We'd never claim that a good story has the same allure as, say, a big bag of candy. But there's no reason why you can't treat your trickster to both.
Wed Sep 24 2008
By Kathryn O. Galbraith Illustrations by Jeff Mack. Harcourt, $16. Ages 4 to 8.
Two trying-to-be-brave rabbits find themselves a bit freaked out by Halloween night in a picture book as cute as its fuzzy protagonists. Jeff Mack’s textured-looking illustrations fill in the gaps left by Kathryn O. Galbraith’s intentionally sparse text. The book’s narrative simplicity and overall lack of bite make the story accessible to any child old enough to don a costume and scream “Trick or treat!”—Raven Snook
Bats at the Library
By Brian Lies Houghton Mifflin, $16. Ages 4 to 8.
In this follow-up to his best-selling Bats at the Beach, Brian Lies unleashes the nocturnal creatures on a local library for an after-hours literature binge. Told in verse with lush illustrations depicting clever visual puns (the Cheshire Bat, for one), the book is an unabashed love letter to libraries and the magic of the written word. It’s a familiar message, but the author’s enthusiasm is winning, and in his renderings the airborne mammals are as appealing as Jeff Mack’s bunnies.—RS
Frankenstein Takes the Cake
By Adam Rex Harcourt, $16. Ages 4 to 8.
A deliriously kooky hodgepodge of hilarious poems about horror staples, Adam Rex’s picture book will probably tickle adults even more than kids. The Bride of Frankenstein gets cold feet at the altar (her mother didn’t want to pay for the wedding anyway, having just shelled out a lot of dough on her daughter’s funeral); Dracula eats garlic bread—which triggers his allergies; the Headless Horseman blogs; and Edgar Allan Poe struggles to find a rhyme for rose. (Quoth the raven regarding the latter scenario: “What a bore.”) Rex’s delightful humor permeates every page, including the inside sleeves.—RS
The 13 Clocks
By James Thurber Illustrations by Marc Simont. New York Review Children’s Collection, $15. Ages 9 to 12.
Prolific New Yorker cartoonist and short-story scribe James Thurber (“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”) also published several works for children. This reissue of a tale from 1950 involves a duke cold-blooded enough to freeze time, the heroic prince-in-disguise determined to rescue a bewitched maiden from his clutches, and the mischievous sprite who comes to the champion’s aid. Marc Simont’s pictures strike the right balance between cheeky and sinister, just as the subversive text allows the princess to play a key role in her captor’s gruesome comeuppance.—Carolyn Juris
By Joann Sfar First Second, $14. Ages 9 and up.
French cartoonist Joann Sfar offers a bit of everything—from a poop-obsessed ogre named Marguerite to a hepcat feline rabbi with an interest in kung fu—in this trilogy of unorthodox ghost stories, originally translated in 2003 and collected here for the first time. A benevolent bloodsucker befriends a live boy, and together they navigate such tween trials as homework and bullies. The multilayered panel illustrations invite close scrutiny without slowing down the action, which at times may be a bit violent for some tastes. In the end, though, the good guys always triumph—it’s just that some of those heroes belong to the ranks of the undead.—CJ