Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, October 25, 2013

Shake The Shivers

As summer eases into fall in the northern climes, colors shift from shades of green to hues of red, orange, yellow and brown.  A clear, sharpness invades the very air as temperatures cool and humidity drops. Pumpkins, gourds, corn shocks, bales of hay and brightly-colored mums appear in nurseries, farmers' markets, along city streets, in front of shops and around neighborhoods.  Months before the calendar page turns from September to October, stores will begin to display all manner of Halloween costumes and decorations.

In schools and homes an extra current of excitement pulses as guys and gals, family and friends get ready for the spookiest time of the year.  It only makes sense our panic-prone, super-sensitive, furry friend from the forest is not only ready but willing to share his helpful hints with all of us.  Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies (Kids Can Press) written and illustrated by Melanie Watt, is packed with preparations.

Scaredy Squirrel insists that
everyone avoid reading this
Safety Guide during a full moon.

With this cautionary sentence in mind, after checking the date for the moon's phases, and reading Scaredy Squirrel's admonishments concerning the handling and transportation of this timely manual, readers are directed to a Contents.  Our fearful leader leaves no acorn ungathered with these section headings:

  • Preface
  • Halloween Is Coming
  • Halloween Decorations
  • Halloween Costumes
  • Halloween Trick-Or-Treating
  • Halloween Candy
  • Halloween Notes
  • Halloween Fun and
  • If All Else Fails...
True to form Scaredy Squirrel needs us to understand him; devoting two pages each to his background and over-the-top behavior, the option of taking a multiple (two) choice quiz to test yourself on Halloween and the safety guide's planned purpose. 

First and foremost we need to protect our immediate living quarters from all forms of frightening figures which may or may not intrude, using six specific items, one of which happens to be a blender. (After laughing at this, it's unsettling how his reasoning makes sense.)  Precautions in place, werewolves, witches, vampires, ghosts, black cats and creepy crawlers will not dare to scare.  Succinct step-by-step instructions are given for the selection of pumpkins and the art of careful carving.  The most unlikely means of making sound effects to accompany your outdoor decor are given along with a visual example of a haunting, entrancing home.  Not to be overlooked, dos and don'ts for three possible schemes for inside adornment are given.

By theme, rating them on a meter, unscary, scary and terrifying, Scaredy Squirrel gives readers not five, not ten, not fifteen, not twenty but twenty-four possible costume ideas.  Plan on having vacuum hoses, ping-pong balls and safety cones handy if you find his DIY spider and sea urchin costumes appealing. (You might be close to hysteria now.)  Like every good escapade a map is a must; more twists and turns make it better.

Treats in all shapes and sizes are scrutinized. Alarming qualities of apples, monsters and haunted houses are analyzed.  Food and fun for the perfect party are itemized.  Scaredy Squirrel leaves readers with a frank, final piece of advice illustrating fakery at its finest.

Book by book, with every reading of each title, we readers continue to learn and laugh as the lovable traits of Scaredy Squirrel are revealed by his creator, Melanie Watt.  Puns and word play are the order of the day.  Her technique of employing short sentences, identifying labels, numbered instructions, astute asides and A Scaredy Squirrel Tip! reach out to the reader.   Even a novice to the series will be caught up in the comical details, the lengths taken, by this nut tree lover. A couple of examples are given below.

(an unforgettable item)
Scaredy's To-Do List
√ Panic
√ Draw up a plan
√ Prepare for the worst
√ Make lists
√ Let imagination run wild

(But Not Too Ghoulish)
Decorate your living room without making it look too scary.
Going overboard could freak you out!
SOCK There's nothing worse than a lost sock to reek havoc!
CRYSTAL BALL A mystical addition that guests could not have predicted.

Beginning with the spine on the jacket and cover, the title framed in spider webs, to Scaredy Squirrel attired in his best vampire look, Melanie Watt, haunts us with hilarity.  Orange, black and purple colors dominate her illustrations rendered in charcoal, pencil and Photoshop.  Framing individual elements in her solid black lines, our eyes are asked to stop and look.

Circles, squares, rows of two or three, single and double pages spreads are treats not tricks for her creative pictorial presentations; designed to keep our attention.  Each of the headings showcase Scaredy Squirrel in a circle wearing appropriate attire, holding an item, or his facial features are expressing an emotion as his other fingers number the chapters.  On the opposite page he sits in his oak tree hinting at the contents.  Several of my favorite double-page spreads are The Trick-Or-Treating Map with the Urban Legend, the haunted mansion pages with a list of hints, A Scaredy Tip! and notes spread throughout the yard and house and his Halloween party in full swing.

From her Scaredy Squirrel In A Nutshell introduction, chapter by chapter, describing all things Halloween, Melanie Watt in Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide For Scaredies, assists readers in celebrating this creepy holiday.  Every time I've read this I've discovered some new phrase, laughed aloud again at Scaredy Squirrel's looks or seen an extra tiny illustration previously missed.  Fans of this day, fans of Scaredy Squirrel, and fans of fun in general, will love this book.

Please follow the link embedded in Melanie Watt's name to access her blog.  There is a link in Scaredy Squirrel's name to direct readers to his home page.  Here is a link to four coloring pages for this title.

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