We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt

We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt by Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Ann Schweninger, 2001.

On Halloween night, two kids go out on a ghost hunt. This is a cute picture book, told as a poem, with a lot of repetition of phrases and sound words, like “thump” and “stomp.” The book also encourages children to notice details. The “ghost” appears in the scene where the children pass through the “swamp” and the ghost costume appears again at the end of the book.

As the kids go on their ghost hunt, passing through a swamp and past a haunted house and other scary things, they repeat that they’re not afraid.

The kids are brave, right up to the point where they finally find a ghost.

The kids run home to their mother, who gives them cupcakes and reads them a story.

Three guesses who the red-sneakered ghost was. Happy Halloween!

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive.

The Ankle Grabber

The Ankle Grabber by Rose Impey, 1989.

This book is part of the Creepies series, where children have fun imagining monsters. The stories are about the power of imagination and the fun of being a little scared. Sometimes, even though the children know that they made up the monsters themselves, they also get a little scared. Books in this series can be good for talking to children about how their imaginations can run away with them and scare them, but I’d use caution when introducing them to very young children because they can make nervous children more nervous by feeding their imaginations. These books would probably be best for ages seven and up. Fortunately, even when the kids’ imaginations run away with them, the stories always end in reality, and the hero of this story is … Dad!

Every night, a little girl has her mother check her room for monsters, but no matter how well she searches for them, the girl is still terrified of the monster who lives in an invisible swamp under her bed. She calls this monster the Ankle Grabber because she believes that if she isn’t careful, the monster will reach out from under the bed and pull her down into the swamp.

But, as is inevitable when you’ve got a monster under your bed, the girl realizes that she has to go to the bathroom. Getting in and out of bed without being caught by the Ankle Grabber is a tricky proposition. The girl tries to get into and out of bed by jumping so that she can avoid the monster.

When she misses her jump back into bed and lands on the floor, her father comes in to see what’s wrong. Her father has scared off monsters for the little girl before, so he sticks his head under the bed to scare off the Ankle Grabber, too.

Nothing is so scary that Dad can’t make it better!

The book is available to borrow for free online through Internet Archive.

Tricky Pix

Tricky Pix: Do-It-Yourself Trick Photography by Paula Weed and Carla Jimison, 2001.

This book is part of the classic children’s hobby and activity series from Klutz Press and explains how to perform trick photography. Originally, this book came with a real camera that could be used to take trick pictures. The camera was a film camera instead of a digital camera, using 35mm film, but the film was not provided.

Now, digital cameras have almost entirely replaced film camera for popular photography, and film is actually much harder to come by, and not as many places offer film development services. In the very early 2000s, when this book was first published, digital photography was just starting to take hold, and digital cameras were more expensive, so a kid’s first camera was still likely to be a film camera. In just a few more years, that shifted abruptly with the increasing popularity of cell phone cameras and further developments that made digital cameras increasingly affordable for general use. The beginning of the book explains how the camera works and how to load the film.

The fact that this book was designed to be used with a film camera is important because this style of trick photography relies on physical illusions, not images that are digitally altered with Photoshop or similar software. In a way, this makes the pictures more interesting because they are largely unaltered from their original form. That is, you’re seeing what the camera saw at the moment that the picture was taken. The tricks involve using different perspectives and camera angles to achieve the illusions.

Strategic poses and the use of physical objects to block part of the scene can be used to create illusions like disembodied heads, people with extra limbs, or people with really long legs or bodies.

An often-used trick for making people look tiny enough to be picked up or stepped on by another person involves forced perspective – strategic positioning the subjects so that there is physical distance between them but no visual cues to indicate just how much distance there is between them so relative sizes are difficult to gauge.

When images in this book are altered, it’s with the old-fashioned method of literally cutting and pasting them onto each other, something that is now done digitally.

Personally, I enjoyed the fact that there was less of a reliance on software and digital technology in the production of these photographs. I think that learning how to do things without relying on technology to do most of the work can encourage creativity, and in particular, the use of physical illusions like forced perspective is also educational. Artists need to understand the use of physical space, perspective, and lighting, and these photographic tricks demonstrate these concepts well. Even though this book doesn’t make use of digital photography, any of the tricks in this book could also be performed when taking pictures with a digital camera.

The book is available to borrow and read online through Internet Archive.

Trouble at School

The Berenstain Bears

Trouble at School by Stan and Jan Berenstain, 1986.

“When a problem at school
Is kept secret too long,
It can grow ’til a cub
Thinks that everything’s wrong!”

Brother Bear runs into problems at school after he catches a bad cold. While he’s recovering from his cold, he is allowed to watch tv and read comic books. His teacher sends home a packet of schoolwork for him to do, but he ignores it and forgets about it.

He doesn’t remember the packet of work until he’s better and going back to school. However, he soon becomes preoccupied with the news that Cousin Freddie has taken over his position on the soccer team during his absence.

When his teacher gives a quiz on the new lesson in division, Brother fails it. Brother is supposed to show the quiz to his parents and have them sign it, but his parents become preoccupied with Sister, who is now sick, and Brother doesn’t show them the quiz.

The next day, Brother is so upset about his bad grade and what’s happening on the soccer team that he doesn’t go to school. He makes his quiz into a paper airplane and throws it away.

Then, Brother gets the idea of going to see his grandparents for help. He explains the entire situation to them. His grandfather tells him a story that helps put the situation in perspective.

There was a time when Gramps did something wrong, and instead of admitting his mistake, he just kept going and made the problem worse, like Brother did by ignoring his schoolwork and not telling his parents about his problems at school. Gramps says that it’s best to admit when you’ve made a mistake so you can do what you need to do in order to turn the situation around.

They find the quiz that Brother threw away and go home to tell Brother’s parents about his school problems. They’re not happy about the situation, but they tell Brother that “It’s never too late to correct a mistake,” and Gramps proves to Brother that he can do division by having him divide a bag of cookies among the family members.

When Mama takes Brother back to school, he learns that nobody else in class did very well on the quiz, so the teacher is letting them do a retake. Now that Brother realizes what division is really about, he does much better. At the soccer game that afternoon, Brother also gets a chance to retake his old position on the team. If he hadn’t gone to school that day, he would have missed these chances to make things right, but because he did go and took the second chances that he was offered, things were much better by the end of the day.

Adults reading the story will recognize that the reason why Brother’s parents are supposed to sign his failed quiz is because that is how the teacher draws parents’ attention to problem areas that their children have so they can make sure that they can pay extra attention to the child’s homework and help him with his problem areas. It’s not about shaming or punishing the child but getting the child the help he needs to understand the subject. By hiding the bad quiz from his parents, Brother was avoiding the help that his parents were supposed to provide and making the situation worse. Parents can be disappointed when their children bring home bad grades, but this is a situation where parents would rather know than not know if their children are struggling with something because they generally want to help their children when they need it.

The lesson of the story is a good one. Anyone can occasionally make mistakes, have problems, or just plain fail at something, but the people who succeed in the end are the ones who face up to their problems and do what’s necessary to make them right. Some people feel overwhelmed when confronted by problems, but the best thing they can do is admit that there is a problem and that they’re feeling overwhelmed and get help from someone else. Brother could have just told his parents and gotten help with division immediately, as soon as he realized that neglecting his make-up work had left him behind in class. At first, he was too embarrassed and worried to do that, but he did manage to turn things around by talking to his grandfather about his problems and taking the help and advice that he offered. Making mistakes or even failing something doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming because there are always things you can do to make the situation better and people who are able to help.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive.

The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Friends

The Berenstain Bears

The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Friends by Stan and Jan Berenstain, 1986.

“When making friends,
the cub who’s wise
is the cub who learns
to compromise.”

Brother and Sister usually play pretty well together, but Brother is two years older than Sister, and he doesn’t always want to play girls’ games like tea party and house. Brother likes to hang out with Cousin Freddy, but Sister doesn’t have a friend who lives close enough to play with her after school.

Then, one day, a new family moves in down the road, and they have a girl who’s Sister’s age. The new girl’s name is Lizzy, and she likes to do many of the things that Sister likes to do. The girls start playing together right away. Sister thinks that Lizzy is fun, but a little bossy … kind of like Sister herself.

Later, Sister takes some of her stuffed animals to Lizzy’s house so they can play school. However, the girls argue over who is going to play the part of the teacher. Both of them want to play the teacher, and during their argument, they break Lizzy’s pointer stick.

Sister goes home angry, but Mama Bear reminds her of the reasons why she might want to make up with her new friend. Getting along with people can be difficult, but there are many things that are difficult to do alone. Having friends can be a lot of fun, certainly much more fun than sitting home and being lonely. If Sister wants to make up with Lizzy, she needs to accept her for the person she is and recognize that she can be a bit bossy herself sometimes. Both of the cubs need to give a little, let each other have their way sometimes, and care about each other’s feelings.

Lizzy drops by to return Sister’s teddy bear, which she left behind. She remembers what Sister told her about her teddy bear and why it’s important to her, showing that she does care about Sister’s feelings. The girls make up and agree to compromise and take turns being the teacher when they play school. Both the girls realize that getting along with friends means considering each other’s feelings and being willing to compromise.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive (multiple copies).

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation

The Berenstain Bears

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation by Stan and Jan Berenstain, 1989.

“Can a bear’s vacation
with more rain than sun
end up being
the one that’s most fun?”

The Bears are looking forward to their family vacation! The vacation was Papa’s idea because he saw an ad in the newspaper for a rental cabin the mountains. Papa likes the idea of a wilderness vacation and living off the land. He describes to his family how much fun it will be to swim and fish in the lake and eat wild berries.

However, when they arrive at the cabin, it soon becomes apparent that their vacation is not going to be as it was advertised. The cabin is run-down and messy. The water from the pump is brownish, and the lake is too.

From the very beginning, nothing on their vacation goes right. Papa’s “wilderness stew,” made from plants that he gathered, is terrible, and the wild berries are sour. Their rowboat sinks, and fishing is a disaster!

When it starts to rain, their cabin leaks, and Papa falls down in the mud. By then, everybody has decided that they’ve had enough and that it’s time to go home.

So, what did they get out of their worst vacation ever? Memories! The experiences were pretty awful, but Mama’s pictures of everything that happened turn out to be hilarious! This is a fun story about how even disappointing situations can have a humorous side.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive (multiple copies).

Day and Night

Day and Night by Roger Duvoisin, 1960.

Night is an owl who likes to go out hunting for food at night, and Day is a poodle who lives with family called the Pennyfeathers. Because Day is usually only out during the day and sleeps in the family’s house at night, they don’t usually meet. However, by chance, Day rescues Night from a fox.

Night is grateful, and the two of them become friends. However, because they are normally active at very different times, they can’t easily meet to talk to each other.

They sometimes leave each other little treats, like a bone with some meat or something from one of Night’s hunts.

They also begin meeting at the kitchen door at night to talk to each other.

However, Day’s barking and Night’s hooting is too loud, and they start keeping the Pennyfeathers awake at night. At first, they can’t figure out why Day keeps barking every night, but their son, Bobby, sneaks out one night and sees the way Day seems to be talking to the owl.

Bobby correctly realizes that Day and the owl are friends and that they’re just trying to talk to each other. To solve the problem, Bobby builds a dog house for Day so that Day can comfortably sleep outside and talk to his owl friend without disturbing everyone.

Day likes the new dog house, and Night meets him there every night so the two friends can talk whenever they want.

This is a cute picture book that I’ve liked since I was a kid. I like the way that Day and Night talk to each other and some of Day’s misconceptions about what his humans are thinking. When Mr. Pennyfeather yells at them to be quiet, Day tells Night that he thinks Mr. Pennyfeather is barking at the moon. Some of the pictures are in black-and-white and some are in color.

Owl Babies

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson, 1992.

Sarah, Percy, and Bill are three owl babies who live in a tree with their mother. One night, they wake up and can’t find their mother. They think it over, and they decide that she has probably gone out to get food for them.

They wait for her and try to be brave, but they get worried that she isn’t coming back. Then, suddenly, their mother does come home!

The little owls are happy to see their mother, and their mother reminds them, “You knew I’d come back.”

It’s common for children to worry when their parents go away without them, wondering if they will ever come back. The story reminds young children that, even when mommy has to go away for a while, she will still come back home.

The book is available to borrow for free online through Internet Archive.

Spot Visits the Hospital


Spot Visits the Hospital by Eric Hill, 1987.

Spot’s friend Steve, who is a monkey, is in the hospital with a broken leg. Spot and some of their other friends decide to go visit him and take some presents to cheer him up.

Steve likes their presents, and Spot and his friends sign Steve’s cast. They play in the hospital’s playroom, where they have toys, games, and books for child patients.

Spot’s friend Helen decide to play doctor, and she puts a bandage on Spot’s leg, as if his leg is broken, like Steve’s. They start pushing Spot around in a stroller, like it’s a wheelchair.

Their friend Tom hides, and they all go looking for him, finding him in an x-ray room. In real life, they would probably get in trouble for goofing off around the x-ray equipment, but in the book, nobody catches them doing it. I think the reason why the book has this episode in it is to have a reason to show readers the x-ray equipment and explain how the doctors used it to examine the break in Steve’s leg.

Spot is fascinated by what he sees in the hospital and tells his mother that he might like to be a doctor someday.

Spot Goes to the Beach


Spot Goes to the Beach by Eric Hill, 1985.

Spot’s parents take him to the beach to spend the day there. When they get to the beach, Spot wants to get a sailor hat from a stand selling beach equipment, and his father also buys him some beach toys.

Spot plays with a beach ball, builds sand castles, and buries his father in the sand.

Spot and his father later go fishing, and Spot falls in the water, but Spot is fine because he’s wearing a pool float.

Before they leave the beach, Spot also makes a new friend, another puppy!

This is just a cute book for children about the fun things that they can do at the beach.

Like other Spot books, this book is a lift-the-flap picture book. The British version of the title is Spot Goes on Holiday. It’s available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive (multiple copies).