This is the time of year when I paw through my bookshelves looking for creepy stories to curl up with. It’s like trick-or-treating, only with books. Here are a few of our family favorites, perfect for creating a Halloween mood.
The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain.
Three little bears. One with a light. One with a stick. And one with the shivers. This oldie-but-goodie is a beginning-reader masterpiece–and a deliciously creepy read for the younger set. Three bears tiptoe through a haunted mansion that just happens to be the inside of a gnarled old tree. Do they dare go up that spooky old stair? Yes, they dare! Chances are you remember how much fun it was to see each bear catch the shivers when you were a kid. Was there anything scarier than Great Sleeping Bear? Was there any moment more satisfying than when the little bears return safely home to their mother? Whew!
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd.
Right in the middle of the path were two shoes. And the shoes went CLOMP CLOMP! Another classic picture book. A little old lady is followed home by some mysterious disembodied articles of clothing and a spooky pumpkinhead. Is she afraid? Not a bit! I have yet to meet a preschooler who isn’t enchanted by this funny, lively, rhythmic, scary-but-not-too-scary gem.
Stolen by Vivian Vande Velde.
Here’s one for the middle-school set (and beyond). This unusual novel–part mystery, part fairy tale–opens with a bang: a group of villagers are burning down the house of the “old witch” who lives in the woods at the edge of the village. She is believed to have stolen a baby, and indeed she takes a baby with her when she makes a hurried escape out a back window. The house burns to the ground, and there is no sign of either witch or infant. But on the same day, a twelve-year-old girl appears in the woods, lost and disoriented. She does not know who she is, not even her own name. Kindly villagers take her in and tend to her wounds–she was attacked by a hunting dog, but the injury is not severe–and the old couple’s six-year-old granddaughter is convinced that this lost girl must be another of the witch’s kidnapping victims who managed to escape in the confusion. Indeed, another young girl disappeared some years back, and this lost girl is exactly the right age to be the long-lost Isabelle.
Isabelle’s parents come to claim her, but her re-entry to home life is not easy. She remembers nothing; neither her mother’s tearful embraces nor her older sister’s sharp tongue sparks any hint of memory. That older sister, Honey, seems suspicious and hostile toward Isabelle. Isabelle searches for some kind of connection to her old life and wonders if there is really anything left of “Isabelle” at all, since she can’t remember any of the people around her or the stories they tell. If you don’t remember anything about yourself, are you really you?