, until I say so!”

Ah!  So satisfying!  This is a joy to read all together.  The words are so simple that your kids will have them memorized in just a couple of readings, and they can join you in scolding that monster into utter submission!  Gee, it’s fun to boss him around!

Heckedy Peg, by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

Heckedy Peg is an old hag of a witch, complete with raggedy-tattery clothes, darkly-gleaming eyes, and a knobbly, gnarled walking stick.  One day she comes upon a homey cottage brimming with seven sunny children.  These kids are named Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Their mother has gone to market, and warned them not to let anyone in the door, but, wouldn’t you know it, Heckedy Peg convinces them to make an exception for her and, true to form,  no sooner is she in the house than she has twinkled at those children, changing them all into food!  And off she bundles them to her wretched hut deep in the forest.

However.  Heckedy Peg has not reckoned with the stunning cunning of these children’s mother.  When she returns from market and discovers them missing, she tracks those children down, gains entrance into the witch’s abode, and very, very cleverly outwits Heckedy Peg.  Poof!  The children are back to themselves, Heckedy Peg is relegated to the river, and the happy family is back in their thatched home in the meadow.

Audrey and Don Wood are a husband-wife team who have given us many wonderful children’s books.  This is a well-crafted “new” fairy tale with a very clever solution to the Evil Witch.  The  mother is strong, resourceful, and undaunted.  The children are never actually frightened — which lightens what could be a much scarier plot.  Don Wood’s paintings are extraordinary.  The joyous scenes burst with light.  The witch’s hut contrasts dramatically with its darkness and chill and gloom.  The children are robust.  The setting is fairy-tale countryside.  Lots to look at as the story unfolds.  A shrewd and sprightly tale!

Creepy Castle, by John S. Goodall

Here’s another All Time Swanson Favorite by the one-and-only John Goodall.  My copy is in complete tatters!

As are so many of Goodall’s little books, this one is wordless, with a flap on each page to turn, transforming the picture in such a way as to create movement and push the plot forward. 

The story features two medieval mice, dressed in costumes which prompted my children to call them Robin Hood and Maid Marian.  “Robin” sports a green hooded tunic, red leggings, black, pointy boots, and carries a long stave.  “Marian” is wearing a lovely pink gown with flowing sleeves and a pink princess-hat with white veil trailing from it’s peak.  The two of them are out for a walk in the green countryside when they spy a castle and decide to explore.

What they don’t see, though we do, is a sneaky rat bandit, lurking in the woods, following them as they cross the drawbridge, enter the abandoned, cobwebby castle, and descend the stairs.  This sneaky, no-good guy slams the heavy wooden door behind them and sprints off with the key, leaving our two friends trapped in the cellar with yucky creatures such as bats and enormous green dragons.  Gallant “Robin” manages to save them — you knew he would, didn’t you? — and, in one glorious come-uppance, even has the satisfaction of pushing that nasty bandit into the duck pond with a resounding SPLASH!

I simply cannot tell you how many times we have “read” this book.  Though out of print, I have found several copies thus far to give to my grown kids at Christmastime, because they want to own this beloved book for themselves.  It’s definitely worth seeking out!