Tag Archives: halloween picture book

how to make friends with a ghost + marshmallow ghosts from Sincerely, Syl!

How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green (2017).

This is a dear, dear picture book. As the title implies, it contains a guide to making friends with a phantom written by Dr. Phantoneous Spookel, leading ghost expert and poet, and stars one sweet girl and one sweet companion ghost.

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The tone is at once quirky, inventive, and sincere and what gets me the most are the details. There’s a warning not to put your hand through a ghost as that can cause a tummy ache. There’s advice on hiding a ghost in a tissue box when guests come over. It’s those creative bits like bath time in a cauldron, bedtime lullabies of “eerie hums and wails,” and snack time of earwax truffles that truly delight.

The guide has three parts: ghost identification, ghost basics, and growing up with your ghost. The last one takes the main character all the way into adulthood, a certain spirit always by her side. And the ending plays with the idea of a friendship that lasts and lasts and truly goes on forever. You’ll seeeeeee!

Rebecca Green‘s illustrations have those same qualities as the text—quirky and inventive while also being sincere and gentle. This tender ghost story is a win all around.


Big thanks to Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada for images!



Baker and cook extraordinaire, Sylvia of  Sincerely, Syl, is here with a vanilla marshmallow ghost recipe to bring the sweet ghost from the story to life!! Sylvia works for Tundra, the publisher of How to Make Friends with a Ghost, and we’ve been wanting to collaborate for some time. And then we found the perfect fall book, and Sylvia devised the perfect craft, complete with the ghost’s small mouth (that eats a lot) and rosy cheeks. Plus, each ghost is satisfyingly squishy!!


Vanilla Marshmallows
Makes enough to fill an 8 x 12 x 2 baking pan

½ cup water
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
Unsalted butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup golden corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Icing sugar

  1. Using the bowl from your stand mixer, pour in the water and gelatin. Let it sit so that the gelatin can bloom.
  2. Brush the melted butter onto the base and side of your baking pan. Set it aside.
  3. Add the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the other half cup of water into a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring it to a rolling boil and let it boil for about a minute. Then remove it from the heat.
  4. Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment and turn it on low to mix the water and gelatin that’s already in the bowl until it combines. Then very slowly and carefully, add the hot sugar and corn syrup mixture into the bowl.
  5. Still mixing on low, add the vanilla extract.
  6. When everything is in the bowl, turn the mixer to high and whisk for 10 minutes until the batter turns white and triples in size.
  7. Stop the mixer, using a spatula, scrape the marshmallow batter into the baking pan. Spread the batter evenly and do your best to level it. A bench scraper or off-set spatula can help.
  8. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, be sure not to touch the batter otherwise it’ll stick. Or use a lid if your baking pan comes with one. Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature overnight or in the fridge.
  9. The next day, take the foil off and sprinkle icing sugar over the top. Cover the surface evenly so that it won’t be too sticky to handle. Run a knife along the edge of the pan to help loosen the marshmallow slab. Then carefully flip the marshmallow out onto a counter. Sprinkle icing sugar all over the marshmallow – don’t forget the sides.
  10. Use a knife to cut them into squares or roll a cookie cutter in icing sugar before using it on the marshmallow.




Check out that squishy sweetness!


And more creations are over at Sincerely, Syl. Thank you so much for making these most delightful marshmallow ghosts, Sylvia! (Here’s her post with lots of photos!)



Sylvia Chan lives in Toronto, Ontario with a growing collection of books and kitchen supplies. During the day, she works in marketing and publicity for a children’s publishing house. On her time off, Sylvia loves to bake, eat, photograph, draw, and travel. Follow along at sincerely.syl on Instagram or visit her blog at www.sincerelysyl.com.










elements of an A+ picture book: no such thing, a guest post from Bethan Woollvin

In my last post, I broke down why I think Little Red by Bethan Woollvin is A+. And now, she’s stopping by to do the same with a picture book she admires! Hooray!


ps_b_eb_no_such_thing-364x314She’s chosen No Such Thing by Ella Bailey. It may be a Halloween-themed book, but it’s got spring written all over it with that color palette! I love seeing what Bethan’s book and Ella’s book share. Aside from both being A+ and lovely to look upon, they also feature little girl protagonists who aren’t afraid of what might scare someone else.


Over to Bethan!




I first laid eyes on Ella Bailey‘s No Such Thing a few months back and instantly fell in love. It’s a real pleasure to be able to write about why it’s such a beautiful book.


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Something you will notice before you even open the book is Bailey’s brilliant eye for design. The front cover features muddled shelves of toys, trinkets, and Halloween related items. In the foreground stands a slightly concerned young lady under some of the most delightful hand drawn type I’ve seen to date – ‘No Such Thing’…what a clever title, I was instantly curious. No such thing as what?



For those who haven’t read No Such Thing, its main character is a young girl named Georgia who is demystifying the strange things occurring around her home in late October and most importantly, isn’t scared one bit!

Georgia is introduced to us on the first spread and by the second we already have a good idea what her personality is like. In these vignettes we see not only a brilliant observation of childlike body language, but a hilarious range of facial expressions that can be seen throughout the book.

As the story continues we begin to realise there is absolutely no fooling Georgia. This is something I really loved about this book: Georgia is smart, brave, and slightly suspicious, character traits you rarely see of a female lead in picture books. Georgia is a great role model for young readers and teaches them that there’s no need to jump to conclusions.




Something that really catches your eye when reading No Such Thing is the quirky colour palette. Although Bailey mainly works digitally throughout her work, she’s still managed to master a vintage silk screen style (which I applaud because I’m terrible at Photoshop)! The colours are unusual but really complement the charmingly cluttered areas of Georgia’s home that Bailey has worked so hard to create. My favourite example is Georgia in her 1950s-esque salmon pink kitchen, a strong composition giving us a view into her jumbled fridge! There is so much detail hidden in the pages that every time I open this book I see something I didn’t notice before.




The narrative is told in hilarious rhymes beginning to end which I have a real soft spot for. The text and illustrations work perfectly together, retelling small anecdotes about spooky things happening in Georgia’s home. These are usually done by her cat, dog, or her mischievous little brother – or so we thought! There’s another level to this book that the protagonist isn’t aware of, is there such a thing as ghosts? This gives the reader something to think about. They can decide for themselves whether they think the little ghosts are the ones responsible for all the incidents in Georgia’s home.




The book ends on lots of small (insanely cute) ghosts having a little party in Georgia’s front room and a note from the author: ‘Did you spot the ghosts? Turn back and see if you can find the ghosts on every page.’ Among the gorgeous artwork and witty story, a fun game begins! I love this idea. It gives the book more mileage and engages readers to pick the book up again and again.

Bailey has created a gorgeous world for Georgia, from the furniture and wallpaper to the food in the fridge. Every bit is pleasing to look at. The text is playful and ever-so-slightly sarcastic, which appeals to all different audiences. Georgia’s character is so important in this book because she is a strong female role model. She doesn’t remotely believe in ghosts, that would be irrational! No Such Thing is definitely an A+ book, one that every young reader should have in their collection.


Big thanks to Bethan for sharing her insights! 

And thanks to Flying Eye Books for images as well!



fred + milky matcha rice candy lollipops from thirsty for tea

1396304_origFred by Kaila Eunhye Seo (2015).


Like Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing, this is a book about growing up and losing something magical. But it’s also about the possibility of regaining that magic. Because of a young girl. Because of a lollipop.


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(click image(s) to enlarge)

Fred lives in a small town where he is “quite different from everyone else.” You know it from the illustrations. He carries a green lollipop. He’s in color (those black and red stripes). He also sees furry, monstery creatures. They’re his friends.


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Being different (and sometimes strange) doesn’t bother Fred. He’s too busy being with those monster-buddies.


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But then Fred goes to school. He makes new friends. He forgets the furry, monstery ones from his childhood. He has a routine. He isn’t different or strange anymore. Sometimes he feels alone though and we know why because we can still see Fred’s old friends, though now they’re black and white like his surroundings.


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And then one day a girl shows up, holding a lollipop the way he used to. She sees Fred’s friends. She reminds him of what he’s lost. But of what’s also still there. Waiting.

This is a wonderful book about staying connected to your imagination and never outgrowing lollipops and friendly monsters and magic.


Big thanks to Peter Pauper Press for images!





In the spirit of Halloween and nourishing our childlike imaginations, I asked my dear and uber-creative friend Bonnie at Thirsty for Tea to whip up some lollipops like Fred’s. And she did!

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In her signature style, they match Fred’s lollipop beautifully. Plus, they’re made from tea. Of course! Bonnie’s calling this recipe milky matcha rice candy, which can also be coiled into lollipops if you like. (I like!)

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These treats look like the perfect combination of sweet and creamy with the earthiness of matcha green tea. That vibrant green!

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Head over to Bonnie’s post to get the recipe and see more gorgeous photos of her process!


(Disclaimer if serving to kids: matcha contains caffeine.)


Please-Mr.-Panda-13You might also like Bonnie’s last picture book treat: tea-icing donuts from Please, Mr. Panda!












ed emberley + make a face giveaway


Unknown-4In honor of Halloween coming up fast, I got to thinking about how perfect Ed Emberley books are for this time of year. (Do you know him and his popular how-to drawing books?)










Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Weirdos and Ten Little Beasties (made with his daughter, Rebecca) especially come to mind, but all of his books involve creatures of all kinds.

They’re perfect precursors to Halloween costumes and crafts!






And there’s a new one!


Make a Face with Ed Emberley (Ed Emberley on the Go!).

It’s published by Two Little Birds, which was created by Ed’s daughter Rebecca Emberley. The company donates a book for every book purchased! Two birds! (Check out their partner Bess the Book Bus.)




This one has Ed’s signature step by step drawing with shapes technique AND includes bonus pages at the back to draw feelings, create bookmarks, and faces with accompanying speech bubbles. It’s all SO MUCH FUN!







And if you’re the kind who hunkers down for winter with the sewing machine, there’s Ed Embereley fabric at Cloud 9!




In closing, I like the way Ed  describes himself on his website:

“I am an old grandpa kind of guy.”

He’s pretty modest, don’t you think?!


Thanks to Myrick Marketing for images!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

This Picture Book Life is giving away one copy of Make a Face with Ed Emberley (Ed Emberley on the Go!), courtesy of Two Little Birds.

The greatest news is that it’s an activity book! You can draw right on the pages! Woo hoo and good luck!

I’ll contact the randomly chosen winner by email for your mailing address.

(Open to U.S. only—sorry about that far flung international readers! Good luck!)





wolves in the walls

22341The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean (2003).

Creepy title, creepy cover, right?!



This reads like a book for older kids and even adults. In part, because it’s kind of scary, this idea of wolves in the walls. And those mixed-media illustrations! Super scary. Also wonderful for their use of real photographs and line drawings that together, give me the creeps. In a good way.





Lucy is the wise one in her family, we come to know that. She’s the one who knows there are wolves in the walls. Her family doesn’t believe her. They also say that if wolves are in the walls and wolves come out of the walls, “It’s all over.” Lucy’s wiser than that too. (She also knows her pig puppet is someone real you can talk to unlike her parents, so there’s one more reason she’s wise!)




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If we relate this book to fears, other fears, the message is solid. Sometimes fears are real, but they may not pose the threat we think. We may be able to tolerate them. Even overcome them. Even if they are wolves in the walls.



The details make this great too. Lucy’s father is a tuba player. The mother makes jam. Lucy’s animal friend is a pig puppet (as in, the three little pigs and the wolf!). And when the wolves get hold of that berry jam, red like blood, the result is ferociously unsettling.




The ending, which I won’t give away, is one more detail to consider. It has to do with Lucy knowing a new thing and what she’ll choose to do with knowing it. It’s as original as the rest.