Hello everyone! Interrupting your regularly scheduled Monday for a perfect picture book that’s fitting for Halloween day!
The author, Donna Washington, is a professional storyteller, and her skills shine in this narrative.
There were always Scares in Toadsuck Swamp,
but Curly Locks didn’t pay ’em much mind.
The Scares kept to themselves. They only woke up
at night, and the most annoyin’ thing about ’em
was their hootin’ and hollerin’.
The only thing Curly Locks truly
cared about was cookin’.
Text ©Donna L. Washington Illustration ©Jeffrey Ebbeler
Right from the start, this strong storyteller’s voice grabs the reader,
and the illustrations, creepy but inviting, add to the folktale sensibility.
Curly Locks makes delicious food, if you’re into dishes like batwing brownies or lizard skin lasagna. No one in town is, so she’s feeling a little underappreciated. But her mama boosts her up, telling her to keep doing what she loves.
As it turns out the mayor’s house gets a visit from not one, not two, but three Scares, each one larger and scarier than the last. Each time one shows up, someone from town tries to scare it away with no success. There’s an awesome refrain that kids will love to chant every time a new Scare terrifies the town members:
Curley Locks figures out that she just might have the recipe for taking care of those Scares. You’ll have to read the story to see if she’s successful.
Even though the narrative is longer than the current 500-word standard for a fictional tale, it doesn’t feel long. Instead it feels satisfying, something that older picture books readers will love. I think the language, pacing, and refrain will keep younger readers enthralled. Plus, the illustrations have so many creepy details, kids will love examining them to find the Scares and other strange creatures and ingredients. Please note that this book makes a perfect read aloud, and can be read year-round!
Take one of your favorite recipes, give it a new creepy name, and then rename the ingredients so they’re more like the ingredients that Curly Locks puts in her concoctions. Sugar could be ground up bones, for example. Butter could be cold gator snot.
Make your own Scares, using either ink or black watercolor paint and a straw to blow the liquid into different shapes. This Youtube video gives you instructions for basic ink blowing. Give them eyeballs and a mouth that’s ready to gobble up lizard stew!
Pair this book with the fractured fairtytale, Moldilocks and the Three Scares, by Lynne Marie.
Title: Boo Stew
Author: Donna L. Washington
Illustrator: Jeffrey Ebbeler
Publisher: Peachtree, 2021
Ages: Elementary school
Themes: cooking, scary creatures, self-confidence
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.
4 thoughts on “Boo Stew – Belated Perfect Picture Book Friday”
I just love the contrast between the cute kid and the creepy scares (which are actually scary lookin’!).
I’m glad to hear that Washington didn’t get hemmed in by the arbitrary 500-word limit of modern PBs. There are so many wonderful stories that need a bit more breathing room; Boo Stew is apparently one of ’em. I look forward to reading this.
Great point, Mike! Yes, the Scares give the book a spooky edginess, while the way Curly Locks is drawn makes the story feel a little less scary. It’s a terrific balance between the two. And the word count does exactly what you say, gives the story room to breathe. The pacing and voice here is really stellar. You can tell the author is a professional spoken word storyteller. I’d love to hear her tell stories in person!
I agree — love the storytellers’ voice. It really draws you into the story! Love the title and cover, too. Thanks for sharing!
It’s so atmospheric. Really well done!