Halloween stories for preschoolers

Are you looking for some Halloween related books that are easy to read aloud to preschoolers?  The following books are not too scary and quite enjoyable for just this purpose.

McGhee, Alison, and Harry Bliss. A Very Brave Witch. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009.
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On the far side of town, in a big, dark, house, lives a brave little witch. She has heard lots and lots about those scary humans and a holiday they call Halloween, but she has never even seen Halloween for herself. Until one very special Halloween comes along…
Murguia, Bethanie Deeney. The Too-Scary Story. Arthur A. Levine Books, an Imprint of Scholastic Inc., 2017.
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Grace wants Papa to tell her a scary bedtime story… but her little brother Walter doesn’t want it to be TOO scary! So as Papa invents the story of two children out for a walk in the woods, Grace and Walter take turns correcting him. But when darkness falls, a shadow looms, and footsteps follow the children all the way home, will the siblings triumph over the too-scary story?
Rylant, Cynthia, and Steven Henry. Herberts First Halloween. Chronicle Books LLC, 2017.
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Herbert is deeply doubtful about his first Halloween—but with a little help from his dad and a special tiger costume, Herbert might just find confidence on Halloween night. Together, father and son practice roaring, carve a pumpkin, and venture out in search of candy. And by the end of the night, Herbert finds his doubts have melted away. A sweet introduction to Halloween and to being brave, this book is sure to delight the youngest of trick-or-treaters.
Sloat, Teri, and Rosalinde Bonnet. Zip! Zoom! on a Broom. Little, Brown and Company, 2017.
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One goes zip,

two go zoom.
Three witches glide from room to room.
 
So begins this witchy counting story, now as a board book. Counting up from 1 to 10 and back down again, ten witches jump on a broom–and then fall off one by one! Written in pitch-perfect rhyme, and full of fun read-aloud energy that will have kids memorizing lines and clamoring to read the book again and again, this book hits the mash-up sweet spot between an important concept and Halloween fun!
Taylor, Sean, and Jean Jullien. Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise. Walker Books, 2016.
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Hoot Owl is no ordinary owl. He is a master of disguise! In the blackness of night, he’s preparing to swoop on his prey before it can realize his dastardly tricks. Look there—a tasty rabbit for him to eat! Hoot Owl readies his costume, disguising himself as . . . a carrot! Then he waits. The rabbit runs off. Never mind! Surely his next juicy target will cower against such a clever and dangerous creature as he! Kids will hoot at Sean Taylor’s deliciously tongue-in-beak narration, belied by the brilliantly comical illustrations of Jean Jullien.

Warren the 13th

Looking for some fun books to get into the spirit of Halloween this year?  The Warren the 13th series is the perfect series for middle-school readers.  Written by Tania Del Rio with exceptional art and design by Will Staehle, there are two books out so far with another on the way.

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye

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Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods
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This fast-paced and beautifully-designed sequel to Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye is packed with nonstop action, adventure, and mystery for middle grade readers. Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends—and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles, all accompanied by stunning illustrations and gorgeous design from Will Staehle on every page. (from the publisher)

Unusual Pets

Here are some funny stories about unusual pets that would make great read alouds for a pet-themed storytime.

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I Want A Dog by Jon Agee

A girl visits an animal shelter in hopes of getting a new dog.  Instead, the man at the shelter offers her various other animals as a substitute.

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The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

A young princess dreams of getting a horse for her birthday.  Instead she gets a weird looking pony that farts.

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Hiding Dinosaurs by Dan Moynihan

At the breakfast table a boy realizes that dinosaurs are hatching from his eggs.  He hides the dinosaurs from his parents and keeps them as pets.

Discovery in Picture Books

The following are examples of books where the images are so powerful that they enhance minimal, almost poetic text.  These are picture books where you can get lost in the illustrations.  These books deserve rereading because the images are multi-layered and are worth marveling over for their sense of discovery and wonder.
Fogliano, Julie, and Lane Smith. A House That Once Was. Two Hoots, 2019.
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This is a book about finding an abandoned house in the woods and wondering about who lived there.  The illustrations are executed in a number of styles in order to reference the past, the present and the imaginary.  These images conjure a sense of mystery and nostalgia.

Martin, Marc. A River. Chronicle Books, 2017.
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This exquisite book details a child’s imagination charting a river’s meandering course through cities, farms and jungles.  While the illustrations are dense, the mazelike river can always be found.  The tiny boat is identifiable and the reader is easily able to track its journey.  It’s a pathway through the recesses and stretches of the world’s possibilities.


Schwartz, Joanne, and Sydney Smith. Town Is by the Sea. Walker Books, 2018.

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This book is about a boy’s life in a coastal Canadian mining town.  He compares his life now to his father’s, who works underground.  The stark contrast of light and dark exemplify the sacrifices the father makes for the family.  There is also some sadness as the boy sees his father’s job as his own eventual fate.  The power of this book is in the art, which is laid out as full page spreads and provides some great metaphors as well as an historical context.

Tarō Gomi

Have you ever wondered what picture books made in other countries look like?  Tarō Gomi is one of Japan’s most prolific picture book artists.  He lives in Tokyo and has created around 300 picture books.  Some of these books have been translated into English.  Gomi’s books usually have minimal text and a lot of the humor that comes from the pictures themselves.  Some favorites include I Really Want to See You, Grandma.  In this book a girl and her grandma keep on missing each other in their travels which builds a lot of suspense and anticipation.  In Gomi’s Over the Ocean a girl looks out upon the sea and wonders what could be found on the other side.  Below are some of the books by Tarō Gomi that can be found in the Pinal County Library District’s Catalog.

Pop Classics by Kim Smith

If you love movies from the 1980s and 1990s then you ought to check out these amazing children’s books by Kim Smith.  She has done a number of adaptations over the past couple of years.  Not only are these books cute, but they accurately retell these modern classics.  Her illustrations are a marvel to look at and the storytelling is clear.  The books are in a large format that would lend themselves well to a read aloud. These would make for a great retro themed storytime paired with the actual films themselves.  The Karate Kid is the latest in the series and I am hoping for more in the future.

Kamen, Robert Mark, et al. The Karate Kid. Quirk Books, 2019.

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Rekulak, Jason, et al. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Quirk Books, 2018.
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Rekulak, Jason, et al. The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird. Quirk Books, 2017.

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Smith, Kim. Home Alone – the Classic Illustrated Storybook. Quirk Books, 2015.

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Thomas, Jim K., et al. E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial. Quirk Books, 2017.
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Zemeckis, Robert, et al. Back to the Future. Quirk Books, 2018.
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D.I.Y books to empower youth

Don’t be afraid to try something new.  Embark on a new project by doing it yourself. With a library card you can feel empowered with books as your guides and tools.  Kids can make discoveries in the library that are not necessarily part of their day to day curriculum.  The following is a list of illustrated books that are great inspirations for young people to get out of the house, explore and make the world a better place.



McConnell, Ruby. A Girls Guide to the Wild: Be an Adventure-Seeking Outdoor Explorer! Sasquatch Books, 2019.

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This book is overflowing with information, biographical sketches, projects, games, and practical knowledge about camping and exploring the outdoors.  The first section explains the benefits of going outside by explaining some of the wonders of our natural world including our National Parks and beyond.  It also gives a breakdown of land, water and snow sports to participate in.  Then, the book is divided into sections for the beginner and the advanced.  The basic section focuses on camping: what to bring, how to set up a tent and what to cook.  There is also a lot of information (specific to girls) on how to take care of your body in the wild, away from home.  The advanced section discusses how to read maps, deal with difficult weather, animals, critters and dangerous plants.  The information is parred down in a fun way and easy to locate in the book thanks to the excellent design and artwork.  I also found the short biographies of people like Clara Barton, Sacagawea, Clare Marie Hodges, Fannie Farmer to be both relevant and insightful.


Mothes, Lee. Keep out!: Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse. Storey, 2013.

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Have you ever dreamed of building your own backyard clubhouse?  This book can make that dream a reality.  The author built his first clubhouse when he was only 11 years old. The preface of the book shows his childhood notes and the actual photos from his finished project.  The book then goes on to simplify the tools and techniques one would need to make their own clubhouse.  Mothes breaks it down to nine essential tools.  He also encourages readers to find recycled materials for free and gives some ideas on how to make that work.  Then, the book gets detailed with the practicality of  the construction including step-by-step instructions and diagrams.  Once the basics are applied, one can go wild with adding on their own creativity and inspiration.


Drummond, Allan. Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016.

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This picture book for young readers tells the true story of Greensburg, Kansas.  In 2007, a tornado devastated this small town.  Amid the rubble and destruction, some town members saw this as an opportunity for a new beginning.  With help from  volunteers, donations and government assistance, the town decided to rebuild itself as a sustainable community.  The residents who decided to stay were temporarily relocated into trailer parks.  The town was rebuilt as a “green city”.  The illustrations show how a sustainable house is built and how wind can serve as a power source through the use of wind farms.  Another ambitious project of the town was in the construction of their school that incorporated recycled materials, wind powered energy and ground source heat pump system.  The whimsical illustrations make this story very enjoyable to read while it teaches important lessons and tips about going green.


Bram, Elizabeth, and Chuck Groenink. Rufus the Writer. Random House Childrens, 2015.

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This painted picture book for young readers is about a boy who starts his own business.  Instead of a lemonade stand, he opens a story stand.  He exchanges his stories for gifts from his friends.  The books that Rufus makes are shown within the book, as two page spreads in a slightly different style.  I like this book because it shows children that creative ideas do not need to stay in their head and that books do not have to come only from adults.  Rufus shows us that with some ambition, we can write these ideas and easily share them with others.  In doing so, we make friends and build relationships.  Rufus’ business is more about getting outside of his house and interacting with others than it is about making money.  Groenink’s illustrations are lush, full of Fall colors, and perfectly compliment’s  Bram’s carefully chosen words that will speak to kids who value sharing.

 

Forky craft

We were inspired by the new Pixar film Toy Story 4.  Children at the San Manuel library created their own version of Forky, as well as a variety of other characters made out of spoons and sporks.  Below are pictures from this event which took place in July, 2019.

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(The original Forky as seen in Toy Story 4)

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(some of our versions)

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Reissues of Children’s Books 1969 – 1982

The 1970s were a creative and slightly odd time for children’s books when experimentation and innovation went hand-in-hand.  Topics in children’s literature seemed to embrace diversity and explore a wider variety of themes.

Sesame Street premiered in 1969, the same year that Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock.  The Beatles broke up in 1970 and the Vietnam War ended in 1975.  1974’s made-for-tv movie Free To Be You and Me starred Marlo Thomas and Michael Jackson.  The special celebrated the breakdown of traditional gender roles and adapted several children’s books into animated cartoons.  It was a decade of counterculture, flamboyant style and excess.

Cricket magazine was formed in 1973 as a sort of “New Yorker for children”.  Artists like Mark Alan Stamaty and Frank Asch delivered a decidedly hippy, psychedelic and nonconformist drawing style in their early works, possibly influenced by rock posters and underground comics of the time.  The end of the decade introduced major characters into the collective unconscious such as Marc Brown’s Arthur, who originally looked less human and more like an aardvark in his first book Arthur’s Nose from 1976.  Other artists such as Remy Charlip would incorporate non-narrative structures into their work.  In his case, it was incorporating elements of the avant-garde that he had experienced in his other career as a dancer.

Below are some recent children’s book resissues from these turbulent and exciting times.  More than just nostalgia, I believe these timeless books can still be entertaining to new generations.  All of these books employ cartoon styles and interesting narrative choices that have a sincere playfulness and sense of humor that is as relevant now as ever.

Asch, Frank. Popcorn. Little Simon, 2017.

Originally published by Parents Magazine Press, 1979.
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Frank Asch’s first bear back was Moon Bear (1978).  He liked the character so much that variations of it appeared in over 20 books.  Prior to this Frank Asch utilized a more psychedelic style and his books were mostly in black and white.  The bear, he used in Popcorn (1979) was slightly more sophisticated than MoonBear in that he was more like a stand-in for an actual child.  He had a family and a name: Sam.  Popcorn was one of the first books in which Asch employed bold, flat colors and the story almost has a comic strip like sequence making it easier to read aloud than his previous efforts.  He seems to be moving away from the crowded scenes that he used with his previous collaborator Mark Allan Stamaty.  Although the motif of the expanding popcorn in this particular story certainly brings to mind the denseness of Stamaty’s work.  In fact, this book is dedicated to Stamaty so his influence should not be understated.

The story of Popcorn takes place on Halloween.  Sam’s parents go out to a party and leave him home alone.  Unbeknownst to his folks, Sam decides to call up his friends and have his own party.  They come, one by one, all dressed in costumes, and all bringing popcorn.  As the night progresses, the more popcorn is popped, the more the party gets out of control.  Soon the popcorn overtakes the whole house.  In order to solve the problem his friends begin eating all the popcorn.  Eventually they become full, sick, and leave in a daze.  Sam goes to sleep, exhausted.  His parents arrive home and are still oblivious to the party that occurred.  The punchline is that they bring Sam a gift.  It’s popcorn!  The ending is ironic and absurd but the story is told in such a straightforward way that one can’t help but laugh.  Other books in Frank Asch’s Bear Book series have also been issued but Popcorn remains the one where the narrative packs the biggest punch.

What grounds this book in the 1970’s is the feather and headband of Sam’s Indian costume, which makes him look like a hippy.  Also, from an adult’s perspective, parallels can be drawn from Sam’s innocent popcorn party to perhaps something more devious like a fraternity party.

Brown, Marc Tolon. Pickle Things. Marc Brown Studios, 2016.

Originally published by Parents Magazine Press, 1980.
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Marc Brown is one of the most celebrated and well-known children’s author/illustrators of all time.  His character Arthur, created in the 1970s, received worldwide acclaim and notoriety  when the character was licensed for the WGBH animated series which began airing in 1994.   Pickle Things is one of Brown’s earlier books from 1980.   His style at this point had a harsher black outline and is less cute or gentle than his later work.  This short book plays with the idea of something that is relatively ugly – a pickle – for the purpose of humor.  Through the pictures we see various other uses for pickles such as pickle pie, pickle cake and an equally ridiculous pickle character walking a tightrope or flying in a pickle plane!  It’s absurd and silly and reads like a pun.  But it’s fun and it works.

Charlip, Remy. Arm in Arm: a Collection of Connections, Endless Tales, Reiterations, and Other Echolalia. New York Review Books, 2019.

 

Originally published by Four Winds Press, 1969
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Several Remy Charlip books have been reissued over the past couple of years.  Arm In Arm, the latest of this reissues, comes out in the fall of 2019.  It is, in my opinion, Charlip’s best and most original book.  Don’t miss it this time around.  This is not a read aloud book, but one to be explored alone.  It is unique in that there is no narrative structure to be found here.  The book is based upon Charlip’s experimentation as a dancer.  Each page works alone as either a joke, a play, a puzzle, a pun, a search and find, a comic strip, an experiment in movement.  Charlip  has inspired a generation of artists including Brian Selznick who used him as a model for the Georges Méliès character in his award-winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Charlip’s artwork for Arm in Arm was also used as the cover for Elizabeth Mitchell’s 2012 album Blue Clouds (it also features a song Arm in Arm that was inspired by this book).  This is an extremely positive and playful book that invokes curious readers to explore the extraordinary in even the most simple things.

Quackenbush, Robert. Henry Goes West. Aladdin, 2018.

Originally published by Aladdin, 1982.
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Robert Quackenbush did a whole series of these slapstick stories featuring his character Henry the Duck who continually makes a fool of himself trying to impress his girlfriend Clara.  They are hilarious and great for read alouds.  I believe there were plans to resissue all of the Henry books but it looks like only two have come out so far.  Henry Goes West was of particular interest to me because the scenery will be familiar to the children that I will share this book with in Arizona.

Spinney, Caroll. How to Be a Grouch. Random House, 2019.

Originally published by Western Pub. Co.in cooperation with Children’s Television Workshop, 1976.
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Sesame Street premiered in 1969 which means 2019 marks its 50th anniversary.  Hopefully this leads to many reissues because the Children’s Television Workshop has published a plethora of beautifully illustrated books over the years.  This particular one, originally published in 1976, is special because it is both written and illustrated by Caroll Spinney.  For those not in the know, Carol is the actor who has played Big Bird all these years.  He is the man walking and talking from inside the suit!  He also plays Oscar the Grouch as well.  His talent does not end there.  Spinney has been drawing even before Sesame Street existed.  The cartoons in this book are funny and read like self-contained newspaper strips.  And they are most definitely in the grouchy spirit.

Waber, Bernard, and Elliot Kreloff. Nobody Is Perfick. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
Originally published by Sandpiper, Houghton Mifflin, 1975.

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Bernard Waber’s most well-known books include the classic Lyle the Crocodile series and Ira Sleeps Over.  Both of these have been in print for decades.  Nobody is Perfick is one of Waber’s less known works.  It is a series of short free form comic strips without panels that originally appeared in Cricket magazine in the 1970s.  The stories are quite funny and their looseness bring to mind Jules Feiffer’s work.  In a sense this is a sort of “graphic novel for kids” before the term was coined. Recommended!


 

Graphically Inventive Children’s Books

Most modern picture books feature children as central characters or animals who retain the characteristics of children.  This, however, is not always necessary to make a successful children’s book that may appeal to kids (and adults alike).  The following are three recent picture books that I have enjoyed which do not feature children nor animals as the protagonists.  All are beautifully illustrated and unique in their own way.


Eggers, Dave, and Tucker Nichols. This Bridge Will Not Be Gray. Mcsweeneys Publishing, 2015.

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This is the story of how the Golden Gate Bridge became the most famous bridge in the world.  Utilizing bold and simple cut outs, rather than photographs, was a great decision in adapting this true story to a concept that  becomes easy to relate to.  The focus here is in the fact that this bridge was designed differently than those which came before it.  The decision to have the bridge be orange was at first an unpopular and peculiar view.  With persistence from a number of creative people, the bridge became what it is today.  Like the Golden Gate Bridge itself, this picture book utilizes many design ideas that are not common for this medium.  The main character of this book is the bridge itself while the message is a celebration of innovation.


Ehlert, Lois. The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life. Beach Lane Books, 2014.

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This is a condensed retrospective and autobiography of one of the most well-known children’s book illustrators of the last forty years.  Ehlert’s books really stand out because of her combined usage of cut paper, photographs and real life objects.  Because of these objects her books have a tactile feel as though they truly were built upon nature, rather than by a computer.  In the “introduction” Ehlert warns her readers DON’T READ THIS BOOK (unless you love books and art).  This book is of course a celebration of a life dedicated to art.  What makes it interesting is that Ehlert gives us a peek through this scrapbook at her creative process.  She shows evidence that she didn’t choose art but that art simply chose her.  The narration walks us through the process Ehlert used to create such classic children’s books as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  We see sketches of her work, rough drafts of entire books, and materials/tools collected from life that she used to create her style.  If you’re fond of Ehlert’s previous books, this comes highly recommended.  If you are unfamiliar with her work , it will also provide a great introduction to a playful artist who retains an enthusiastic childlike vision of the world (without actually drawing children).


Savage, Stephen. Sign Off. Beach Lane Books, 2019.

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Sign Off is a book based on the concept of what would happen if the silhouetted graphics in road signs came to life.  It is a wordless book that takes this clever idea and brings it to full fruition with subtlety and humor.  The book begins with full page spreads of before and after scenes.  For example, in one spread, a car is parked in a handicapped spot.  In the following spread, the wheelchair leaps off the sign  and does a wheelie over the parked car.  Later in the book, the iconic images march off together leaving all their blank yellow signs behind.  They then proceed to dismantle the yellow of a traffic sign which through manipulation becomes the sun, giving them new life.  Even though it has no words, this story is as much about reading signs as it is about dismantling the codes behind their meaning.  The visual story reads well and is as an intelligent primer as any on visual literacy.