Over in the Hollow

   Every year when summer ends, school starts, and football season begins, I get a little sad and very nostalgic.  As I pull the swimsuits out of the wash and smooth the ruffles one last time, I always shed a tear or two that they won't be this size next year.  With a stiff upper lip, I drag the fall clothes out of storage and...start to smile.  The cooler nights, the walks to the park, a visit to the pumpkin patch, and brainstorming about Halloween costumes all characterize autumn in our home.  But this year, thanks to a visit to the library and a sub sequential online purchase, we have added a new tradition to our fall lineup- the mildly spooky and wildly entertaining Over in the Hollow, written by Rebecca Dickinson and illustrated by S.britt.

   While trying to beat the heat of the summer at the library one day, I found Over in the Hollow while searching the "D's" for one by Julia Donaldson.  I already knew my daughters' delighted in anything having to do with Halloween after watching Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie a million times, enabling the incessant flip-flopping of ideas for our costumes every year, and then surviving a few years through the Thanksgiving/Christmas/Santa marathon only to hear that it was fun, "But maybe tomorrow we have Halloween???  I like it better."  I wanted to test their love for everything that hoots and howls.  So I checked it out and read it to them that night.  Ever since, it must be included in our series of bedtime stories.  If not, then we need to go to the library now and GET IT.

The Story


   Adapted from Over in the Meadow, Rebecca Dickinson (a resident of Seattle) modernized and ghostified Olive A. Wadsworth's classic poem and turned it into a wicked read aloud book!  The repetition soothes like the pitter patter of a heavy rain.  The rhymes pull the puddled raindrops and stream them into a song.  Then, when you notice it's also a counting book (from one mother spider to thirteen floating ghosts), the moon and stars make the rippling waters glisten.  And with mother, father, grandma, grandpa, auntie, and uncle characters throughout, the whole family will enjoy it!

[photo source]
Over in the hollow,
where the cobwebs are spun,
lives a giant mother spider
and her little spidey one.
"SPIN," hums  the mother.
"I SPIN," hums the one.
So they spin silver lace
where the cobwebs are spun.

The Storytellers

[photo source]
   As she tells on her website, "I grew up as the middle child of five in a home short on money but long on imagination."  Lucky for Rebecca, her mother read to them regularly and she fell in love with reading at a very young age.  "Then on one of my family's regular Sunday visits to the library," she shares, "we stumbled across Ed Emberly's How to Draw book.  (Click here to preview and purchase Emberly's Drawing Book of Halloween.) It was amazing and inspiring; we took turns checking it out over and over again. I was hooked and from that moment on, I knew I wanted to create books."  Lucky for us, her creativity survived her childhood.  Now when I read Over in the Hollow to my daughters before bed, her playful passages such as, "Over in the hollow, wrapped in old sheets and glue, live an old, moldy mummy and his little mummies two," and, "Over in the hollow, a swingin' and a  steppin', live a daddy Frankenstein and his little Frankies seven," make us want to get up and "lurch" into our beds, "a swingin' and a steppin'" along the way.
  Without the lovable spooks, smiling and shrieking, and the vintage stylings of S.britt, the book may have ended up too frightening for a younger crowd.  But the pigtails poking out of the old sheets and glue, grandpa vampire's denture fangs soaking in a glass, and grandma bat's aviator helmet and goggles deliver a sense of humor and an instant connection.


   S.britt, a Portlander (like Myra Wolfe, the author of our last Blueberry Book, Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime) and fellow Pacific Northwestern of Rebecca, is quite an amusing and intriguing character.  A self-proclaimed starving artist, his doodles as a child led to small jobs at first in the form of fliers and album covers for a punk-pop band from Sacramento, the Groovie Ghoulies.


   "A collection of Groovy Ghoulies posters hanging in his cubicle at work led to britt's current job as the graphics designer for Valley Media Inc.," reveals Rachel Leibrock (current author at Sacramento News & Review) in her interview as a staff writer for the Sacramento Bee, "(and) another poster hanging in another Ghoulie fan's cubicle at MacAddict magazine led to a gig designing a calendar for that publication's July issue."  Years later, many offers came in to illustrate children's books and I am so glad he explored and succeeded on that path.  "My art is simple and that's the kind of artwork I liked growing up," he explained in his interview with Rachel.  "I'm always trying to please the kid inside of me and make that kid happy with what I used to like."

   I appreciate his answer in the FAQ portion on his website when asked, "And our last question before the police arrive, what makes for a good doodle?"  He replied, "Any doodle you can safely walk away from is a good one."  And I love his generosity of quip in all reviews, but I especially enjoyed the following remark in an article by Becca Costello again in Sacramento News & Review:

BC:   What do you do when you’re not drawing?

SB:   Well, I consider myself a rather cultured fellow with interests far and ranging. I enjoy gluing things to other things, muttering to myself in grocery stores, reanimating corpses for dance parties, discovering new ways to make myself sound interesting, listening to test-pattern records, staging one-man plays for houseplants, and occasional fraud.

   See?  He's funny!  I'm already a huge fan of his whimsically vintage artwork after discovering his cache only today- so much so, that I stalked/googled him like crazy and found a shop full of prints here on ETSY.

Click here to purchase this perfect Halloween decoration for the classroom and/or home!

Personally, I think he needs to resurrect this Groovy Ghoulies image as a party invitation or as printables on ETSY too!  How cute/super cool is this?!



The Review

   Needless to say, Over in the Hollow (ages 3-7, purchase here) garnered a well deserved 5 out of 5 blueberries as our tenth Blueberry Book!  The girls absolutely love it!!  I'm sure the library is glad we finally bought a copy so someone else has a chance to read it because we've essentially had it checked out for the last four months.  If you're looking for lesson plan ideas for your classroom, try these suggestions:

  • Families can talk about the unique families in this book. Do any of them seem much like yours? How are they similar or different? Each family has something to say -- what would your family say?
  • Count the little creatures on each page. Which family has the same number of kids as yours? Find other things to count in each spread, such as the mice with the cats.

  • The Classroom

       Lastly, if you're looking for Over in the Hollow inspired treats to make for your children's classmates or your own students, or as an activity while at the grandparents' or your child is home sick from school, check out these happy hauntings:

    Easy how-to with hershey bars, googly eyes, and streamers for these mummy treats!

    Brownie, marshmallow, and white-chocolate dipped pretzel skeletons here!
    Click here for the super-easy instructions to these ghostly snackbags!

    Or take it a step further...

    Vampire cupcakes with "bloody" jam center and bloodied fang marks- great idea!

    Make name skeletons with tracing, cutting, and pasting construction paper!


    1. How do you write on the skeleton face? I love those!

      1. You can buy cake decorating pens at craft stores! I bought mine at Michael's! I'm sure this info is of no use now that Halloween is over though. So sorry!