I’ll be honest, I’m not particularly thrilled with most Halloween books out there. They generally fall to two extremes: the much too-scary ghoulish books or the cutesy little stories that are explicitly twaddle. Maybe it’s because there’s nothing really in the spiritual realm to bank this holiday on… with the exception of All Saint’s Day on November 1st—for which there are of course many good saint books. But Halloween as it’s popularly known today? Pretty barren for the literature world. There are of course, a couple gems, generally related to pumpkins in general: Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor is probably my only “must have” for this specific holiday. But Too Many Pumpkins is another fun one worth picking up. And if you are able to find a good copy of Mousekin’s Golden House for under $20 you’d be lucky, but chances are slim. There are probably others, but I’ve stopped searching for great Halloween specific books. I turn to other sources to get into the spirit of things.
Ed Emberley is single-handedly responsible for encouraging my children to become little artists. Whenever I used to try and get them to draw a scene from a story or just be creative, they would whine that “they didn’t know how.” So I first bought Ed Emberley’s: Make a World to see if they would be motivated to try. Would they ever! Suddenly, the whole world was opened up to them! They just needed to realize how easy it was to break down basic figures into manageable parts to draw, and Emberley was the first to show them how. Lately the boys have been drawing from two of his very Halloween oriented titles: Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Weirdos and Ed Emberley’s Big Orange Drawing Book (unfortunately out of print right now) . Both books are excellent for inspiring fun, not-too-scary-but-just-scary-enough drawings. We currently have expanded our How-To-Draw ______ books but still have a good half dozen of Emberley’s titles.
Another alternative to traditional Halloween stories are to explore picture books that really embody mystery and suspense… not necessarily fear. Chris Van Allsburg comes to mind with books like The Stranger or the fun and macabre (a great combo) alphabet book The Z Was Zapped.
Finally, this a great time to avoid the commercial Halloween fare altogether and bust out the old, creepy fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, or the modern but delicious Heckedy Peg. Search through many picture books to find one that gives a fair rendition of classic fairy tales or just save yourself the pain and invest in a good, quality anthology of originals. Enter Andrew Lang’s Colored Fairy Book Collection if you want to do the piecemeal approach like I do. Otherwise there are complete anthologies like Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen: The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories.
Please note that not all fairy tales were written for children and some can be quite gruesome and morbid. Use your best discretion in previewing these tales… but know that this is what they looked like before Disney came to popularize and trivialize them.