Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party (Erin Barker)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party by Erin Barker, a spooky and sweet counting book with a Halloween twist.

Mr. Pumpkin is having a tea party, a classy soirée with some ghoulish guests. Readers can count along as Mr. Pumpkin prepares the table, greets his guests and their delectable treats, and enjoys an evening of mingling, snacking, and entertainment.

Adorable. Mixing elements of the spooky and refined, Mr. Pumpkin’s tea party is a delightful event to watch unfold. The soft, whimsical illustrations never truly veer into scary or fearsome territory, presenting guests like a giant spider (Madam Silk, who brings seven truffles) or a rather dapper mummy (Dr. Cairo, who comes bearing a bouquet of nine spindleweeds) as festively unusual friends rather than frightening creatures. The rhyming text is simple, with occasional touches of extravagant word choice to keep with the tone. Young readers can count along within the artwork on each page, from one to thirteen (especially amusing to JJ, who gleefully pointed out that clocks don’t REALLY go to 13), as the progression from a fall dusk to evening is beautifully expressed through the color palette and charming characters. This was great for a short storytime, and we both loved it. A Halloween teatime treat, and Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Vampenguin (Lucy Ruth Cummins)

Hello, friends! Our spooky season book today is Vampenguin by Lucy Ruth Cummins, a wild tale of a hilarious zoo switcheroo.

The Dracula family – Mom, Dad, Junior and the baby – are all excited for their Saturday trip to the zoo! Once inside, they head straight to their usual first stop – the penguin house. While marveling at all the different species, baby Dracula and a young penguin notice a striking similarity in their looks, and unbeknownst to the rest of the vampire family, decide to switch places. The Draculas go about their day at the zoo, visiting the different animals (many of whom notice the switch, even as the penguin shushes them), while baby vampire enjoys his day as a penguin: eating fish, making penguin friends, and terrorizing naughty children who knock on the glass. At the end of the day, the two switch back, the Draculas none the wiser – until they check their souvenir photo!

A riotous romp. Cummins expertly pairs dry, ironic text with delightful visuals to create a story that is full of laughs from beginning to end. The switch that drives the humor is never acknowledged in the text, making it something for readers to spot and follow along in the illustrations on their own; JJ had an absolute blast pointing out all the shenanigans that the penguin and baby vampire were getting into without the narrator “noticing”. Jokes within the text have multigenerational appeal; parents will appreciate a spread where text describes “seeing” several animals while the illustrations reveal only tails poking out from obstructions. The length was fine for an elementary storytime, and that’s about the age that children will understand the humor as well. JJ and I both loved it, and it made for a perfectly spooky-themed (but not scary) read. This one is a winner, 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.)

How to Hide a Ghost: A Lift-the-Flap Book (MacKenzie Haley)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How to Hide a Ghost: A Lift-the-Flap Book by MacKenzie Haley, a charmingly spooky board book for little readers.

The littlest bookworms can play an interactive game of hide-and-seek with a group of sneaky ghosts as they camouflage themselves throughout a spooktastic Halloween party. Hiding in jack-o-lanterns, crystal balls, balloons, and beehive hairdos, these friendly specters are sure to fright and delight.

Adorable! A simple concept, sweet illustrations, and enjoyable rhyming text come together nicely to create a Halloween board book concept that feels fresh and engaging. The tone isn’t scary but spooky-sweet, with the darling ghosts and their young monster pals, who range from a skeleton to a mummy to a witch to a fairly wholesome-looking zombie and more, giving the artwork colorful charm on every page. The rhyme scheme isn’t always consistent, but it never trips over itself or feels complicated to read aloud. The construction is nice, offering thick pressed-cardboard flaps instead of the typical paper-thin ones, though the hinges are still a weak point. The length is perfect for a very quick read, and JJ loved it. Overall, this is a wonderful little tale to celebrate Halloween with your youngest bookworms, and we 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.)

Boo! Baa, La La La! (Sandra Boynton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Boo! Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton, a Halloween companion board book to Boynton’s classic Moo, Baa, La La La!

On Halloween, the spotted cow from Moo, Baa, La La La! likes to mix things up. Instead of saying “moo”, she likes to try a new word: “boo!”. She calls her “boo” out into the night, only to be met with a “baa” from an unseen animal. After another call and response that results in a bevy of animal noises, the cow goes off in search of the source of the mysterious sounds. What she finds is a collection of barnyard friends to celebrate Halloween with.

Cute but unsatisfying. The simple narrative offers a strong beginning, even teasing an interactive element that is never fully explored, but then quickly sort of meanders to a puzzling and underwhelming conclusion. It’s Boynton, so the text is bouncy and fun to read aloud of course, but the plot lacked the charm of other Boynton favorites, including the original (the delightful performing pigs, one of the best features of Moo, Baa, La La La! barely even make an appearance, being inserted as a cameo to offer the closing line). The illustrations are cute, the read is quick, and JJ did enjoy the beginning and the Halloween elements, so it is worth a look, especially for fans of Boynton. But there are other Halloween board books out there that, frankly, do the format better. Still, if you’re looking for a quick and easy, if slightly superficial, spooky season read, this will do. Baby Bookworm approved.

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

The Witches Three Count On Me! (Yates Davis & Lynda Bouchard)

Hello, friends! Our spooky series book today is The Witches Three Count On Me!, written by Yates Davis and Lynda Bouchard, and illustrated by Kody Kratzer.

During dinner on Halloween, a little boy misbehaves and is sent to his room, but he decides to “play a trick” by climbing out the window and running into the woods. There, he comes upon a group of three witches casting spells by moonlight, who quickly capture the boy and fly him on broomstick back to their lair. Knowing the witches plan to eat him, the boy uses his trickery skills to confuse the witches with a math riddle, fooling them and winning his freedom. The witches flee, and the boy runs home to his waiting mother and Halloween superhero costume.

Frightfully uneven. The unnamed protagonist doesn’t get off on a very good foot by beginning the story by calling his little sister ugly, something that makes her cry (the illustration is mildly devastating). From there, while he experiences some minor moments of peril, he does not seem to learn anything from his experiences, and shows no growth or remorse by the end. The rhyming text is well-balanced for the most part, with a few inscrutable verses that are difficult to read aloud, but the story itself drags, and the word problem during the climax causes an abrupt and jarring tonal shift. The artwork is similarly inconsistent, with some spreads nicely balancing autumnal hues and cinematic framing while others have noticeably flat features or oddly-exaggerated character expressions. This would definitely be better for older elementary children, owing to the difficulty the math problem and the length; JJ enjoyed the first few pages of witches, but lost interest quickly. Overall, this ambitious indie lacked the polish and direction that could have made for a better Halloween tale, and it wasn’t for us.

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