Our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
Picture books, a first chapter book, a junior novel, and a collection of Canadian ghost stories all make for spooky reads this Halloween.
In Nothing Scares Us, by Frieda Wishinksy & Neal Layton, Lenny and Lucy are best friends. But when Lucy watches Lenny's favourite TV show, The Creature, she's haunted by an image and too terrified to tell Lenny she's scared. Then it turns out that Lenny has a secret fear of his own. This playful picture book with childlike drawings will appeal to all ages.
Omar's Halloween, by Maryann Kovalski, features Omar the bear, whose Halloween wish is to have the scariest costume. But bats and spiders, his friends inform him, are actually helpful bug-eating creatures—not scary at all. So his mom dresses him as a non-threatening, run-of-the-mill ghost. He's so dejected he doesn't even want to go to his own party, until a storm hits and transforms his outfit into exactly what he's hoping for.
The Haunted House That Jack Built, by Helaine Becker, illustrated by David Parkins, is a play on the original The House That Jack Built text with Jack as a pumpkin head who's left some stew to cool. A ghost samples the stew, a ghoul scares the ghost, a mummy chases the ghost and so on. Each page introduces a new creature with rhyming repetitive text that young readers will love, along with a Frankenstein who's popping corn and a love-struck Count.
13 Ghosts of Halloween, by Robin Muller, illustrated by Patricia Storms, is written in the rhythm of the familiar carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The book begins: "On the first stroke of midnight/ Oh, nothing frightens me!" The usual Halloween suspects appear: spiders spinning, werewolves howling, and something in the end does indeed scare the protagonist. [Editors Note: for 13 Ghosts fans: Patricia Storms has illustrated a brand new Halloween book, The Ghosts Go Spooking, written by Chrissy Bozik.)
Don't Eat That!, by Veronika Martenova Charles, illustrated by David Parkins, is a great first chapter book for a Grade 2 student. When the protagonist's mom tells him not to eat the cherries on the tree in his yard, he passes the warning on to his friends. None of them can figure out why they shouldn't eat the cherries. Each offers a story as explanation, involving monsters, witches, and a wolf. In the end, however, there turns out to be a far more practical reason to stay away from the cherries after all.
The Elevator Ghost, a novel by Glen Huser, begins on Halloween night, when Carolina Giddle pulls up to the Blatchford Arms with her pet tarantula. All her belongings and furniture are tied to the roof of her car, which is adorned with knickknacks. Giddle is no ordinary woman, with her scarecrow hair and sequinned shoes. She becomes the resident babysitter in the Blatchford Arms, with a gift for telling ghostly yarns to soothe toddler tantrums and thwart children's mischievous antics. Her stories, included in the text, are enchanting, often ending with an object pulled from her bag that proves her tale's authenticity. Giddle is in town to hang out with her dead aunt, but a year after her arrival, she loads up her car and disappears into the night. Grade 3+.
Haunted Canada: Ghost Stories, by Pat Hancock and Allan Gould, is the first in a series for Grades 3+. Assembled here are a variety of tales, designed to spook, with a smattering of Canadian references such as Camp White Pine and Gordon Korman. The strength of this collection is that the stories don't follow a formula. Sometimes the causes of mysterious antics aren't exposed until the end, and sometimes the ghost is revealed up front. Sometimes the ghost helps a character overcome a obstacle, and sometimes it's the restless spirit who is helped to find peace. A few memorable tales include “The Raven,” in which Cito, a budding poet, is introduced by the librarian to Edgar Allan Poe when a stuffed raven in the library seems to be watching him. “Night Games” is a variation on stories about being home alone when the phone rings and no one's on the other end. The young character wonders: are his friends pranking him? Or is there actually something to fear right in his house?
On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press in 2011.
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