What would Margaret Wise Brown think if she saw “Goodnight Goon”? Probably laugh herself silly…just like my sons do every time we read this soon-to-be Halloween classic. Michael Rex already followed in Brown’s footsteps with “Runaway Mummy” and now we can giggle ourselves to sleep with “Goodnight skull/And goodnight shoe/Goodnight creature/Goodnight goo/And goodnight to the old werewolf hollering ‘Boo.'” My boys love the words and the illustrations and were fascinated by the fact that an author can take something old(er) and make it new(er). A valuable lesson for readers young and old(er).
For anyone who has marveled at the words and illustrations of Jon Muth (of “Zen Shorts” and “Zen Ties” fame), or for those of us who just can’t resist a giant panda named Stillwater, you’re in luck. Muth has just published his next entry into the Zen series – right in time for Halloween. “Zen Ghosts” follows our same characters, Stillwater, Addy, Michael and Karl as they trick-or-treat for candy and then are treated with scary stories from a mysterious visitor. These books are utterly gorgeous both textually and graphically…and my children just adore them. Happy reading!
While it may not be a Halloween book, per se, no spooky book list should neglect to include Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” – one of my (and my sons) all time favorites. Not only do we get to meet a cigar-smoking Norwegian grandmother, but we encounter ladies with itchy scalps, quite a few references to dog poo (and really, who could resist that!?!) and several reasons for your children not to bathe regularly. The coupling of Roald Dahl and long-time illustrator Quentin Blake is a marriage made in heaven for any book, but for this one in particular. Don’t miss Lynn Redgrave’s reading of “The Witches” on the audio book, and, if you’re feeling particularly witchy, check out the movie starring Angelica Huston. It’s nowhere near as spectacular as the book (few movies are), but entertaining nonetheless.
No Halloween book list would be complete without “Georgie” by Robert Bright. Written in 1944, Georgie features not only the gentle little ghost from the title, but the wonderfully spooky illustrations by Bright himself. Georgie lives with the Whittakers and provides them with a little ghostly routine of a creaky floorboard and a squeaky parlor door. But when Mr Whittaker decides to fix these, where does that leave Georgie, who really doesn’t want to scare a soul? This vintage Halloween tale has been delighting parents and children for more than 60 years and should take its rightful place on the bookshelves of families for 100 more.
Where else can you find a 700-year old woman, an 800-year old man, a rapscallion, a ghoul and a varmint? Not to mention characters who say things like “Great snakes!” (which, let’s face it, everyone should say now and then…). Look no further than the delightful book, “The Vanishing Pumpkin” by Tony Johnston, illustrated by, none other than, Tomie DePaola. My sons wait all year long to check this book out of the library each October and now my older son loves to read it to his little brother with all the silly voices he can possibly muster. What starts with a missing pumpkin and a hearty desire for pumpkin pie quickly becomes a veritable parade of Halloween misfits and a seriously old wizard. Don’t miss this wonderful Halloween book. (Or I might just have to say “Great snakes!”)
I do hereby declare that it’s time for all things Halloween. Sure, we may have another two weeks to go, but, my word, the stores are already putting up Christmas for goodness sake. So, let’s hear it for the best Halloween children’s books around..
My first pick is chosen from a place of sheer sentimentality. This was one of those books on my bookshelf as a child that was worn and gorgeous and smelled slightly musty – all perfect ingredients for the most wonderful books. I haven’t seen it in many bookstores lately, and I hope to goodness it is still accessible to all children everyone.
Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian is truly one of the most delightful Halloween books around. Published in 1965, it’s still a classic with a delightful surprise ending. And, really…who could resist a cat named Fred?
For those of you who share in my love affair with all things Maine and New England, you should know that there is a seemingly endless supply of wonderful books by Maine authors and about Maine. Down East Books offers a fantastic line of such children’s books – with classics like “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney and Robert McCloskey’s “One Morning in Maine” and other, perhaps less known, treasures, like “Antlers Forever” by Frances Bloxam.
One of the more delightful of these, chosen by my darling friend Alison – who has exquisite taste in books…and friends… is “The Wicked Big Toddlah” by Kevin Hawkes – about an oversized baby delivered to a family in Maine. From the enormous diapers to the struggling stork, the words and illustrations are fantastic…my favorite is when Uncle Bert meets the baby for the first time and says, “That’s a wicked big toddlah ya got theyah, Jessie!” and I can’t help but thing of how much I love that very accent on annual trips to Maine every summer. It’s a fun ready – with adorable pictures and a perfect fix for this Maine-iac.