Friday, October 5, 2007

Great Halloween Read-Alouds for Little Listeners

I used to have a great time sharing Halloween tales in my library during the month of October. I’d turn off the overhead lights, switch on my electric jack-o-lanterns, let the children settle into the right mood, and start reading.

Here are the titles of some books in verse that are just right for reading to little listeners at this time of the year.

Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Susan Meddaugh
Clarion, 1990

Here’s how Bunting’s book begins:

This is the house where scary ones hide.
Open this door and step softly inside.

And what do readers find inside the haunted house?
An organ playing music but no one is there fingering the keys. There are ghosts and witches and bats hanging from an old chandelier. There’s a mummy lying on a bed and a skeleton rattling his bones in a closet. To be sure, there are plenty of scary things in this haunted house which has been all decked out for Halloween with the capable hands of illustrator Susan Meddaugh.

Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Jan Brett
Clarion, 1986

In this Halloween oldie that is still in print, Jan Brett used a dark, and sometimes stark black background, to set the “scary” tone for this rhyming book. In the first two-page spread, we see two large green and black cat’s eyes staring out at us from the darkness.

Here are the beginning lines of this book:

I peer outside, there’s something there
That makes me shiver, spikes my hair.
It must be Halloween.

A skeleton with bones so white
They gleam and glimmer in the night,
Has come for Halloween.

Then we come upon a ghost, a vampire, a werewolf, two witches, goblins and gremlins, a devil, and a mummy—all the creatures kids would expect to hear about in a Halloween story. Of course, they really aren’t witches and frightening creatures—they’re just trick-or-treaters enjoying a scary night out.

Written & Illustrated by Denise Fleming
Henry Holt, 2001

Fleming has created a visually stunning book for Halloween. Everything In Pumpkin Eye is set against a dark background that fills up each two-page spread. There are no white borders or colored frames. Children really get drawn into the nighttime setting of this brief Halloween tale that I often read aloud two or three times to each preschool class. My students often left the library chanting some of the lines from the book:

Trick or treat—
pounding feet,
eerie shadows
fill the street.

Swooping bats,
hissing cats…
tattered rags,
toothless hags,
pointed tails,
blood-red nails.

Trick or treat—
pounding feet,
wretched witches
roam the street.

Pumpkin Eye is one great book to read aloud to young children. Kids love the rhyming verses and the illustrations!

Written & Illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Albert Whitman, 2000

This book is about jungle animals making preparations for and then enjoying themselves at a fun-filled Halloween party at which…

They sing and dance
in jungle beat
and eat and eat
and eat and EAT!

Jungle Candy
Jungle Cake
Jungle Ice Cream
Jungle Ache!

After their jungle celebration, the tired animals all head off to sleep. The palette of bright colors Cocca-Leffler used for this book is fitting for a festive occasion like this party. Jungle Halloween is one Halloween tale sure not to send shivers up a young child’s spine.

Written by Richard Michelson
Illustrated by Adam McCauley
Harcourt, 2006

In this adaptation of Michelson earlier book Did You Say Ghosts?, the setting is nighttime in the bedroom of a young brother and his sister. They’re trying to be quiet so they don’t wake up their father. They hear a sound. What could it be?

The brother reassures his sister that it’s not a ghost.

His little sister says:
Ghosts? Oh no, not ghosts!

The brother answers:
There’s no such thing as ghosts.
I guarantee it…well, almost.

Besides, if one sneaked up on you
And tried to scare you with a BOO,

I’d dress up like a werewolf,
And scare that ghost right through the door.

At the mention of werewolves, the little sister’s thoughts turn to those monstrous creatures.

And so it goes…from werewolves to giants, from giants to demons—and then to witches, black cats, skeletons…and finally to a hairy, double-scary creature, which appears in the next to last illustration as a tall shadow in the doorway. Who…or what…is this being? Why, it’s none other than their father--whom they evidently woke up with all their talk about scary things that go bump in the night.

Adam McCauley’s mixed media illustrations provide the right amount of spookiness with touches of humor. He transforms the children’s bedroom into a scary land of their imaginings. This new version of Michelson’s Did You Say Ghosts? is likely to be a hit with children.

Written Laura Leuck
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler
Walker & Company, 2003

This is a fine counting book to read to preschoolers at Halloween time. In this book,

One witch
on a hill
had an empty pot
to fill.

The witch visits her friends—two cats, three scarecrows, four goblins, five vampires, six mummies, seven owls, eight ghosts, nine skeletons, and ten werewolves. They all provide her with such ghastly ingredients as slimy slugs, a musty moth, fresh blood juice, and a rattlesnake—just the right fixings for a gruesome brew, which she cooks up in her pot. The witch sends her trusty bats off with invitations to ten werewolves/in their caves/nine skeletons in their graves, etc. , to all her friends who contributed the gross ingredients of her party brew.

What did all
her good friends do?

They came and ate
that gruesome brew.

loved it too!)
They saved the last bowl
just for…


Schindler’s watercolor illustrations are just ghoulish enough to entice young children to emit happy shrieks of fear and excitement while listening to a parent, teacher, or librarian read this winning counting book aloud.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Whimsy Books this week.


Tricia said...

William and I have been reading Halloween books for weeks now. He's so excited. We love In the Haunted House, and I bought One Witch based on of your recommendations, and it is a favorite too!
I'll be thinking of you tomorrow and sending good thoughts for a fabulous showing of snowflakes.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I hope you have a great time in Chicago. I am really looking forward to seeing the 2007 snowflakes in person!

Anonymous said...

I swear, your poetry Friday posts have sooooo much energy. I'm wowed.

tanita✿davis said...

You're in time for Bradbury Season, Elaine! These are such fun.

Elaine Magliaro said...


Thanks. I love children's poetry and pictures books. I hope it comes through in my posts.


Children love Halloween books. I really enjoyed Bradbury Season with kids in my school library and classroom.

When my daughter was little, she got almost as excited in the weeks prior to Halloween as she did the weeks before Christmas.

John Mutford said...

When I saw this topic at Whimsy's I just had to make sure the Eve Bunting book was there. Congrats, you passed my test. I now believe your other choices are great too!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I'd like to know which Eve Bunting book you're talking about--IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE or SCARY, SCARY HALLOWEEN? And I'm glad I passed your test!

JT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.