I know this one of those generic things that people say, but really, how did it become the end of October already? We’ve had our Halloween table up in the store for a while, but I’m still sort of in shock that it’s next week. As for Halloween books, I find many of them to be rather disappointing. Reading them makes me feel like *someone* is trying just a bit too hard to be — I don’t know — scary? funny? clever? relevant? So when a good one comes along it seems that much better because it clarifies what a good book should look like.
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, written by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd (Harper, $6.99), is one such book. It’s got character, action, suspense, great illustrations, and a plot twist at the end. As she is walking home through the dark forest, the little old lady — the heroine of our story — meets various pieces of animated clothing: shoes that “clomp clomp”, a shirt that “shake shake[s]”, a pair of pants that go “wiggle wiggle”, and so on. Of course she is not afraid even as the clothing clomps, shakes, and wiggles home after her. I’ve read this book with kids just under two and they usually figure out the narrative pattern before the end of the first reading. It’s a cumulative tale, with each new addition building on the previous pieces (think “The House that Jack Built”) and young kids (2-3) will quickly pick up on the repetitive sounds and begin participating in the story. (I can still hear my god-daughter’s two-year-old voice saying “wiggle wiggle”, which sounded more like “wee-go wee-go”. too cute.) Even slightly older children (4-6) will appreciate the gradual suspense, as our intrepid little old lady starts to walk faster and faster through the forest, as well as her eventual triumph. Most kids I’ve read it to ask to hear it again immediately.
A close second in the Halloween book category goes to Julia Donaldson’s Room on the Broom (Puffin, $6.99 board and paperback). Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, of Gruffalo fame, have partnered again for this delightful, rhythmic story about a benevolent witch, who can always make a little extra room on the broom for the animals that help locate some of her lost items. These new friends turn out to be extremely useful when a hungry dragon appears, and the resolution to this story is charming. Finally, I’m the Scariest Thing in the Castle, by Kevin Sherry, is a relative newcomer to Halloween books. Available in board book (Dial, $6.99), this story follows a similar pattern as I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, but is about a bat, who declares himself to be waaaay scarier than any of the other staple Halloween characters living in the creepy castle: a declaration the spider, mummy, and witch find adorable. uh oh.