For many children, Halloween is one of their favorite holidays. They love dressing up, and I’m sure the thought of all the candy they’ll get at parties and trick-or-treating also helps make this a favorite holiday.
If you have a child in your life who loves Halloween, take advantage of that interest to share a Halloween story or poem with them. Whether it’s a little spooky or perfectly sweet, you are certain to find one that will strike just the right chord with your young reader among the abundant selection of classic favorites and new titles.
I am a sucker for authors who take a story I know and love and put a surprising twist on it. I also love children’s picture books that rhyme, and books that make me laugh. Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters, by Rachel Kolar, checks all those boxes for me, and I just love it! Kolar takes familiar nursery rhymes and puts a ghoulish spin on them. “Mary Had a Little Lamb” becomes “Mary Had a Little Ghost,” and “Little Miss Muffet” becomes “Zombie Miss Muffet.” While some, like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Lantern Jack,” are sweet rhymes that even toddlers will enjoy, others, like “Zombie Miss Muffet,” are best suited for the elementary school crowd, who will better appreciate the slightly dark humor.
In Fright School, when the midnight bell strikes, little ghosts, goblins, bats, zombies, witches, and vampires head to school to learn all they need to know to prepare to scare on Halloween. In this tale by Janet Lawler, mummies practice moaning sounds, werewolves learn to spike their hair, and ghouls practice their scary faces. After passing a test at the end of the term, all the little monsters are ready for Halloween night. But when they see their first trick-or-treaters, the monsters forget everything they’ve learned in school and run off, terrified of the children in their princess and cowboy costumes.
Monster Academy, by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple, has a different take on what happens at monster school. Less about learning how to scare, Monster Academy is a school where mummies, vampires, and monsters of all shapes and sizes can be themselves in all their weirdness while they enjoy math, maker lab, lunch, and recess. When a new monster shows up at school, they know immediately that Jo is the worst monster ever but have no idea they may have an imposter in their midst. What will they do when they discover the truth? It’s hard to say - monsters are full of surprises!
For older elementary school readers who enjoy creepy stories, Ghoulia, by Barbara Cantini, may be just the thing. Ghoulia feels perfectly normal, but, compared with other children, she is very different: pale skin, huge eyes with dark shadows underneath, and then there’s the fact that her body parts can easily be pulled off. As Ghoulia explains early on, “Making friends can be scary ... if you’re a zombie.” Ghoulia lives in a creepy old house, and what she wants more than anything is to make friends with the children who live nearby. When Ghoulia hears of Halloween and how children dress in costumes, she knows this is the solution to her problem. On Halloween night, she can go out as herself and everyone will think she is simply in a costume! But problems come up when Ghoulia gets so comfortable around the other children that she reveals her true self.
This column originally appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper and is reprinted here with permission.