Sunday, October 16, 2011

Walking Home in the Dark...

Ever since Ichabod Crane was chased by the Headless Horseman, the real and imagined threats that lurk in the darkest shadows have been celebrated in urban legends, novels and picture books.

Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann. Roaring Book, 2011

Gus loves his dog, Ella, but she is getting old and she warns him that she will not be around much longer.  Before she dies she promises Gus that she will always be with him.  Gus is sad and missing his dog as Halloween arrives but he puts on his skeleton costume and goes out trick or treating anyway. On his way home through a graveyard (of course!) he is surrounded by threatening skeletons. Just as they are about to attack, Ella appears as a bone dog to save him. The skeletons are unimpressed until Gus and Ella begin to howl into the night, calling real live dogs to their aid. The final pages confirm and assure the young reader that love never dies and Gus will never be alone.

Rohamann's visual storytelling is cinematic here. He opens and closes the story, viewing Gus and Ella together before an iconic full moon that frames the two friends. The reader (and Ella?) watch from above as Gus sits alone, rakes leaves alone and heads out for trick-or-treating, alone. Once Ella, the bone dog, returns to the scene, the view returns to ground level. The skeletons are at once comic and scary. Rohmann pans their frenzied retreat across a two page spread as they flee from ... turn the page ... the pack of real dogs in pursuit.  The next page turn will be a laugh-out-loud read aloud moment.  This is a beautiful story told with humor, sweetness and delicious creepy moments. I predict this book will not linger for long on the library's return book cart.   I cannot WAIT to share it with children.

On a Windy Night by Nancy Raines Day; illustrated by George Bates. Abrams, 2010

Outstanding read aloud story about a scary walk home on Halloween night.  A young boy's imagination turns shadows, sounds and dark shapes into terrifying threats until the moon light reveals what they really are. This is a perfect Halloween story that acknowledges the thrilling spookiness of the night but reassures too.  Nancy Raines Day heightens the boy's imagination with a classic chant of  "Cracklety-clack, bones in a sack. They could be yours--if you look back."  The words grow in size, across the pages, as the boy's fear grows.  Bates's pen and ink drawings depict the eerie clouds, the threatening tree branches and menacing cornstalks that become skeletons and jack-o-lanterns chasing the child on his way.  The pen and ink work gives a splendid childlike Edward Gorey-ness to the pictures. 

Dark Night by Dorothee de Monfreid. Random House, 2009

As Felix walks through the dark woods, the scary growl from a wolf sends him into hiding.  Another loud growl from a tiger scares away the wolf who is then frightened away by a crocodile. Along with n unlikely small friend and a clever idea Felix turns the tables on the beasts with a bigger "badder" creature of his own invention. Sometimes the first step in overcoming fear is to find a friend and just walk tall.

No comments: