frightfully good!…five Halloween tales

I’m posting these Halloween titles a week early so you’ve got time to nab some from your library.

monster-trouble-cover-imageMonster Trouble, written by Lane Fredrickson, illustrated by Michael Robertson
published in 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Winifred Schnitzel is no pushover.

Toothy werewolves? She loves ’em.
Pirates? Sharks? Scary movies? She eats ’em for breakfast.

Yet bedtime at Winifred’s place is a bother. And not because she’s spooked by the gallons of monsters who creep and pad and snurgle their way into her room every night. All those googly eyes, fangy grimaces, scurrilous horns, and browbeetling eyebrows? Pshaw.


It’s just that these guys interrupt her sleep with their disorderly, rowdy ways. What’s a girl to do?

Winifred is one smart cookie, and she makes the most surprising discovery! What’s the secret to ridding your room of monsters? Read this monstrously-delightful book to find out. Robertson’s gleeful, Kool-aid-colored galoots and plucky heroine bristle with jolliness. Ages 3 and up.

grimelda-the-very-messy-witch-cover-imageGrimelda, the Very Messy Witch, written by Diana Murray, illustrated by Heather Ross
published in 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins

Grimelda is a different sort altogether from Winifred. She’s more of your happy-go-lucky, blithe, haphazard type, whose house is rife with green goo spilling onto jumbled papers and the odd sock languidly lounging in the cauldron.

This does not bother Grimelda a tiddly bit. Except. Tonight she’s hankering for some pickle pie and in her topsy-turvy household, she just can’t put her hands on that pickle root. Where in the name of stinkweed can it be?


Grimelda searches high and low until finally she’s got no choice. Clean the house, it is. From top to bottom, Grimelda sweeps and tidies finding an extraordinary lot of things she had no idea were missing, including Wizzlewarts the cat.

Will Grimelda find the missing pickle root? Can she live happily in a spruced-up cottage? Find out in this high-spirited, rhythmic account, so full of cleverness and eye of newt. Ross’s vivacious illustrations careen with mayhem and mess. A blast for ages 3 and up.

whoops-cover-imageWhoops!, written by Suzi Moore, illustrated by Russell Ayto
published in 2015 in the UK; first U.S. edition 2016 by Templar 

A cat who can’t meow? A dog who can’t woof? A mouse who can’t squeak?

If you’ve got that kind of trouble, you’d best make your way to “the old lady in the tumbledown house,” advises the owl. “She’ll have a spell to make you all well.”

And…she does mean well. It’s just that she’s not exactly at the top of her game, shall we say, and before you can say shizzle-shazzle, crazy things begin to happen. Unfazed, our increasingly-manic old woman keeps trying to straighten out the chaos of her misguided spells.


Wow. Russell Ayto’s vision of this accident-prone auntie is a hoot. Walking through a staid, gray forest, entering her decrepit, spindly house, we meet a smidgeon of a person, cool as a cucumber in her Iris Apfel glasses and snarly blue hair. But just put a spell book in her teensy hands and kapow! The world turns neon!


It’s a hilarious tale, with understated text and figures alongside electrifying color and special effects! Splendid for ages 3 and up!

schnitzel-cover-imageSchnitzel: A Cautionary Tale for Lazy Louts, written by Stephanie Shaw, illustrated by Kevin M. Barry
published in 2016 by Sleeping Bear Press

So, two characters by the name of Schnitzel in one post. What are the odds?

This Schnitzel is a tweedly boy. He’s apprenticed to a wizard but alas! Schnitzel is not the most hard-working of employees. In fact, he’s a lazy lout.

And so, when he’s supposed to be cleaning the house with a refractory vacuum cleaner — an arduous task as we well know — Schnitzel is all too willing to let a midnight-arriving stranger “draped in an opera cloak” with pointy ears, tiny fangs, uncanny eyebrows, and a “ghostly pale” face! — let this stranger, I say, into the house to do the work for him with his newfangled, unearthly cleaning machine.


If you think this sounds like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with a twist — you’re right. Written in snappy rhyme, with fiendishly-clever illustrations capturing the brooding castle, vile vampire, and ghastly nightmare, this is an utter delight. Stephanie Shaw has also provided the history of this old tale and some inspired story-prompts for young writers. Enjoy this with ages 5 and up.

the-wuggly-ump-cover-imageThe Wuggly Ump, written and illustrated by Edward Gorey
originally published in 1963; this edition 2007 by Pomegranate

What’s Halloween without a little Edward Gorey?

This cautionary tale of his is a masterpiece. So lighthearted,so carefree, so ominous, so eyebrow-raisingly-tense, all at once.

Gorey gives us contrasting glimpses of three merry children singing tirraloo, tirralay, who can’t be bothered with thoughts of the Wuggly Ump as he lives so far away — and the leering, snakey-tailed, umbrella-gobbling W.U. himself.


As the poem continues, we readers are increasingly aware that the children’s sanguine attitude is quite inappropriate. The Ump has left its den! He’s hurtling over hills, leaping over waters, clambering into their house! Aaaand GULP. He swallows them all up.


In Gorey’s absurd world, the rather vacuous children continue to sing inside the Wuggly Ump, so…not quite as grim as it might otherwise be! Hilariously macabre, for slightly older kids. Perhaps ages 6 and up.

Find more Halloween fare in my Subject Index under Holidays and enjoy all the dress-up and sweets-collecting!