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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Halloween Forest, written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by John Shelley. Holiday House, Thomas Allen & Son. 2012. $19.95 ages 4 and up

"I'll give you a hint.
It's not gravestones.
It's not a ghost that
moans and groans.
You'll find a forest
of bones!
The bare bones of trees
stand on a hill
in the chill

Ten days to Halloween and I haven't even mentioned it! Kids love it, even if their parents and teachers aren't particularly keen. I think it comes after their birthday and Christmas as their favorite day of the year, doesn't it? Do you think it's the CANDY? Or the COSTUMES? Or the imagined TERROR of it all?

I know they love books that have enough spookiness to make them squirm. So, I thought I would tell you about this new book. It concerns a daring child who wanders outside the comfort of town and finds herself in a bone forest:

"And hanging from
the branches
are bat bones.
Climbing the trunks
are cat bones.
Snarled in the roots
are rat bones."

OOOO! While the scenes are unsettling, the child keeps up her wandering. The bones seem to be reaching out for her, and readers are not sure what her reaction might be:

"Will you sigh?
Will you cry?
Will you dash away
in utter dismay?"

No! She has no worries whatsoever when she yells them back, then opens her dark cloak to reveal a SKELETON costume! She shows off  for them in assurance that she will not be frightened, and that she is no threat to them. The reward for her trick-or-treat chant is AWESOME!

Kids will delight in the rhyming text, the eeriness of the holiday forest and the fearlessness of the young girl. They will wish they had made the journey with her!

Using pen, India ink and watercolor, John Shelley creates a landscape in the forest that is all grasping fingers, and bony limbs. The details keep the suspense palpable. The grays and muted colors give pause as the young girl travels through its freaky overgrowth. Only as she begins to show her confidence does that palette become brighter, ending with an explosion of vivid color.

They will love it!

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