Some Great Halloween Reads for the Kids

Time to haul out the box of Halloween books!  This year, I have a plan to do a nightly read of spooky stories for the two weeks leading up to the Big Night.  (I got the idea from here, for a Christmas advent calendar.)  I’ll wrap the books and put them in a basket and make book time a surprise to look forward to.  I’ve got a collection of obviously Halloween-related books in a cupboard in the basement, but I felt like the collection was getting a bit stale.  I’ve been on the lookout for some new additions to our October reading list.  Here is what I’ve come up with, and a few old favourites.  Please leave your favourite titles in the comments section.  I’m still looking for more!

Some of these are a little off the beaten path. You might not think they were Halloween reads to look at them.  But they are spooky and, most importantly, excellently written and illustrated.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson.  Illustrated by Axel Scheffler.  (ages 2-5)

Ours is a well-worn board book, and it gets pulled out often.  You can’t go wrong with Julia Donaldson, and this is a fun story about a witch, her familiars and a deluxe broom.

The Widow’s Broom  by Chris Van Allsburg  (ages 4-8)

Oh, I do love a story with a woman who outsmarts a puritanical community.  A widow helps an ailing witch and inherits her magical broom.  Persecution ensues.  Reason triumphs.  Beautifully illustrated.

The Night of the Gargoyles by Eve Bunting.  Illustrated by David Wiesner.  (ages 4-8)

The gargoyles on a building come to life in a beautifully paced prose poem.  The tone of the story is truly haunting.  David Wiesner is a favourite illustrator of ours, and he does not fail to please in this gem.

Philip Pullman’s Clockwork  (ages 8-12)

This is a fascinating story within a story.  It actually makes my head hurt to work out how the gears of the stories interlock.  A story about clocks that is structured like a clock, messes with your head and with time.  Great fun.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (ages 8-12)

I love Neil Gaiman’s child protagonists.  They are all so grounded and whip smart.  Nobody Owens is the protagonist in this book, and he is raised by ghosts and lives in a cemetery.  His antagonist is a man named Jack, and the story plays with and subverts the traditional character of Jack from British fairy tales.  Creepy, genuinely frightening, un-put-down-able.


Kids’ Books about Books

Over at my other blog, I review books about books: books about bookstores, libraries, book collecting, publishing, dictionaries.  Like that.  I collect them, and I started blogging about them as a way to structure and speed up my reading of my increasingly unmanageable collection.  It hasn’t really slowed the collecting, but it has given it structure and my blog has given me a lovely sense of a bookish community.

And because my love for books about books does not stop with my own collection, I always have a sharp eye out for kids’ books about books.  Last week, we got two new books.

Lane Smith’s It’s a Book is a book I’ve been looking forward to getting for several months, now, since reading about it over at Curious Pages.  The premise is that a book-loving monkey is repeatedly distracted from his reading by an obnoxious techie Jackass, who keeps mistaking the book for a computer/e-reader/i-phone.  (Much ink has been spilt about the “scandal” of having a character called Jackass.  Come on, people.) 

Jackass: Does it tweet?

Monkey: No, it’s a book.

Here is the book trailer.

Now I am firmly in favour of books in their paper form, and I have yet to be convinced of the joy of reading on an e-reader.  I am a prime audience member for monkey’s simple refrain: It’s a book.  The premise, the illustrations and the dialogue all tickled me pink, and I love the book. 

The boys?  Meh.  They don’t really know about tweeting and Kindles and such.  It did not grab Rowan’s attention, he’s five, and Griffin, who is nine and gets the references to the technology, is too old for this picture book format.  (He’s now reading The Hunger Games.) 

The other book about books was a much bigger hit: Mo Willems’s We Are in a Book!, part of the Elephant and Piggie early reader series.  Mo Willems is one of my favourite children’s author-illustrators, and the Elephant and Piggie books are, hands down, the most entertaining and engaging early readers I have come across.  The challenge for the author is enormous: a very limited vocabulary with which to tell an entertaining story that adults and children will want to read multiple times.  Willems’s books fairly overflow with personality, and each book stands up to dozens of rereadings.  This one is exceptionally good, and, in fact, explicitly invites multiple readings per sitting.  This is, after all, a goal when the idea is for the early reader to master the words in the book. 

Elephant and Piggie begin to realize that someone is watching them, and when they get up close and look out of the book, they discover that that someone is a reader!

Well, imagine the delight when your little reader is so-named by the very book s/he’s reading!  Rowan was just flush with pride and delight.

Once they know they have a captive audience, Elephant and Piggie get up to all kinds of tricks, and they had me in belly laughs.  Willems’s illustrations of the usually serious and worried Elephant in hysterical laughter are simply marvelous.  The hilarity is infectious, and we all, even Gavin, 2, had long, deep draughts of laughter. 

A clever meta-textual element to the story, lots and lots of laughs, and a built-in inducement to read it again, and again, and again.  A very big hit.  With all of us.

It holds a special place in my heart, too, because this is the first book that Rowan has read (almost) independently.  He’s a reader.

If you like the idea of kids’ books about books, here are some other picture book titles:

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner, in which the pigs escape the story itself and not just the big, bad wolf.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, in which a fairy tale does not end in marriage.

The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers, in which a boy learns the contents of books by eating them, and then comes a cropper.

And for older readers:

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, in which the characters in books come to life when the books are read aloud.

Do you have any favourite kids’ books about books?