Children's books and book reviews - reading resource for kids, teachers, librarians, parents

*Vunce Upon a Time* by J. Otto Seibold and Siobhan Vivian
Also by J. Otto Seibold:

Other Goose: Re-Nurseried!! and Re-Rhymed!! Childrens Classics

Gluey: A Snail Tale

Quincy, the Hobby Photographer

Olive, the Other Reindeer: Deluxe Edition!

Olive, the Other Reindeer

The Pig in the Spigot
Vunce Upon a Time
by J. Otto Seibold and Siobhan Vivian
Ages 3-5 32 pages Chronicle September 2008 Hardcover    

Like lots of kids, Dagmar has a sweet tooth. He loves gummy worms and chocolate bars. The only difference is that Dagmar’s sweet tooth is pointy and fang-like! Dagmar is a vampire who loves candy, so much so that when he eats the last piece of candy from his secret stash, he slumps in a corner, saddened by the thought of life without candy.

He doesn’t have to be sad for too long though, because tomorrow is Halloween night, when everyone is given free candy just for saying the magic words “Trick or Treat.” All Dagmar has to do is blend in with the humans in town by finding a scary costume to wear. But when you're scared of humans, have parents who say “NO” to Halloween, and live near giant zombie moths that make meals out of Halloween costumes, you have to be really determined, extremely brave, and extra clever to replenish a depleted candy supply on your own.

The young vegetarian vampire lives in an old black castle. He rarely leaves the castle grounds, but if he wished to he could walk or fly out. He sleeps in a coffin, shuns daylight and hates garlic. He wears black and swings a small cape around his shoulders. But with his long pink nose, purple tongue, huge green eyes and cow-licked hairstyle he looks just like a J. Otto Seibold creation.

Digitally rendered, the characters in this book bespeak J. Otto Seibold’s recognizable style, which includes distinguishing facial features and many bright color pairings. To really appreciate his style, spend a few minutes looking at the wordless two-page spread of the town on Halloween night.

In Vunce Upon a Time, Seibold brightens dark background colors with red fall leaves, glowing jack o’lanterns and shiny stars. These colors effectively reflect not only the vampire theme but the fact that this is a Halloween night during which bravery will be tested. Color changes near the end of the book - blue skies, blooming flowers and new clothes - reflect a braver, more confident Dagmar.

Although vampires are the main characters in this book, nothing here should frighten a child. Wide eyes make Dagmar look innocent and child-like (especially when he sticks his tongue out in concentration while gardening), and when his eyebrows turn downward with worry, we can empathize. The skeleton, the mummy, and all the trick-or-treaters appear non-frightening well. Rounded bodies, oversized heads and stiff arms and legs keep everyone looking more vulnerable than scary (and that includes the most menacing looking of them all: the grimacing carrot and the masked chick). The bright colors keep things light as well, as do the small creatures that seem to be on every corner of every page. Look for the ghost celery and the sewing spider, two of my favorite distractions.

After reading Vunce Upon a Time, children will see that even vampires sometimes get spooked, but just like us, they have the ability to overcome their fears. They’ll see that fears based on preconceived notions can be unwarranted and possibly cause missed opportunities.

J. Otto Seibold has been using computers to draw for over twenty years. He has written and illustrated many books for children, including Olive, the Other Reindeer, Olive, My Love, Gluey: A Snail Tale and Penguin Dreams. He lives in California.

Siobhan Vivian grew up in New Jersey. Her debut young adult book A Little Friendly Advice has earned rave reviews and been selected as a Booksense Pick. Her new novel, Same Difference, will be out in March 2009. She lives in New York.

click here to browse children's board book reviews
click here to browse children's picture book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young adult book reviews
click here to browse parenting book reviews
web reviews
  Tanya Boudreau/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

For grown-up fiction, nonfiction and speculative fiction book reviews,
visit our sister site Curled Up With a Good Book (