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More silly than spooky

Cheery colors, gentle humor, and friendly monsters (or pals in costume!) keep these picture books for the youngest trick-or-treaters light on tricks and heavy on treats.

Halloween book meets counting book in Stephen Savage’s Ten Orange Pumpkins. Rhyming text counts down through a mildly “spooky night” as, one by one, nine pumpkins disappear; the last — now a glowing jack-o’-lantern — wishes us a “Happy Halloween!” Clear silhouettes in the foreground contrast pleasingly with the vivid pumpkins and brightly colored backgrounds. There’s plenty of reason to reread: listeners will want to discover the fate of the missing pumpkins (baked into a ghost’s pie, added to a witch’s brew, etc.) and follow a curious black cat from page to page. (Dial, 3–5 years)

In Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat, Halloween humbug Farmer Brown puts out candy and a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign. When he hears strange noises outside — getting closer and closer! — Farmer Brown trembles under the covers. But author Doreen Cronin and illustrator Betsy Lewin don’t leave their audience in the dark: we know that those party animals of Click, Clack, Moo fame are hosting their own Halloween bash in the barn. The well-paced text and appropriately shadowy illustrations assure listeners that the only foul thing afoot is a costumed fowl. (Atheneum, 4–7 years)

By day, Arnold, the star of Bedtime Monsters by Josh Schneider, is ferocious. But at night he worries about the toe-biting monster he knows is under the bed. His mother’s counsel (“I’m sure he’s just as scared of you as you are of him”) is borne out when the toe biter appears — but with his own monster fear. More monsters snuggle in with Arnold, each owning up to a phobia — until one names the fearsome “Arnold.” Watercolor, pen-and-ink, and colored-pencil illustrations portray an everyboy in the midst of his vivid imaginary world. (Clarion, 4–7 years)

The follow-up to Vampirina Ballerina, Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover, finds the young vampire planning a slumber party for her (human) ballet buddies. Her Munsters-worthy household welcomes Vampirina’s guests, but despite their best efforts, the family’s true nature comes out. While Vampirina’s friends may be taken aback at first, ultimately they like her just the way she is. Author Anne Marie Pace and illustrator LeUyen Pham hit all the classic sleepover favorites — scary movies, make-overs, a pillow fight, and, of course, a dance party — with a mildly gothy flair. (Disney-Hyperion, 4–7 years)

From the October 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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