Friday, November 15, 2013

Finding "Just Right" Halloween Books

It's not hard to find picture books intended for use at Halloween. Period. Kids love them all year long, because kids love Halloween. Despite popularity, though, many are titles that strike a single note for the holiday; it's their only purpose. There's nothing wrong with that.But I'm really a fan of books that can push our holiday buttons yet have more to offer all year round. The are excellent examples. Sadly, they are out of print and tricky to find.

Simon & Schuster, 2012

I'm happy to share several recent releases that have this year-roubd quality, starting with , written by and illustrated by . I'm not alone in praising this 2013 Caldecott Honor Book. It's a New York Times Bestseller and a Notable Children's Book. Some reviews:"Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review. "A spot-on parody of a paranoid thriller"--Publishers Weekly, starred review.The gray-scape spreads and brilliantly manic carrot-characters bring a Twilight Zone tone to this book that both entertains and presents an object lesson with humor and charm.

Dial, 2013

CREEPY CARROTS is a winner with every age. On the other hand, , written and illustrated by , works best with the youngest children. Comforting in spite of being loaded with iconic Halloween images, its year-round appeal offers repeated experiences withcounting, color, and rhymes. In fact, it's one of the few "countdown" texts that keeps kids coming back.

Henry Holt & Co. (BYR), 2013

Also a hit with the youngest, but nudging up in age with audiences, is , written and illustrated by .This approach to "it's okay to be different" is especially appealing for the creative visual images of monsters, and it's a message that never grows old. I can't help but picture some Halloween costume inspirations lurking within its pages.

Holiday House, 2013

And then along comes written by , illustrated by. Based on an old family story, this dark and intensely illustrated "scary" story is aimed at older readers. There is considerably more text than typical in younger books, images are seriously spooky, and the historic setting plays a significant role. Older readers are also likely to draw comparisons to the Headless Horseman. It will make a sensational read-aloud, especially if the tellers adopt McKissack's advice to accompany the clip-clops (and escalating clippety-cloppities) with slaps of their laps. This is a title treading a fine line between fun-scary and freaked-out-scary. The object lesson involved is clear, suggesting there are greater forces in the world that will extract justice in the end.

Whoever the intended audience may be, consider keeping these out and accessible (on the shelves, in the storytime stack, or circulating among the group over time. Each offers rich illustrations that extend and intrigue, each benefits from repeated reading, including aloud, and each can serve as mentor text for story writing/telling.

Any favorites among your collections that are especially suited to Halloween?
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