True Boo

Kids books provide frights, sights and delights

Halloween is around for only one day each year. But little kids who can't wait for Halloween to come and who hate to see it go can enjoy its frights, sights and delights any time through some of the latest picture books with Halloween themes.

¢ Among the titles to have recently popped up is "Mommy?" (MDC/Scholastic, $24,95, all ages). Maurice Sendak provided the art for Arthur Yorinks' scenario about a little boy in a blue onesie and bright red cap who toddles through a haunted house asking everyone he meets, "Mommy?"

In this house, though, he has a better chance of finding a "mummy" - which he does, among the other creepy 3-D creatures that emerge in the paper pop-ups engineered by Matthew Reinhart. Unfazed by his ghoulish greeters, the fearless little fellow finally finds his mommy, but not before he runs into a vampire, a wolfman and a one-toothed, green-faced something-or-other.

¢ Another little boy searches through his house when he is awakened by a scary voice that says "I'm Going To Eat You!" (Reader's Digest, $10.99, 4-6).

In this lift-the-flaps book with story by Matt Mitter and art by Jimmy Pickering, the boy goes from room to room, opening doors (liftable flaps for the reader) to reveal several scary-looking but innocent creatures. He finally finds the unexpected source of the voice when the kitchen door opens to reveal ... guess whom?

¢ Clifford the Big Red Dog was once a little red puppy. In "Clifford's First Halloween" (Scholastic, $7.99, 3 and older), an abridged version of Norman Bridwell's 1995 book, Emily Elizabeth can't find a costume for her frisky pup. But little Clifford accidentally finds one on his own and proceeds to scare the daylights out of all the kids at the Halloween party.

¢ Dora can't decide what to dress up as for Halloween - there are so many good choices! So in "Dora's Spooky Halloween" (Simon Spotlight, $5.99. ages 2-5), she explores the neighborhood, collecting ideas from the friends she meets and from the old broomstick she finds.

¢ "What to wear?" is a problem, too, in "The Costume Copycat" (Dial Books, $10.99, 4 and older) by Maryann Macdonald, with pictures by Anne Wilsdorf. Year after year, at trick-or-treat time, Angela's costume is overshadowed by older sister Bernadette's - that is, until one Halloween when Bernadette has to stay home with chicken pox.

¢ In "Behind the Mask" (FSG, $16, 4-8) by Yangsook Choi, a little Korean-American boy named Kimin decides to trick-or-treat as his grandfather after he finds the "tal" (mask) Grandpa wore as a mask dancer in his native Korea. The mask not only provides Kimin with inspiration for his costume, it holds a wonderful surprise for him.

¢ "Trick or Treat!" (Golden Books, $4.99, 2 and older) by Melissa Arps, with art by Hector Borlasca, is a board book shaped like a jack-o-lantern and with a black carrying string. It tells the story of a young trick-or-treater dressed like a cowboy who's sharing his goodies with all the "monsters" he meets on his rounds. But - and keep this under your hat - he has saved some treats for himself in a secret hiding place.

¢ It's no news when someone is scared by a ghost. But when ghosts are scared - well, that's news! Dirk Bones, skeleton and ace reporter for The Ghostly Tombs, investigates the strange doings in "Dirk Bones and the Mystery of the Haunted House" (HarperCollins, $15.99, 4-8) by Doug Cushman.

¢ Similarly, it's normal for humans to be afraid of witches; it's a switch when a witch is afraid of us. In "A Very Brave Witch" (Simon & Schuster, $12.95, 4-8) by Alison McGhee, with art by Harry Bliss, a little witch flying her broomstick summons the courage to "drop in" on some human trick-or-treaters and learns a thing or two about them - mainly, not to be afraid of someone who's different.

¢ In "Los Gatos Black on Halloween" (Henry Holt, $16.95, 4-8) by Marisa Montes, with art by Yuyi Morales, the witches, skeletons, ghosts and other creatures are celebrating Halloween in a haunted house. They're having a ball until a knock on the door disturbs their fun. The story is told in rhyme and introduces several Spanish words.

There's a whole patch of pumpkin books that young readers might find to be simply di-"vine":

¢ "Pumpkin Town" (Houghton Mifflin, $16, 5-8) by Katie McKy, art by Pablo Bernasconi.

What's worse than a town with no pumpkins? One with too many pumpkins, that's what, as one town learns when pumpkin seeds that were accidentally scattered all over the place finally sprout. But with the help of some young brothers from a nearby farm, the problem is solved for good. Or is it?

¢ "The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin" (HarperCollins, $6.99, 3-6) by Margaret Wise Brown, art by Richard Egielski.

This paperback edition of the classic book tells the story of a docile little green pumpkin that grows into a fat orange one and gets a ferocious-looking mouth and glowing eyes, thanks to a couple of kids with a carving knife and a lighted candle.

¢ "Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin" (Little Simon, $6.99, 2-5) by Mary Serfozo, art by Valeria Petrone.

A board book version of the story about an orange-and-black tiger cub in search of the perfect pumpkin. He finds it, but just what is he going to do with it?

¢ "Halloween Fun With Spookey the Square Pumpkin" (Sterling, $5.95, 6-9) by Joe Troiano, art by Susan Banta.

This board book features a maze, connect-the-dots game and pumpkins of all shapes to color, all on reusable, wipe-clean pages. Nestled into the back cover is a package of crayons in six colors - including orange, of course.

¢ And "Colors" and "Numbers" (Sterling, $4.95, 2-3) by Troiano, art by Nan Brooks. Two books in one, in a flip book in which Spookey and his pumpkin pals help kids learn their colors and how to count to 10.


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