For last-minute Halloween stories, the following may be just the thing:
BE BRAVE, BABY RABBIT. Fran Manushkin. Illustrated by Diane De Groat. Crown. 990. $13.95. 32 pages.HALLOWEEN MONSTER. Catherine Stock. Bradbury Press, 1990. $11.95. 32 pages.
THE REAL-SKIN RUBBER MONSTER MASK. Miriam Cohen. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. Greenwillow, 1990. $12.95. 32 pages.
IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE. Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Susan Meddaugh. Clarion Books, 1990. 32 pages.
HIGBEE'S HALLOWEEN. Robert Newton Peck. Walker and Company, 1990. $13.95. 101 pages.
One of the themes in the new books for Halloween is about overcoming fears during this spooky season. To some children, the inability to distinguish between reality and make-believe is a real problem during the time of monsters, witches and vampires. The first three picture books, here, address that message.
In "Halloween Monster," Tommy realizes he should be excited about the upcoming holiday, but he admits his fear of monsters, ghosts and witches. It is a kindly mother who reassures him, "There are no monsters or ghosts or witches . . . just little children all dressed up." The simple text and sensitive pictures will appeal the youngest child who realizes that it's a "big kid" event and isn't ready for the thrust into the cold night to trick-or-treat.
When Baby Rabbit tries to be brave, Manushkin tells about the real anxiety of attempting to do everything an older sister does. Finally, when its confidence is high, Baby Rabbit handles a monster with gusto. The watercolors are beautiful and will allow the children to tell the story, even without text, over and over again.
In "The Real-skin Rubber Monster Mask," Cohen and Hoban have brought their favorite class into second grade preparing for Halloween. Jim still is hesitant about the scary mask, especially wearing it himself. Five- and six-year-olds will the ones to most enjoy this book as they have the others by this writer/artist team, especially the "First Grade Takes a Test."
Bunting's story, "In the Haunted House," is comparable to her one of last year, "Scary, Scary Halloween" and is equally fun to read and role play. Told in rhyming text, the watercolor sketches let readers see only sneakers as they enter a haunted house. When they quiver and quake, predictions could be made on who is wearing the shoes. In the end, it is found that a dad and daughter have thumped through a haunted house full of witches, ghosts and vampires.
Peck has done it again with a duo, Higbee Higginbottom and Quincy Cobb, that will tickle the funny bones of those who have enjoyed his Soup series and 50 other novels. In this one, Hig and Quincy plot a scheme for Halloween to rid the town of Clod's Corner of the bullies, the Striker kids. "Higbee's Halloween" is a fast read - if you don't put the book down to wipe your eyes from laughing!
Only Peck can come up with quips like "Pray as if religion just got itself invented . . . " or "Trouble now seemed to occupy the ozone we were breathing as though it were a foul fragrance to further the folly of fools."
He seems to delight - as will the readers - with the characters of Bruto Bigfister and the Striker family composed of a father Bubonico, a mother Convulsia and seven children: Canker, Fester, Hernia, Jaundice, Scurvy, Typhus and Zitt. He doesn't need much to tell us about Miss Booky, the librarian, or Mayor Doolittle who is a full partner in the local law firm of Gyppum, Lotz and Cheatem.
Happy Halloween reading!