Not all treats this Halloween have to rot your teeth. Some can even stimulate your mind instead of your salivary glands, so head to your nearest bookstore to prep for a proper Oct. 31 mood with any of these new titles.
FOR LITTLE KIDS
If it were up to my 3-year-old son, this year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction would be awarded to Lisa Trumbauer's "The Haunted Ghoul Bus" (Sterling Publishing), which he has asked to be read to him for 60 consecutive bedtimes. Illustrated by Jannie Ho, the hardback colorfully depicts a child's fun and fantastic trip on a monsters-only school bus.
Second favorite in our household is Erica Silverman's "The Halloween House" (Square Fish), newly reissued from its original 1997 release. In it, two escaped cons seek refuge in a house so haunted, they " spoiler! " retreat to jail. Jon Agee's drawings hold cartoon charm, and Silverman's rhyming lines make the reading fly by.
And there are more rhymes to be found in Joan Horton and JoAnn Adinolfi's "Halloween Hoots and Howls" (Square Fish), with the added bonus of gags engraved onto gravestones.
FOR BIG KIDS
Kids may accidentally learn some state geography and history while trying to get the proverbial pants scared off of them in "The Ghost of Mingo Creek and Other Spooky Oklahoma Legends" (Forty-Sixth Star Press). For this slim collection, Greg Rodgers has fictionalized eight folk tales surrounding the state " from witches and spirits to beloved Bigfoot " into descriptive, "Goosebumps"-esque short stories. Children automatically drawn to such subject matter will be more interested, knowing of the Sooner settings.
More supposed real-life ghost stories figure into "Mysteries Unwrapped: Haunted U.S.A." (Sterling Publishing), Charles Wetzel and Josh Cochran's slick, digest-sized anthology that digs into strange occurrences reported from Hollywood stages to Washington's White House. (Also in this series is "Mysteries Unwrapped: The Real Monsters," by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallan and Josh Cochan, which looks into the science behind the legends of Dracula, Frankenstein and their ilk.)
The various hauntings of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. comprise the entire focus of "Who's Haunting the White House?: The President's Mansion and the Ghosts Who Live There" (Sterling Publishing), by Jeff Belanger with detailed illustrations by Rick Powell.
Strictly for kicks is "Count Gravy's Horror Hall of Fun" (Sterling Publishing), which is 64 pages of Halloween-themed crosswords, word finds, mazes, jokes and activities from puzzle master Patrick Merrell. Give it to a grade schooler and don't expect to see him or her again until the thing's complete.
For those who'd rather read than play, F.E. Higgins' novel "The Bone Magician" (Feiwel and Friends) may do the trick. A semi-sequel to last year's hit "The Black Book of Secrets," Higgins' engaging follow-up concerns a parentless boy who witnesses the title adult conjuring a dead woman back to life.
Finally, Royce Buckingham's "Goblins!: An UnderEarth Adventure" (Putnam) is another adventure novel dealing in the otherworldly " this time in the world below ours. In the subterranean lair of thousands of goblins, one boy tries to save his friend from their clawed clutches. One look at the cover, and my fifth-grader was sold.
While Kelly Link's fiction isn't exclusively horror, the inventive, imaginative author manages to creep us out even when she works in other genres. Witness her latest story collection, "Pretty Monsters" (Viking), and you'll find witty, literate fantasies featuring killer furniture, cunning coyotes and denizens of the supernatural. She's a true original.
Crafty moms can find inspiration in "Creepy Cute Crochet: Zombies, Ninjas, Robots, and More!" (Quirk). The title says it all regarding Christen Haden's how-to, which draws inspiration from Japanese cuddly, yet threatening, characters. From Nosferatu and Medusa to more than a dozen others, I just like looking at the photos.
And since no Halloween would be complete without horror films, one can find many to munch on in Glenn Kay's "Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide" (Chicago Review Press). The subtitle is warranted, as Kay covers the blood-spattered, brain-sucking cinema of the undead from its origins in the Thirties to its unparalleled popularity today. With hundreds of capsule reviews and nearly as many photos and posters, it's something no self-respecting psychotronic film fan should be without. "Rod Lott