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Gentle Halloween Books


These slightly spooky tales will get your little ones in the mood for Halloween — without scaring them silly.

"Happy Halloween, Witch's Cat!" by Harriet Muncaster; HarperCollins; 28 pages; $15.99.

Harriet Muncaster's charming picture book lives in a world of adorable miniatures with whimsical animation added that makes you feel like you're wandering into a magical gift shop. The story of a little girl who believes her mother is a good witch, and she is a witch's cat, was handcrafted with three-dimensional scenes using paper, foil, fabric and other materials, then dramatically lit and photographed. As the girl/cat and her mom search for the perfect Halloween costume, the star of the book remains the spectacular artwork on every page.

The perfect ending results in the mother-daughter duo switching identities and costumes. Muncaster's splendid book is a true treat to behold, especially among very little Halloween sprites (and their art-loving older siblings).

"Dia de Los Muertos" by Roseanne Greenfield Thong; pictures by Carles Ballesteros; Albert Whitman & Company; 32 pages; $16.99.

Though Mexico's Day of the Dead and Halloween are not the same thing, many people use Day of the Dead images when decorating in October. This colorful book, peppered with rounded, retro characters and friendly but intriguing artwork, explains to young children all about el Dia de los Muertos. Altars decorated with sugar skulls and tamales and sweets ready to eat make the special day certainly seem like the holiday for departed family and friends that it's meant to be.

Latin terms are explained throughout: "And bursts of calendulas, fragrant and bright — the color of sunsets and gold candlelight," and "We giggle at paper-cut banners we like — esqueletos riding a horse cart or bike!"

A fun way to introduce youngsters to fall holidays that really mean something to families, "Dia de Los Muertos" would make "ancestros" proud.

"Gilbert the Ghost" by Guido van Genechten; Clavis Books; 28 pages; $18.95.

With a beautifully haunting but gentle chalkboard-like muted black color, this oversized picture book is the best story about a friendly ghost since Casper.

Gilbert, a slightly pink lad, goes to ghost school like all the other ghosts, but he doesn't like to screech in a scary way or haunt people. What happens when he's sent by the head of the school to the abandoned tower?

Gilbert meets a black cat and compliments the cat's pretty tail bow. The pair become friends and slowly transform the cold tower into a homey one, even inviting in other ghosts when they tire of being scary. A classy, wonderful read-aloud that showcases uniqueness and the lost importance of being polite, Guido van Genechten's tale is a sweet Halloween book.

"Carl's Halloween" by Alexandra Day; Farrar Straus Giroux; 32 pages; $14.99.

Protective pet dog Carl is back, and is still as kind as ever. Looking just as retro and classic, Alexandra Day's Carl books are as appealing as ever. Here, Carl and Madeline dress up to go trick-or-treating, in a neighborhood that looks timeless, with kids in nostalgic costumes. Carl always saves the day, as he does here, by coming up with enough candy so the pair can dole it out at home, but not before participating in a fun Halloween party and romping home like pony and rider before Mom arrives.

Sure to provoke giggles and lots of "aww" sounds, "Carl's Halloween" is fantastic.

"Otter Loves Halloween!" by Sam Garton; Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins; 24 pages; $9.99.

Otter is like every other toddler: curious, messy, sometimes scared, sometimes brave. In this cute little tale, he and his "Otter Keeper" prepare for Halloween with lots of messy crafts and some misfires. Adorably, Otter and his other toy pals aren't scared when they were their box face masks because, "things are much less scary when you can't really see them."

Hilarious and as sweet as the candy peppering the little book's endpapers, Sam Garton's latest Otter tale is a hoot.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



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