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Halloween Sleepwalker Hardcover – September 28, 2013
About the Author
Thomas Freese is an author, storyteller, and artist. He has written 10 books and performs over 20 educational and entertaining story programs. Fran Riddell is a teacher, artist, cartoonist, and illustrator living in Lexington, Kentucky.
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At the outset we have a family of characters that works well as a family. Mom and Dad get into the spirit of Halloween without irony and without going overboard. The older sister acts like an older sister, but isn't a spoilsport or sourpuss. Our hero, Shelby, is presented as and acts like a normal kid. The author takes a very generous view of the mix of credulity and practicality that is an eight year old boy. And maybe that's the secret - this is a fantasy, but it isn't cutesy or precious, and it never sounds a single false note that takes you out of the head of an eight year old. There are no awkward phrases; there is no hidden agenda; there is no falseness. The author has Shelby experience a dream like adventure that makes sense, is a little scary but basically grounded, and just a bit fantastic. A little reader can be scared, surprised, and comforted all at the same time, and even while the whole adventure feels very calm, safe and homey. How's that for an author successfully walking a fine edge? And, as a bonus, all of this is enhanced by stylized drawings that are both exaggerated and yet familiar and effective. My initial thought was the drawing was a little cartoony, (not necessarily bad), but as you read the book you realize that the characters are very expressive and that the illustrator has slipped a lot of personality into her sharp lines and bright colors.
So, this is a very solid and attractive read to, and probably a nice read with and even read-alone for an early reader. A very nice find.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
First, the positive notes. I think it's always nice to start by saying something positive, if you can, so here goes. I like the cover. I think it shows great potential for a charming and engaging children's book. The colours are fantastic and I love the plaid pajamas. Also, I've had great experiences with Schiffer books in the past. They publish many of my favourite children's books, including Timothy Young's books. And, let's see. What else? The title is good.
I realize those are all just things about the cover, but honestly my positive feedback there. As for the rest of the book...
First of all, it's wordy. FAR too wordy. Sometimes I think people don't appreciate the importance of editing in a children's picture book. It isn't because children can't handle a lot of words, if they are the RIGHT WORDS, carefully chosen. But if the book is wordy simply because it hasn't been edited down to the perfect phrasing, that's a problem. It has to sound good read aloud, because almost all picture books ARE read aloud. Long, dense text that is neither funny nor pleasingly repetitive nor evocative is just not successful. Would this be a story a child would request so often that both adult and child would have it memorized after a few readings? In this case no, absolutely not.
Second, the story is confusing. It's Halloween but NOBODY IS TRICK-OR-TREATING. It doesn't even seem to be a thing that happens in the book's world. The child's parents and older sister are all too afraid to go outside on Halloween night because of irrational fears of ghosts, witches and jack-o-lanterns, but when our hero inevitably ventures out anyway (because of his sleepwalking) THERE IS NOBODY OUTSIDE. No trick-or-treaters? Nobody in costume? Not even someone walking their dog at least? I guess because he's dreaming anything is possible, including an abandoned town, but the issue of trick-or-treating is not even mentioned in the book, which is bizarre.
Third, what's up with the fear of witches and ghosts and magic? The church is mentioned several times in the book, then the little boy encounters witches in the forest who enchant him and give him magic apples that makes him see ghosts and ghouls. Is this supposed to be a cautionary tale about witchcraft? I was confused. It seemed like it was Halloween as described by Goodie Putnam of Salem. The "spooky" element was in imagining that the little boy really could meet witches who would enchant him, but the notion that witches were frightening, supernatural women who met in the woods was presented as a given. I was at a loss to understand the point of all of it, other than to reinforce archaic superstitions and stereotypes.
Fourth, the illustrations did not live up to the promising cover. They lacked refinement or charm. I was disappointed.
And finally, the idea that the boy was sleepwalking and that his adventures riding a flying broomstick were actually him climbing a tree and falling...well, was that actually the point? I interpreted it that way, but it wasn't exactly made clear. My daughter was left confused by the whole thing.
In the end Magda liked it more than I did, but I'll be honest. I didn't read her every word as it was written because I actually found it a little offensive in places. And even she agreed that almost every other book we'd read about Halloween, sleepwalking or nighttime fears was better than this one.
For more reviews, please visit my blog, Cozy Little Book Journal.
Illustrator: Fran Riddell
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd
Genre: Children's Fiction
Tags: Myths and Legends
Shelby Sherman Sanford are at home following their attendance at their church's fall festival. Enjoying some popcorn they tell of the Halloween fears. Dad fears jack-o-lanterns, Mom fears ghosts and sister Penny fears witches. After thinking about it for a few moments Shelby announces that her fears none of these things and then asks if he can go out this night and explore. His parents tell him no that strange things happen on Halloween sometimes and he needs to stay home. Soon everyone goes to bed including Shelby, but then Shelby begins to dream. In his dream he wanders outside the home ...
This story follows Shelby's dream as he encounters numerous paranormal creatures. How would you react? What if you are not sure it was a dream? This story is told in simple, easy for the younger reader to understand words. My family loved this story, but not everyone liked the illustrations. Colorful and eye-catching, some of the young readers did not think they looked real and "flat" as my niece Chealsey said. Thank you to NetGalley and Schiffer Publishing for granting me a copy of the book for the purpose to use for an honest review. We truly enjoyed the book very much.
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An 8 year old boy, Shelby Sherman Sanford, lives with a normal family in a normal house.Read more