Fall, Fears and Fantasy

The Crocodile and the Dentist

By Taro Gomi
Best for: Ages 3-5

New things can be scary. This is definitely the case for most children who visit the dentist for the first time. Just imagine if you were a crocodile and had to visit the dentist! Told from two perspectives—the dentist’s and the crocodile’s—this tale helps us all understand we are not alone in our fears. Crocodile is big and strong yet he still fears getting his toothache fixed by the masked dentist. Of course, the dentist fears the crocodile (who wouldn’t fear putting his hands in a crocodile’s mouth?). In the end, being brave and overcoming one’s fears take the spotlight.

Older children will see the fun and humor in the illustrations, but younger readers may still be frightened by the smiling dentist holding sharp tools.

What’s good: Easing of dental phobias everywhere.
What’s bad: The humor may be over the heads of many young readers.

The Widow’s Broom
By Chris Van Allsburg
Best for: Ages 5-8

This year is the 25th anniversary of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Widow’s Broom. Many readers are familiar with Allsburg’s other hits, The Polar Express and Jumanji. Despite being 25 years old, The Widow’s Broom might seem brand new to many readers.

Van Allsburg brings this tale to life with his signature illustration style, mixing moody shadows with humorous expressions. The story is all about a witch’s broom. Minna Shaw loves her broom. The enchanted item has a personality all its own. It helps Minna and keeps her company. They are fine friends. But many of Minna’s neighbor’s fear the broom and see it only as evil.

Van Allsburg explores good and evil, friendship and much more in this page-turner of a book. Children will be captivated by each illustration and want to make this an annual fall read.

What’s good: Chris Van Allsburg’s signature style offers captivating images.
What’s bad: Some concepts will be too heady for young readers.               


The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me)
By Wade Albert White
Best for: Ages 8-12

This follow-up to The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes finds Anne, Penelope and Hiro enjoying their time at Saint Lupin's Quest Academy for Consistently Dangerous and Absolutely Terrifying Adventures. It doesn’t take long for a new quest to be triggered. The quest: Kill the dragon queen. Of course, killing the dragon queen will probably start a war with the dragons. But ignoring a quest can lead to very bad results as well.

Fans of the first adventure will enjoy this one too. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the first book; this one stands on its own. Just be ready for action and humor as Anne and her friends try to complete the quest.

What’s good: Fast action, robots and dragons.
What’s bad: A little absurd, but young readers should enjoy that aspect of the tale.

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