Our Picks for Halloween Reading

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The Halloween section at the library is satisfyingly deep, however a quick inspection reveals a large amount of "Mickey's Halloween," "Barbie's Halloween," "Arthur's Halloween," etc, etc.  Of course the kids love to read about their favorite familiar characters and their antics, but if you're interested in more unique offerings, check out a few Hauntingly good reads, as reviewed by myself and my kids. This is by no means comprehensive, and there are many I'm DYING (hee hee) to still read, but these are some good, scary fun.

1- Creepy Carrots, by Aaron Reynolds 
     Pictures by Peter Brown
 I know, I know.  Rabbits and carrots are the realm of Easter, not Halloween.  But this tale of nightmare carrots, which would be great year-round, is also fantastic for Halloween.  Poor Jasper Rabbit is haunted by the creepiest carrots I've ever seen!  We love this one for the illustrations and for the humor.  I have to admit, I'm surprised it came out #1 on our Halloween list, but it is an irresistible read.
2 - Even Monsters Need Haircuts, by Matthew McElligott 
 Once a month, the young son of a barber plies his father's trade by the light of the full moon to an unusual clientele.  The illustrations are worth multiple readings, since you catch another delightful detail every time.  I think the reason the kids love it is that the child has no fear of creatures normally treated with trepidation by adults.  This is not beat over our heads with the message not to be afraid, but from the comfort level, almost authority the child barber has with these scary monsters, it is a comforting empowerment for kids.

3- Boris and Bella, by Carolyn Crimi 
     Illustrated by Gris Grimbly
 OK, so this one I have to say is probably my personal favorite this year.  Bella Legrossi is the messiest monster in Boovile, especially compared with Boris Kleanitoff, who is, well, pretty OCD.  It takes a rival Halloween party to show them what they have in common.  As much as I like children's literature, it's rare that I am completely satisfied by language and artistry both - and this book is simply delightful.  Witty, gorgeous, unique.  One caveat, the boys, in general, did not love this book as much as the girls did, so this may be a more gender skewed taste.

4- In a Dark, Dark Wood, by David A. Carter
It MUST be this version of the book, which is a pop-up at the end.  Honestly, I have no idea why the kids adore this book so much.  It does have lovely illustrations, but the repetition and lack of story make me shrug my shoulders in wonder as to the fascination. It has to be the same reason people love haunted houses because it has that same mystery at its core, wondering, always wondering.  In this book the reader slowly travels through the wood, to the house, through the house, to a scare at the end.  And I'm telling you, the kids love it.  We read it hundreds of times every Halloween.

5- Halloween, by Harry Behn 
     Illustrated by Greg Couch
So #5 was a tie, and I'm putting this one first because it's another of my personal favorites.  The illustrations in this book are breathtaking, and the poem that lilts throughout is hypnotic.  This isn't a very long or complicated book, but there is something about it that captures, in my emotions, the essence of Halloween night - especially those of my childhood. I feel I can hear the leaves and feel the crisp difference of being out at night in the autumn that made Halloween so full of magic.

5- Skeleton for Dinner, by Margery Cuyler 
     Illustrated by Will Terry
 Everyone enjoyed this clever book with its darling illustrations, but my youngest is particularly fond of it.  I keep finding it in her bed! Skeleton misunderstands the witches who plan to have "skeleton for dinner," and he runs away to avoid being cooked.  All's well that ends well, of course, and Skeleton finds that being had for dinner can  mean a lot of fun when you don't jump to conclusions.
6- Monster Needs a Costume, by Paul Czajak
It's not that Monster doesn't know what he wants to be for Halloween, he knows EXACTLY what he wants - so much that he wears it every second of every day...until he sees something else even better.  This book came late to our list, but it was worth the wait and unanimously made it high up on the list of favorites.  I'd put it on my parent top 3, just because it gave me the giggles.  Oh, how I recognized my little monsters in this adorable story! We are always suckers for rhyming stories, and coupled with bright and wonderful illustrations, this is a fun, non-scary Halloween read.

6- Skeleton Hiccups, by Margery Cuyler 
     Illustrated by S.D Schindler
 Poor Skeleton has the hiccups and can't get rid of them.  He tries every remedy he can think of.  What makes this book fun is watching a skeleton try to do things he can't anatomically do - and therefore the consequences are comic.  My kids are suckers for comedy.  Be prepared as a reader, however, there are lots of simulated hiccups to read here, and I have, on more than one occasion, given myself the hiccups while reading this book out loud to the kids.

7- Skeleton Meets the Mummy, by Steve Metzger 
     Illustrated by Aaron Zenz
 Starting out a bit like a Skeleton version of little Red Riding Hood, Sammy Skeleton's mom asks him to take some hot soup through the woods to his grandma.  But even Skeletons can get spooked in the woods when strange noises and then scary things start happening.  This is a cute little book with bold illustrations and a fun surprise.  The kids liked it, I thought it was just OK.
7-Spooky Riddles, by Marc Brown
So, they're actually not very spooky at all.  In fact, they're downright cheesy. But the kids giggle like they are the best jokes ever written.  And the sound of kids giggling is the best sound in the world!  We've had this book for years, so my kids have all the jokes memorized, and still they read it over and over - asking each other, "why do vampires drink blood?" "because root beer makes them burp!" and giggling and giggling...
8- One Witch, by Laura Leuck 
     Illustrations by S.D. Schindler
Creepy, in the best possible way, this rhyming counting book combines all the elements of a great Halloween.  

8- What was I scared of? by Dr. Seuss
A great read for any season, this one is particularly fun to pull out around Halloween.  Who doesn't remember those creepy pale green pants?  I admit, I have a soft spot in my heart for this one.  I went through a time in my childhood when I was obsessed with memorizing long poems, and this was one of the ones I memorized.  I was eleven years old.

9 - John Pig's Halloween, by Jan L. Waldron 
     Pictures by David McPhail
This adorable tale of the adventures of a little pig too scared to go out on Halloween, was recommended by a friend and we were so glad! It came very recently from the library, and I think it may move higher up the rankings with more reading, because it is just charming.  My kids noticed right away that the cadence is exactly the same as Twas the Night Before Christmas, when this is read aloud - and since that is a favorite of ours, this was an instant hit. 

10 - Shake dem Halloween Bones, by W. Nikola-Lisa 
       Illustrated by Mike Reed
 It's all about rhythm in this off-the-wall Halloween party book.  You've got to read it with sass and funk.  We have some maracas that come in handy too and the little ones love to shake them with all their might when we get to the chorus of "shake, shake."

11 - Zombie in Love, by Kelly DiPucchio
     Pictures by Scott Campbell
 Oh my goodness how I LOVE this crazy little book!  I have no idea how it ended up this far down on the list except that a few of my more sensitive children were "freaked out by the dog, Mommy."  True, the zombie dog's eye falling out is creepy, and the illustrations throughout are, well, morbid.  But they're ZOMBIES!  In an illustration style that is part picture book, part graphic novel, the book follows Mortimer, the lonely zombie, on his path of unrequited love.  Hilarious, sweet, fun, and just creepy enough for most audiences (my own kids prove there are some who won't appreciate it), I think this one is not just a Halloween story, but a tale for all year.  (It would be adorable for an off-beat Valentines!)

12 - Leonard the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems
So this one isn't actually designated as "Halloween," but it was about a monster, so I picked it up. (Don't you LOVE the library?) I think the lack of Halloweenyness is why we get this one down here away from the top of the list, because this is a pretty cute book.  Leonard isn't good at being a monster, so he makes it his goal to do better.  In the process he learns to think for himself and to become a great friend.  A good moral about putting your own problems aside and helping others.

13 - Black and Bittern was Night, by Robert Heidbreder
     Illustrated by John Martz
THE most controversial of all the books we read this year! Two of my children rated this one in their top 3.  My husband LOVES this book.  My other children rated this one at the very bottom of their lists, dead last, and wrote "HATED!" next to the rating.  Whoa! Why such disparity of feeling? Imagine the poem "The Jabberwocky," with its nonsense words.  Now make it a whole book, and make it even a little more tongue-twister difficult and you get the style of this book.  My kids who hated it said they can't even understand what it's saying.  But if you stop trying to figure out every word and just listen, the sense of it becomes clear.  This one is extremely difficult to read aloud (my mouth feels like it has done aerobics when I'm done), but it MUST be read aloud to understand because some of the words are sound-alikes and you only get the meaning when you hear it.
Besides the story and language, the illustrations are unique, with tons to look at in quirky details.  Despite the vehemence of my negatively opinionated kids, I have to side with the ones who love this one - I think it's interesting and zany.  Just be ready for oral calisthenics reading it!
14 - Hallowilloween, by Calef Brown
My kids love poetry, so a book of silly Halloween poetry seemed right up their alley.  This one met with mixed reviews.  There are three poems they LOVED.  The rest they could take or leave.

15 - Crankenstein, by Samantha Berger
     Illustrated by Dan Santat
Gorgeous illustrations, this book is less of a story and more a series of vignettes depicting moments that turn normal kids into "Crankenstein."  I guess we kind of expected something more Halloween themed, which this is not at all.  I have one child who really, really liked this book a lot (she happens to be my moodiest child, so hey - maybe that's something if you have a kid who struggles with crankiness), but by and large the rest of the kids just found this to be ok.

Our ratings process was painful.  After multiple readings of all this years' books, I made each child rank the books from #1 to #19 (yep, we had 19 books in this year's harvest).  I did the same process myself.  It was TOUGH! There were so many I wanted to put as my #1 pick.  And it was very interesting that the older kids often ranked the books we've had for many years as their favorites.  Nostalgia is so important to holidays.  The younger kids were more open to the newer finds.  And I think if we did this all over again next year, the rankings would totally change. We had several ties, but for the sake of some sort of order, that's our list.

Future Halloween Reading List
(We had several titles that never came in at the library, plus some suggestions to add to our list.  So for my own memory, and for those who want even more Halloween reading, here are some recommended books we hope to read and review in the future)
Shadow, by Suzy Lee
Spookshow ABC, by Ryan Heshka
Big Pumpkin, by Erica Silverman
Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson 

Please add your recommendations and favorites to our list.  We love, love, love a good tale!

1 comment :

Holly said...

Great list! We'll have to check some of those books out. Our favorite Halloween book is called: Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara
Kids Halloween books are so much fun!

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