Do your kids love Halloween candy and costumes, but quaver at creepy decorations and horror stories? If so, we've got your back. Try reading these three Halloween books, which will make you laugh, warm your heart, occasionally make you groan in disgust, but never truly scare you. Children can help make the accompanying recipes based on the stories: Vampire Blood Tomato Soup, Jekyll's Sleep Potion and Frosted Sugar Cookie Pumpkins. Psst: If you don't have little ones around, these recipes hold up for adults, too.
Emily Young, Times correspondent
Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery
by Deborah and James Howe
Is Dracula too scary for your kids? Try Bunnicula — an adorable vampire bunny that sucks juice from vegetables. His new owners have no idea they've rescued a paranormal rabbit, but Harold the dog and Chester the cat suspect something's wrong. After all, "where a rabbit's buck teeth should have been, two little pointed fangs glistened." Animal lovers will especially enjoy the book's quirky humor, as the dog befriends Bunnicula and the cat becomes increasingly paranoid. (In the end, the cat consoles himself with self-help books like Finding Yourself by Screaming a Lot.) This is a chapter book, so feel free to read it aloud to younger kids.
What to make: Bunnicula loves to sink his teeth into tomatoes and drain them dry. In his honor, drink some Vampire Blood Tomato Soup, with a side of Bunnicula Grilled Cheese. (You can even serve the soup in test tube vials to make it look authentically bloody.) Although the recipe calls for red pepper flakes, feel free to keep the soup more mild and kid-friendly by omitting those. Your little ones can help use a bunny cookie cutter to shape the grilled cheese into Bunnicula-themed sandwiches.
Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
by Adam Rex
This zany picture book makes monsters seem like the rest of us. What scares Dracula's son? The dentist, of course. What does a young mummy refuse to do? Go to bed on time. What drives the Phantom of the Opera crazy? Getting It's a Small World stuck in his head. The illustrations of witches and monsters are humorously gruesome, and stories like "Godzilla Pooped on My Honda" veer toward the gross-out category, but none of the tales are very scary.
What to make: Try Jekyll's Sleep Potion. Your kids may relate to the bedtime-phobic mummy, but you'll appreciate the humorous take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this witty tale, Dr. Jekyll tries to turn himself into the classic bad boy Hyde. Instead, a mixup with the drink causes him to turn into the most tedious partygoer of all time, nearly boring the guests to death. (This is every adult's fear as holiday parties approach.) You can create your own potion in this nonalcoholic cocktail, which blends gelatin and lemon-lime fizz into a colorful Halloween drink.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
by Charles M. Schulz
In Schulz's classic picture book, young Linus spends his Halloween night in a pumpkin patch, waiting for the mythical Great Pumpkin to appear. His friends dress up in costumes, trick-or treat and munch on caramel apples. They ridicule him for spending his night alone. But Linus' faith in the Great Pumpkin never wavers — even when his only "visitor" turns out to be Snoopy the beagle. This story is one of the sweetest Halloween tales out there.
What to make: Kids will love decorating Frosted Sugar Cookie Pumpkins. Who knows? When he sees your offering, maybe the Great Pumpkin will be honored enough to visit your house this Halloween.