Has the countdown to the most mischievous night of the year already started at your house? October 31 is creeping closer, but we’re not quite there yet! In the meantime, treat your costumed crowd to some pre-Halloween fun with one of the picture books featured here. Happy haunting!

HALLOWEEN FUN ON THE FARM

The ingenious team behind the classic books Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type and Giggle, Giggle, Quack is back with another uproarious animal adventure. Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin features Farmer Brown and his beloved barnyard crew in a tale with a chilling twist.

Farmer Brown is anti-Halloween (he scares easily!), so he opts out of the holiday by setting a bowl of candy on the front porch, hanging up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, and retiring behind drawn blinds. Meanwhile, out in the barn, preparations for a Halloween shindig are well under way, and the guests are arriving—in costume, of course: There are cats dressed as bats, chickens draped in ghostly sheets and mice disguised as princesses. Absent from the scene is the chief mischief-maker, Duck, which means he’s probably up to something.

Back at the house, Farmer Brown is seriously spooked by the sight of a robed figure out in the yard. He takes refuge in bed, but there’s no escaping the sounds of Halloween—the ominous crunch of leaves, the foreboding creak of front-porch boards. When a “quack, quack, quackle” enters the mix, though, Farmer Brown knows who’s haunting him. Wearing his PJs—a hilarious ensemble consisting of a red neckerchief and a union suit with a flashy pattern—he dashes outside only to fall prey, once again, to Duck’s wily designs.

Fans will be happy to see that—despite Farmer Brown’s best efforts—the animals still run this outfit. Lewin brings the barnyard to life through her wonderful watercolor illustrations, and Cronin’s use of sound words (creak, crunch, tap) lend the story extra Halloween spirit. This is a four-star addition to their irresistible series.

A CREEPY COUNTING BOOK

Ammi-Joan Paquette’s Ghost in the House is a fiendishly fun introduction to numbers. The story begins with a “Boo!” as readers meet a lonely ghost (a cute little fellow with a quizzical grin) who’s floating down the hallway of a haunted house. He’s not alone for long, though. A loud groan indicates company, and the ghost soon gains a bandaged sidekick: “a mummy makes two … in the creepy haunted house.” Ghost and mummy continue down the hall together, but they freeze when a growl issues from the staircase: A monster, furry, striped, and fanged, swells their eerie ranks to three. As the night progresses, the ghostly gang grows. A loud “click-clack” signals the arrival of a skeleton, while a witch makes her presence known with a spine-chilling “shriek!”

The creepy crew—now five in number—is surprised by a sixth arrival: “A sudden FLASH makes them topple and crash, and suddenly they hear, ‘Who’s there?’” The query comes from a wide-eyed lad in striped pajamas, who has turned on a light. The sight of a flesh-and-blood boy frightens the ghost and his friends, and they fly from the house. The book’s striking final page shows a spectral set of silhouettes—the five creatures fleeing.

Hair-raising and hilarious, Ghost in the House is a practically foolproof way to get kids counting. Paquette’s simple yet effective rhymed verses give the little story momentumm while Adam Record’s digital illustrations have a wonderful sense of texture. With its dingy walls and grubby carpet, his haunted house has definitely seen better days! He conjures up a distinctive expression for each member of the ghoulish group. A true treat regardless of the season, Ghost in the House is a book readers will have fun with throughout the year.

A BEWITCHING BATCH OF POEMS

Trick-or-Treat: A Happy Haunter’s Halloween by Debbie Leppanen is a frolicsome anthology of poems filled with clever rhymes, playful language, and—of course—plenty of Halloween hijinks. “Hallow’s Eve,” the book’s opening poem, sets the mood: “The wind is howling; / the leaves are blowing. / A sliver of moon is barely showing... With shrieks and howls / and make-believe, / let’s prowl the night— / it’s Hallow’s Eve!” From there, all manner of mischief follows, as readers visit a graveyard, cruise via broom with a group of witches and attend a party where a guest loses his head—literally.

Two of the collection’s sweetest treats pertain to parents.In “Mummy Dearest,” a gauze-wrapped boy lists the benefits of life with his monster mom: “She draws my bath with mud and ice, / then rubs me down with tickly lice.” In “A Vampire Makes a Wonderful Daddy Because...” father gets his due, too: “He’ll let you stay up late at night… When someone picks on you, he’ll bite!”

Thanks to Tad Carpenter’s colorful digital visuals, the book brims with Halloween eye candy—grimacing jack-o-lanterns, antic one-eyed monsters and cute, costumed kids. His meticulously composed pictures contain plenty of spooky minutiae: What does a vampire dad drink at night? A bottle of type O blood, of course!

Although she covers familiar holiday themes in these poems, Leppanen has her own angle on Halloween, and her unique vision gives the collection extra oomph. From short four-liners to longer, story-like pieces, her poems are fresh, original and very funny. A terrific introduction to poetry, this creepy collection will have little readers howling for more.

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