There are more treats than tricks in this season’s collection of Halloween books, which mostly opt for laughs over scares. Hansel & Gretel (Bethan Woollvin, Two Hoots Books, $26.99, 32pp), the latest in a series of witty reimaginings of fairy tales, focuses on an adorable and creepy witch named Willow who is just trying to protect her fragile gingerbread house. Sir Simon: Super Scarer (Cale Atkinson, Tundra, $21.99, 48 pp), about a fed-up ghost who outsources his haunting duties, packs every page to the brim with jokes and visual gags. There’s a lot of heart at the centre of the silly premise in Attack of the 50-Foot Fluffy (Mike Boldt, Margaret K. McElderry Books, $23.99, 32 pp), in which a monstrous stuffed bunny becomes an outlet through which a young girl can express her temper tantrums.
Mother of the macabre Mary Shelley is front and centre in Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein (Linda Bailey & Julia Sarda, Tundra Books, $22.99, 56 pp). Biographical picture books occupy a tricky space: they can serve as a great introduction to an historical figure while trying to cram a lot of information into a limited space. Sarda’s mesmerizingly eerie illustrations are not to be missed, and this book will find an easy audience amongst curious older children and adults with who never quite outgrew their goth phase.
Sleep, Sheep! (Kerry Lyn Sparrow & Guillaume Perrault, Kids Can Press, $18.99, 32pp) is a perfect nighttime story year-round for children who turn going to bed into an ordeal. A restless little boy gets a taste of his own medicine when the sheep he counts before bedtime put up a resistance. A similar concept drives It’s Time For Bed (Ceporah Mearns, Jeremy Debicki, & Tim Mack, Inhabit Media, $17, 36 pp), about a girl who would rather run off and play with wild animals of the Arctic than go to sleep. Written in verse, following less of a narrative than a rocking rhythm, this book can serve as a modern lullaby for younger children.
Grandmother’s Visit (Betty Quan & Carmen Mok, Groundwood Books, $18, 32pp) is a unique exploration of grief and the ways in which storytelling can explain the concept of death to smaller children, told through a gentle pacing that gives space to the complicated feelings of mourning. Family folk tale is at the source of the considerably lighter A Big Mooncake for Little Star (Grace Lin, Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers, $24, 40 pp). Little Star’s mother cooks a big round mooncake for the Mid-autumn Moon Festival, which Little Star nibbles away at night after night until the cake resembles the phases of the moon. Lin writes in an afterword that while she was inspired by traits associated with the Moon Festival, this specific story is her own invention; the creative birth of a new mythology.