It's that time of year again where we get to dress up in wacky costumes and celebrate all things scary. Unfortunately, when it comes to holiday-themed children's books, often times they tend to be sub-par at best. Take a well known character from TV, put them in a costume, add a pumpkin and throw it on the market - why worry about a story or good writing? There is nothing that makes us madder than bad books for children. So, we would like to offer up a few of our favourite spooky books for little children.
First up, for the toddler set is the new board book "I'm the Scariest Thing in the Castle" (Penguin Group, 2011) by Kevin Sherry. This is the follow up to the immensely popular "I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean" and is about a little bat that declares that he is scarier than all the various creepy things in the castle such as a skeleton, witch, and a werewolf. But when the lights go out and someone yells "Boo!" at him, he cries and is no longer the scariest thing in the castle. He soon discovers that while he may no longer be the scariest, he is now the cutest thing in the castle! Simple, bright, funny, and not at all scary, this is the perfect "creepy" book for toddlers.
Next is "We're Off to Find the Witch's House" (Penguin Group, 2007) by Mr. Krieb and R.W. Alley. Perfect for pre-school aged children, this cute picture book follows a group of trick-or-treaters as they make their way to a witch's house. With a narrative structure very similar to the classic "We're Going on a Bear Hunt", the text is full of sound-effects and repetition as the children pass all the spooky characters (other children in costumes) along the way to their destination. Very fun to read out loud and also not too scary for young children.
Also for younger children, but this time a little more gross, is "Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance" (Chronicle Books, 1999) by Keith Graves. This hilarious picture book follows Frankenstein's Monster as he lives out his dream of dancing on stage in front of an audience. Unfortunately for him (and the audience), as soon as he starts to boogie, he also starts to fall apart. Non-squeamish children are sure to laugh at the wonderful rhyming text as Frank's brain falls out of his head and his eyeball rolls out the door.
Finally, we have to mention one of our favourite books which is definitely more appropriate for elementary school aged children and older. While it is very funny, it can be a little gross and the realistic artwork might be a bit too creepy for younger children. It's the amazing picture book "Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (and Other Stories You're Sure to Like, Because They're All About Monsters and Some of Them are Also About Food - You Like Food Don't You? Well, All Right Then.)" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006) by Adam Rex. This book is laugh out loud funny and is a collection of poems about various famous monsters. Our favourites include "Count Dracula Doesn't Know He's Been Walking Around All Night With Spinach in his Teeth", the five poems about The Phantom of the Opera where he can't get songs like "The Girl from Ipanema" and "It's a Small World" out of his head, and the gross-out "Godzilla Pooped on My Honda".
Also worth mentioning are two witch-related picture books, "Room on the Broom" by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and "Trixie" by Nick Butterworth.
Hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!
Now go read a book with your kids...