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Children's Picture Books for Halloween: For Preschool, Storytime, or Anytime
Halloween is America's favorite holiday, with candy, dress-up, and a chance to be someone else for the day. But for young preschoolers, Halloween can be a little scary. I selected these Halloween stories to include a few with a mildly spooky theme. Most children who go trick-or-treating on Halloween night or even those attending Halloween themed parties at a local church or civic organization are likely to encounter spooky images. These books will help children explore Halloween and to face their fears with a sense of humor, and to know that Halloween can be a little spooky and still be a lot of fun.
Spooky Halloween Fun With Children's Lit
- A Very Brave Witch by Alison McGhee and Harry Bliss is a cute story featuring a cute, green witch who enjoys flying on a broom and bringing her pet cat along with her. The witch's companions, in a cute turnabout, are all afraid of humans. When the brave little witch goes out exploring on her favorite holiday, Halloween night, she accidentally falls off her broom and befriends a young girl who is also dressed up as a witch for Halloween. This book does a great job of addressing some early childhood fears about Halloween, costumes, and trick-or-treating.
- Spooky, Spooky, Spooky! by Cathy MacLennan is a book that manages to be just a little bit spooky without ever going into scary territory. A book geared to younger preschoolers, this book has silly images and a read-aloud text that works well in a Halloween-themed story time, with swirling text that has read-aloud appeal.
- Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi is a realistic fiction story for elementary ages. This story about young Kimin and the mask he inherited from his grandfather, a Korean Mask Dancer, has much to discuss. The story explores themes of loss, fear of aging, and blending family and cultural traditions from two countries: in this case Korea and the United States. This story is more advanced and detailed than some of the others in the list, so it is recommended for first grade and up, but offers a rewarding alternative to some of the more saccharine stories available on a Halloween theme.
- In the story The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams and Megan Lloyd, the heroine's courage, and patience, is tested to the limit when she is repeatedly followed home by threatening and sinister clothes. "Lots of sound effects and onomotopoeia make this almost, but not too scary book a good selection for kindergarten and up, with many elements that make this story an excellent read-aloud choice for a dark and stormy Halloween night. Williams and Lloyd have managed to capture the essence of fairy tales rooted in a dangerous past without literally scaring the pants off of her audience. The predictable resolution to the past helps to soften the otherwise frightening themes of this modern classic for Halloween.
- Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman, S.D. Schindler is a humorous story with some familiar Halloween faces. Four Halloween fiends, um friends, get into a boasting match when a witch cannot move the big pumpkin she plans to use to make a pumpkin pie. After the mummy, the vampire, and the monster all attempt to move the pumpkin on their own, a wise little bat suggests that teamwork will do the trick. This tale has a positive message about working together and some enjoyable illustrations.
- Speaking of bats, you might want to share Stellaluna, by acclaimed author Janell Cannon. This story is not a strictly Halloween-themed story, but is the dramatic story of a little bat who is separated from its mother and rescued by a bird. The story has some-non-fiction notes about bats and would be a good lead-in to a science unit about bats.
- Looking for a book that focuses on dressing up in a Halloween costume? On Halloween Night by Harriet Ziefert and Renee Andriani-Williams is a preschooler-friendly story of Emily getting dressed for Halloween night. This book got mixed reviews, but would be a good choice for younger preschoolers who are new to the experience of dressing up.
- Carry the theme of a parade of trick-or-treaters with Scary, Scary Halloween by the prolific and talented Eve Bunting. A rhyming story coupled with mood-evoking illustrations by Jan Brett make this a scary, but not too scary selection for preschool and up. Another title in this category by Eve Bunting is In The Haunted House, which is also written in a rhyming style, and follows a young girl and her older brother? father? through the haunted house, which is full of eery-looking everyday objects.
- Shake Dem Halloween Bones by W. Nikola-Lisa and Mike Reed (ISBN 061807034, Ages 3 and Up)
- A humorous take on a sometimes scary image during Halloween is found in Margery Cuyler's Skeleton Hiccups. The skeleton in this book is doing so many zany and silly things to get rid of his hiccups that everyone forgets that a skeleton is scary. So while Skeleton's friend, Ghost is unable to scare him into stopping his annoying hiccups, Skeleton startles himself! If you enjoy this book, check out her other title, The Bumpy Little Pumpkin, in my Pumpkin-Themed Books for Preschoolers article.
- It is unusual to find an actual GHOST STORY in a children's picture book, but The Perfect Pumpkin Pie offers a ghoulish gourmand, a haunted house, and plenty of laughter amid some riotously funny illustrations. Though this book might be a little scary for younger children, but would be fun to scare (I mean share) with second graders and up. Be sure to preview this one before you read it.
For some Halloween fun for younger preschoolers, check out these titles that are all about treats, costumes, candy, and pumpkins.
- Dappled Apples by Jan Carr and Dorothy Donahue is a short and simple rhyming book for older toddlers and young preschoolers. The poem that gives life to this story is cute and covers all of the high points of the autumn season, but the real appeal of this particular picture book is the show-stealing illustrations by Dorothy Donohue, that like the more well-known Lois Ehlert, use paper collage-style pictures.
- Moonlight the Halloween Cat by two-time Newberry winning author Cynthia Rylant tells the story of a Halloween night through the eyes of a cute little black cat named Moonlight, who enjoys Halloween following the children who do not see her, and the lap of an unsuspecting scarecrow. This book represents the familiar images of Halloween in a fresh and friendly way that will put anxious preschoolers at ease about this sometimes scary holiday.
Day After Halloween
- Are you looking for a book to read the day after Halloween? Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell may be the answer. This book is the story of what happens to a jack-o-lantern recycled into the dying family garden, when it is regenerates into a thriving and abundantly fruitful garden plant. Tim shares the bounty with his classmates after carefully taking care of his pumpkin patch through the seasons. This story ends where it began, on the Eve of Halloween. A highly satisfying work of realistic fiction with detailed pictures and descriptions of the life-cycle of a pumpkin plant in the garden.
- A similar story featured in my list of pumpkin books is Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White. This favorite story is well-known to most teachers but doesn't diminish the fact that this character-driven allegory is one of my favorite children's books. If you have the time, click on the title and read my full review of one of my favorite must-read children's books for autumn, Thanksgiving, or Halloween.
Get ready to Shake Dem Bones on the new full-color Kindle Fire!
Early Childhood Links
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann ♦ Start a Home School Preschool Co-Op ♦ Using Music Education Techniques in Your Toddler/Preschool Storytime ♦ Start a Preschool Storytime Program/ Story Hour at Your Library ♦ Preschool Story Hour Ideas: Using Storytime Themes In a Sample Lesson ♦ Great Read-Aloud Children's Books with Reviews and Sample Lesson Plans ♦ Goldilocks And the Three Bears Preschool Creative Drama Activity ♦ Music Education Techniques to Use in Your Toddler/Preschool Story Hour ♦
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