Herbert’s First Halloween by Cynthia Rylant (review)
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Rylant, Cynthia Herbert’s First Halloween; illus. by Steven Henry. Chronicle, 2017 32p
ISBN 978-1-4521-2533-6 $15.99 R 3-5 yrs

Herbert, a cautious young pig, “was not sure about Halloween.” It takes a bit of convincing on the part of Herbert’s eager, Halloween-loving dad, but Herbert finally decides that this Halloween thing might be worth doing, once he knows that it doesn’t have to be spooky, he can dress as a tiger (and roar!), and there’s lots of candy involved. As Herbert’s dad sews an awesome tiger outfit for him and carves a smiling, non-scary pumpkin, Herbert practices his roar, and on the big night he [End Page 34] is ready. He collects his candy, roars many “tiger thank-yous,” and happily contemplates next year’s costume. Not every little one finds Halloween fun at first, and Rylant treats that attitude with respect in this calm, straightforward narrative, while also quietly inviting tentative kids to consider ways in which the holiday might be enjoyable. In a style reminiscent of TV legend Mr. Rogers, Rylant gently explores common youthful uncertainties, including Herbert’s doubt that a childhood photo of Herbert’s cowboy-hat-clad dad truly depicts his father: “It was hard for Herbert to know if it was actually him under that cowboy hat. ‘That’s when I was three,’ said Herbert’s father. Herbert was not sure.” Dynamic variation in sentence length and the use of repeated words and phrases strengthens the readaloud appeal as well. Henry’s cozy digital illustrations in muted autumnal tones are tidy and welcoming, and the warm color palette, creamy background, and large, dark sans serif font give this an appealing, slightly retro vibe. Charming Herbert, the non-spooky storyline, and the amiable art will make this a holiday storytime treat.

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