For most kids, Halloween is about scary costumes and a bag full of candy. But, for 2019, there are also several good books for the occasion.
Brandy Allport, who reviews books for The Florida Times-Union, has scoured the new releases for Fall 2019 and has selected six to recommend for a wide range of reading levels.
“I always say there are kind of two versions of Halloween,” said Allport, who recently stopped by the WUWF studios to talk about her picks. “There’s the fuzzy, zany, Muppet kind of Halloween that’s for the younger children and you don’t want to scare them too much. Then they get older, and it sort of gets PG-13. So, it’s gory, creepy, and ghoulish, and I want to be scared.”
Each of the recommended books have great illustrations, which enhance the reading experience.
Allport says reading is good for children, no matter the occasion.
Benefits can include extra credit in class. Additionally, she says the physical contact that comes with holding young children and reading to them, aids in the formation of their memories. Specifically in relation to kids’ memories of Halloween, she asks, “Don’t you want reading and books to be a part of that?” Her answer is, “I think we do.”
Read Brandy Allport's Halloween book reviews below.
Read All About It: A children’s book review column
New titles enhance Halloween spirit
By Brandy Hilboldt Allport
Florida Times-Union GateHouse Media
As you shop for costumes and candy, check out the latest Halloween books, too. Whether you want a not-so-scary choice to delight the picture book crowd or something a bit more goosebump-inducing, selections abound. Consider these six titles that range from silly and sweet to credibly creepy.
Giggles and guffaws: Jump right in on Page 1 of “Laugh-Out-Loud Halloween Jokes: Lift the Flap” by Rob Elliott.
Q: Why wouldn’t the monster eat the clown?
A: He tasted funny.
Q: What do you get when you cross a vampire with a snowman?
Questions appear on the left-side pages. Answers appear under the flaps on the right. Exuberant and colorful illustrations by Anna Chernyshova accompany everything. Elliot’s popular Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids series expanded to include this edition for the youngest readers. Whether your children read it aloud to you, or you read it to them, expect chuckles.
When you read it again -- requests will ensue -- pore over the details in the pictures. Notice, for instance, the bats hovering over the “boo-tiful” girl as they apply hairspray. On another page, a boogie man dances under a disco ball, and a mummy dons a fedora. When you read it again for a third or sixth time, make a game of looking for the cheeky spider who takes part in the action somewhere on every double page spread. (HarperCollins, $6.99, ages 4 to 7.)
Rhyme time: Review basics of transforming a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern in “Pick a Pumpkin” by Patricia Toht. Jarvis, a one-named artist who lives in Manchester England, illustrates this charming story with chalk, paint and pencil. Rhythmic text entertains and informs in this how-to guide for the process, starting with a visit to the patch.
“Now… brush or wipe your pumpkin clean. Rub it smooth and make it gleam. Find the perfect carving space, lined with paper just in case you make a mess. Next… gather other things you need: a bowl, a spoon for scooping seeds, a tool to trace a spooky face, and plastic saws for cutting shapes. Then…
Certain phrases woven into the text provide gentle reminders about supervision. “Set it safely on the ground, and call the crew to gather round. Ask someone to strike a match. Watch! The candles wick will catch.”
“Pick a Pumpkin” celebrates community spirit as it highlights other seasonal traditions, such as decorating with spider webs, tombstones, “dangling bats, skeletons and witches’ hats.” (Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 5 to 8)
Word play fun: A stormy night reveals a complete set of bones scattered across the ocean floor. An amiable skeleton with a wide smile speaks to readers directly in “Give Me Back My Bones!” by Kim Norman. Cartoonish illustrations by Bob Kolar add to the rollicking tone of the book, making it instructive as well as enjoyable.
“… I need my gnaw bone, my chicken-chomping saw bone. I’ll starve without my jawbone. I miss my mandible… Who can spot my spot my shoulder blade, my shrugging jacket-holder blade, my shiver-when I’m colder blade? Oh, scapula come back.”
If you like “My Bones,” and want to try some of Norman’s year-round fare, look for “Puddle Pug” or “The Bot that Scott Built.”(Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 6 to 9).
Boo! Who? A zombie called Ghoulia grows confused one night when her cousin Dilbert and five of her friends show up unexpectedly for dinner. That is the premise of “Ghoulia and the Mysterious Visitor” by writer and illustrator Barbara Cantini. Everyone including the fussy Dilbert arrives carrying an identical invitation that Ghoulia never sent. Auntie Departed is nowhere to be found, and soon, Ghoulia’s friends begin disappearing, too. What gives?
Fans of Ghoulia can go back to the first title in this chapter book series, “Making Friends Can Be Scary.” Both books have a Halloween-like setting complete with a dog named Tragedy and a cat called Shadow. Oh, and “Visitor features a carnivorous plant. Plotlines and messages about taking chances, reaching out to others and never complaining ring true every day of the year (Amulet Books, $12.99, ages 8 and older).
Ghouls, goblins and more: “The Big Book of Monsters: The Creepiest Creatures from Classic Literature” by Hal Johnson features 25 beasts from around the globe. Each garners its own chapter illustrated in color by cartoonist and animator Tim Sievert.
A preface by the editor states: As the world changes, some fears are put to rest, but new ones will always arise. And as long as there is something to fear, there will be monsters. A final word of caution before you turn the page. Be careful, and trust no one. Sometime even the friendliest face can hide a monster. (I’m looking at you Dorian Gray.)
Besides the page or two of prose and a list of relevant details (category of monster, base of operations, time frame, powers and most dastardly deed), there is a Beyond the Book section that explores related material such a historical timeline of literary characters that influenced the creation of Dracula, a summary of dragons in Greek mythology and a review of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” written by an anonymous prison inmate and published in the New York Times. “Big Book of Monsters” is well-researched, graphically pleasing and eminently readable. (Workman, $16.95 (ages 12 and older.)
Creepy! The title “Ghost: Thirteen Haunting Tales to Tell” bears a self-explanatory title. The author and illustrator are listed as Illustratus. Illustratus is a California based company composed of five authors and illustrators who all work in the animation industry: Jeff Turley, Kit Turley, Chris Sasaki, Jesse Reffsin and Blaise Hemingway. This is the chilling stuff of traditional campfire tales: a finger tapping on a mirror, woods in which the trees have eyes and a basement door blocked by a brick wall so thick it stifles screams from below. As the book jacket states: This collection… is perfect for sharing, if you dare.” (Chronicle Books, $21.99, ages 13 and older.)