"Shivery Shades of Halloween: A Spooky Book of Colors" by Mary McKenna Siddals, illustrated by Jimmy Pickering • Speaking of concept books, this title introduces children to the full color spectrum with the help of kid-friendly bats, vampires, ghosts and ghouls. The rhyming text ("Cobwebs clinging,/ Misty trail,/ A skull, a spook,/ A face gone pale …") also makes this a good choice for reading aloud.
"The Scarecrows' Wedding" by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler • It's love at first sight when Betty O'Barley meets Harry O'Hay: "Harry loved Betty, and Betty loved Harry,/ So Harry said, 'Betty, my beauty, let's marry!/ Let's have a wedding, the best wedding yet,/ A wedding that no one will ever forget.' " But the course of true scarecrow love does not run smooth for our couple, and therein lies this picture book's considerable charm.
"The Monsterator" by Keith Graves • This picture book tells the story of young Master Edgar Dreadbury, who thinks Halloween is "a bore" — until he discovers a unique costume shop that turns him into the monster of his dreams. Literally. Will Edgar ever feel human again? Does he even want to? An interactive paper "monsterator" is included.
"Ladybug Girl and the Dress-up Dilemma" by David Soman and Jacky Davis • Lulu and her trusty basset hound, Bingo, return in another installment of this popular picture-book series. Halloween is approaching, and Lulu wonders if she should dress up as something other than Ladybug Girl this year. But what could she be? A robot? An alien? A panda? A vampire panda? Nothing feels quite right. What will Lulu do? Young fans will relate to her gentle dilemma.
"Dog and Bear Tricks and Treats" by Laura Vaccaro Seeger • You can always count on Seeger's sunny picture books to entertain children and their parents. In this new book featuring three stories, her beloved Dog and Bear find costumes, acquire candy and trick a ghost. Good times!
"M Is for Monster: A Fantastic Creatures Alphabet" by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Gerald Kelley • Lewis (a former U.S. Children's Poet Laureate) dedicates verses to mythical monsters from amaroks to zombies and everything in between. Additional information about each creature — did you know trolls are frightened of lightning or that vampires can be created if an animal jumps over a corpse? — is included.
"Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season" by Jessie Haas, illustrated by Alison Friend • This easy-to-read chapter book follows the further adventures of Maggie and her young horse, Bramble, who is suspicious of scarecrows, falling leaves and pumpkins. The Bramble and Maggie series is an especially good choice for emerging readers who enjoy low-key, realistic fiction.
"Life of Zarf: The Trouble with Weasels" by Rob Harrell • Fans of the "Wimpy Kid" series may enjoy the chronicles of Zarf, a troll who occupies the bottom rung of his middle school's social ladder, which includes princes and princesses, wizards and witches, ogres and giants, as well as minstrels (otherwise known as "the band kids"). Zarf, whose problems begin when he challenges the King's obnoxious son to a duel, is a wry and winning character.
"The Frankenstein Journals" by Scott Sonenborn, illustrated by Timothy Banks • When J.D., an orphan, discovers that he is actually the long-lost son of Frankenstein, a lot of things start to make sense, like the fact that his feet are way too big for his legs and that his hands are different sizes. Eager to connect with cousins, J.D. decides to visit all the families whose members originally contributed (ahem!) to the creation of Dr. Frankenstein's monster — a plan that is much easier devised than executed. Again, this may be a good choice for "Wimpy Kid" fans.
"How They Choked" by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley • Bragg and O'Malley follow up their monster hit, "How They Croaked," with this new nonfiction book that examines the "failures, flops and flaws" of well-known historical figures, including Marco Polo, Benedict Arnold, Thomas Alva Edison, Vincent Van Gogh and Amelia Earhart. The tone is irreverent. The information is first-rate. Like its predecessor, "How They Choked" is a particularly good choice for reluctant readers ages 9-12.
"Ocean" by Dan Kainen and Carol Kaufmann • And finally, while not a seasonal selection, "Ocean" shows enough live-action holograms of scary sea creatures to qualify as a book about real live monsters of the deep. Particularly unnerving is the deep-sea anglerfish, which Kaufmann describes as looking like something Edgar Allan Poe "might have cooked up had he written about underwater horror." Detailed information about ocean inhabitants ranging from sharks to seahorses is included in this fascinating book.