Review Detail

Kids Fiction 165
Halloween Costume Challenges
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Nina is usually prepared for holidays, thanks to her list keeping in her journal, but this year Halloween has come right on the heels of Diwali, and thrown her off. Her sister Kavita has asked Jay's mother, Meera Masi, to make her a costume, but Nina has no ideas at all. She knows that her mother is not good at making costumes, especially on short notice, and she doesn't have the money to buy one, even if the stores had any left. To makes matters worse, her friend Jay has a great costume, and she fears that he will forsake her to go trick or treating with his new friend who is a boy. She claims to be going as a "Halloween queen", but only has a tiara that a friend is loaning her. In typical Nina fashion, she makes lists, but gets distracted by the thought of having a haunted room for trick or treaters to visit. She hopes that this will intrique Jay and convince him to spend time with her. She gets involved in massive preparations for this, with cleaning out a box room in the basement, making decorations, finding snacks, and inviting many people, including her vary kind neighbors the Crumps. Still, she keeps putting off making a costume. Will she be able to pull off all of her Halloween plans and find something to wear at the last minute?
Good Points
Nina's family is delightful, and many readers will understand her frustration with having to include her younger sister all of the time, even if she genuinely likes her sister. Her struggles with getting older and having a different sort of relationship with Jay, who has been her friend since they were infants, will also be relatable. I love that her parents are involved but definitely have their limits as to what they are willing to help with!

The pell mell pace at which Nina gets ideas, and her desperate attempts at organizing what she needs to do are a good lesson for readers, not only as a cautionary tale (a lot of her plans are very ambitious!) but as a constructive lesson in how to approach problems. While I found it hard to believe that there would be enough children in the neighborhood who would be allowed to go in the Soni's basement to make this a profitable venture, the situation is realistically drawn, and Nina works through all of the challenges of such a daunting project.

Halloween figures so largely in the calendar of elementary school readers that it is always good to see a book that incorporates it. There are several delightful series that include this, such as
Brown's Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream, Warner's Absolutely Alfie and the Princess Wars, Harley's Charlie Bumpers vs. The Squeaking Skull and even Sells' graphic novel Roar of the Beast, so it's good to see this addition to the Nina Soni series.
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