Room on the Broom, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler
This is a delightful and delightfully sing-songy story about a witch who welcomes all who ask for a ride on her broom, and in the end she is repaid for her kindness. Julia Donaldson also wrote The Gruffalo, which I wrote about in my first post. I love her books because she has an impeccable sense of rhyme and rhythm and she writes truly engaging stories. This is a perfect story for Halloween because it’s about a witch (a good witch) who gets threatened by a fierce (but not so fierce) dragon and is rescued by her clever animal friends. But it’s also a good story for anytime because it very subtly depicts the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The witch’s broom is suited for only person of course, but she willingly gives a ride to the animals that ask and thereby wins their friendship and loyalty. Then when she needs help, although the threat is great (a fire-breathing dragon), they stick by her. All of the children I know love this book, and the colorful illustrations provide an entertaining visual. And in case you want actual credentials, Room on the Broom is a national bestseller.
Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody, written and illustrated by Michael Rex
This book has excellent credentials as well seeing as it was a #1 New York Times bestseller! More importantly, it’s very cute and funny, and on principle I love children’s books that parody other children’s books. Goodnight Goon is like a Halloween version of the ever-popular Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Truth be told, I never really got into Goodnight Moon. I find it bizarre in a way I can’t appreciate (usually I’m a fan of the bizarre), but I’m well-aware that parents and children all over the country revere the bedtime book. I prefer Goodnight Goon because it makes more sense to me, and it’s humorous. A monkey-looking vampire/werewolf hybrid (I’m not really sure what it is) is trying to go to sleep in his tomb but it’s infiltrated with all kinds of creepy, ghoulish characters. He bids goodnight to them one-by-one and stuffs them into their sleeping quarters, and finally all can go to sleep. The best part of the book is the vibrant and comical illustrations (a few are downright creepy!) – perfect for Halloween! Parents will get a kick out of the way Michael Rex mimics the text of Goodnight Moon, especially parents like me who think Goodnight Moon is kind of weird in the first place.
Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown
Yet another book on the honor roll; Creepy Carrots was awarded the Caldecott Honor in 2013. It’s an unusual book, and I wasn’t convinced at first that it deserves all of its rave reviews and high accolades (I’m a tough critic!) But Creepy Carrots grew on me and now I can see its merits. One of its draws is the lovely aesthetic of the illustrations. They’re in a smudgy black, gray, and white with subtle pops of orange – perfect for Halloween! And the story presents the very real and very prevalent kids’ fear of being stalked or haunted by something scary that is invisible to everyone else. You know, the monsters under the bed, the goblins in the closet, the sinister shadows in the near-darkness. Writing this recommendation is reminding me of how terrified I felt at times of things that I couldn’t even name (some fears I could identify, namely Freddy Krueger!). I’m not sure that kids would want to relive their fears through a children’s book, but the clever thing that Reynolds does is make the threat into something overtly ridiculous and nonthreatening, like carrots. Jasper the rabbit is being stalked by the carrots from the patch he frequents for snacks, and of course his parents can’t see the creepy, creeping carrots. In the end Jasper finds a way to vanquish his fear, and the carrots’ reaction to Jasper’s solution is a clever twist. This is a worthwhile storybook in and of itself, but it could also be a good gateway to discussing and working through your children’s fears.
A Halloween Scare in Texas, written by Eric James and illustrated by Marina La Ray
Eric James is an Englishman but he has written over fifty versions of this book for various American locales. It’s not a brilliant book, but it’s cute and funny and we’re always being told to “go local”, especially here in Austin. It’s definitely kind of gimmicky (re: over fifty American versions), but Eric James has written a bunch of clever and catchy rhymes which evoke colorful images. I enjoy reading this book aloud and I think that both parents and preschool/elementary kids will enjoy reading/hearing it. The narrator is a boy who is cowering in his room on Halloween night and warily observing the trick-or-treaters outside and the guests at his parents’ Halloween party. His vivid imagination causes him to perceive the trick-or-treaters and party guests as actual ghouls, ghosts, and goblins. He claims to be terrified of them all until his dad, dressed as a monster, notices him spying and gives him a big monster cuddle. My favorite part of the book, aside from the amusing illustrations, is when the boy’s dad gives him the trophy for scariest costume: a small human child! Your kid may not get the joke, but you’ll get a chuckle and feel forced to nod vigorously in agreement. My second favorite part is the name of a diner in the boy’s town: “Texas Toast”. Hilarious. That’s what you get when an Englishman writes a book about Texas.