5 Great Kids Reads for Halloween

Halloween books

Thirteen years ago I was assigned to a student teaching position in Kindergarten at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Putnam City, a suburb of Oklahoma City.  It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget, but one of the moments that stands out to me was the day my assigned classroom’s wonderful veteran teacher told me what she wanted me to use as my theme to teach when my professor came to evaluate me as I taught that roomful of 20 young children in late October.  She said one word – ‘monsters.’

She had always used that as her theme for this particular week and so that was the theme she wanted me to use, as well.  I was crushed.  As a boy, I was scared to death of monsters and spent many creepy nights sleeping outside my parent’s bedroom in my Battlestar Galactica sleeping bag.

Now here I was faced with having to create a five-day curriculum for little girls and boys about the one thing that surely sent them fleeing on most nights – monsters!  To make a long story short, it went wonderfully well (this was one great teacher and I trusted her) and I had the time of my life.  We used the puppets of Where the Wild Things Are and learned Monster tunes for Kids that my daughters and I made up at night and I taught to the children the next morning in circle time.  We completed math lessons with monsters and wrote stories and talked about scary monsters and funny monsters and fears and worries and everything in between.  The whole room was a monster wonderland!  I also collected quite a variety of great children’s books with monster themes during that semester of my life.  Here are a few of our favorite short read-alouds to celebrate some reading time with your little ones during this especially monstrous week of the year:

1.  Ten Creepy Monsters by Carey Armstrong-Ellis (Harry N. Abrams, 2012) – Julie Roach and School Library Journal reviewed the book for Preschool to Grade 2 and wrote, “When ten creepy monsters meet beneath a pine tree, they get into all sorts of trouble that helps readers count backward from ten to one…After the second to last monster-a vampire-rushes off in the sunrise, readers are left with one monster hurrying home. An abandoned mask, strewn candy, and a sleeping boy tell the rest of the story. Fun for Halloween or for counting anytime.”

2.  Monster Mischief by Pamela Jane (2001, Scholastic) – This is a wonderfully inventive book of creative monsters visiting a monster home to trick or treat for Halloween.  This quote from the book sums up the fun, “On Halloween, for trick or treat, five monsters mixed a stew to eat of which they never ate a bite, because their stew ran off that night.  A few, I know, are glad of that – spider, lizard, frog and bat!”

3.  Haunted Halloween:  A Choose Your Own Adventure Book #37 by Susan Sanders (1986, Bantam-Skylark) –  If you grew up in the 1980’s in America, this was the hottest series on the bookshelf.  It is still around and still exciting and interesting and interactive.  If you don’t remember how it works, the reader reads a few pages and then at a key point in the story there are two questions at the bottom of the page.  You must choose your own adventure at this point, sometimes for good and sometimes for not!  These are so much fun and your kids need to be reading them – there are many choices so I was happy that we had this one for Halloween week here at Father Knows Books!  In this book, “it is halloween night and you’ve been invited to a costume party at an old, spooky mansion.”

4.  Monster Pops Counting 123:  How Many Monsters Can You See by Gill Davies (2002, Parragon Publishing) – “Discover a pop-up surprise on each page as you enjoy a monstrously good counting rhyme.”  This book is super for preschool and Kindergartners, as well…and who doesn’t love a pop-up book!

5.  The Teeny Tiny Ghost by Kay Winters (1997, Scholastic) – a wonderful children’s picture book with a great read-aloud style and wonderful illustrations by Lynn Munsinger.  It is the story of a “timid teeny tiny ghost.  He lived in a teeny tiny house with two teeny tiny black cats.”  He is scared of scary stories and hides when he hears himself say “boo!”  When his friends come for a surprise costume party, things indeed take a turn for the better.

Hello world!

July 4 is freedom.  From the famed red, white and blue parade of our small town to crackling fireworks that burst across these vast Oklahoma night skies; memorable war movies like Bridge Over the River Kwai and Tora! Tora! Tora! to stars like James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy and Robert Preston in The Music Man; smoke bombs and blackcat firecrackers; watermelon, junebugs, American flags, and homemade butterfinger ice cream.  These are just a few of the ingredients that have thoroughly mixed themselves into my memory after just a little more than four decades of celebrating this holiday, from childhood to manhood.

My college bound 18 year-old and I recently spent a week in Washington, D.C., our first in the nation’s capital, and marveled at a night tour of that city’s extensive and awe-inspiring landmarks like the Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Wall, and the Marine Corps Memorial.  Freedom was everywhere and we could feel its power and its heartbeat throughout the city.

I write all of that to remind myself and my daughters, and maybe a reader or two as well, of why I have created this website and blog on the eve of this freedom-infused holiday.  It is no accident that this blog debuts on the eve of America’s rowdy July 4th celebrations.  I believe that books are an ingredient for freedom.  They bring life and adventure, instruction and hope, pride, envy, sadness, pain, grief, joy, and peace.  They are words let loose onto a page or a screen, in a title or across a dustjacket, embedded in the hardback cover and across the rigid spine, written, typed, spoken, translated.  Words can bring freedom to one or millions, while age and time cannot bind them.

When our first daughter was nearing the end of Kindergarten, she was desperate to read the words in her favorite books all to herself.  She would sit on our big couch just a few feet from where I am writing this nearly fifteen years later and stare into the pages of books piled up around her and covering her tiny legs, trying with all her might to sound out the words and make sense of it, without our help.  It was right then, at that very moment, that I sensed the gravity with which learning to read holds every human being captive.  It was not an easy thing to learn to read and tears would eventually come as she so often sat there on that couch so motivated to read and so unwilling to let us help her.  It was as though reading a book consumed her, taxed her, worried her, needed her – it was amazing for me, her father, to behold.  For something inside her must have already known that freedom lingered there among those words, even within the pages of her childhood books…especially within the pages of her childhood books.

So here’s to freedom…and to books…and to the children and their dads who have learned the power of both.

Row, Row, Row the Boats by Michael Dahl – See the “Book Cook” tab on our Home page for a special recipe to accompany one of our favorite 4th of July books.

Row, Row, Row the Boats by Michael Dahl, 2004