I can’t help it — I love the way that Pixie Stix Kids Pix showcases her booklists. How can I resist following up with my own version of this idea?
People who are already fully initiated in the kidlit world will not be surprised or intrigued by what they find here (eh, maybe not with the Steve Almond). But my readers who aren’t (and I think most of them fall in that category) will probably enjoy the list immensely. Mostly, this is my mental checklist — what do I like the best, again?
Without further ado, I present a list of my personal thirteen favorite books for Halloween — these are books I turn to again and again, and make for great reading aloud.
- The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams — Ooooh, the ultimate big-group storytime read-aloud. Not too scary, but not wimpy, either; a perfect autumn confection of a downhome lady who knows how to outwit a troublesome visitor.
- Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes, illus. Yuni Morales — A Spanish/English romp. It’s hard to find bilingual books that aren’t . . um . . . lame, so most librarians I know were kissing this book when it came out. Yuni Morales’ luminous illustrations are perfectly eerie.
- Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex — The best book of monster poems, period. And you can take that to the bank.
- The Halloween Play by Felicia Bond — You may love or hate her If You Give a ___ a ___ books, but this lil’ number stands out for capturing the excitement of a school holiday celebration.
- The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg — Yes, yes, another author with a love/hate relationship in the kidlitosphere. Hey, you may pooh-pooh The Polar Express or ho-hum The Wreck of the Zephyr, but I LOVE The Widow’s Broom. The tale of the wiley widow and the magical broom that lands on her doorsteep is perfect for reading to older elementary school kids, and the illustrations are big, simple, and glorious in black-and-white.
- Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian — I don’t know why, but a lot of librarians really love Lorna Balian, and I’m one of ’em. Humbug Witch concerns a witch removing her cackly clothes to reveal the girl hidden underneath: an outcome that will surprise nobody, but manages to be refreshingly adorable nonetheless.
- Scary, Scary Halloween Eve Bunting, illus. Jan Brett — Look! It’s a book illustrated by Jan Brett that doesn’t involve Scandinavian culture in some way! Okay, okay — sarcasm aside, this is a wonderful book for getting little kids over a fear of Halloween bumps-in-the-night and other general spooky stuff. And there’s cute kitties in it. Can’t go wrong with cute kitties.
- A Tiger Named Thomas Charlotte Zolotow, illus Diana Cain Bluthenthal — Zolotow is a master of the picture book story, and this book shows off her mad skills. The story of how Thomas uses his Halloween costume to find new friends incognito is pure genius.
- Halloween Countdown Jack Prelutsky, illus. Dan Yaccarino — This fun little poem is extracted from Prelutsky’s It’s Halloween, and I think it’s improved in the board book format. Yaccarino’s minimalist images show sprightly little ghosts making mischief in the most satisfyingly ordinary way. A great seasonal treat for toddlers.
- Moonlight the Halloween Cat Cynthia Rylant, illus. Melissa Sweet — This story, like a lot of Rylant’s books, is a bit slower-paced and dreamy than the others. Written from the cat’s perspective, it portrays classic Halloween scenes in a pastoral setting. Lovely for lap-reading.
- Revenge of the Witch: The Last Apprentice, Book One by Joseph Delaney — Oooooo, this story is PERFECT for reading out loud to middle schoolers — especially the part with the ghost in the Spook’s house — or wait, there’s the part with the witch in the pit — no! No, the part with the girl talking to the mirror is the creepiest! Oh, I can’t decide — go read it yourself and see why this is a soon-to-be-classic spooky book.
- Coraline by Neil Gaiman — Meanwhile, this book is pretty much already a classic spooky book. I’m not going to describe it to you, because doing so will make me have bad dreams. Seriously. And I don’t want that. Take that as you will.
- Candyfreak: a Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond — I know, I know, it isn’t a children’s book, it’s adult non-fiction. But to me, this is what Halloween is really all about: the candy, the candy, the candy. Almond’s tales of his sweet-obsession are both hilarious and mouthwatering. I call it “candy porn.” Mmmmm. Candy porn. Mmmmm.