Stories and decorations are a must for an evening around the fire where shadows lurk and goblins creep. Here are seven suggestions for trick-or-treat Halloween reading that range from spooky to silly:
“THE MONSTERS' MONSTER,” by Patrick McDonnell, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (ages 3-6)
Grouch, Grumps and little Gloom ‘n’ Doom (he has two heads) thought they were monsters, tried to be mean monsters, and smashed and crashed and bashed like monsters. Their favorite 10 words were “No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! NO!” Since they couldn’t decide who was the biggest, baddest monster, they built one out of tape and tacks, “gunk and gauze and gobs of goo.” The monster they built, akin to Frankenstein with bolts on his neck and an automaton-like stroll, certainly was big, but the “baddest” he wasn’t. He smashed and crashed around and his favorite words were “Dank you!”
Mutts comic-strip illustrator Patrick McDonnell’s monster is one of the sweetest treats for Halloween and the whole year. In understated text and flat, muted art, a subtle lesson of gratitude comes clear to any little grump or grouch listener. And the result will most likely be “Read it again!”
“HUSH, LITTLE MONSTER,” by Denis Markell, illustrated by Melissa Iwai, Little Simon, $9.99 (ages 4-6)
A grouchy child monster is being appeased by daddy monster with a variation of an old lullaby, “Hush, Little Monster, don’t you howl/Daddy’s gonna give you a screeching owl.” Father Monster’s tenderness is apparent even if some of the gifts he promises are right out of a Halloween parade.
Another riff of a popular song is David Catrow’s ”MONSTER MASH” (Orchard, $16.99). Updating the popular 1962 Halloween classic, a Hollywood-type Frankenstein begins jigging to the beat of Monster Mash joined by the Crypt-Kicker Five and a sundry of characters with horns, fangs, tentacles and relocated body parts.
Catrow has pulled no punches in matching the silly song lyrics with creatures that crawl, ooze and gyrate to the music. Brave 3- and 4-year olds may like “Monster Mash” but older readers (and parents who remember the song) will adore it.
“CREEPY CARROTS!” by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown, Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (ages 4-8)
When Jasper Rabbit plunders carrots from Crackenhopper Field something foreboding begins; the carrots “started following him.” He sees them lurking in the bedroom, behind the fence and as he looks in his mirror. He feels the “soft sinister tunktunktunk of carrots creeping.”
Young readers will be delighted by Jasper Rabbit’s paranoia when he constructs a fortress and moat against the “attacking” carrots. Older readers will not miss the parody in the story and the cinematic-like illustrations, maybe even getting a glimpse of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”
“THE MONSTER ALPHABET,” by Michael P. Spradlin, illustrated by Jeff Weigel, Penguin, $7.99 (ages 3-5)
From A to Z, Abominable Snowman to Zombies, Morgan Marvin Marshall invites readers on world expeditions to see a spooky range of faces and places. In Ireland, the Banshee floats through the night and in England, there’s crumpets and tea with a Jabberwocky. Besides the 26 full-color monsters the artist has hidden objects of the same starting letter of the alphabet— a hidden bonus for a fun read.
“ZOMBIGAMI: Paper Folding For the Living Dead,” by Duy Nguyen, Sterling, $9.95, 122 pages (ages 8 and up)
Origami is just right for spooky decorations and inserts for Halloween cards. With clear diagrams and step-by-step instructions, 13 creepy characters can be created such as a corpse rising from a crypt, gravestones and fluttering bats. Colored origami paper is included as a packet in the back of this spiral-bound craft book.
“DEADTIME STORIES,” by Annette and Gina Casone, Starscape/Tor Teen, $14.99, 192 pages (ages 10-12)
Spooky and suspenseful, frightening and funny, the Deadtime Stories series is sure to bring giggles and goosebumps to reluctant middle grade readers. Each book in the series is planned around a fresh plot, delightful characters and cliff-hangers at pivotal points leading to a fulfilling conclusion.
In the first of the series, “Grave Secrets,” a babysitter reads a book to the children and suddenly the characters come to life. Others in the series include “The Witching Game,” “The Beast of Baskerville,” “Invasion of the Appleheads,” “Little Magic Shop of Horrors” and “Grandpa’s Monster Movies” to be published this winter.
Mantooth Films is currently in Production on “Deadtime Stories,” a new television series based on the books.