cover image On a Windy Night

On a Windy Night

Nancy Raines Day, illus. by George Bates, Abrams, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8109-3900-4

"Cracklety-clack, bones in a sack. They could be yours—if you look back," says a malevolent voice to a boy in a skeleton costume on his way home from trick-or-treating. Day (Flamingo's First Christmas) revels in Halloween's more frightening possibilities (though she avoids concrete mentions of the holiday), and her verse, while well-constructed, may in places put off very young or timid readers. "He reaches out and feels... a head!/ It doesn't move. It must be dead." (The head is actually a pumpkin, lying indolently on the ground with its tongue hanging out.) Bates's (Chicken Bedtime Is Really Early) pen-and-ink drawings push and pull, creating scariness with forceful hatching and eerie lighting. Clouds that first appear as puffy elephants, snails, and other nonthreatening shapes take more menacing form as the boy's fears grow; numerous other specters can be found in tree branches and blowing leaves, and when dancing skeletons in a cornfield seem to pursue the boy, he runs toward readers in terror. There's enough Halloween fright to satisfy adventurous young readers, and a comforting ending for those with jangled nerves. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)