Dr Frankenstein's Prescription for a creepy, crawly Halloween:
1- Read scary stories to your kids from this Top 5 list.
2-Repeat as necessary.
3- Warning: Not to be taken at bed-time. Side effects may include: Nightmares, screeching, squeamishness, and sprints to parents' bed.
***Note to teens: Reading to yourself won’t save you.
1- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz (Grades 4 and up.)
Skeletons and ghosts come to life from the pages of American folklore. Chilling illustrations really enhance the fright factor of these more than 24 short stories. In one chapter, a boy and his family make a meal out of a big toe they find in their garden. Ewwww! If your kids like campy urban legends and ghost stories, they will love this collection.
2- Frankenstein by Ludworst Bemonster - Rick Walton and Nathan Hale. (Ages 4 and up.)
The funniest/scariest Halloween book to come out in a long time - maybe ever. A parody of the children's classic "Madeline" features 12 little monsters living in the castle of Miss Davel. (Get it?)
"In a creepy old castle all covered with spines / Lived twelve ugly monsters in two crooked lines/In two crooked lines, they bonked their heads/Pulled out their teeth and wet their beds."
This book has just the right amount of scary to keep kids on their toes, and just the right amount of funny to keep kids and parents entertained.
Label on the cover reads: A CaldeNOT horror book!
3- The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick. (Grades 2 and up.)
Is it coincidence that the greatest escape artist of all time died on Halloween?
Selznick (author of "The Invention of Hugo Cabret") captures the mystique of Houdini and his era in beautifully rendered drawings. Ten year-old Victor is desperate to emulate his hero. He locks himself in a box, and holds his breath under water - to no avail. One day, Victor meets his hero in a crowded train station and later receives a mysterious box engraved with the initials "E.W." Only years later, as a grown man, does Victor open the box and discover its secrets.
Although this book is fiction, it's a great springboard for Halloween themes that are linked to Houdini's life: Seances, the supernatural, and black magic.
Non-fiction fiends: Check out the biography capsule included.
(Not a typical scary book, but Dr. Frankenstein approves.)
4- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Grades 5/6 and up.)
What's it like being a boy raised by a community of dead in a graveyard? That's the only life Nobody, or "Bod" for short, has ever known. Life in the graveyard is full of dangers and adventures, but Bod longs to be in the human world. How long can the graveyard protect Bod from Jack, the man who already murdered his family?
Neil Gaiman weaves the terrifying with a bit of comical, enthralling both kids and adults. Each chapter almost stands on its own as a short story, making this novel manageable for middle-school readers.
5 - The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. (Grades 7 and up.)
Might as well get all the stories and poems in this reasonably-priced collection. In particular, the following will make your hairs stand on end: "The Murder in the Rue Morgue," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "The Raven."
THE classic must-have Halloween book. Nobody does creepy like Poe, and the writing is of course, stellar.
This is a collection you and your kids will return to time and again.
Have you been itching to enhance your education, but can't see past piles of laundry and work to attend a course on campus? Then you'll be excited about "Coursera." All you need is an internet connection. You can study at universities around the world, and it's free. Choose from courses taught by top professors in the humanities, sciences, finance, computer sciences, and much more.
How does Coursera work?
According to an article in the Globe and Mail, "Students log in to Coursera, and have lecture modules every week and homework assignments that are graded for free either by their peers or through Coursera’s online program. For those who argue that there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction, it turns out that students who take these courses self-organize into small online groups to work together. At the end of the course, students receive a certificate if they have mastered the material."
Why is Coursera attractive to parents?
- You join a global community of learners, exchanging ideas with people all over the world. Quite an opportunity, considering some days we don't interact with anyone outside our suburb!
- You can learn in your jammies once the kids are in bed, or in between shifts at work. Any time.
-You might live in a remote community or a big city. It's all the same.
- You're thinking about going back to work, or are contemplating a career change. This could be a great way to explore areas of interest.
With major research centres joining the venture and over 680,000 students, there's no doubt that this new way of learning is appealing to both professors and students. I can't say whether this new kind of learning will be an adequate replacement for face to face interactions. I can say that I think Corsera is a coup for most parents with schedules that won't allow for on-campus education.
In the words of co-founder Dr. Daphne Koller: "I would like to make it so that education was a right, and not a privilege." (Globe and Mail, Oct. 8th, "Building Open Learning Platforms in Canada.")
Bestselling author Neil Gaiman (Coraline, Graveyard Book) was on a flight home when it occurred to him: "There aren't enough traditions that involve giving books." Halloween was a week away, so he figured, "Why not give each other scary books?"
And poof! "All Hallows Read" was born.
It's pretty simple: Find scary books to freak out adults, and scary books appropriate for kids. Choose a book that is new or used. Exchange scary books. (Or just give someone a scary book.)
Personally, I think "All Hallows Read" takes Halloween up a notch. Sort of puts the scary back into the holiday, instead of being only about the sweets. Keep the candy, but add: "Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good to Read!'
Scary books. Candies. Giving. Kind of makes Halloween double sweet, don't you think? I'm definitely going to try it out this year!
What do you think?
Here's the man himself—Neil Gaiman—talking about All Hallows Read. If you need some ideas to get started, below is a list of a few favourite scary books for kids and teens.
Happy All Hallows Read!
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley (Coping with monsters—love this one!)
Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe. (Funny and scary.)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Coraline by Neil Gaiman