Halloween is quite possibly one of children’s most beloved holidays. They love to scare themselves, dress up in costumes, and best of all, go trick-or-treating. Luckily, there are plenty of great kids books available to add to the excitement.
- Little Critter by Mercer Mayer
Little Critter is possibly my most favorite book character of all-time. I have enjoyed Mercer Mayer’s character since I was a young child.
The original Little Critter Halloween story is Trick-or-Treat, Little Critter and is by Gina and Mercer Mayer. The story follows Little Critter as he and his sister go shopping for their Halloween costumes, pick out their pumpkins, and celebrate Halloween. In typical Mercer Mayer fashion, the voice of Little Critter is uniquely childlike, and the illustrations demonstrate both the child’s point-of-view, as well as an adult’s.
Another Little Critter Halloween story is Happy Halloween, Little Critter! by Mercer Mayer. In this story, Little Critter is invited to a Halloween party and encounters a bunch of scary creatures. Turn the flap to discover which of Little Critter’s friends is hiding under each scary mask. This book is great for demonstrating that real people are usually hiding under those scary costumes.
Then, if you enjoy those books, you can also check out Mercer Mayer’s Critters of the Night series, written by Erica Farber and J. R. Sansevere. This series features characters created by Mercer Mayer that are “scary”, yet endearing at the same time. For example, in Purple Pickle Juice, young Thistle Howl is so anxious to grow up that she enlists the help of Auntie Bell, a which, to concoct a potion that will make her grow. In Alice in Wonderland fashion, Thistle first grows too large, then too small, before deciding that her current size is just right.
- Clifford by Norman Bridwell
Clifford is another timeless, favorite character. Starting in the 1960s, Norman Bridwell wrote about the beloved red dog who is bigger than a house. Thirty years later he started writing about Clifford’s early days as a puppy so small that he usually got lost. Children can currently watch Clifford on PBS.
My first Clifford book was called Clifford’s Halloween. It was in black and white, except Clifford himself was colored in red. Emily Elizabeth, Clifford’s owner, tells about the fun that they have throughout all of the holidays, but that Halloween is his favorite. She tries dressing him up in a variety of costumes before settling on a big ghost. And then their fun begins. Now, you can get the same book in a full-color version.
Flash back to Clifford’s early days by reading Clifford’s First Halloween. Again, Emily Elizabeth turns Clifford into a ghost. But then at the party, little Clifford gets himself into familiar trouble as he gets lost, being so small.
Norman Bridwell didn’t only write books about the beloved red dog. He has another Halloween story called The Witch Next Door. In this story, the little girl, who looks remarkably like Emily Elizabeth, tells how she has figured out that the woman who lives next door is in fact a witch. But though she is a witch, she is actually one of the kindest people in the neighborhood. Other people in the neighborhood protest, so the which turns them into a prince and princess and talks about being good boys and girls. You can easily turn this into a lesson on good manners and being kind to others.
- Arthur by Marc Brown
Arthur is another beloved character who has been around for over thirty years, and is watched by children daily on PBS.
In Arthur’s Halloween, Arthur and his friends are dressed up to go trick-or-treating. Of course, his little, annoying sister D.W. must go with them. As they are out and about, D.W. takes off and goes into the old house where the neighborhood witch lives. When Arthur goes after his sister to protect her, he discovers that the witch is actually just a kind, lonely old woman who hasn’t been able to keep up the old mansion on her own. And the children discover the joy of helping others.
- Halloween twists on favorite songs and rhymes.
A favorite kids song is “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”. Lucille Colandro has adapted this favorite for Halloween by making it There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! Starting with a bat, the old lady swallows one scary creature after another, each designed to catch the previous one. She ends with the wizard who casts a spell so that she can yell out “Trick or Treat” and expel everything she has swallowed. The illustration of this expulsion is a definite kid-favorite.
Another favorite kids song is “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”. Marcia Vaughan has turned this beloved song into We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt. A couple of kids dressed in Halloween costumes go out searching for a ghost. They make their way through a swamp, a haunted house, past bats, and past skeletons, to go into a cave where they find……a ghost! Rapidly making their way back home, they run back into the safety of Mom’s arms, with a subtly surprising ending.
- The Teeny Tiny books.
The original Teeny Tiny story is The Teeny Tiny Woman. It’s a classic English Halloween story that has been retold time and time again. The copy that I have is by Arthur Robins. In this story, a teeny tiny woman goes out for a walk. On her excursion, she comes across a teeny tiny bone that she brings home with which to make some soup. As she settles into bed, a voice starts calling out “Give me my bone!” The teeny tiny woman gets more and more frightened as the voice gets louder and louder, until she can’t stand it anymore and yells out for it to “TAKE IT!” The kids love calling out “Give me my bone!” with the story.
A version of this classic story is Stephanie Calmenson’s The Teeny Tiny Teacher. In this version, the teeny tiny teacher takes her teeny tiny students outside to collect teeny tiny things. And the teeny tiny teacher, of course, finds a bone. She hides it in the closet and attempts to continue on their educational journey. The closet starts rattling and a voice starts calling out for the bone to be returned. The teeny tiny children get scared, hiding under the desks, until the teeny tiny teacher finally yells out, “TAKE IT!”
Make these stories more memorable by making up your own teeny tiny voice that you use while reading.
- Another Little Old Lady.
Another classic favorite of mine and my students is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams. In this story, a little old lady is walking in the forest to collect nuts, herbs, seeds, and spices. On her way, she encounters many items in her path, presumably there to scare her. She isn’t afraid of the items when they are in front of her, and dismissively passes them all. But then she can hear each item following her, starts walking faster, and when she gets home she slams the door shut. A knock on her door shows all the items there, trying to scare her. And she comes up with a great, non-scary idea for them.
Kids love this book because the musical language illustrating the sounds following the little old lady are easy to recreate and it is interactive.
- Popcorn by Frank Asch
Popcorn by Frank Asch is another thirty year-old classic Halloween story. Sam’s parents are going out for the night, and he is having a few friends over to celebrate the holiday. Each one of his friends brings over some popcorn. They put all of the popcorn into a kettle on the stove, not realizing that popcorn pops much larger than the kernels. Before they know it, the house is completely filled with popcorn and the friends need to eat their way out so that Sam doesn’t get into trouble. None of them want to ever eat another piece of popcorn again. And when Sam’s parents come home, of course they have brought him popcorn. Kids love popcorn, and they love this book.
- Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz
No holiday is complete without a Charlie Brown story. Over forty years ago, Charles M. Schulz created the beloved story about Linus and his blue blanket waiting all night in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, skips the night’s festivities to wait with her Sweet Baboo for a glimpse of his hero. Everyone else thinks he is crazy, but Linus holds firm. All they find is Snoopy. But Linus remains undeterred and swears that next year he will finally meet his hero.
A few book versions of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown exist. The 35th anniversary edition is one that is written in a prose fashion, as opposed to a comic book format, and therefore easier to read to a group of children. It is a little long, though, making it harder for the really young to sit through. Older children do well with it.
- The Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Berenstain’s first scary story was The Berenstain Bears and the Ghost of the Forest. The cubs go camping with the Scouts in the forest. Papa Bear decides to try to scare the cubs by dressing up as a ghost, only to get scared by another creature.
Young children love the rhyming of this story as they try to discover who is under each costume.
Another classic Berenstain Bears scary story is The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat. The children create a specific map outlining their route and review safety rules. Similar to the Arthur story, the friends come across a scary old house where a witch supposedly lives and end up discovering that she is actually a sweet old woman in need of friends.
This story is a little longer, and harder for the really young preschooler to sit through. Again, older children do well with it.
Berenstain Bears are also found on PBS.
Winnie-the-Pooh has also been a favorite character for decades. You can find the cartoon on the Disney Channels. A plethora of stories based on A. A. Milne’s beloved character exist.
In the little Golden Book called Trick or Treat, Pooh and Piglet dress up as a totem pole, because Piglet is afraid. As they go out and about, they encounter all kinds of scary creatures, only to discover that their friends are underneath.
In the Winnie the Pooh First Reader called Pooh’s Halloween Parade, Pooh is hosting a Halloween party. As each dressed up friend appears, they get scared until they see who is underneath. When everyone arrives and everyone realizes there is nothing to fear, they finally get their parade together and have fun.
The Magic School Bus in the Haunted Museum: A Book About Sound. In this story, based on the PBS tv series. Ms. Frizzle is taking the class to the Sound Museum when the bus suddenly breaks down and they find themselves at a haunted house. As they explore, they learn how sound is formed, how it travels, and different kinds of sound. It’s a great educational book that is easier to read out loud to a group than the original series.
The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons is a beautiful, educational book about how to grow pumpkins as well as the history of their use in our holidays. Gail Gibbons provides a lot of information in an easy-to-understand format.
hist whist by e.e. cummings is a classic poem illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray. It’s meant to be read in a whisper and the pictures beautifully illustrate e.e. cummings’ enchanting words.
Julius’s Candy Corn by Kevin Henkes features the little mouse from Julius, Baby of the World, little sister of Lilly, of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse fame. His friends are due to come over for a party and his mother has instructed him to not eat the cupcakes. Instead, he simply counts the candy corns on top, and discovers he has eaten them. It’s short and sweet.
Franklin’s Halloween by Paulette Bourgeois is a book featuring the darling little turtle, who used to be on tv. Franklin dresses up as Frankenstein and goes to a Halloween party with a bunch of his friends. It shows how some of the scary things are actually created by adults, such as pretend haunted houses.
The Count Counts Scary Things by Stephanie St. Pierre isn’t actually a Halloween book, but it is fun to read at this time of year. Practice counting from one to ten with Sesame Street’s count. For added fun, mimic the Count’s unique voice.
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone is another classic that isn’t a Halloween story, but fun to read at this time of year. Throughout the story, Grover is begging you to not turn the pages, because there is a monster at the end of the book, and he is afraid! And of course, he ends up being the monster at the end of the book. In the sequel Another Monster at the End of This Book, also by Jon Stone, features both Grover and Elmo.