Byline: BRANDY HILBOLDT ALLPORT, Times-Union children's book reviewer
If you're worried that wart-covered witches and treacherous trolls will scare away young readers in search of Halloween literary treats, crack the spine of Spooky Hour by Tony Mitton. The rhyming romp of a story chronicles a dog and cat's journey to a late-night bash:
Bong goes the bell in the rickety tower. Twelve times . . . that means it's the spooky hour. Listen! Hush! Ooh, what's that sound? The midnight spooks are coming 'round. Hubble, bubble what's that smell? Eleven witches stir their spell . . .Ten funny, floaty, ghosts appear, swirling, whirling singing, "whooo!" Watch out witches. We're after you!
Though the book includes skeletons that go clickety clack, hairy, fat spiders and yowling cats, it's still an innocuous introduction to the goings-on of Halloween.
Spooky Hour is one of the notable Halloween-themed releases available among dozens in bookstores now -- right next to the Christmas books. Whether you're looking for a tale that elicits more giggles than "eww, gross" comments or something more silly than scary, you can find a book that satisfies any taste.
The ghosts in Spooky Hour don't leer; they grin. The witches don't scowl; they giggle "tee-hee." The lighthearted text and vibrant illustrations by Guy Parker-Rees (Giraffes Can't Dance) create a mood in the book that is much more comical than creepy. Plus, there's the added educational kick of counting backward, from 11 witches to one pumpkin pie. Shhh. That learning part is cleverly and thinly disguised by rollicking couplets and rambunctious drawings. Now, that's a neat trick.
Fans of Spooky Hour (Orchard, $16.95; ages 4 to 7) will want to check out other books written by Mitton and illustrated by Parker-Ress. Look for Dinosaurumpus! and Down by the Cool of the Pool.
NEW FARE FROM AN OLD FAVORITE
R.L. Stine of Goosebumps, Fear Street and The Nightmare Room fame (more than 250 million copies sold) has launched another series. It's called Mostly Ghostly and is written for readers ages 7 to 10, a slightly younger audience than he usually addresses.
The books are about the eerie adventures of 11-year-old Max Doyle, who lives at 143 Bleek St. Bleek, bleak. Get it? Max happens to have two ghosts, which only he can see, living in his house. The first book, Who Let the Ghosts Out? (Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $6.95), introduces the universal good vs. evil battle. The two friendly ghosts, Tara and Nicky, used to live in Max's house, (a la The Others, the movie starring Nicole Kidman). Tara and Nicky are on a quest to find out what happened to their parents. They insist Max is the only one who can help them and fend off the most horrible spirit in the ghost world, Phears. Phears, fears. Get it?
In the second book, Have You Met My Ghoulfriend? (Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $6.95) Phears returns, bringing along the Berserker Ghoul, to inhabit Max's body. Berserker, berserk. Get it?
Mostly Ghostly is the first series Stine has written based on continuing characters, but each book does stand alone. Nos. 3 and 4 are due in stores in January. Titles are One Night in Doom House and Little Camp of Horrors, respectively.
FOR THE WEE ONES
Toddlers trying to understand the rigamarole surrounding Oct. 31 activities will find simple help in The Halloween Kittens by Maggie Kneen (Chronicle, $15.95; ages 3 to 5). …