It is not too late to head over to your local library to pick up some books to help set the Halloween vibe. GeekMom Kelly and GeekMom Amy have both assembled great lists with some fantastic choices. Here are just a few more to get the family ready to trick or treat.
Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler (2008).
The title may be a pun of something pretty scandalous for children, but the book is great fun for munchkins. All the monsters have come to the castle for the Madcap Monster Ball. The ghostly suits of armor are supposed to stand guard and keep out the riff raff, but they are fast asleep. One by one they wake up, follow the noise, and end up joining in the party. The young prince awakens to all the scary noise and goes creeping through the castle until he finds the party. The story is just scary enough, and in the end we find out nothing was as scary as it seemed. Great Halloween fun.
Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci (2000).
San Souci is definitely no stranger to fairy tales and scary stories, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Our Cinderella is the most beautiful corpse in the graveyard: perfectly green teeth, perfectly ghastly complexion. She makes all the other skeletons jealous. The story follows the familiar elements of Cinderella we know and love: Evil stepsisters and stepmother, a ball (in this case a spooky Halloween ball), a prince, and a shoe. But in this story Cinderella leaves her whole foot behind. This book manages to be creepy, haunting, beautiful, and charming all at the same time. You’ll still want Cinderella to find her boney prince in the end, even if happily ever after is more cobwebs than tiaras.
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, illustrations by Peter Brown (2012).
This was one of the Caldecott Honor books this year, and it is brilliant. Jasper Rabbit loves carrots. Crackenhopper Field has the best wild carrots around…until the day they start following Jasper home. He sees carrots creeping around every corner, he hears carroty breathing at night, and no one will believe him. Finally Jasper decides to take matters into his own hands in this Twilight Zone-inspired story. But the carrots have a plan, too. This one wins for being positively weird, retro, and hilarious.
The Curious Demise of a Contrary Cat by Lynne Berry, illustrations by Luke LaMarca (2006).
Everyone knows that a witch’s best friend is her cat. A constant companion, a confidant, a sidekick in all things witchy and mischievous. But what happens when a witch gets a cat that behaves like, well…a cat? Obstinate, stubborn, never comes when you want it to, walks all over the furniture, makes messes. Like any cat lover can tell you, this witch’s best friend is catty to the bone, doing things when it is darn good and ready. But you don’t want to mess with a witch, kitty. Especially when she’s trying to throw a party.
Daft Bat by Jeanne Willis (2008).
A little bat arrives on the scene, and all the wild animals think she’s crazy. Because in her world the sky is below her and the grass is above her. But a wise owl steps in to teach all the animals to see things from someone else’s point of view. Soon all the animals realize that the bat isn’t daft at all, she just sees things upside down. It’s not specifically a Halloween story, but it’s still an excellent read aloud for this time of year.
Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex (2008).
The idea of parodying such a beloved, seminal book like Goodnight Moon seems like a dangerous idea—but it works. All the elements are there, with a little guy saying goodnight to every single thing in his room. But this time instead of a bunny we have a little monster. And everything in his room is creepy (like skulls and goo). It isn’t quite as soothing as Margaret Wise Brown’s original, but children familiar with the original will probably find this one hilarious. It’s creepy, but it isn’t scary.
Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler, illustrations by S.D. Schindler (2002).
What happens when a skeleton has the hiccups? Hijinks ensue, that’s what. His bones fall apart whenever he tries to do everyday things (brushing his teeth, carving a pumpkin, playing with his friends). He tries to eat sugar and drink water upside down with creepy fun results (water pours from his eye sockets). It isn’t until his friend Ghost holds a mirror up to Skeleton that the hiccups are scared out of him. It’s definitely got a bit of twisted humor, and Skeleton’s fuzzy bat slippers are genius.
Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth (2010).
Stillwater the panda can do no wrong. Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts (2005) and Zen Ties (2008) are some of the most soothing, gentle, genius children’s books of the last decade. And then he wrote a Halloween tale that sidesteps a lot of the gimmicks holiday stories fall into with a Stillwater ghost tale that is pretty thoughtful for young children. After the trick or treating is finished, a mysterious storyteller arrives (is it Stillwater?) to tell Michael, Karl, and Addie a ghost story that we don’t realize is a ghost story until the last breath. And it succeeds in being beautiful and touching rather than scary. A standout, and not just among Halloween stories.