by Kristin Riddick
Nick Guarracino, illustrator
In This Together Media
Back Cover: She may feel like a loser the rest of the year, ut come the season of trick-or-treating, costume contests, hay mazes, and jaunted houses, Kat reigns supreme. No one in Totsville, Maine, can bob a better apple or carve a more perfect pumpkin. But now the mysterious Dr. S is threatening to take Kat’s day away. Dr. S hates Halloween as much as Kat loves it. Kat’s in a panic over the holiday ban in Totsville when grandmotherly magic transports her to the wondrous city of Treatsville, where Halloween costumes live all year long—and where the key to saving Halloween in Totsville might lie.
Opening: And the winner o the Totsville Elementary Halloween Costume Contest . . . for an epic sixth year in a row is . . . Kat McGee and her Bride of Frankenweenie costume! Come on up and claim the Golden Mask. Kat McGee? Kat McGee, are you out there? Kat McGee? KAT MCGEEEEEEEE!
About the Story: Kat McGee loves Halloween, so when Totsville bans the celebration, she is devastated. She eats one of Gram’s special pumpkin pops and falls asleep. Kat awakes outside of Treatsville, where she meets Dolce and DeLeche. They explain the trouble in Treatsville and get Kat to help. Snaggletooth has been capturing the Halloween costumes and if he gets them all Halloween will be gone forever. The more costumes he gets, the darker and more dangerous Treatsville becomes. After training with her two remaining Halloween costumes, the three girls head out to stop Snaggletooth from destroying Treatsville and Halloween forever.
They must travel through the Forest of Fear, past the Gatekeeper, and up and over a Wall of Trumpets. Snaggletooth’s mansion was farther on, but visible in the night. Next was the Pits of Gloom—a cave dotted with pits and nasty fairies—and the Swamp of Sorrow—tarry, foggy swamp with a resident crocodile. The final leg is the Haunted Hill and Snaggletooth’s house at the top. If they make it, what will Kat and her two costume friends find?
What I Thought: Similar to The Wizard of Oz, Kat McGee and the Halloween Costume Caper has one world mirroring the other. The costumes are themselves in both worlds, as is Kat. Dr. S is Snaggletooth, but who is Dolce and DeLeche?
Kat is a strong character who deals with too much rejection, from the kids at school and her brothers and sisters. During Halloween, wearing a costume, Kat feels safe and strong. In Treatsville, Kat needs to feel safe and strong without her costume, at least not wearing it. I liked the story but thought it took a bit too long to get to the main conflict, which left me wanting for more.
Kat nearly immediately goes to Treatsville, getting the story off to a great start. We learn about the other kids who have unsuccessfully tried to conquer Snaggletooth. All of these kids ran back to Treatsville, all afraid from some point along the path to his mansion. Defeating Snaggletooth will be difficult to accomplish, and so Kat and her two sidekicks go through training in preparation for this journey and the conflict against Snaggletooth once they reach his mansion.
During training, there are many small obstacles in Kat’s way, but only one involves the antagonist. We most often see Snaggletooth in his mansion with the costumes he has kidnapped, but his evilness does not shine through. Like the witch in Oz, Snaggletooth looks inside an object—a Jack-O-Lantern—to keep track of Treatsville and Kat. Also like Oz, when Kat finally gets in front of Snaggletooth, he is quickly conquered.
Snaggletooth, like Dr. S, is the problem yet very little time is spent actually confronting him. Most of Kat’s time in Treatsville is in preparation, which is fine if the final battle, between the protagonist and antagonist, involves more than one scene and a fast vanquish of the antagonist. I found Kat’s win to be anticlimactic, too easy, a gimme.
Regardless of this, the well-written story had the parts in the correct order. The ending was super. It brought the story full-circle and wrapped up quickly. For those that like messages in their stories, there are two. The first tells us not to judge a book by its cover. The scowl you see could be hiding ear or sadness instead of hostilities. The second tells us it is better to work as a team and you will go further, faster with teamwork.
Kat McGee and the Halloween Costume Caper is a good story to read at bedtime, one chapter a night. This could be the Twelve Days of Halloween, with the ending—Chapter 12—read before bed the night of trick-or-treating, just as Kat’s story ends. It really is a terrific bedtime story. This would easily get kids in the mood for Halloween, work through any fears they might harbor, and inspire kids to make their own costumes instead of wearing store-bought.
I think kids will like Kat McGee and the Halloween Costume Caper. There is no violence or scary parts, making this an ideal read for younger kids at bedtime. Kids can stretch their creative muscles and imagination while decorating beyond a carved pumpkin. Halloween can become more than a one-night celebration. Included are discussion questions a few Halloween activities.
Ages 8 to 12
© 2013 by In This Together Media, used with permission
Text copyright © 2013 by Kristin Riddick
Illustrations © 2013 b Mick Guarracino