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Four New Halloween Treats Hit Bookstores!

Are your students really wound up about the big night ahead? Are their thoughts on anything but their schoolwork? Have they been sampling too many sugary treats? Capitalize on this obvious "teachable moment"! Focus your students' attention and your lessons with one of four new Halloween-themed books reviewed this week by Education World.

Halloween is probably occupying -- or preoccupying -- the thoughts of many of your students. So why not capitalize on their distraction by introducing one of four recently published books with a Halloween theme? Any one of these books might make a perfect classroom read-aloud!


Diary of a Monster Book Cover Bradley Fentriss lives a pretty normal life. The young boy goes to school, has lots of friends (except for Russell Redfern!), and he wants to be like his dad. But Bradley doesn't notice what is plainly obvious to everybody else around him -- his dad is not like other dads in the neighborhood. Bradley's dad is large, hairy, and has sharp, pointy teeth. When Bradley's dad gets excited or is feeling particularly proud of his young son's accomplishments, his chest swells up and the buttons on his shirt pop off!
Before you get the wrong idea here, Diary of a Monster's Son (Little, Brown) is anything but scary. It's quite charming and funny -- and it would make a fine read-aloud for kids in the elementary grades. This short (76 pages) chapter book, which could be read independently by many second graders, is a natural for follow-up classroom activities. More on that later!

Having a monster for a father might sound like a pretty scary scenario. But anybody who knows Mr. Fentriss knows him to be a living contradiction of his appearance. He is a warm and caring father and a good neighbor. He makes breakfast, takes Bradley shopping and trick-or-treating, and attends Parents' Night at school -- all, we might add, with quite humorous consequences. Mr. Fentriss takes every opportunity to impart good advice to his son -- including advice about the importance of making a good first impression and about not judging others by how they look. Pretty un-monsterlike advice!

Diary of a Monster's Son is the latest book from Ellen Conford, author of many fun books for children, including the Jenny Archer series. Conford's humor shines in situations that every student will relate to. For example, when Bradley and his dad are shopping for back-to-school clothes, the salesman seems a bit tense. Mr. Fentriss assumes that's because the man has had to deal that day with so many antsy kids being fitted for school wardrobes. It doesn't dawn on Bradley or his dad that dealing with a "monster" would put any salesman on edge! But Mr. Fentriss is nothing but polite and helpful, and when their shopping duties are done he kindly thanks the salesman...

"You were very helpful," my father tells the salesman. "We'll be sure to ask for you the next time we're here."

"You don't have to do that," the salesman says quickly. "All our salespeople are very helpful. Any one of them will be glad to take care of you..."

"I don't think that salesman was happy to help us," I say as we drive away.

"I think he must have been very tired." My father smiles. "He did have to deal with a lot of weird people today."

Kids will chuckle because they're in on the inside joke -- a joke that even Mr. Fentriss doesn't get!

Diary of a Monster's Son is written in journal form. Reading aloud this diary is a natural launching pad for some great journal writing activities in your classroom. (We'll overlook the fact that Bradley's journal -- unlike your students' journals -- is full of perfectly quoted conversations.) Students can react in their journals to their favorite parts of each of the five chapters as you read them on consecutive days. And, when you've finished reading the book, you might challenge kids to write their own chapters -- in first-person diary form, of course!

Tom Newsom's charming pencil drawings are similar in personality and appearance to those of Robert McCloskey. They capture perfectly the facial expressions of the people who come in contact with this monster of a father. But -- we never see dad! Newsom has used a very clever device in his illustrations. In one he presents Mr. Fentriss's hairy claw-like hand. In another we see hints of the "monster's" bulk. But we never see all of him... We never see his face!

What a perfect opportunity for a follow-up activity! After reading the book, students could draw their own impressions of what Mr. Fentriss's face looks like.

Diary of a Monster's Son will make a perfect treat for the week leading up to Halloween. Read a chapter each day and close out the week with the drawing activity. What a fun way to occupy your preoccupied students!


Patty's Pumpkin Patch book Cover

"Come look inside my
patch and see
A world of life from A to Z."

Author and illustrator Teri Sloat has fond recollections of a childhood spent working together in family gardens -- especially in her cousin Patty's pumpkin patch. Sloat has drawn on those fond recollections to create a delightful rhyming memento.

If pumpkins are part of your fall curriculum plan, you must get a copy of Patty's Pumpkin Patch! This new book from G.P. Putnam's Sons is many books in one. Its bouncing verse will enchant young readers and listeners. It's a nice story for teaching sequencing skills (as the reader follows the transformation of a pumpkin patch from spring planting to harvest time and beyond). It's a science story too, with lessons about the life cycle. And it's a fine ABC book!

Each rhyming couplet is accompanied by a clearly detailed and brightly colored acrylic painting that takes up most of the page spread. Along the bottom of each page, separate illustrations offer an ABC of life in a busy pumpkin patch. In early spring, as Patty preps her pumpkin patch, we see an Ant and a Beetle. On the next spread, as she plants her seeds and pulls the weeds, Crows and Dragonflies flit about with interest. Earthworms and Flies gather as the roots take hold and stems pop up... So it goes in this enjoyable science lesson that teaches.

Patty's Pumpkin Patch will make a great addition to any primary-grade teacher's classroom library.


Trick or Treat Book CoverTrick or Treat for Diabetes is a Halloween story with a unique twist. Written by Kim Gosselin and published by JayJo Books, this timely title joins others in a series written for and about kids with special needs.

See Education World reviews of other JayJo Books, including Smoking Stinks!, Taking Diabetes to School, and Taking Asthma to School.

In this fictional story about a young girl -- Sarah -- and her mom, readers learn that Halloween is a holiday that can offer special challenges for kids with diabetes. But that doesn't mean that a child with diabetes has to miss out on all the fun. This book addresses the problems that these special kids face -- and it provides solutions!

"It's important for all of us to realize that Halloween is much more than a holiday about candy," writes Gosselin in her preface to the book. "Halloween is a tradition inspiring creativity, fun socialization, and make-believe. Believe it or not, there are still those who think children living with diabetes can't ever eat candy when, indeed, sometimes candy or a sugary treat may save the child's life!"

Like all the titles in the series, Trick or Treat for Diabetes can serve many purposes. It is an ideal tool for parents who want to share with their diabetic child a kid-centered book about other kids with similar needs. But this book can also be a great classroom tool. Teachers can read aloud the book to instruct all students about the special needs of diabetic kids.

Every school library and every school nurse should have a copy of Trick or Treat for Diabetes!


One Halloween Nght Book cover "Anything can happen on Halloween night."

When he uttered those words, Wendell, one of the trio of friends at the center of One Halloween Night (Scholastic Press) doesn't know how right he could be! The black cat that prompted Wendell's warning is just a precursor of things to come in this "anything goes" adventure from acclaimed author and illustrator Mark Teague (Poppleton).

Things seem to get worse after the black cat crosses the kids' path. Wendell's mad scientist costume turns pink in the wash, Floyd is told he has to bring his little sister along on Halloween night, and Mona feels "ridiculous" in her fairy princess costume. As if those things weren't bad enough, at neighborhood homes the four trick-or-treaters are greeted with tricks instead of treats or, worse, with treats that have unappealing names such as "Broccoli Chews." But the fun and surprises don't really begin until the kids meet up with four witches -- their classmate Leona Fleebish and her nasty friends -- who speak in unflattering rhyme!

Mark Teague's acrylic illustrations burst with color, action, and personality as they convey the enchantment of Halloween.

One Halloween Night is a delightful treat that kids will want to read over and over again!

The four books highlighted above are available in bookstores. If your local bookstore doesn't have the book you want, ask your bookseller to order it for you. Or contact the publisher:

  • Diary of a Monster's Son, written by Ellen Conford and illustrated by Tom Newsom, is published by Little, Brown and Company.

  • Patty's Pumpkin Patch, written and illustrated by Teri Sloat, is published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.

  • Trick or Treat for Diabetes, written by Kim Gosselin and illustrated by Tom Dineen, is published by JayJo Books, P.O. Box 213, Valley Park, MO 63088-0213. Call (636) 861-1331.

  • One Halloween Night, written and illustrated by Mark Teague, is published by Scholastic, Inc. Call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1999 Education World

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