Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Last chance for spooky kids' books

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Quick, snatch up these Halloween titles before they are whisked away and replaced by Thanksgiving and Christmas books:

Ages 3-5
        • On Halloween written and illustrated by Lark Carrier (HarperCollins; $7.95). An impish peek-a-boo book in which die-cut eyes lead readers from one page to the next trying to guess who the eyes belong to. There are witches, bats, ghosts and goblins, but in a reassuring finale we discover each is a costumed trick-or-treater.

        • Patty's Pumpkin Patch written and illustrated by Teri Sloat (G.P. Putnam/Penguin Putnam; $15.99). Pumpkins don't suddenly appear fully grown. No, they are sown in spring, tended in summer and, finally, grow into hefty orbs. Readers follow a pumpkin patch's life and get a lesson in their ABCs to boot. Illustrated letters at the bottom of each page depict animals, insects and the patch's “world of life from A to Z.” Above each letter are bright acrylic paintings of the ever-changing garden. The jaunty rhyming text is simple and cheery.

Ages 5-8
        • The Gargoyle on the Roof by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Peter Sis (Greenwillow/Morrow; $16). The werewolves' master barber, a lonely troll, a bogeyman and daring acro-bats are among the creepy creatures inhabiting the 17 imaginative poems. The shivery oil and gouache paintings have all of Mr. Sis' signatures from precise crosshatching to layers of symbols. An elegant treat for those who want just a slight fright.

        • Greta's Revenge by Steven J. Simmons, illustrated by Cyd Moore (Crown; $14.95). When good witch Alice foils one of bad witch Greta's schemes, Greta plots revenge. She casts a spell making Alice just like her. It backfires. Seems Greta didn't pay attention at school when the “Brewmerang Principle” was covered (“Whatever you chant, whatever you brew, sooner or later comes back to you!”) Soon Greta is, yikes!, nice. But the spell fades and Greta gets her due in this merry tale about the perils of seeking revenge.

        • One Halloween Night by Mark Teague (Scholastic Inc.; $14.95). “Anything can happen on Halloween,” Wendell tells his friends Floyd and Mona. What happens first is bad: Wendell's mad-scientist costume turns pink in the wash, Floyd has to take his sister trick-or-treating with him and Mona is forced to dress as a frou-frou fairy-princess. They get tricks, weird treats and are chased by mean kids. But bursts of magic aid them and the evening turns out fine. The eye-popping acrylic paintings exude atmosphere without being scary.

        • A Rattle of Bones written and illustrated by Kipling West (Orchard; $15.45). Who would believe that a picture book about collective nouns could be such a howl? But it is. We follow a boy and girl as they trick-or-treat and encounter a gabble of goblins, a murder of crows and a venom of spiders. Sources are cited for each word and readers are encouraged to invent their own.

        • Whooo's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost? by Kay Winters, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (HarperCollins; $14.95). My favorite ghoul is back and is being haunted, but by whom or what? The watercolor and ink illustrations are filled with ghostly images, including Teeny Tiny, who sports a red ball cap, wide eyes and a wisp of a body. A fanciful tale that will speak to any child's Halloween fears.

Ages 10 and up
        • The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room

        By Lemony Snicket (HarperCollins; $8.95 each). These woeful tales are the first two books in the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” line. The stories center on the hapless Baudelaire children: Violet, Klaus and Sunny, who become orphaned in short notice. The writing is deadpan, the humor droll and the presentation positively Victorian.


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