Alice B. McGinty | Halloween with a cultural twist – Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette

One of Editor & Publisher’s ‘10 That Do It Right 2021’
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Updated: October 31, 2021 @ 10:08 am
‘Boo Stew’
‘Gustavo, the Shy Ghost’

‘Boo Stew’
‘Gustavo, the Shy Ghost’
Halloween is here, and with it, some fun reading.
These two terrific new picture books give Halloween their own special cultural twists.
Normally, Scares kept to themselves and only came out at night.
However, one day, Curly Locks, a young Black girl who loves cooking with cat hair and toadstools, found the pan of lizard-skin lasagna she’d left on the windowsill was licked clean.
Since the townspeople didn’t appreciate her culinary creations, Curly Locks was pleased.
“Somebody out there likes my cookin’!”
The next morning, in the mayor’s kitchen, “an itty-bitty Scare opened the window and plopped right in the middle of his pancakes!”
“Gitchey Boo, Gitchey Bon. Gitchey Goo, Gitchey Gone!” said the Scare.
Ebbeler’s fun, detailed, classic-feeling illustrations show the frightened Mayor tumbling backward as the black Scare dances on his pancakes.
The mayor “lit like a blue streak” into the street, nearly knocking down the blacksmith.
“I’ll knock that itty-bitty Scare into next Tuesday,” the blacksmith responds.
But, as the blacksmith is ready to snatch the Scare by its ear, he feels a tapping on his shoulder and finds a larger Scare singing the “Gitchey Boo” refrain.
The blacksmith flees, running into the chicken rancher, who says, “Don’t you fret none. I’ll handle it.”
But as he lassos them, the house begins to shake, and an even bigger Scare shows up.
Ebbeler’s illustrations bring charm and humor to the townspeople as “Stories of the scares spread like a kerosene fire.”
When Curly Locks sees them running, she remembers the pan of lizard-skin lasagna and knows what to do.
“I bet nobody’s tried cookin’ for ‘em,” she says.
She marches into the mayor’s kitchen and gets to work.
When the Scares come, one at a time, she says, “I’ll go if you like, but if I do, you’ll never get a taste of my famous Boo Stew.”
Curley Locks puts each to work cleaning the kitchen, and they love the Boo Stew.
In the end, everyone is happy, Curley Locks cooks for the Scares each night, appeasing them, and as she says, she “got a load of hearty eaters who appreciated her cookin’!”
Gustavo also loves to play the violin, but there’s one thing he longs to do — make a friend.
He is so shy, though, that this is terribly difficult for him.
The mixed-media illustrations show a boisterous party of skeleton, cat and costumed monsters.
The humor continues in the illustrations as the straightforward text explains how Gustavo tried getting close to the other monsters “in many different ways.”
We see him as part of a balloon, a bedsheet and more.
“But they just couldn’t see him,” we read.
Gustavo realizes that he must be brave in order to make a friend.
He sends an invitation to the monsters to his violin concert at the Day of the Dead party at the cemetery.
But he’s worried.
“What if no one shows up? What if they don’t like my music? What if they don’t like me?”
That night, he sits alone at the cemetery.
“So all alone, Gustavo did what he loved most (plays the violin). And the music made him happy. So happy that he glowed. Oh, how he glowed.”
The monsters, who had been lost, hear the music and see his glow. They arrive and love the concert.
After that, Gustavo’s life is different.
His new friends discover that even though he doesn’t talk much, he is a great helper and protector, and “mostly, Gustavo never stopped surprising them. And they never stopped loving him.”
The author-illustrator of this warm story is from Mexico City, and her art is full of clever and upbeat cultural references to the Day of the Dead.
Alice B. McGinty (alicebmcginty.com) is the award-winning author of almost 50 books for children and runs a summer writing camp for teens, Words on Fire. She just celebrated the release of two books, “The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney” (Schwartz and Wade Books) and “Pancakes to Parathas: Breakfast Around the World” (Little Bee Books).
Alice B. McGinty (alicebmcginty.com) is the award-winning author of almost 50 books for children and runs a summer writing camp for teens, Words on Fire. She just celebrated the release of two books, “The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney” (Schwartz and Wade Books) and “Pancakes to Parathas: Breakfast Around the World” (Little Bee Books).

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