While you are out shopping for Halloween costumes for the kids this year, you may want to grab a copy of Cedar Rapids author’s children’s book “Halloween Hustle” to get into the spirit of the spooky season.
This fun, frolicking story about a clumsy skeleton who can’t resist the urge to dance is Charlotte Gunnufson’s first.
The words are playful and exciting. The illustrations — by Kevan Atteberry — are eye-catching and entertaining in their own right. The combination makes “Halloween Hustle” a great read — aimed at 4- to 8-year-olds — for the haunting holiday. But don’t worry, Gunnufson says, there aren’t any spooky characters or scenes in this story, just some funky Halloween grooves and a friendly cast of Halloween characters.
“I tried to write it with a hip hop feel,” she says. “Skeleton is just always dancing even though he’s not the best at it and keeps tripping and falling down.”
“Skeleton doesn’t groan or whine.
Binds bones together with tape and twine.
Bounces up, feeling fine …”
Parents will appreciate the message of perseverance, Gunnufson says. “They will like that Skeleton just pulls himself back together. He gets up again and keeps going, or dancing rather, and isn’t a whiner or complainer. It’s just a good read aloud.”
“Kids will probably like the fact that Skeleton is endearing,” Gunnufson adds. “You root for him because he is clumsy and lovable. Plus they will like the humor in the story and get a giggle out of it.” Skeleton’s little sidekick is a particularly funny character, for example.
Gunnufson — whose writing has appeared in various children’s magazines such as Highlights, Highlights High Five, Hello, Cricket and Ladybug — is thrilled to have her first picture book hit the shelves.
The story itself was inspired by a Halloween craft one of her sons — she’s a mom of three ranging from 25 to a fifth grade — made years ago.
“I keep all the crafts my kids made and I have a giant Halloween bin,” Gunnufson says. “One day I pulled out this skeleton my son had made and it was classic kid art that you just have to love.”
Body copy ragged right: She started writing a poem about the skeleton craft but quickly found the poem getting longer and longer before morphing into a story.
But she didn’t stop there. After signing her book deal — “Halloween Hustle” is being published by Amazon’s Two Lions imprint — Gunnufson decided readers might like to know what the “Halloween Hustle” sounded and looked like. She wrote the lyrics herself and then partnered with local performer and singer Alisabeth Von Presley to create the song and music video. Watch it online at TheGazette.com/books.
“It’s super simple choreography but it gets kids moving and is just fun,” Gunnufson says.
Getting people moving is another passion of hers. When Gunnufson is not writing and working on future picture book ideas, she teaches fitness classes — including Zumba — at the Rockwell Rec Center in Cedar Rapids.
“The enthusiasm in class — cheering people on, letting them know they’re doing great — all that is genuine,” she says. “I really do want people to feel good about themselves, to feel confident, to try something that seems difficult or even impossible, and to keep trying. And I plan to approach my children’s events and books with the same enthusiasm: lots of good fun and giggles, getting up and grooving, and a little ‘Yeah, I got this’ to go.”
To celebrate the release of her “Halloween Hustle” book — available on Amazon.com and other retailers Tuesday — Gunnufson is holding a Halloween Hustle Book Launch Party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 8 at the NewBo City Market. She promises free fun and fitness for families.
Kids, and kids at heart, will learn the “Halloween Hustle” dance and even get in on some Zumba fun.
“This isn’t your typical book signing event,” Gunnufson says, although attendees will get to meet Gunnufson and have her sign their books.
“It’s going to be crazy fun, filled with crafts, coloring pages from the book, sidewalk chalk and dancing. Costumes are welcome but not required.”
What: Halloween Hustle Book Launch Party
Where: NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 8
More information: Booksbycharlotte.com