When I was a kid, my mom had a basket of Christmas books that she brought out between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  The rest of the year, the books were stored away so it was a real treat to revisit favorite books each holiday season.  I continued that tradition with my own children but extended it to other holidays, including Halloween.  The basket of books would come out about a month before Halloween and my kids would read and reread the stories; each year we purchased a new one to add to our favorites.  I now have all teenagers but they still will pull out the holiday books and rediscover their magic.

I have to admit that Halloween really isn’t my holiday.  I have quite an over-active imagination and I get scared pretty easily . . . basically, I’m a wimp!  With my kids, we celebrated how Halloween represented the fall harvest season and enjoyed dressing up in fun costumes and of course, eating the candy.  But my true favorite marker of Halloween is the books.  These are four of my favorite Halloween children’s books.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
Flying across the night sky with her cat on her broom, a witch loses her hat.  She swoops down to search for it and is unsuccessful, until a dog bounds out of the bushes with the hat in his mouth.  He admires the broom and asks, “Is there room on the broom for a dog like me?”  The witch makes room for the dog and continues her flight.  She continues to drop things – my kids thought it was hilarious as to how clumsy she was – and the other finders, a bird and a frog, also ask if there is room on the broom.  When the broom snaps in two, the witch is captured by a dragon who says, “I am a dragon, as mean as can be, and witch with french fries tastes delicious to me!”  Her new friends rescue her and as a thank you, she mixes a spell in her caldron and creates a new broom; complete with chairs for the cat and dog, a nest for the bird, and a pool for the frog.

This delightful story is written in rhyme so it is so much fun to read aloud.  My kids loved the lyrical quality of the story and kind friendship of the animals; even the scary dragon learns a lesson.  The humor of eating a witch with French fries and how clumsy she was never failed to produce peals of laughter.  My favorite picture is the last page with all the animals on a custom broom and the dog is reading a book.  A really silly, yet heart-warming story.

Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler
Poor skeleton has the hiccups.  The hiccups interfere with him taking a shower, playing baseball, and carving a pumpkin.  He tries everything – standing on his head, drinking a glass of water while holding his nose, eating some sugar – but nothing helps.  Finally Ghost holds a mirror up to skeleton’s face and his hiccups are scared away.

The illustrations in this story are the key to the success.  When skeleton drinks water upside down, it runs out his eye sockets.  His lower jaw hiccups right out of his mouth.  You never really think about how hiccups can affect a skeleton!  The story is humorous and my kids enjoyed coming up with other problems one might have if one was a hiccupping skeleton; problems like riding a bike, eating spaghetti, dancing, and so on.  Although it is a simple and straightforward story, there is really a great lesson about how we view others and how we can’t really understand another person until we are in their shoes . . . or bones.

Sheep Trick or Treat by Nancy Shaw
The sheep are in the barn making Halloween costumes.  Using capes and coats, they create a scary monster and a giant ape; there is also a bumpy dinosaur (using styling gel) and a mummy.  The sheep head out into the farm to trick-or-treat among the animals; on the way home, wolves peek out but are frightened by their scary costumes.

I have loved the Sheep books long before I ever had children.  The stories are simple but very witty.  The rhymes show the beauty of language and how much fun it can be.  Two of my personal favorites are “Sheep come sailing into port; Sheep jump, sheep fall short” from Sheep on a Ship, and “Jeep in a heap; Sheep weep” from Sheep in a Jeep.  They are absolutely delightful and Sheep Trick or Treat fits in perfectly.  While trick-or-treating, the horses give apples and sugar lumps and the chickens give eggs, but the sheep decide to pass on the dried up fly offered by the spider.  The story provides a fun way to look at costumes from a different perspective and my kids enjoyed talking about what costumes different types of animals might wear for trick-or-treating.  It was even discussed what costumes would work for our cats; however, for the sake of our limbs, we opted to just discuss and not act on these ideas!

The Night Before Halloween by Natasha Wing
The Night Before books are a series for many occasions – the night before Valentine’s Day, the First Day of School, Summer Camp, and so on.  They all follow a similar pattern but I think the Halloween one is just a bit unique.  It actually tells two stories:  one of children preparing for Halloween festivities and one of monsters, mummies, and ghosts preparing for the trick-or-treaters.  The children enjoy all the usual fall activities – hay rides, bobbing for apples, and school parades, but as excited as they are, the monsters relish in creating a fun Halloween atmosphere with balloons, potions, and streamers.  There is a fun juxtaposition when the monsters must prepare everything by bedtime at dawn.  The children come to the monsters’ house but are scared away.  The monsters are sad because they wanted the children to play but they still enjoy the holiday by creating their own fun.

This is a great book to demonstrate to children how monsters may not be scary and it helps to take some of the fear away from younger children.  The thought that ghosts and mummies have feelings and the Bride of Frankenstein can’t decide what to wear opens the possibilities of looking at different vantage points.  I love the fun rhyme that follows the traditional Night Before Christmas poem.

So . . . nothing really scary there . . . except how long I have had some of these books!!  How about you?  What Halloween stories have your children enjoyed?


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