This Halloween, treat your young readers to one of these
Halloween can be a difficult concept for young children to
grasp, as all the focus on ghosts, mummies, vampires and other
things can be scary if you're just a baby or toddler. That's why
the best Halloween books for little ones often are simple
explanations of the holiday, such as author/illustrator Tomie
dePaola's classic board book "My First Halloween," for infants to
2-year-olds. It's now out of print, but available from libraries
and as a used book.
Taking a humorous look at Halloween also works well for young
children, as author/illustrator Kevin Sherry demonstrates in his
board book "I'm the Scariest Thing in the Castle" (Dial, $6.99,
ages 1-3). The protagonist, a pint-sized purple bat, doesn't look
very scary, but he insists that "I'm the scariest thing in the
When the castle's other residents tire of the bat's bragging and
decide to scare him, however, the little bat breaks into tears,
prompting his colleagues to label him a "cutie pie." Pleased with
his new moniker, the bat swiftly returns to his boastful ways,
shouting as the book ends: "I'm the cutest thing in this
Sherry's silly story will please young readers, who also will
enjoy the bright colors and simple lines of the illustrations.
While "Bone Dog" (Roaring Brook, $16.99, ages 4-7) takes place
during Halloween, it's a book that deserves an audience all year
round for its poignant message of loss, loyalty and love.
Written and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Eric Rohmann,
"Bone Dog" tells the story of a boy named Gus and a dog named Ella
who "had been friends for a long, long time." One night, sitting
outside in the moonlight, the now-elderly Ella tells Gus that she
won't be around much longer, but promises him that "no matter what
happens, I'll always be with you."
Gus is heartbroken when Ella dies, but tries to keep himself
going, even deciding to pull on his skeleton costume and go out
trick-or-treating on Halloween. Passing through the graveyard on
his way home, however, Gus is beset by unfriendly skeletons until
Ella -- now a skeleton dog -- miraculously comes to his rescue.
Together, Gus and Ella begin barking and growling, alerting the
neighborhood's live dogs, who chase the skeletons away. Gus then
must say goodbye again to Ella, but he now truly understands she
will always be with him.
Rohmann's simple and sadness-tinged message is leavened by the
story's action and humor. Both of those elements are further
highlighted by Rohmann's illustrations, done in the same way --
relief prints -- as his Caldecott Medal-winning book, "My Friend
Rabbit." The thick black lines and limited palette beautifully
present the book's nighttime setting and underscore the book's
emotions. "Bone Dog" offers readers a story they won't soon forget
about how love endures throughout the cycles of life.
Author/illustrator Wong Herbert Yee details the latest
adventures of two best friends in "Mouse and Mole: A Perfect
Halloween" (Houghton Mifflin, $14.99, ages 4-7).
This sixth book in the award-winning series finds the
Halloween-loving Mouse making all kinds of holiday plans, while the
more timid Mole isn't sure he likes the scarier aspects of
Halloween. But even Mole enjoys the pumpkin-carving contest, and
Mouse eventually finds a creative way to calm Mole's fears.
The four short chapters in this book are just right for readers
who are ready for easy chapter books, and Yee's appealing
watercolor illustrations help break up the text and add clues to
the story. Particularly noteworthy is the way that Yee dramatically
changes his color scheme and uses a rhyming text to create the
book-within-the-book that Mouse reads to Mole in the last
And don't forget to check out these other great new Halloween
-- "Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters: A Lullaby" (Candlewick
Press, $14.99, ages 3-5). Author Jane Yolen and illustrator Kelly
Murphy team up to offer readers a bedtime story that is both funny
-- In "Pumpkin Cat" (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, $14.99, ages
3-5), author/illustrator Anne Mortimer shows how Cat and Mouse work
together to grow their very own pumpkin. Mortimer's engaging
illustrations bring her simple story vividly to life.
-- Kids get three scary stories within the context of a larger
story in "The Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Tales" (Dutton,
$16.99, ages 5-8). Written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by
Paul Meisel, this book tells how Father Ghost attempts to lull his
ghost children to sleep with some scary stories.
-- Author/illustrator Liesbet Slegers offers a straightforward,
colorful look at the holiday in "Happy Halloween!" (Clavis, $15.95,
-- In "The 13 Nights of Halloween" (HarperCollins, $16.99, ages
4-7), author/illustrator Guy Vasilovich has a blast riffing on a
traditional song from another holiday, "The Twelve Days of