J is for Jack-O’-Lantern: A Halloween Alphabet

I love the autumn; it’s my favourite time of year!  The leaves, the cool nights, the pumpkin pies, and Hallowe’en!  But with two little ones, I’m not looking for the truly scary bits of Hallowe’en, but the fun, cozy-creepy stuff: smiling ghosts, and sing-along songs, and orange socks, and good books!  I’m also a big fan of learning new things all the time, so I particularly appreciate Denise Brennan-Nelson‘s J is for Jack-O’-Lantern: A Halloween Alphabet. It’s a poem, and an alphabet book, and a Hallowe’en encyclopedia all in one!

Along with gorgeous illustrations by Donald Wu, Brennan-Nelson uses simple rhyming couplets to explore the alphabet of harvest time and Hallowe’en. Each page (or double-page spread) has a letter and a corresponding idea, like “P is for Pumpkin Patch” or “H is for Haunted House.” Then we are treated to a short poem, usually a rhyming couplet; for H we have

A haunted house; you better beware.

Only enter if you dare.

Monsters lurking, looking mean —

just can’t wait to make you scream!

Then we get to the really good part: running down the side of the page is a section where  they explain a little more. For instance, on the “P is for Pumpkin Patch” page, we are treated to a brief exploration of the origins of the word pumpkin (from the Greek word “pepon” meaning “large melon”), the wide variety of uses of the pumpkin (Native Americans used to dry strips of pumpkin to weave into mats), the fact that the pumpkin is a fruit belonging to the same family as the cucumber (curcurbitacae family), and that a pumpkin vine is very fast growing (up to 6 inches a day!).  All that and the fact that Antarctica is the only continent where you can’t grow pumpkins.

This kind of children’s book depends heavily on the illustrations, and Donald Wu‘s pictures are wonderful.  The colours are rich and deep. I am certainly no art expert, but it appears as if he uses pencil crayon and oil pastels to achieve a beautiful depth of colour and high degree of detail.  The faces are expressive and emotive, but stay kid friendly and inviting. There is wonderful atmosphere, incorporating the excitement of Hallowe’en spooks along with the fun of candy!

I really love this book ’cause if we’re short on time, or just want a quick read, we can read the poems and looks at the pictures and be done. But if we’re interested in a little bit more, it’s right there.  And it’s a great book to grow with. I can read the poem to my three year old, and begin to discuss some of the interesting tidbits of information, but as she grows up, she will be able to get more and more out of this book.  For that reason, it also makes a good gift fora family with children at different ages; each can take away from the book what they are able.

If this sounds like the kind of book for you, you’re in luck. Sleeping Bear Press has a whole series of alphabet books. I’ve read only a few of the others, but they span everything from A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet, to E is for Extreme: An Extreme Sports Alphabet, to P is for Princess: A Royal Alphabet, and even Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet.  I haven’t counted yet, but I do believe they have an alphabet for every province, state,  and region of North America and beyond.  (there’s even an Isn’t Alphabet; “A isn’t for box; it isn’t for fox. A is for ants that crawl over your socks.”)

Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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