Dark and delightful—for readers who enjoy chills with their giggles.

THE FRIGHTFUL RIDE OF MICHAEL MCMICHAEL

A young boy takes a terrifying bus ride on his way to his grandmother’s house in Becker and Fearing’s gleefully baleful picture book.

“’Twas the thirteenth of November, a stormy night, / when the Thirteen bus hove into sight. / Something about it didn’t seem right… // but Michael McMichael boarded.” And off young Michael McMichael goes on his way to deliver a beloved pet to his grandmother. A busful of creepy passengers doesn’t faze the young boy of color, but when he suddenly finds himself alone, he begins to notice the bus’s jawlike doors, its tonguelike floor, and the driver’s sinister leer. Becker’s rollicking rhyme scheme not only captures the rapid, lurching motion of Michael McMichael’s journey, but as the unnerving quickly escalates to the life-threatening, it also steadily envelops readers in the rising tension. Fearing’s dark but dynamic illustrations keep pace with the building intensity and intertwine with the text as seamlessly as humor intertwines with horror in a narrative that sits somewhere between “The Raven” and Courage the Cowardly Dog animated cartoons. And rather than pull back and return readers to the dullness of safety, Michael McMichael’s creative and disconcerting solution to free himself from the bus will leave readers with a whole new set of frissons.

Dark and delightful—for readers who enjoy chills with their giggles. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8150-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again.

WE'RE GOING ON A GOON HUNT

Hunt for a bear? That’s so yesterday.

On a spooky Halloween night, we’re hunting for…a green GOON. We’re not really scared. Let’s start in a pumpkin patch. We can’t go over or under it, so we’ll just go through it. We’ll do the same in other likely goon hideouts: a swamp, a tunnel, a forest, a graveyard, and, finally, a haunted house. In this atmospheric “petrifying parody” of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a dad and his four kids, dressed in Halloween finery and accompanied by their costumed pup, search for the elusive quarry. They become more frightened (particularly dad and pooch, even from the outset) as they proceed along the increasingly murky path—except for the youngest, unicorn-outfitted child, who squeals a delighted welcome to whatever creature unexpectedly materializes. As in the classic original, evocative sound effects (“Gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss!”) ring out as the quintet moves through each hazard. Unsurprisingly, the group locates the goon, forcing them to retrace their steps home in a frenzied hurry, odd noises and all. They reach safety to discover…uh-oh! Meanwhile, someone’s missing but having a ball! Even readers who’ve never read or heard about the bear expedition will appreciate this clever, comical, fast-paced take. The colorful line illustrations are humorously brooding and sweetly endearing, with the family (all members present White) portrayed as growing steadily apprehensive. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-20.8-inch double-page spreads viewed at 74.6% of actual size.)

Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984813-62-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace.

SLUG IN LOVE

A slug longs for a hug and finds it unexpectedly.

Doug the slug would really like a hug and plods on, seeking affection. But a caterpillar, bug, spider, and worm want no part of hugging a slug. They are just not feeling it (might they feel sluggish?), voicing their disdain in no uncertain terms with expressions like, “Grimy, slippy!” and “Squelchy, slimy!” What’s a slug to do? Undeterred, Doug keeps trying. He meets Gail, a snail with crimson lipstick and hip, red glasses; she happens to be as grimy and squelchy as he is, so he figures she is the hugger of his dreams. The two embark upon a madcap romantic courtship. Alas, Gail also draws the (slimy) line at hugging Doug. Finally, mournful Doug meets the best hugger and the true love of his life, proving there’s someone for everyone. This charmer will have readers rooting for Doug (and perhaps even wanting to hug him). Expressed in simple, jaunty verses that read and scan smoothly, the brief tale revolves around words that mainly rhyme with Doug and slug. Given that the story stretches vocabulary so well with regard to rhyming words, children can be challenged after a read-aloud session to offer up words that rhyme with slug and snail. The colorful and humorous illustrations are lively and cheerful; googly-eyed Doug is, like the other characters, entertaining and expressive. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66590-046-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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