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At the Old Haunted House Hardcover – August 12, 2014
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—An old haunted house is home to an assortment of creatures from "a warty green witch and her wee witchy one" to goblins, vampires, bats, black cats, werewolves, spiders, and more. Written in the pattern of the popular poem "Over in the Meadow," each page starts with the repeated phrase "At the old haunted house" and, on each page, the creatures increase in number from one to ten. The rhyme ends with three trick-or-treaters arriving and a Halloween fright party, which the creatures have been preparing for, bursting forth in celebration. The vibrant painted illustrations are dark, goofy, and mildly spooky. The text is simple rhyme with the creatures practicing spells, making strange noises, stirring brews, weaving webs, and other Halloween activities. Although the rhyme is occasionally awkward, this title will be in demand at the holiday and beyond. A rousing storyhour selection.—Paula Huddy, The Blake School-Highcroft Campus, Wayzata, MN
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At the old haunted house,
teaching a lesson,
was a hairy mom bat
and her bitty bats seven.
The second line above needs an extra syllable. Maybe "ready for her lesson"? It's not a deal breaker, but it's not the only instance. Here's another:
At the old haunted house
the front door C-R-E-A-K-E-D.
"Trick or treat!" yelled the children.
The ghosts shrieked, "EEK!"
The last line above should start with "And". It would be wise for parents to read through the book a couple times on their own to get a hang for the rhythm.
The real attraction is the large format art. Nate Wragg's background in animation is evident, and while his mixed media digital artwork doesn't offer the same depth as traditional paintings, at least the backgrounds are varied in color and texture. All the ghouls are oh-so-cute in a happy sort of Disney way. Readers will enjoy the reveal: the not-really-so-spooky preparations are for a party, and the trick-or-treating kids are invited! Reading this book reminded us of Disney World's Haunted Mansion.
Counting practice is commendable, and this book makes it fun. Nice choice for preschoolers, especially with Halloween around the corner. Too bad the back cover is uninspired; it should have wrapped around artwork from the front cover. Worse, the endpapers are just...blank. That's typical for Amazon's Two Lions Press. Boo, indeed.
My granddaughter went through and may still be in a phase where just about any kind of creepy imagery seriously creeped her out, but the illustrations in At the Old Haunted House of monsters and ghosts, etc., are lighthearted enough in tone that they don't seem to bother her.
The text has a focus on counting to ten (2 witches, 3 monsters, 4 black cats, etc.) which will be of benefit to kids who are just learning to count. (One way I try to make repeat readings of children's picture books fun is by asking my grandson to count specific objects in illustrations and/or to simply locate specific details in illustrations.) And the text rhymes, e.g., "The ghosts floated as the music played. Black cats scratched, and werewolves bayed." And the story is fun, whimsical, and silly.
Wragg (again, the illustrator), was one of the primary character designers on the animated film, Toy Story 3, produced by Pixar Studios. I was not familiar with his work until seeing this book and as an artist and illustrator myself, I'm really impressed with it and really love it (and as someone who was a child in the fifties, I find it kind of nostalgic).
By my own measurements, the Old Haunted House is about 9" x 11 1/4", which is good, because the artwork is very detailed.