Baby Horn BOO! 2013

We've recommended lots of Halloween-y picture books, easy readers, chapter books, and YA novels in the last few weeks (see "From the Guide: Slightly Spooky Middle-Grade Tales," our updated recommended Halloween reading list, and "Horn BOO!"). But what about the board-book crowd? Here are four recent silly and sweet choices for the youngest trick-or-treaters.

In Patricia Hegarty's Five Black Cats, the titular felines explore "on a dark, misty night." They encounter a few minor scares (a hooting owl, a flapping bat), but ultimately end up at a Halloween party hosted by ghosts and attended by other friendly creatures. Each stanza of the gently rhyming text begins "Five black cats," inviting listeners to join in. Julia Woolf's illustrations, full of rich colors and rounded shapes, assure that there's nothing here to fear — for listeners or for the big-eyed, smiling cats themselves. (Tiger Tales, birth–3 years)

Lily Carr's My Pumpkin begins with an affable monster visiting the pumpkin patch in search of the perfect pumpkin. He or she chooses the largest one — who wouldn't? — and struggles to carry it, but gets it home and carved in time for trick-or-treating. The enormous jack-o'-lantern is a hit with the other monster children. Spare, rhyming text (addressed to the pumpkin itself) has a sing-song quality young listeners will easily pick up. Illustrator Doreen M. Marts's goofy, pastel-colored monsters with their familiar costumes (fairy, bumblebee, pirate, superhero) and homey neighborhood welcome listeners in. (Cartwheel/Scholastic, birth–3 years)

There's no story in Jannie Ho's Guess Who?: A Pop-Up Mask Book, just a handful of faces with die-cut eyes. Using the cut-out handles on either side of the book, a little one can hold it to his or her face and become a robot, superhero, pirate, or witch for a Halloween-appropriate game of peek-a-boo. Simple — and fairly sturdy — paper engineering adds a 3-D detail such as nose or mustache to each "mask." Every spread gives an alliterative description of the character shown and a sound effect or phrase: "I'm a red robot! BEEP, CLUNK, BUZZ!"(Cartwheel/Scholastic, birth–3 years)

Kids who have graduated to paper pages will find a treat in Ed Emberley's Nighty Night, Little Green Monster. The little monster is revealed body part by body part ("two little yellow eyes," "a little red smiley mouth") as listeners turn the die-cut pages. Once the monster is completed, though, it's time for bed — "the first star" is out. Subsequent pages say "nighty night" to the body parts as they disappear one by one and stars are added. A simple bedtime story and a subtle introduction to color and body part concepts. (2–4 years, Little, Brown)

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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