boo!…a frightfully good list of five Halloween tales

Calling all spooky candy-cravers! It’s time to dress up and greet the neighbors again! Here are five stories to get you in the groove:

room on the broom cover imageRoom on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
first published in the U.S. in 2001 by Dial Books for Young Readers

One happy, ginger-haired witch and her marmalade cat are sailing along on her broom when WHOOSH! The wind spins her hat to the ground.

Down they swoop to search for it, but no hat can theyroom on the broom illustration axel scheffler find until, luckily, a polite, little dog trots out of the shrubbery, her hat clutched in his teeth.  “Is there room on the broom for a dog like me?” he asks.  And of course, there is. Off the three of them soar.

That’s not the last of this witch’s troubles, though, and certainly not the last of her helpful hitchhikers! Eventually the broom is so overloaded, it breaks in two! And this time when they plummet to earth, there’s something Very Fierce awaiting them!

Julia Donaldson seems to wave her wand and jolly, children’s stories come tumbling out. This one, with its friendly, rhyming text, has been a favorite for gobs of kids for almost 15 years now — cheerful, humorous, with a zing of suspense there at the end!  Axel Scheffler has teamed up with Donaldson many times, his lively, colorful illustrations brightening the pages with huge child appeal. A bewitching story for ages 2 and up.

spells cover image emily gravettSpells, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
first US edition 2009, by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

A frog with a heart for romance finds a book of magic spells.  Hmpf, he thinks. I’d rather it were a book about pirates. Or castles, with me as a handsome prince.

Not to worry. With abundant ripping and folding of the worthless book’s pages, the frog creates a fairytale landscape, including a lovely, paper princess to escort to the ball. BUT THEN…in the sea of shredded paper, the frog discovers one snippet with these words: Spell to become a Handsome Prince

Suddenly this book holds all of frog’s future happiness. If only he can piece together thespells illustration emily gravett correct spell!

That’s not so easy, though, with all those fragments of paper to choose from. In this Magically Clever Book, you — the reader! — get to try to piece together the right spell as well. With a dozen half-pages to mix and match, you might just as easily create a spell that makes a Snabbit or Slimykazoot as a Handsome Prince. Persist long enough, though, and you’ll see how the frog fares with his dream girl.

Hint: Do not miss the fine print on the end papers. Also: do not miss the Lonely Hearts ad on the jacket flap. Emily Gravett’s sense of humor is spread from cover to cover in this wildly silly, interactive book for ages 4 or 5 and up.

the bake shope ghost cover imageThe Bake Shop Ghost, by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
published in 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Fluffy meringue pies and decadent chocolate cakes, crisp apple strudel and sweetly pink petit fours — Cora Lee Merriweather can turn out the most lip-smackingly-delicious baked goods you could wish for.

Cora Lee herself is, however, a bit of a sourpuss.

After Cora passes on, it’s someone else’s turn to occupy the the bake shop ghost illustration marjorie priceman 001Merriweather Bake Shop, but one after another of the new owners flee town lickety split!  Cora Lee is haunting the place, they insist. So, the bake shop sits empty for many sad years…

…until spunky Annie Washington shows up. Annie isn’t about to take any lip from the ghost of Cora Lee. Turns out that Cora Lee can throw quite a temper tantrum, though, and finally Annie agrees to Cora’s terms: she’s got to make a cake so rich and sweet it brings tears to Cora’s eyes. Annie is one fabulous baker, but cake after cake does not pass muster for Cora Lee. What’s the secret to the perfect cake?

I think this must be the most mouthwatering ghost story ever, so do yourself a favor and settle in with something sweet to nibble while you read! All the right ingredients are here — a cantankerous ghost, a heroine with moxie, a puzzling conundrum, and a happy ending, plus so many confections!  I am a huge fan of Marjorie Priceman’s vivacious artwork anywhere, and here again, it splashes and whirls across these pages with panache!

A recipe for making your own “Ghost-Pleasing Chocolate Cake” is included. Yummy fun for ages 5 and up.

not very scary cover imageNot Very Scary, by Carol Brendler, pictures by Greg Pizzoli
published in 2014 by Farrar Straus Giroux

Melly is a darling little monster who is tickled green to get an invitation to her cousin Malberta’s place, where a surprise awaits her! Melly loves surprises.

She sets off with great anticipation, but when she hears something following her, she looks just a teeny bit nervous. Turns out to be a black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail. “Not the not very scary illustration greg pizzolileast bit scary,” Melly declares, with a brave smile on her face.

However, when a couple of skittish skeletons show up, and several wheezy witches, too — well now! Is Melly scared? “Not particularly scary,” Melly insists. (But she does give a little shudder.)

Melly’s short walk to Malberta’s is plum full of ghosts and mummies, goblins and spiders. Melly seems wobbly-kneed to me, but she only keeps yelling that they’re “not significantly scary!” When she finally reaches Malberta’s house, Melly is both glad and surprised! What is waiting for her there?

This is a truly Happy Halloween book, crammed with all the standard scary creatures, but none of the fright. Greg Pizzoli’s clean, simplified line makes mummies chummy and vultures cultured, while the smooth coffees and charcoals of nighttime are spiffily punctuated with lime, bittersweet, and grape jelly outfits for these cute monsters. An appealing and upbeat choice for ages under-Two and up.

the mystery of the flying orange pumpkin cover imageThe Mystery of the Flying Orange Pumpkin, wirtten and illustrated by Steven Kellogg
published in 1980 by The Dial Press

Mr. Bramble is a friendly neighbor, who welcomes Brian, Ellis, and Joan with their packet of pumpkin seeds and helps them plant some in his garden. Together they weed and water and tend the plants.

Weeks go by, and one pumpkin is growing splendidly. They even give it a name — Patterson — and dream of the excellent jack-o-lantern it’ll make come Halloween.

But then Mr. Bramble moves away! And Mr. Klug, who moves in, is a gruff old codger who can’t abide kids in his garden and won’t hear of them using his pumpkin for anything. He’s going to make itthe mystery of the flying orange pumpkin illustration steven kellogg 001 into a pie!

All is not lost, though. Clever Mrs. Wilkins next door has some tricks up her sleeve, just in time for Halloween. Turns out there’s a way to make everyone happy…almost!

Steven Kellogg wrote a little set of mysteries for preschoolers back in the 70s and 80s, each with a color in the title. The Mystery of the Missing Red Mitten, The Mystery of the Stolen Blue Paint, The Mystery of the Magic Green Ball, and this little Orange Pumpkin number. They are a dear size for little hands, and feature Kellogg’s masterful line drawings with just little splashes of the corresponding color throughout the book. Completely charming, humorous, clever stories and lots to look at in the pictures.

The mitten mystery has been republished in a large format with full color. My opinion:  I don’t think you can beat the tiny size for tiny people. Search for these in a library or at used book sites.