Saturday, November 2, 2013

John Pig's Halloween...A Little Late

I am a sucker for seasonal books. There, I said it. I am even more of a sucker for autumn seasonal books. Put an apple, or a pumpkin, or a turkey on the cover of a book, and you have me hooked. I can't explain why. My kids' books are all meshed together on the shelves, with no clear delineation for special holiday books. I once dreamed of having a "monthly basket" out in the living room, with just the books that celebrate that time of year. I even tried to execute the plan for a few months. But, the end result was that those books got forgotten at bedtime, and Jay thought they were "special" in the way that china plates are "special," and didn't touch them for some reason. So, I gave up, and gave in to the fact that we sometimes forget to read seasonal books during their season, and sometimes end up reading Snowmen at Night in the middle of July.

Yet, despite our seasonal book disorganization, I am still a sucker for them. And thus, I was rather alarmed when I realized it was Halloween night, and we had not yet read John Pig's Halloween, by Jan L. Waldron, aloud. Last year, the book had been such a favorite that we read it well into February. But, somehow, at some point, it had gotten buried in the bookshelves and forgotten. Luckily, I remembered it just in time to read to my sugared-up kids before bed on Halloween night.

General synopsis:
John Pig is a timid guy who lives with housemates. His housemates all go out trick-or-treating, while John stays home because he is scared. Then, some visitors come to the door, convince John to throw a party, and he gets caught up in the mood. By the time his housemates return, John is no longer afraid, and has had a grand time on this Halloween night.

Who loves it:
I'm going to say that all four of us like it. Kay was not as taken with the book as I expected. But, she was also high on M&Ms and having been fawned over while she was dressed as Minnie Mouse. So, I won't hold that against the book. Jay enjoyed it again this year. Last year, as I mentioned earlier, John Pig enjoyed a good six months in regular rotation.

Why we love it:
I cannot remember the exact origins of this book--it does not have the tell-tale Used Book Superstore sticker. I know we did not buy it new. I suspect it came from a yard sale. I also suspect I did not read it before purchasing it, because it was seasonal, and it had me at the picture of the jack o'lantern and the witch and the cat on the cover. What I do remember is opening the book at home with low expectations, and slowly realizing that this book is good. I mean, really really good.

First, we have the rhyme. As I mentioned in my last post, a lot of the rhyme you find in children's books is just bad. I think authors and editors should read their books aloud ten times a day, every day, for weeks at a time. Because, if they succeed, that is exactly what their readership will (be forced to, in the case of the adults) do. If there are words that trip the tongue, or that hang over the edge of the rthym, they need to change. But, that does not always happen.

Jan L. Waldron writes a wonderful verse. The rthym is easy to catch and ride through the whole book. The rhyme works, but the vocabulary is never dumbed down to make it easy on the author. Really, this book is a joy to read aloud.

Second, I really like that they focused on a character who was not excited about Halloween. We all knew a kid who hated masks or clowns or the dark, and refused to trick or treat. John Pig is that kid. Except, he meets this lovably pushy witch, and the next thing he knows, he's having fun.

Third, much of the books focuses on the wonderful treats that John Pig and his witch friend cook and bake and serve, and that John eventually shares with his slightly bewildered housemates. I love books about food (I have a cookbook collection that numbers over 300). I always have. Some of my favorite books, when I was a child, centered around food. And so, linking a seasonal book with fun food pretty much hits my personal sweet spot. How could I not be won over when the witch says, "We can make a molasses-and-spice pumpkin pie. Salt seeds and toast them till crispy and dry?"

The verdict:
So many holiday books are disappointing, put there to rake in the cash, but are not well-crafted. John Pig's Halloween is an exception. It is enjoyable, both for its story and verse. It celebrates the season with just the right mix of fun and spookiness. This is one of those books that you will be happy to see each October, rather than pulling it out thinking, "This one again?"

I should note that while searching for links to the book, I discovered that it is out of print. I am very sad to see that. However, there are still used copies on Amazon for as low as fifty cents. It is well worth snagging one before you cannot find it.

No comments:

Post a Comment