I Am A Witch's Cat / Happy Halloween, Witch's Cat!

We're in love with Harriet Muncaster's Witch's Cat books. They are marvelous and adorable and sweet. The mix of paper cut-outs and 3D miniatures are pure eye candy, and the little "cat" and her mother are characters you might want to know in real life.

I Am a Witch's Cat by Harriet Muncaster. HarperCollins, 2014.

I Am a Witch's Cat was published last year. We weren't able to get a hold of it until just after Halloween, so we re-checked it last week.

An adorable little girl in a cat costume lists all the reasons she knows her mom is a witch. "I know my mom is a witch because she keeps lots of strange potion bottles in the bathroom that I am NOT allowed to touch."

On trips to the grocery store, her mother buys "eyeballs" and "green fingers." She grows "magical herbs," and uses them to make "bubbling, hissing potions" that resemble soup. I especially love this one: "I know my mom is a witch because when her friends come over, they sit in a circle and cackle and swap spell books. They pat my head and say, 'My, how you've grown!'"

She also gives her kitty rides on her "broomstick." Can we stop for a moment and daydream about how cool it would be to have this room - and vacuum! - in real life?

We found the second book on the new release shelf last month. We couldn't wait to check it out!

Happy Halloween, Witch's Cat! by Harriet Muncaster. HarperCollins, 2015.

It is almost Halloween. The book opens with the cat and her mother making cookies in the kitchen.

The pair visit a costume shop. What should our little cat be for Halloween?

She explores her options. A frog? A silver skeleton? Maybe a ballerina or a vampire.

She considers mummies, pumpkins, and ghosts, but nothing feels right.

On the final spread, we see a bunch of kids, dressed in the unchosen costumes.

And the Witch's Cat and her mother?

Just precious. What can I say? We're suckers for all things sparkly and magical and witchy and feline.

Harriet Muncaster demonstrated how she made the I Am A Witch's Cat book cover on her blog, Victoria Stitch, last year. She also posted an activity, which can be downloaded on the book's website at HarperCollins. Look for where it says "Printable Activity" near the "About the Book" space.

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Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester, illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe. HarperCollins, 2015. 

I was scanning the kids' shelves at my favorite indie bookstore a couple weeks ago, looking for something new. Something fun. Something that screamed "October." The cover of this book caught my eye, as did the name "Lauren Oliver." I haven't read many of Oliver's books, but I loved Liesel & Po.

Flipping it over, I decided I had to have it.

Not to mention the fact that, under the jacket, the book itself was rather lovely.

Curiosity House is a new series, co-written by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester, supposedly a collector of relics and the one who first learned about the four children at the heart of the book. [In reality, H.C. Chester is the pseudonym of Oliver's father, author Harold Schechter.]

The series centers (will center?) around four children with remarkable abilities, who live and perform at an "Odditorium," Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. It is the last of New York's creepy dime museums, as the action in the book takes place some time in the mid-1930s.

We meet three of the children. Philippa ("Pippa") can read the contents of people's pockets, if not their minds. Thomas can contort and squeeze himself into the tightest of spaces. Long, lanky Sam has superhuman strength. We are given a glimpse of the other acts living in the museum - a bearded lady, a giant, a dwarf, a fat lady, an elephant man, an alligator man, a magician, albino twins - as well as other workers, such as the costume mistress, the cook, the custodian. We learn via a radio advertisement that Mr. Dumfrey has recently acquired a "genuine" shrunken head from the Amazon.

There is a knock at the door. A disheveled young girl, the same age as the other children, has come looking for a job. Mackenzie ("Max") is a brilliant knife-thrower. She is also extremely surly, having raised herself on the streets for some time. She is just in time to join the cast for the evening show. Which goes very well, until something goes wrong.

And so, the mystery begins. There are several murders, and the crack reporter at The Daily Screamer will not let up. "The Curse of the Shrunken Head," scream the headlines, and the police close the museum temporarily. As its in dire financial straits already, this could spell doom for the children.

There are clues sprinkled throughout the story, alluding to the children's past. Mr. Dumfrey is overheard telling Miss Fitch, "Can you believe it? Now I know all four of them are safe." It takes most of the book to learn the truth about the children, and when it comes, it feels rather sudden and rushed.

As for content, there is murder and a general feeling of creepiness, but it would be fine for a child already raised on Lemony Snicket, etc. Max has had a hard life, and she has a coarse way of speaking, but she isn't given a free pass.

While the museum and " Odditorium" setting is established, and its other inhabitants are touched upon, it feels like most of the action in the book takes place in the outside world, and the other performers' personalities are not clearly developed. Of course, I love these kinds of settings, so I was disappointed not to spend more time with the other "freaks," especially after seeing Benjamin Lacombe's beautiful illustrations. 

The Shrunken Head definitely feels like the first book in a series, and I'm very curious to see what the next book brings.While not perfect, it seems like a promising start.

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Halloween Paperbacks

More Halloweeniness today! I have bloggy friends to thank for both of these books. The Ghost Library was a very sweet gift from my friend Georgia in Greece. Cinderella Skeleton was featured over on Pen Pals & Picture Books, and I admit, after reading the post, I ordered a copy immediately.

The Ghost Library by David Melling. Hodder Children's Books, 2004.

David Melling is a popular British writer and illustrator. The Ghost Library is the first book of his that we've read. It's a darling, non-scary picture book that celebrates books and stories, so you know it's right up our alley.

Bo is reading her favorite book ("about a witch with smelly feet") when suddenly, the lights go out. She feels a chill and hears voices in the dark.

 A hand grabs Bo's book, but she refuses to let go.

There is a ghost library! The shelves, however, are very empty. The thieves introduce themselves.

The ghosts beg Bo for a story. First, she reads her favorite book, as numerous ghosts float into the building.

The ghosts want another story, but Bo tells them it's their turn. Claiming they haven't any more books, the ghosts are stuck, until Bo suggests they make up their own.

Bo and the ghosts fill book after book with tales, "and to this day The Ghost Library is full of stories."

And now for something a little different...

Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by David Catrow.
Voyager / Harcourt, 2000.

Cinderella Skeleton is less cute, more... pretty? Seriously. I think the illustrations are gorgeous. It's a little macabre and definitely rather funny. It's a favorite around our house.

The stepsisters riding off in the hearse...  Ha!

Yes, there's a slipper. But being a skeleton, you know our girl is somewhat fragile herself...

Cinderella Skeleton is readily available in paperback. [Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound]
The Ghost Library was made available in hardcover in the US at some point. [Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound]

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