April 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Bewitching Tales | Great Books for Halloween

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

Perfect for sharing aloud, these captivating stories offer up ghosts, ghouls, and giggles galore.
Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat. By Doreen Cronin. Illus. by Betsy Lewin. S & S/Atheneum. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-6553-4. PreS–Gr 1.

Farmer Brown hates Halloween and holes up in his house, unaware that his farmyard animals are brewing up a shindig. Mysterious sounds fill the air, a dark creature lurks outside, and something is “tap, tap, tapping” on the door. Gathering his courage, he discovers a message“Halloween party at the barn!”left with a “quack, quack, quackle” by a vampire-cape-wearing duck. Onomatopoetic phrases and moonlit cartoon artwork build just enough shiver, while the satisfying ending (and a glimpse at Farmer Brown’s moon-and-stars long johns) will leave youngsters smiling.

Five Little Monkeys Trick-or-Treat. By Eileen Christelow. Clarion. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-85893-7; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-85909-5. PreS–K.

While out trick-or-treating, the mischief-loving siblings try to fool their babysitter by switching costumes with friends. However, the prank falls flat when astute Lulu hurries the imposters home for a big Halloween treat, and the re-outfitted monkeys believe that they will be left out of the fun. All ends well with a gentle scolding from Mama, and eyeball cookies and worm juice for everyone (recipe appended). Christelow’s vibrant artwork and lighthearted silliness are spot-on in this fine addition to a kid-favorite series.

Ghost in the House. By Ammi-Joan Paquette. Illus. by Adam Record. Candlewick. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5529-7. PreS–Gr 2.

Gliding through a creepy house on a spooky night, a wide-eyed ghost is frightened by a mysterious “Groan!”…until the noisemaker is revealed to be a smiling mummy. Tension builds as the late-night prowling continues, and the friends are joined by a monster, a skeleton, and a witch (each introduced by a scary sound and suspenseful page turn). But beware, the most frightening creature is yet to come: a pajama-wearing boy. Bouncing rhymes, bold artwork, and endearingly depicted ghouls make this counting book a read-aloud must.

Halloween Hustle. By Charlotte Gunnufson. Illus. by Kevan J. Atteberry. Amazon/Two Lions. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1477817230. PreS–Gr 1.

Wearing a jack-o’-lantern-print shirt and a mile-wide smile, Skeleton is finger-snapping and toe-tip-tapping his way to Ghost’s Halloween party, but keeps tripping over things and falling all to pieces (“Bones scatter! What a clatter! Spine is broken like a ladder!”). Never fear, with the help of rubber bands, tape, twine, and finally Ghoul Glue (gently applied by a skeleton guest), he is back in jump-and-jive form just in time for the dance contest. Buoyant artwork accompanies the rollicking verses of this crowd-pleaser.

How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? By Wendell Minor. Illus. by author. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24684-5. K–Gr 2.

Minor’s lively text and handsome autumn-hued artwork prove the sky’s the limit. Full spreads showcase increasingly gargantuan jack-o’-lanterns that aggrandize famous American landmarksa “gigantic” pumpkin blocks traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, a “mighty” specimen is equal in size to the Mount Rushmore presidents, and a “colossal” orange behemoth fills the Grand Canyon (brief facts about the 14 featured sites are appended). The soft, realistic paintings make the surprising and somewhat spooky additions all the more awe-inspiring. A vocabulary-fortifying and imagination-stirring treat.

Skeleton for Dinner. By Margery Cuyler. Illus. by Will Terry. Albert Whitman. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-7398-3. PreS–Gr 2.

Eager to share their just-brewed stew, two witches decide to invite their friends to dinner; however, a misunderstanding has Skeleton, Ghost, and Ghoul convinced that they are ingredients rather than guests, resulting in a madcap getaway. It takes clear-thinking Crow to sort things out and guarantee a happy ending. This humorous read-aloud pairs a tongue-tingling narrative with dusk-hued artwork and packed-with-personality characters.

Spooky Friends. By Jane Feder. Illus. by Julie Downing. Scholastic. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-47815-1; pap. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-545-47816-8. PreS–Gr 1.

Although they argue about almost everything, from snack choices to the perfect name for a pet kitten, Scarlet and Igor can agree on one important truth: they are the very best of friends. Starring a vivacious pigtailed vampire and a chubby mummy, this sweetly rendered easy reader presents a positive message about getting along that will speak volumes to little monsters everywhere.

Ten Orange Pumpkins: A Counting Book. By Stephen Savage. Illus. by author. Dial. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3938-3. PreS–Gr 2.

Savage’s rhyming verses and spookily spectacular illustrations reveal how 10 fresh-off-the-vine gourds vanish in eerily appropriate waysspirited away by mummy or ghost, stolen by skeleton pirates, mixed into a bubbling witches’ brew, or carved into glowing jack-o’-lantern. Featuring glossy black silhouettes and gleaming color contrasts, the slick graphic artwork blends ominous atmosphere with playful details, including an inquisitive cat that appears on every spread.

Trick-or-Treat: A Happy Haunter’s Halloween. By Debbie Leppanen. Illus. by Tad Carpenter. S & S/Beach Lane. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-3398-4; ebook $11.76. ISBN 9781442433991. K–Gr 3.

From a humorous take on bumps in the night (“I hear a scream, could it be…Wait, that noise came from me!”) to a look at a trick-or-treating Frankenstein (“Knock, knock. Is that a mask? Close the door and just don’t ask”), 15 short and snappy poems treat Halloween themes with a tone that leans more toward light than fright. The smile-inducing selections are enhanced by neon-hued cartoon illustrations that present a “boo’s who” of costumed children and not-too-menacing monsters.

A Very Witchy Spelling Bee. By George Shannon. Illus. by Mark Fearing. Harcourt. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-15-206696-3. Gr 1–4.

Likable young Cordelia spends all of her time spelling, studying how to spell words, practicing magic spells, and combining the two (changing C-A-T into C-O-A-T, for example) in order to win the Witches’ Double Spelling Bee. However, current champion Beulah Divine, a crotchety 203-year-old, is committed to keeping her crown. It comes down to a nail-biting final round, but Cordelia proves her mettle by cleverly utilizing an “R” to transform her adversary from F-I-E-N-D to F-R-I-E-N-D. Illustrated with hilarious artwork, this tale of orthography and perseverance zings with witty wordplay and bewitching inventiveness.

Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.