a list of…five spooktacular stories to celebrate Halloween

Pumpkin Moonshine, written and illustrated by Tasha Tudor

Tiny Sylvie Ann is visiting her Grandmother in rural Connecticut.  As it is Halloween, Sylvie has in mind to carve a Pumpkin Moonshine — Tasha Tudor’s descriptive name for jack-o’-lanterns.  Sylvie and her lively terrier climb the steep hill to the cornfield and search under the shocks until they find the perfect, plump pumpkin.  Since it’s too heavy to carry, Sylvie decides to roll it down the hill.  But a steep hill and a fat, rolling pumpkin result in pandemonium in the barnyard!  Thankfully, Grandpa saves the day, helping Sylvie carve a superbly fierce face in her pumpkin and light it up with a candle to gleam at all who pass by.

Nobody does quaint like Tasha Tudor.  Her delicate watercolors of the peaceful countryside, idyllic autumn landscapes, and by-gone fashions decorate the pages of this short tale, which is spiced with a delicious old-fashioned flavor.  The gentle, small-sized book with its short, simple story, is just right for preschoolers.

Mercy Watson:  Princess in Disguise, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Mercy Watson, in case you have not met her, is a pig.  A most beloved pig.  She is the pampered pet of Mr. and Mrs. Watson at 54 Deckawoo Drive.

It’s Halloween and Mrs. Watson declares that Mercy ought to dress up and go trick-or-treating.  The costume she finally settles on is a bubble-gum pink princess dress complete with satin sash and sparkling tiara.  Mercy is not keen on the dress, which fits a mite too snug, but the prospect of treats is exceedingly tantalizing.

Once she’s squeezed into her outfit, trick-or-treating turns out to be quite eventful for Mercy, with not only gobs of candy sproinging everywhere, but a crazy parade, General Washington up a tree, fire fighters to the rescue, and, glory be, stacks of hot buttered toast for a grand finale.  Yum!

There are a number of Mercy Watson books, written especially for the newly-independent reader by award-winning author DiCamillo.  With eye-popping colors and energetic illustrations by Van Dusen, clever page layouts, and 16-count-’em-16 chapters in this short, but pleasingly-plump book, your 6-8 year old can enjoy a whirlwind of a story plus savor the triumph of reading a nice, beefy book.

Sheep Trick or Treat, by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margot Apple

What are these crazy sheep up to this time?  Mm-hm.  Halloween disguises.

Snipping and sewing, gluing and taping, these six busybody sheep create some dynamite costumes, then set out through the forest to the farm-in-the-dell for some yummy trick-or-treating.  And what lovely, generous hosts they find there!  Cows and horses, spiders and chickens all offer their own scrumptious snacks by the bagful.  Before long, it’s time to skip back home to indulge.

But!  The wolves are waiting for them in the dark woods.  Yikes!  How will the sheep defend themselves and their treats?!  Not to worry.  These are savvy sheep, and mighty scary, too, in their outlandish costumes, so it doesn’t take long before the wolves are fleeing for their lives!

Nancy Shaw’s sheep books are favorites of ours.  They all feature clever rhyming story lines, adventurous sheep flirting with disaster, and delightful quantities of humor tucked into just a few lines.  The word counts are low enough to please a fairly new reader; the stories are witty enough for an adult helper.  Margot Apple’s colored pencil illustrations beam with shenanigans and mayhem and warmth.

Angelina’s Halloween, by Katharine Holabird, illustrated by Helen Craig

Angelina, the twirling, whirling ballerina mouse absolutely loves going trick-or-treating with her dear friend, Alice.  This year, they have designed beautiful dancing firefly costumes, with fluttering ribbons, gauzy wings, and elaborate tiaras.  Very exciting!  Little sister Polly is coming along, too, dressed as a very short ghost.

Angelina’s trick-or-treating about the neighborhood involves singing and sweets, creepy haunted houses and a marvelous village band, but at the end of the evening Angela is in for a startling surprise:  Polly has gone missing!

After an all-out search, the night ends well with heaps of sisterly affection, merriment, and plans already percolating for next year.  Phew!

The Angelina stories are crammed with every charming ingredient — tiny mice, exquisitely detailed drawings of their bountiful lives, dreamy settings, and happy endings.  Little girls, especially, love them.  Helen Craig’s lavish pictures of this miniature world are captivating.

Space Case, by Edward Marshall, pictures by James Marshall

The first thing that tickles my funny bone about this book is the author/illustrator team:  Edward Marshall is a pseudonym for James Marshall.  Edward was invented, as the story goes, to skirt some sticky contract issues.  James Marshall was a kid’s lit genius who gave us gobs of quirky, funny titles.

This one is the story of a little yellow alien who twinkles down from outer space to take a look around, just happening to land on Halloween night.  Of course, he meets up with quite an interesting assortment of earthlings, who let him join their trick-or-treating group.  Everyone admires his great costume!

When dark settles in and the trick-or-treaters return home, the yellow thing ambles after Buddy McGee.  Buddy kindly invites him to spend the night, pours up some orange juice for breakfast the next morning, and agrees to let him tag along to school, where the alien comes in mighty handy for Buddy’s space project report.  Then, with a beep and a flash, he’s off to keep an appointment on Jupiter.

Ridiculous, far-fetched fun from a true wizard of the preposterous.  Marshall’s brilliant, silly, Crayola-bright pictures are perfectly entertaining as well.

Here are Amazon link for all this Halloween hoopla:

Pumpkin Moonshine

Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise

Sheep Trick or Treat

Angelina’s Halloween (Angelina Ballerina)

Space Case (Reading Rainbow Book)