cover image The Fright Before Christmas

The Fright Before Christmas

James Howe. HarperCollins Publishers, $16 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-688-07664-1

Bunnicula characters Harold and Chester are back, in a colorful picture-book format. Once again the ungainly dog, Harold, narrates the story and lends to it his particular canine perspective. Howie, the dachshund puppie, is about to experience his first Christmasbut he's frightened that he will be captured by the ``big fat man in a red suit'' with a sack over his shoulder. Harold's and Chester's overactive imaginations lead them to the basement, where strange noises occur in the middle of the night. Could it be a ghost? Although Howe does not have the space in this picture book to develop the characters as brilliantly as in the novels, the pace is lively and the tone of warm family harmony is just right for the season. With Morrill's sprightly illustrations, this book will enable the middle-grade Bunnicula -phile to introduce the series to a younger sibling. Ages 5-8. (September)