I was amazed by how innocent and almost milquetoast this book appears to be at first. The jack o' lantern on the cover seems to be a pretty standard, bright, orange childish affair. But... there is so much lurking under the surface.
Seems innocent enough, again. Grandkid pestering Grandpa "Bud" with a million inane questions. Notice the basket full of nightmare fuel on the floor by the end of the side table. Almost all of those items will come into play in the coming pages. Hold onto your hats.
Grandpa Bud is a bit of a sociopath if we're really being honest. Let's see why.
All kidding aside, this is where the book starts to get good (forgetting that Grandpa Bud is encouraging his young grandson to go on a traumatizing journey alone into the night...) and the artwork feels like there's a bit more effort being put into it. Oh! And did I mention this book glows in the dark? That becomes important pretty soon here. Every page has hidden, glow-in-the-dark details that only present themselves when you snap off the light, inducing a thorough pants-soiling in this book's target audience.
So I have next-to-no way of showing you the glow-in the dark features without putting in effort that I neither genuinely feel nor really care to muster... But you can kind of make out some of the intended effects anyway. For instance. The scarecrow in this picture? Really a skeleton in the dark. That's actually pretty awesome. The book is full of guides like this black cat and the skeleton. Each time you turn the page, you are introduced to a new guide, and the old one disappears mysteriously. Love the mood and the atmosphere building because of this. I love Halloween books that celebrate the feelings and the traditions of the holiday. And this one actually does a great job of it.
This is my FAVORITE scene in the book! That text up there says it all. The skeleton/scarecrow/thing dives into a pitch-black pond that has wraith-mist-freakshow-people rising up out of it. THIS is why Grandpa Bud is pure, pure evil. Eliott needs to run away now and find a crawl-space to hide in where Grandpa can't reach him.
If this book were a rollercoaster, we would have just gone over the most exciting part, and things kind of start to settle from here on. This Halloween owl and his bat buddies are pretty awesome though. These are the scenes where the artwork really seems to shine too. Wheeler's artwork is at its weakest when portraying human figures, but strongest when dealing with these spooky landscapes and environments, and their inhuman inhabitants.
Cabin in the woods anyone? Yeah. Kinda think they're over doing it with the bear, deer, fox, and squirrel. The isolation being broken up by the bats and owls would have been sufficient. This would have been a nice place to have menacing eyes staring out of the darkness.
Inside the witch's den we have some old-faithful items like a broom, a cauldron, a dangling spider... dried flowers? a basket full of fire wood? Eh... I think we could have done better here. But we know its a witch's house. That's all that really matters.
The raven in the wicker cage is a NICE TOUCH. Actually, that whole table is full of magic coolness. But the witch looks a little bit too much like my grandmother, boots, apron, and weird, squat stance (god rest her soul. My grandmother, not the witch). She's wearing a hood but all I can think of is that she looks like the Golem from the old 1915 film:
And I can't tell if that works to her advantage or not.
Either way, the effect is a bit ruined when we see her face. I feel like this is just a little too kindly of a witch for it being the climax of the book. She seems a little TOO friendly. Where are the misty pond wraiths and skeleton-stuffed-scarecrows now? I think this book peaked too soon. But hey! There's our cat buddy from before!
We see Eliott running for his very LIFE on this weird errand for his Grandpa "Bud", in an aerial view that reminds us of just how far we came to get this pumpkin.
An it culminates with a final shot of the titular "very scary" Jack-O'-Lantern which is okay I guess... but it's not this:
All right! That's all I've got for tonight kids! I'll be back soon with more Grindhouse Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Haunting!