October. A time to recall gulling tales, and masquerade as something different; donning yourself as characters from stories, movies, history—or even your imagination. For our family reading selections this month, we’ve chosen three storybooks whose characters may SEEM familiar, but quickly lead-on to new and surprising adventures. The creativity of these three authors will inspire your own child’s imagination, especially during Halloween’s environment of make-believe!
by Alessandro Sanna (Enchanted Lion $19.95) Age 4-adult
The mostly wordless pages of this whimsical Pinocchio “prequel” are dressed with exquisite watercolor paintings by one of Italy’s leading contemporary illustrators. In a story that’s captivating and heavily allegorical, a tree limb, liberated by a meteor-sparked lighting strike, embarks on a thrilling adventure before its ultimate rendezvous with Geppetto, the marionette-making woodcarver.
Like the original story of Pinocchio (the puppet who becomes a real boy) this telling delivers a powerful message about humanity; carrying an equally mythical lesson how everyone originates from a unique spark, and how the experiences and companions of our journey continue to shape who we become.
Because the picture book contains little text, it will fall to older readers to guide young children’s understanding of the storyline. While this framework is typically unconventional, it will keep adults on the hook, and is equally impactful to read before or after reading the original Pinocchio.
by Dan Santat (Roaring Brook $17.99) Age 4-9
Is your family ready for the COMPLETE story of the most famous egg in literature? Caldecott winner Dan Santat’s epilogue to the beloved classic nursery rhyme is as humorous and enchanting as it is poignant and layered; another book written for kids that resonates just as powerfully with adult readers.
All the king’s men may have successfully put Humpty together again, but his trauma has left him with a crippling fear of heights. He sleeps on the floor, unable to climb into his bunk; settles for boring bottom-shelf cereals at the supermarket; and has to forego his favorite hobby of bird watching from the top of walls.
By giving full weight to the power of fear before revealing an exhilarating and inventive ending, Santat encourages children to overcome their fears, “get up”, and reach new heights.
by Jan Brett (Putnam $18.99) Age 3-8
Brett’s latest project is a fever-dream that transports the familiar Goldilocks story to beneath Okinawan waves. After an endearing octopus family—donned in Japanese kimonos and wide-brimmed hats—leaves breakfast on their table, Kiniro, a curious mermaid, along with her puffer-fish pal, can’t help but wander-in to their cozy shell-and-coral cottage. She samples the octopuses’ meals, their chairs, and their beds, before drifting to sleep in a perfect cradle that gently rocks with the current.
Brett cleverly uses the side borders for parallel action, stimulating readers to search for clues to fill in plotlines not explicit in the text. Octopus fans and aquatic aficionados will happily devour the details of Brett’s rococo illustrations and the striking rendition of this tried-and-true tale. Her picture books are often acclaimed for colorful, detailed depictions of a wide variety of animals set in evocative cultures from Scandinavia to Africa.