As I have mentioned on earlier blog posts, I am not the only reader in my house who loves seasonal books. All three of my sons read stacks of spooky books every October, particularly my two younger sons, who look forward every year to pulling out their old favorite fall and Halloween stories to read and re-read throughout the month. I asked for their help drafting this blog post, and within minutes, they had brought me a teetering pile of books to recommend to other kids.
I cannot begin this blog, however, without acknowledging perhaps the best children’s mystery books ever written, the Harry Potter series. These books — while not necessarily Halloween-themed titles, and often only thought of as fantasy not mystery — are among the best children’s literature ever written. Readers are not only treated to glimpses of a truly amazing parallel world, but they are challenged to follow closely the slowly unfolding mystery of Harry Potter’s life. These books are an extended family affair, beloved not only by me, my husband, and our sons, but also my siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews. Reading all seven Harry Potter books is a rite of passage in our family…that is what we call “being initiated into the Slug Club.” I could write an entire blog about the Harry Potter books. For the purposes of this blog post, I just wanted to make sure they make every parent’s list for young and young-adult readers.
FOR VERY YOUNG READERS
Owl Babies (Martin Waddell)
Eek-A-Boo (Joan Holub)
Where is Baby’s Pumpkin? (Karen Katz)
Clifford’s First Halloween and Clifford’s Halloween (Norman Bridwell)
Llama Llama Trick or Treat (Anna Dewdney)
Boo! (Leslie Patricelli)
Berenstain Bears’ Spooky Old Tree (J and S Berenstain)
Trick-or-Treat it’s Halloween (Linda Lowery) This ABC picture book and poem about the best parts of Halloween is a favorite of everyone in the family. Even our twelve year-old can be found reading it to his youngest brother, complete with spooky voices and theatrics. All of the illustrations are done with construction paper cut outs made by the author and her husband. A gem!
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves (Julia Rawlinson) This is a wonderful, seasonal tale about the changes in the forest from summer to fall. My four year old says this title is about, “a fox that tries to save his favorite tree from Autumn” but then the “tree turns beautiful and icicled.”
Big Pumpkin (Erica Silverman) A funny rhyming poem about monsters trying to pick a pumpkin in time to make pumpkin pie on Halloween night. “My favorite line is when they say ‘it’s big and it’s mine and it’s stuck on the vine’,” says my son.
Room on the Broom (Julia Donaldson) Some animals help a witch save her wand, hat, and broom, and in return, she creates a broom that can fly all of them about on Halloween night.
Henry and Mudge: Under the Yellow Moon (Cynthia Rylant) This series has been a mainstay on our bookshelves for years. In this chapter book comprised of four short chapters, each one about fall, Henry is finally brave enough to face Halloween now that he has his dog Mudge.
Scary, Scary Halloween (Eve Bunting) Absolutely gorgeous drawings by another of our favorite children’s author and illustrator, Jan Brett, depicting a whole host of ghosts and monsters out trick or treating.
In the Haunted House (Eve Bunting) A little girl is braver than her father about walking through a haunted house. My littler ones love to look for the “clues” in the pictures that the haunted house is pretend.
A Halloween Scare at My House (Eric James) A new book we just found at the library this week, this book is a funny rhyming poem about a boy who braves a monster take-over of his town only to find they are scared of him. My husband likes this one for “it’s perfectly consistent iambic meter.” [I should note here that my husband is a poetry scholar, hence the nerdy comment.]
FOR EARLY ELEMENTARY AGE READERS
All of the books in the preschool readers’ category are still beloved by early elementary school kids. If you’re looking for some titles that are a bit longer or can be read by independent readers, my sons recommend the following.
Who Stole Halloween? (Martha Freeman) Part of the ChickaDee Court Holiday Series, this title finds our main characters Alex and Yasmeen trying to find out where all of the neighborhood cats are disappearing to on Halloween. Is it really a local ghost rumored to haunt the town?
Geronimo Stilton Series, all Halloween titles. (Including: It’s Halloween ‘Fraidy Mouse, This Hotel is Haunted, The Peculiar Pumpkin Thief) Our narrator and hero, the mouse Geronimo, sets out to solve a series of Halloween themed mysteries around his hometown, New Mouse City.
Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise (Kate Dicamillo) Our nine year-old son offers this summary of the book: “Mercy gets all dressed up for Halloween but ends up chasing a cat all around the neighborhood. Everyone else in town thinks Mercy has started a Halloween parade and follows her.” BTW, Mercy is a pig.
Magic Tree House Series: A Good Night for Ghosts and Haunted Castle on All Hallows Eve (Mary Pope Osborne) A time-traveling brother and sister team go back to two different haunted, medieval castles. All of the books in Pope’s Magic Tree House series are not-to-be-missed reading for emergent readers. Both of our older sons’ first independently-read chapter books were in this series. All of the books have helpful illustrations and are researched to be historically accurate.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Washington Irving), Treasury of Illustrated Classics, junior-novel version. This series of junior-novels keeps the original content and tone, but slightly updates the books to make them more accessible to younger readers. This American classic never fails to thrill our sons when we re-read it each year. Plus, the book pairs nicely with the classic Disney cartoon movie, movie information can be found here http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051850/
(Other junior novel titles from this Treasury we love are: Swiss Family Robinson, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Mysterious Island, and Poe’s Short Stories. More info here http://www.amazon.com/Treasury-Illustrated-Classics-Book-Library/dp/0766616177)
The Halloween Candy Mystery (Marion Markham) A jewel thief is plaguing a town on Halloween night, but he is forced to hide the gems until he can get away. The gems end up in the candy bags of twins Mickey and Kate, and the two kids set out to solve the mystery and catch the thief.
Witch’s Wishes (Vivian Vande Velde) A witch turns a little girl’s costume wand into a real wand, unbeknownst to the girl, and crazy wish-granting ensues.The little girl makes some funny wishes that come true, sometimes better than expected.
The Worst Best Halloween Ever (Barbara Robinson) The mayor of town shuts down Halloween to put a stop to pranks. Instead, a sugar-free, spooky-free party is to be held at the elementary school. Things do not go as planned.
My oldest son will be reviewing some Young Adult thriller titles for a post next week. Stay tuned…