Boo! Did we scare you? Little ghosts and goblins all over the country will spend this month getting ready for Halloween. To get into the spooky spirit of things, try some of these new releases. They register at different places on the scary scale, so please note the age preferences on each: A Beasty Story (Silver Whistle, $16, 015201683X, ages 3Ã7) is a much-anticipated collaborative effort of author Bill Martin Jr. and illustrator Steven Kellogg. The story consists of two levels: One is the narrative, the other commentary from four curious mice. The narrative tells a spooky story about a beast who is unleashed; however, the mice's remarks provide a nice balance, indicating a not-so-spooky ending but not before the mice are frightened by the beast.
The Gargoyle on the Roof (Greenwillow, $16, 0688096433, ages 6 and up) is a series of funny, creepy poems by Jack Prelutsky. Prelutsky's poetry explores the more philosophical side of eerieness: How does a werewolf barber feel about his life? How does a vampire groom himself? Why does a nice vampire girl have to change into a werewolf? Characters that normally make your skin crawl will tickle your ribs instead.
The New Young Oxford Book of Ghost Stories (edited by Dennis Pepper, Oxford University Press,$22.95, 0192781545, ages 9Ã12) isn't quite as whimsical, however. Most of the stories are from the early 20th century, and a third of the stories are in print for the first time ever. The stories range from eerie to odd to funny. Mary Frances Zambreno's The Ghost in the Summer Kitchen takes a gentle approach with a twisted ending, while Robert Scott's The Opening Match will make you laugh. Older children will appreciate the diverse themes.
The Nightmare Hour: Time for Terror (ages 9-12) is a collection of ten new stories by the same author who brought us the Goosebumps series. Each story includes an introduction by Stine, and illustrations by ten talented artists. The illustration that accompanies The Dead Body, for example, is particularly gruesome. One particular favorite, Afraid of Clowns, confirms my long-held suspicions about what lurks behind those painted faces. And I'm Not Martin should not be read prior to a tonsillectomy! Definitely for children who think they're too old for Halloween; after reading these chilling stories, they may just change their minds.