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Tricks and Treats!

Share This year, Halloween falls on a school day. Instead of vying for your students' attention when their thoughts are on costumes and candy, why not share some new Halloween books?

Costumes, treats, and scary stories -- on Halloween, kids have no time or attention for anything else, let alone school. Instead of fighting, why not share four new Halloween books? Whether kids' tastes call for a variety of different jack-o'-lanterns, mean teachers who become larger than life (literally!), a monster Halloween party, or the practical aspects of face-painting, these books should help spark discussions and ideas for classroom activities -- or just help pass the time until trick-or-treating can begin.


Book Cover Image "On Halloween, every pumpkin becomes a pumpkin head." What a variety of shapes, sizes, and facial expressions they have! In Pumpkin Heads! (The Blue Sky Press), writer and illustrator Wendell Minor simply and briefly describes various carved pumpkins. They are large or small, peer out of windows, or perch atop bales of hay. All the pumpkin heads have one thing in common, however -- the hope that the reader will have a happy Halloween.

The basic, easy-to-read text is printed in large dark letters across the left side of each two-page spread; a full-page illustration faces it. The illustrations are sure to grab kids' attention. Minor's realistic paintings highlight the different pumpkins in their varied settings: a hay wagon, a window ledge, the top of a porch railing. The pictures all seem to be set in the evening or at night, and the colors are lush and rich. The carved pumpkins seem almost animated, and the backgrounds are rustic and have an appealing, old-fashioned feel.

Although the text is simple enough for first and second graders to read alone, Pumpkin Heads! also works well as a read-aloud picture book. The captivating illustrations may give your students loads of ideas for carving pumpkins or creating pictures of jack-o'-lanterns.

Wendell Minor is an award-winning illustrator whose work reflects his interest in nature and environmental issues. To find out more about Wendell Minor, check out his Web site at Wendell Minor's Art.


Book Cover Image The children were eagerly waiting for the school day to end. After all, it was Halloween, and everyone was excited about trick-or-treating. Everyone, that is, except Miss Irma Birmbaum, "the toughest teacher in town." She's so mean that she even assigns homework on Halloween!

A surprise was waiting for Miss Birmbaum, however -- one that would change her forever!

In Attack of the 50-Foot Teacher (Henry Holt and Company), writer and illustrator Lisa Passen pays homage to the "good-old bad science fiction movies" that seem to take over the airwaves around Halloween. As Miss Birmbaum is on her way home, a spacecraft lands in front of her car and some alien power transforms her into a giant. If her students thought she was scary before, they are even more frightened now. Miss Birmbaum finds the children trick-or-treating instead of staying home doing their homework. So she gathers them up in her equally oversized handbag and marches them off to the principal's house. Rather than chastising the children, however, the principal lashes out at Miss Birnbaum:

"Good grief, woman!" exclaimed Principal Renfield. "Who gives homework on Halloween? Don't you remember the fun of wearing your costume and trick-or-treating and eating so much candy your stomach got sick?"

Can the principal's words really have any effect on the toughest teacher in town?

Passen's illustrations add greatly to the sense of silliness in the story. Miss Birnbaum's stiff bouffant hairdo, cat-eyed glasses, sensible shoes, and too-tight sweater and skirt perfectly capture the type of teacher that everyone remembers having endured at least once. In one picture, the massive teacher looming over the scared trick-or-treaters nicely captures the feeling of being a small child powerless against a giant adult authority figure.

Although the resolution is a bit too quick and predictable, Attack of the 50-Foot Teacher still comes off as a silly holiday treat -- and a good inspiration for children's original stories and artwork.


Book Cover Image If you're looking for a good Halloween picture book to read aloud to preschoolers or kindergarteners, look no further than Monster Party (Grosset & Dunlap), written by Tui Sutherland and illustrated by Nate Evans.

It's Halloween in Monsterville, and young Magnolia and Mondo Monster are planning what they hope will be the best Halloween party in the history of Monsterville. They plan the games, prepare the decorations, and send invitations to all their friends. On the day of the party, however, when Mom Monster takes the children to the bakery to buy some of Mr. Flour Power's Crazy Creature Cupcakes, they find that the special cupcakes are sold out. Magnolia and Mondo are heartbroken -- until Mom comes up with the great idea of having the party guests decorate ordinary cupcakes to make them just as special as the ones in the bakery.

The monsters in this story are more cute than scary. Magnolia has three eyes -- and glasses to match -- and Mondo has green skin. The colors are bright, and each picture covers a two-page spread.

Teacher and parents can probably come up with plenty of age-appropriate activities to accompany this book. Children might use the story as model for planning their own party. They can create invitations and decorations and discuss menus and entertainment. Some of the party games, such as bobbing for apples, are not as popular now, and this might be the first opportunity that children have to play them. Of course, having each child decorate a cupcake -- or another baked treat -- would be a great ending for a classroom monster party.


Book Cover Image For Halloween, a school play or pageant, or just for fun, Face Painting (Kids Can Press), written by Patricia Silver and illustrated by Louise Phillips, is a wonderfully simple resource. Starting with a list of make-up, face paints, and accessories, Silver describes how kids can transform themselves into pirates, butterflies, skeletons, lions, princesses, aliens, and more.

Phillip's clear, simple line drawings accompany the easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions, along with photographs of the final product. Very brief sections called Easy Costume Pieces helps children complete their transformations.

Face Painting is intended for children aged nine through 12, but adults willing to help can use the book with younger children as well.

Author Patricia Silver (aka Patty the Clown) is the creator, manager, and lead performer of the Sphere Clown Band, which has produced several award-winning music tapes for children.

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate a book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly.

  • Pumpkin Heads!, written and illustrated by Wendell Minor, is published by The Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. Call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Teacher, written and illustrated by Lisa Passen, is published by Henry Holt and Company, 115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011.
  • Monster Party, written by Tui Sutherland and illustrated by Nate Evans, is published by Grosset & Dunlap, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657.
  • Face Painting, written by Patricia Silver and illustrated by Louise Phillips, is published by Kids Can Press, 4500 Witmer Estates, Niagara Falls, NY 14305-1386.


  • Halloween 2000!
    Education World scares up the best Halloween resources on the Web!

Lauren P. Gattilia
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World

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