I love Halloween. The only thing that frightens me about the holiday is that I know the instant it’s over, it will be Christmas. And not just in the stores, because Christmas has already begun its red and green invasion across our local Rite Aid. No, I mean, that as soon as October ends, that whole eight weeks between November 1 and December 25 will vanish like a pepperoni pizza in a room full of teenagers.
But for now, I get to enjoy the huge variety of great picture books about monsters, witches, pumpkins, and ghosts. The only challenge is gauging the scariness level for the wide range of ages I read to. This week, I did Halloween-themed storytimes for two groups of toddlers, two groups of preschoolers, two second grade classes, and my family storytime group (mostly Kindergartners). This post is mostly about my family storytime, but I’ll list some of my favorites for the other age groups below:
When a Monster is Born by Sean Taylor and Nick Sharatt
“When a monster is born, there are two possibilities: either it’s a Faraway in the Forests Monster or it’s an Under Your Bed Monster.” This book explores all the different things that might happen with each decision a monster might make, each with hilarious twists: it might eat the principal, it might meet a kitchen girl and fall in love. The kids love joining in on the repeated line, “There are two possibilities.” This one was quickly snatched up by one of my family storytime kids. The parents enjoyed it too, especially the line, “Hey, I’m a monster. You’re a monster. Let’s get married!”
The Monster Who Ate My Peas by Danny Schnitzlein and Matt Faulkner
I love this book. It’s rare to find a long story in rhymed verse that reads so well all the way through, and is easy for the kids to follow. When a boy doesn’t want to eat his peas, a horrifying monster appears to offer a trade: he’ll eat the peas in exchange for the boy’s new soccer ball. The boy accepts, but the next time he has to eat peas, the monster returns asking for his bike. I had read this to two classes of second graders the morning before my family storytime, and I thought it was really interesting that, when I asked them if the boy should give up his ball or his bike, most of the older kids said, “Yes.” (The Kindergarten kids at family storytime said, “No” every time.). But when the monster demands the boy’s puppy, all the kids were emphatically against the deal, and also worried about what was going to happen to the dog. Luckily, the boy decides to eat the peas himself, and the monster disappears in a deliciously satisfying ending. A couple of the Kindergartners thought this one was scary, which surprised me because I remembered reading it to them a year or so before. But then I know from my own kids that they find different things frightening at different ages. The second graders loved it.
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger; illustrated by Dan Santat
This one was recommended by my friend Kerri, on her blog What is ML Reading? It’s a fun read-aloud because the kids get to make that Frankenstein “Mehrrr!” noise all the way through. It describes all the things that can turn a normal kid into Crankenstein: waiting in long lines, running out of maple syrup, getting ready for school, and bedtime. It would pair well with another of my favorite books: What are You so Grumpy About? by Tom Lichtenheld. This one got snatched up too.
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Peter Brown
Always a hit! As I told the kids: this one’s only scary if you’re a rabbit. But it has all the hallmarks of a horror movie: dark shadows, creepy breathing, things that aren’t there when you turn around. In this case, the monsters are three creepy carrots, who stalk poor Jasper Rabbit until he decides to take matters into his own hands. It’s a fun read, with a funny twist at the end, and it works for a wide range of ages.
Jack-o-Lantern (For the tune, click here)
You are such a spooky sight!
As you sit there in the window
Looking out at the night.
You were once a yellow pumpkin
Growing on a pretty vine.
Now you are a jack-o-lantern,
Let your candlelight shine!
1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Witches
1 little, 2 little, 3 little Witches (hold up three fingers)
Fly over haystacks, fly over ditches (fly your hand around)
Fly over moonbeams without any hitches
Hey ho! Halloween night! (Clap!)
1 little, 2 little, 3 little witches
Flew over barbed wire, tore their britches
Had to go home and get some stitches (mime sewing)
Hey ho! Halloween night! (Clap!)
On Halloween (to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus)
The ghosts in the house go, “Boo! Boo! Boo!”
“Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo!”
The ghosts in the house go, “Boo! Boo! Boo!”
The witches in the house go “Hee hee hee!”…
The bats in the house go “Eee eee eee!”…
The kids at the door say “Trick or treat!”
I asked for suggestions from the kids for other spooky Halloween things, or things they plan to be for Halloween.
Five Little Pumpkins
Five Little Pumpkins sitting on a gate (hold up five fingers)
The first one said, “Oh my! It’s getting late!”
The second one said, “There are witches in the air!”
The third one said, “But we don’t care!”
The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run!”
The fifth one said, “It’s Halloween fun!”
Then “OOOOOOH” went the wind,
And out went the light! (Clap)
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight. (roll hands)
CRAFT: Q-Tip Skeletons
I am grateful to the Crafts Ideas website for including a printable template for the skull. I cut those out ahead of time and broke up the Q-Tips into different sizes. One thing I learned the hard way: it’s much easier to break Q-tips with your hands than to cut them with scissors. With the scissors, I was wearing out my hands, and Q-tip bits were flying across the reference desk like tiny cotton missiles!
The kids used glue sticks to glue their skeletons to black paper. If you do a search for Q-Tip Skeletons online, you’ll see an astounding variety of styles. Some of them get pretty elaborate, and include fingers and toes.
OTHER HALLOWEEN BOOKS (with recommended ages):
Babies and Toddlers:
Halloween Countdown by Jack Prelutsky; illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Wonderful counting rhyme in a board book format. The ghosts are adorable, and there’s a “Boo!” at the end. This one really works well for any age.
Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino
A classic board book of the fingerplay, Five Little Pumpkins (see above). Most of the kids knew this one already.
Tucker’s Spooky Halloween by Leslie McGuirk
Tucker is an adorable white dog who would like to be something spooky for Halloween, but his owner has other plans. Simple, cute story in a board book format.
Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman; illustrated by S. D. Schindler
A witch grows a pumpkin for pumpkin pie, but is unable to pull it off the vine. One by one, different Halloween creatures try their hand until a bat suggests the solution. Fun, repetitive story with great illustrations.
Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas
When Duck gets his head stuck in a pumpkin, his friends Mouse and Pig think he is a monster. Short, funny read-aloud with a lot of visual humor. This is one of my daughter’s favorites.
Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Leonardo is a terrible monster. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t scare anyone, until he meets Sam. This is a sweet story, and perfect for storytime because of the large pages with lots of white space. You have to take a big breath when you get to the page where Sam explains why he’s crying. I love everything Mo Willems writes.
The Skeleton in the Closet by Alice Schertle; illustrated by Curtis Jobling
Another wonderful rhyming story. I have actually read this one to younger kids, but I point out the cuteness of the skeleton and tone down the spookiness in my voice. A skeleton climbs up the stairs of a little boy’s house, saying it’s “Coming to get some skeleton clothes!” In the end, it raids the little boy’s closet and comes out fully clothed.
Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Scott Campbell
I’ve read this one for Valentine’s Day too. Poor Mortimer tries everything to meet the girl of his dreams: giving out chocolates (full of worms), hearts (the organ kind), and even diamond rings (with the finger still attached). But nothing works until he places a personal ad in the paper, and meets Millicent, who loses her shoe (and her foot) at the ball. This one got lots of appreciative “Ews!” and “Yucks” from the second grade, both for the gruesome bits and the romantic ones.
The Book that Eats People by John Perry; illustrated by Mark Fearing
The second graders and I had fun acting scared of this book, because IT EATS PEOPLE! Deliciously gruesome, but not for younger kids unless they have a high tolerance for horror.
Next week I will be doing Halloween books again, probably sticking with the lighter, funnier ones. I would love suggestions, so please send me your favorites and I’ll list them below.