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Originally published Friday, October 22, 2010 at 7:01 PM

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Halloween books that are a treat for kids and parents

Kids' books: New titles for Halloween and beyond include "Zen Ghosts," "If You're a Monster and You Know It" and "Monsters Eat Whiny Children."

Scripps Howard News Service

This Halloween, treat your children to a book:

• Author/illustrator Nancy Davis provides a simple introduction to the holiday for the youngest readers in "Halloween Faces" (Cartwheel/Scholastic, $6.99). This interactive board book allows babies and toddlers to "try on a mask" and "carve a pumpkin" simply by turning half-size, die-cut pages. Young readers complete the story by opening up two "doors" to find a scene filled with little Halloween revelers. (Ages 6 months — 3 years).

• With "Zen Ghosts" (Scholastic, $17.99), author/artist Jon J. Muth adds a third volume to his popular picture books series based on Buddhist philosophy. Like "Zen Shorts" and "Zen Ties," Muth's newest book details the interaction between three siblings — Addy, Michael and Karl — and Stillwater, a panda and Zen master. Set at Halloween, "Zen Ghosts" combines the story of the children's excitement over the holiday with a Buddhist "koan," a type of story, about a young woman who seems to lead two separate existences at the same time. While the questions raised by the koan about the duality of life are likely a bit complex for young readers, they still will enjoy the story's inherent spookiness. Meanwhile, older readers, including adults, will find "Zen Ghosts" a thought-provoking look at some key ideas. For readers of any age, however, Muth's watercolor illustrations are just stunning. (Ages 5 up).

• Take a popular song, add some new, comic lyrics and bright collage illustrations and you've got the ingredients for a great new picture book titled "If You're a Monster and You Know It" (Orchard Books/Scholastic, $16.99). Written and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Ed Emberley and his daughter Rebecca Emberley, this book is a blast to read with kids who will love acting like monsters as they snort, growl and stomp their way through the text. As a final flourish, readers are invited to download the song, written and recorded by Rebecca's daughter Adrian Emberley, and sing along. (Ages 3-7).

• Splat the Cat is back, and this time he's trying to win his school's prize for the scariest Halloween costume. But Splat's colorful spider costume doesn't frighten his classmates — it just makes them laugh. Yet, as author/illustrator Rob Scotton shows in "Scaredy-Cat, Splat!" (Harper, $16.99), there's more than one way to win a contest. Scotton's simple story is revved up by his eye-catching illustrations, particularly those showing the lovably bug-eyed Splat in motion. (Ages 3-6).

• Bernadette knows she's different from all of her monster friends. Sure, she can lurch and growl just like the others, but Bernadette also likes to do some non-monster things like picking flowers, petting kittens and even baking. As author Tammi Sauer and illustrator Scott Magoon show in "Mostly Monsterly" (Simon & Schuster, $14.99), Bernadette's softer side causes her some big problems at the Monster Academy until she finds an ingenious solution that makes everyone happy. Magoon's illustrations, filled with all kinds of little monsters, add further fun to Sauer's comically quirky story. (Ages 4-7).

• Those crazy alphabet letters are at it again. A few years after their first adventure, detailed in "AlphaOops: The Day the Z Went First," the letters are now trying to put on a Halloween show in their latest volume, "AlphaOops: H Is For Halloween" (both books Candlewick Press, $15.99 each). But it isn't easy when each of the letters has its own idea of which of them should show up on stage next. Should it be "N is for Nightmare"? What about "V is for Vampire"? Poor B is the only letter that doesn't seem to be able to shine, until he finally discovers a side he never knew he had. Author Alethea Kontis' text is a riot of energy and humor, while artist Bob Kolar's illustrations bring the letters to raucous life. (Ages 5-8).

• It definitely won't appeal to some readers, but "Monsters Eat Whiny Children" (Simon & Schuster, $15.99), is wickedly and weirdly funny. Written and illustrated by Bruce Eric Kaplan, this book details the adventures of two children whose whininess attracts a monster who then threatens to eat them as part of a salad. Other monsters, however, say that it would be better to cook the whiny children on a grill, bake them in a cake or eat them in a curry. Fortunately, the monsters get so caught up in their arguing that the children are able to escape and run home. Kaplan's zany, edgy story is complemented by his spare illustrations, done mostly in black and white with just a touch of color on each page.

• Illustrator Brandon Dorman's eerily humorous illustrations add the perfect touch to "Halloween Night" (Greenwillow, $9.99). Readers also will love the way author Marjorie Dennis Murray riffs on Clement Moore's " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas,"as she begins her story " 'Twas Halloween night, and all through the house/ Every creature was stirring, including the mouse..." (Ages 4-7).

Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library.

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