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New Halloween picture books offer fright, fun

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 8 2013 4:55 p.m. MDT

"Ten Orange Pumpkins: A Counting Book" is by Stephen Savage.

Penguin Young Readers Group

Halloween picture books range from scary to silly and frightening to funny and offer offer ghosts, ghouls and giggles.

Here are a few of the new ones for holiday festivities:

TEN ORANGE PUMPKINS: A COUNTING BOOK,” by Stephen Savage, Dial, $16.99 (ages 3-5)

The ready-to-be-counted pumpkins disappear to some sort of Halloween mischief. Counting backward, “Ten orange pumpkins, fresh off the vine,” to “Gasp! There’s only 1.”

Clues are given where the pumpkins disappear to, “Three pumpkins, a pot of witches brew. This will add a tasty touch! Poof! There were 2.”

Stephen Savage’s robust silhouettes and dark backgrounds make this a counting book to enjoy over and over again.

“A VERY WITCHY SPELLING BEE,” by George Shannon, illustrated by Mark Fearing, Harcourt, $16.99 (ages 4-8)

Little witch Cordelia loves lots of things, especially spelling. She turns words into other words like adding "o" to "cat" and spelling "c-o-a-t." Cordelia enters a spelling contest against the 203-year-old spelling champion, Beulah Divine, who wasn’t about to be un-seated. Cordelia ultimately wins when she adds "r" to "f-i-e-n-d" and spells "friend."

Mark Fearing’s cast of green-skinned witches adds humorous dimension to a Halloween story about good spelling and magic spells.

FIVE LITTLE MONKEYS TRICK-OR-TREAT,” by Eileen Christelow, Clarion, $16.99 (ages 4-8)

In this 10th venture of the Five Little Monkeys, the favorite babysitter, Lulu, takes the monkeys trick-or-treating dressed as a banana, alien, ghost, goblin and a princess. When the mischievous five plan a prank by trading costumes with other friends, they think they can re-visit homes for treats, but Mama can’t be fooled. Lulu plans a prank of her own (and she shares the recipes on the end papers). Fans of the Five Little Monkeys will delight in this new installment.

HOW BIG COULD YOUR PUMPKIN GROW?” by Wendell Minor, Penguin/ Nancy Paulsen Books, $16.99 (ages 3-5)

Every year there are contests to determine the biggest pumpkin of the season. Wendell Minor, in his glorious trademark gauche and watercolor paintings, takes this theme and imagines 14 cities where pumpkins could dominate the vistas. “Your GIGANTIC pumpkin could glow like the skyscrapers” and “Could the most COLOSSAL pumpkin fill the Grand Canyon?”

Using synonyms to expand the idea of size (“giant,” “enormous,” “jumbo,” “monster,” “mighty”) the author takes readers on a pumpkin-loving tour of the United States that could lead to the idea of what a big pumpkin in your own city would be like.

VAMPIRINA BALLERINA HOSTS A SLEEPOVER,” by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Disney/Hyperion, $16.99 (ages 3-5)

Vampirina returns in a second adventure as she plans a sleepover with her friends. Trying to hide her spooky family ways means replacing their ghoulish clothes with modern attire. She even hides the pet monster down the trap door covered with a pink rug. The guests, though at first apprehensive, find the weirdness to their liking and enter the treasure hunt and vampire dress-up with energy. Vampirina’s sister sneaks pizza to the few who find the wiggly stew in a cauldron a bit offish. While "Vampirina Ballerina" is definitely not a how-to book for entertaining guests, it will be the hit of a read-aloud, especially at a sleepover party.

Two activity books provide hands-on fun for Halloween.

MAX AND RUBY’S TRICK OR TREAT,” Grosset & Dunlap, $5.99 (ages 3-5)

Beginning readers will find Halloween ideas to color, writing practice, picture-matching and puzzles. Punch out dolls of Max and Ruby with stickers are all included.

DAY OF THE DEAD ACTIVITY BOOK,” by Karl Jones, Price Stern Sloan, $9.99 (ages 6-9)

Traditions can be celebrated as readers learn the history of the Day of the Dead through short descriptions, puzzles, illustrations and simple recipes. Press-out forms can be decorated with stickers to create an "offrenda," a shrine holding food and flowers.

There are no integrated Spanish terms in “Day of the Dead Activity Book,” but another recommended source is “Mi Familia Calaca/My Skeleton Family” by Cynthia Weill, illustrated by Jesus Canseco Zarate and published by Cinco Puntos.

Email: marilousorensen@ymail.com

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