Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good to Read!

Shine’s Picture Book Picks for a Fun and Spooky Halloween


Ever since I learned that one day each year, I can knock on a stranger’s door, yell “Trick or Treat!” and get a candy bar, I’ve been all about Halloween. My costumes varied over the years, but throughout grade school, they all had one thing in common: they all featured the dead! A dead prom queen, the corpse of 50s girl, and a bride that never made it to her wedding because, well… she was dead.

I just didn’t understand the pretty fairies, princesses, or kitty cats that weren’t dead. I mean, after all, it was Halloween. Weren’t we all supposed to be spooky? I have a vague recollection of going to my best friend Grace’s house to go trick or treating together. When she came to the front door, I was stumped by her costume. Grace was dressed as a doctor. And not the psycho kind that used a butcher’s knife instead of a scalpel, but the kind you go see when you have a tummy ache. Me? I was dressed as a dead Checker Girl.

While she had on a pristine white coat, I was dressed like a checker-pattern wearing hobo. Grace had a stethoscope around her neck. I had fake blood down the sides of my mouth. She was wearing pretty make-up that accentuated her delicate features. I painted my entire face with black and white checkers that smeared with my fake blood. But that’s the beauty of Halloween—everyone interprets it differently. No matter what you chose to be, it’s a holiday that can be full of magic!

Here are Shine’s Picture Book Picks for a Fun and Spooky Halloween:


Creepy Carrots By Aaron Reynolds, illus. by Peter Brown

This Caldecott award winning book does it all. A spot-on-parody of 50s classic horror films, Jasper Rabbit suspects mean and spooky carrots are following him. He hears the “Soft… sinister… tunktunktunk of carrots creeping.” This Hithchcock-esque story for the 4-to-8 set is a good read all year round. You may even want to add the Twilight Zone theme music to your readings to take it to the next level.

Miss Nelson Is Missing! By Harry Allard, illus. by James Marshall

My childhood favorite, this was my first mystery book. The kids in Room 207 were the worst behaved class in the whole school. They were rude and nasty and they didn’t pay any attention to their sweet-natured teacher Miss Nelson. Then one day, Miss Nelson does not come to school! In her place is the nasty, mean, foul-tempered witch Miss Viola Swamp. Uh-oh…

It was only after reading this charming book over and over and over again that I realized how the story unraveled. It was thrilling to be in on the secret.

The Dark By Lemony Snicket, illus. by Jon Klassen

A match made in heaven. Snicket and Klassen hit all the right notes on—what else?—the universal kids’ fear of the dark. Laszlo lives in a house with “a creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs.” There is darkness everywhere! With an uncharacteristic end, this is a good introduction to suspense storytelling and what it means to confront your worst fears.

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? By Margaret McNamara, illus. by G. Brian Karas

If your families are not that keen on mysteries, thrillers or suspense, have no fear! How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin will do the trick. The smallest boy in the class, Charlie, has a teacher who presents the students with three pumpkins: small, medium and large. They predict how many seeds are in each one. Then the class does the messy but fun work of removing the seeds and counting the contents.

A sweet lesson intertwined with some good old fashion math, this pumpkin tale can easily come to life with real pumpkins and a little elbow grease.

The Monster At The End Of This Book by Jon Stone, illus. by Mike Smollin

I love Sesame Street in all kinds of ways. But I am afraid I am one of those teachers who steers clear from the overly saturated commercial characters—with the exception of one. The one and only truly successful Sesame Street book to touch the young hearts and minds of readers everywhere, Monster is a perfect Halloween book for fans of the Pigeon books by Mo Willems and for the younger set, 3 and up. It’s interactive, engaging and fun!


By Claudia Chung for Shine

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