Truck or Treat (Hannah Eliot)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Truck or Treat, written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Jen Taylor, a delightful Halloween-themed lift-the-flap centered around some spooky vehicles.

Even big machines like to celebrate Halloween! In fact, all the trucks and vehicles at the work site are already decked out in their costumes, and present a question to the reader: can you guess which machines are under which costumes?

Simple yet festively fun. Eliot and Taylor nicely combine three things that little readers love – Halloween, big machines, and interactive board books – into a well-balanced title that engages any kid who loves any or all of said topics. The lift-the-flap elements are well-executed, and I particularly liked that the trucks presented with both masculine and feminine traits, rather than strictly masculine norm. Some of the rhyming text’s meter was inconsistent, but overall this was a fun read; the length was great for a quick storytime, and JJ enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a fun Halloween treat for the engineering/construction-inclined, we definitely recommend this one – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to the Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Creepy Crayon! (Aaron Reynolds)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Creepy Crayon!, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown, third in the pair’s Creepy series starring Jasper Rabbit.

At the opening of this entry, the reader finds Jasper struggling at school; in fact, art class seems to be the only place he is excelling. That is, until the day that Jasper happens upon a purple crayon dangling over the storm drain, one that seems… oddly happy to see him. When using the purple crayon in class, Jasper finds that the correct answers write themselves! He no longer has to concern himself with studying, as the crayon does all the work for him, earning praise from his teachers and classmates. However, Jasper begins to grow uncomfortable with his accolades, especially when the crayon begins taking over his art projects and writing creepy messages around him. How will Jasper find his way out of this spooky situation?

Genuine creeps with a subtle lesson. Reynolds and Brown have a knack for creating spooky picture books that perfectly walk the line of unsettling yet not overly scary, and this might be their best effort yet. Not only was JJ “spooked out” by the purple crayon, even I was legitimately starting to get the willies from this disquieting art supply! Best of all, underneath the creeps lies an important lesson on academic effort, particularly that a mediocre improvement earned through one’s hard work will always be more satisfying (and less stressful) than cheating or taking the easy way out. Brown’s grayscale-and-purple visuals are wonderfully atmospheric and often cinematic, the length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved this one. A great title to check out during spooky season, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to the Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

If Your Babysitter is a Bruja (Ana Siqueira)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If Your Babysitter is a Bruja, written by Ana Siqueira and illustrated by Irena Freitas, a delightful multilingual Halloween tale.

Beware, kiddos: Halloween is approaching and magic is in the air. That’s one of the reasons that the unnamed child narrator of our story suspects that her new babysitter is not all that she appears to be. In fact, with a black sombrero, sus gatazos, and a decidedly witchy style, it’s almost certain: the new babysitter is a bruja! Fortunately, she appears to be a good witch, for while the child playfully “defends” herself against the bruja, it’s all in good fun – until the play crosses a line, and the child feels guilty that she may have offended her new spooky pal. Can she make amends for her behavior?

Wonderful! Siqueira and Freitas combine their talents to create an entertaining and unexpected Halloween tale. The tone of the story is light-hearted and humorous from the jump, with the illustrations presenting the bruja babysitter as a friendly figure that the child is enjoying her playtime with, even as the text teases a battle of wits between the babysitter and child. The text also nicely straddles the question of whether or not the bruja’s powers are real or the product of imaginative play, leaving young readers to draw their own conclusions. What makes the text truly special is the flawless use of Spanglish; while unitalicized Spanish words are given context by their surroundings for monolingual English speakers, for dual-language speakers, the flow between both languages is effortless and a joy to read aloud. Cheerful illustrations that utilize an autumnal/Día de los Muertos-inspired palette complete the experience. The length is perfect for a storytime, JJ and I both loved the silly and spooky theme. Overall, this is a fantastic addition to Halloween bookshelves that combines culture, comedy, and kindness, and we highly recommend it! Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Una Huna?: Ukpik Learns to Sew (Susan Aglukark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Una Huna?: Ukpik Learns to Sew, written by Susan Aglukark and illustrated by Amiel Sandland and Rebecca Brook, a thoughtful story of cultural tradition and patience.

Ukpik is delighted when her father and brother return from their hunting trip with reindeer skins; her mother, whom she calls Anaana, has been wanting to start a special project. Using traditional tools and techniques, Anaana invites Ukpik to learn alongside her as they methodically prepare the skins to be made into winter clothing to replace the items Ukpikand her sister have outgrown in the last year. Anaana tries to make the lessons fun, but she also stresses the importance of doing the work with attention to detail. When Ukpik grows frustrated that she is not mastering her new skills as quickly as she wants to, her mother comforts her by assuring her that her skills will grow with time and practice, and that she will be there to teach her how to do things the way their people have done for generations.

A little packed, but utterly heartfelt. Aglukark’s style of writing is immersive, throwing readers into Ukpik’s world of Inuk camp life, including frequent use of Inuktut-language words. This in itself is not overwhelming, especially since Aglukark does well to define each Inuktut word within the same sentence (and also offers a much-appreciated phonetic glossary in the backmatter), but combined with the lengthy story, it does make this a difficult book to read aloud in one sitting for one not familiar with the Inuk culture and/or language. However, there is a great deal it has to offer a solo reader: a window into a culture rarely explored in children’s literature, as well as powerful lessons on cultural tradition and patience when learning new skills. The ending may feel abrupt, but fits one of the overall themes of Ukpik’s story: good things often take time to complete. Sandland and Brook’s illustrations are simplistic yet sweet, and while this would not make the best storytime title, we still recommend it, especially for those interested in learning about indigenous cultures. Overall, we enjoyed this one – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

How to Eat a Book (Mrs. & Mr. MacLeod)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the delightfully bizarre How to Eat a Book by Mrs. & Mr. MacLeod, an extremely satisfying tale of books and reading.

One day, Sheila and her twin cousins, Gerald and Geraldine, find themselves consumed by literature – literally. Sitting down to “eat” their books, the books eat them instead, transporting the children into atmospheric worlds of wonder. Sheila soars the cosmos, Gerald encounters a great beasty, and Geraldine… well, a great beasty encounters HER. Filled with new knowledge, the three begin to ask questions and overtake their literary realms, and suddenly the books begin to realize that maybe they aren’t the ones doing the eating after all…

Marvelously weird and wonderful. Rife with a whipsmart blend of kid-friendly comedy, clever metaphor, truly engaging text, and stunningly original visuals, the MacLeods spin a yarn that is surprising, invigorating, and charming in equal turns. The main theme of the how reading can overtake, change, and inspire us works wonderfully; adults and older kids will smile at the sage metaphor, while younger kids will giggle at the unexpected twists and turns of the plot (and may just discover the adventure in reading for themselves). The illustrations are truly eye-catching, utilizing cut-paper pen-and-ink to create fascinating visuals that are filled with energy. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both had a wonderful time with this one; she was laughing madly by page two and didn’t stop until the endpapers. A decidedly fresh and fantastically fun way to celebrate the transformative power of books, and we highly recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to the Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)