It is hard to imagine Halloween without activities like trick-or-treating or carving pumpkins but did you know Jack-o’-lanterns originated in Ireland and Scotland and were made out of turnips? Doesn’t sound quite as fun.

Today for young children, Halloween typically means costumes, parades, class parties, and walking around their neighborhoods trick-or-treating. But Halloween-or All Hallows Eve-has been celebrated for thousands of years. Its origins trace back to Romans and Celts and over the years have blended with Catholic and European traditions.

During the 19th century the holiday began to lose its religious and pagan characteristics, transitioning into a secular children’s holiday. However, superstition, mystery, and magic are still around for those who like ghost stories, haunted houses, and horror movies. Browse through this year’s feature for some scary, and not-so-scary, stories for your classroom, library, or home, and for more titles search CLCD.

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Contributor: Emily Griffin


Born Wicked
Jessica Spotswood

In New England during the late 1890s, at a place and time where witches are condemned, Cate Cahill and her two younger sisters must hide their true identity. Being discovered by the Brotherhood could bring about an early end to their young lives. Before the death of their mother, Cate made a promise to protect her sisters. With only six months before having to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, keeping her word proves harder than she has imagined. To make matters worse, she discovers her mother’s diary, which reveals a devastating secret that could potentially destroy her family. Desperate to find another way, Cate seeks help from old acquaintances and new friends. At the same time, she manages to balance social gatherings, marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance. Spotwood’s debut novel is enchanting and addicting. Born Wicked is a beautiful beginning to The Cahill Witch Chronicles. The author’s elegant writing supports a well-constructed plot and realistic characters. The story provides an alternative history that draws from the Salem witch trials and Puritanism. The Brotherhood upholds the laws by keeping a watchful eye on the members of society. The dynamic characters bring the suspenseful story to life. The Cahill sisters are a feisty, rebellious trio that readers will not forget. This paranormal romance will capture any reader’s imagination, even if he or she is not interested in witchcraft and magic. It is a must-have for any library. 2012, Putnam/Penguin, Ages 12 to 18, $17.99. Reviewer: Lindsey Weaver (VOYA, April 2012 (Vol. 35, No. 1)).

ISBN: 9780399257452

Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin
Tad Hills

It is autumn; Duck and Goose’s friend, Thistle, has a nice, large pumpkin. Now, Goose wants a pumpkin too so Duck and Goose set out to search for one. They hunt for their pumpkin in unusual places like in the hollow of a log, in a pile of fallen leaves, and even in an apple tree. As expected, the two-some don’t find a pumpkin in these odd spots. Finally, Thistle suggests to the pair to try the pumpkin patch which results in a happy outcome for Duck and Goose. The illustrations fill the layout and support the text. The autumn colors are pleasing to the eyes. The simplicity and size of the pictures make the book a great read aloud for a group or one-on-one sharing. The pictures focus on places that Duck and Goose check in their search for a pumpkin. This book is a part of the “Duck and Goose” series. 2009, Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House, Ages 2 to 6, $10.99. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children’s Literature)

ISBN: 9780307981554

Mary Shelley

This original horror story begins and ends with the tale of Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s determination to recreate life through scientific means. This account relates how he ventures into slaughter houses and dissecting places to find body parts that when put together presents a ghastly representative of human life. Now Frankenstein must penetrate deep into his soul to find his conscience as he discovers the truth about his creation and determine what gives life has the right to recede it. Each intricate detail and beautifully written prose bestows the pages with rich and satisfying sentences that builds suspense as bile emerges from their stomach. The author’s note at the beginning explains the origins of this story while the illustrations confirm the pictures drawn by the author’s words. The old English writing represents how some stories survive the test of time with vigor and how profits can still be made from reprints when scientific logic and imagination collide. 2012, Running Press Classics, Ages 14 up, $18.95. Reviewer: Julia Beiker (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780762444274

Ludworst Bemonster
Text by Rick Walton
Illustrated by Nathan Hale

Twelve little monsters reside in an ancient castle with Miss Devel who watches over them. After briefly describing the fiendish habits of the young monsters, the reader meets Frankenstein, one of the twelve small monsters, and learns about his creepy behaviors, like scaring rocks and tormenting Miss Devel. One evening, there is a medical emergency at the castle, and Miss Devel calls the doctor for help. Frankenstein has lost his head so he is rushed in a hearse to the laboratory for surgical repairs. Frankenstein’s little monster friends visit him and are envious of the results of Frankenstein’s operation. They then find reasons for making their own surgical visits. In this parody, Walton and Hale twist and retell Bemelman’s classic story, Madeline, by using Frankenstein as their main character. The illustration on the book’s cover may look oddly familiar to Madeline and readers may notice the word play with the author’s name, Ludworst Bemonster, which is used as the pen name for the book. Those readers who like a bit of a monster-twist to a familiar story may find this parody hilarious. 2012, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Ages 4 to 9, $12.99. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780312553661

Ghosts in the House!
Kazuno Kohara

A young girl and her cat go to live in a big old house, undaunted by the ghosts that haunt it, for she is also a witch, of sorts. Not only does she know how to catch ghosts, but she finds them all. When she has caught them, she puts them into the washing machine and hangs them out to dry. They make fine curtains and tablecloths. Worn out from her hard day, the girl and the cat take the last two ghosts up to bed as covers. “And they all lived happily ever after.” Along with the cute girl and her sidekick cat, orange pages and flat black images plus the textured white flowing ghosts add up to low-key, non-threatening Halloween fun. The shapes generated by the ghosts form attractive visual designs along with the minimal text. Reissued in board book form, this edition will let young ones share in Halloween fun. 2012 (orig. 2008), Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan, Ages 1 to 4, $7.99. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781596437258

Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask
R.L. Stine

Everyone wishes they were someone else from time to time. William inadvertently finds a way to do this when he puts on a cursed mask. The only problem is that once the mask is on, it can’t be taken off and it fills the wearer with a rage so powerful that they destroy everything and everyone in their path. The only way to get the mask off is to destroy the wearer along with it. As his dying act, William attempts to hide the mask in a place where no one will ever find it in an attempt to protect everyone in his beloved town. For many years, the mask lays undiscovered at the bottom of a locked trunk, and William’s spirit wards off potential intruders. Then, in a stroke of bad luck, Lu-Ann and her friends stumble across the chest and its contents. Will the group of friends survive this night of horrors, or will they share William’s fate? The short chapters and larger font will appeal to reluctant readers. There are some graphic references of blood and death that may not be appropriate for younger readers, but for older readers, this may add to the intrigue. 2012, Scholastic Press, Ages 8 to 12, $15.99. Reviewer: Heather Welsh (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780545417938

Hailey’s Halloween
Lisa Bullard
Illustrated by Holli Conger

Halloween is tomorrow and young Hailey has no idea what she will wear. As she moves through the costume store, trying on various outfits, Hailey tells the readers all about her favorite holiday. She dresses as a dinosaur and a monster as she explains Halloween’s origin among the Celts as a celebration called Samhain. As Hailey dons a ghost sheet, she reveals the adoption of “All Hallow’s Eve” as a church holiday. Pirate Hailey speaks of the Europeans who brought the holiday to North America on big ships. Keeping her final costume selection a secret until the end, Hailey and her parents carve a jack-o’-lantern in anticipation of the big day. Though this title from the “Cloverleaf Books – Fall and Winter Holidays” is classified as juvenile nonfiction, it has plenty of entertainment value for young readers. Children will enjoy the colorful and entertaining illustrations which accompany Hailey’s browsing adventure. With a parent’s help, youngsters may even want to try out the included recipe for “Make It Yourself: Face Paint”! Educational side notes provide information that could be useful in curriculum support, such as the origin of many of our present-day Halloween traditions. The glossary, index, and list of additional resources make this an excellent book for those just learning how to perform research. Hailey’s story concludes with her big costume reveal as she goes trick-or-treating with her friends, and her Halloween spirit will surely be contagious! 2013, Milbrook Press/Lerner, Ages 5 to 7, $23.93. Reviewer: Rachelle Andrade (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780761350835

Halloween Forest
Marion Jane Bauer
Illustrated by John Shelley

Have you ever dreamed of having a fantastic, spooky Halloween adventure? This entertaining story opens with the line, “Have you ever thrown your trick-or-treat sack on your back on all Hallow’s Eve and taken your leave of town?” After dashing out of town, the reader finds a forest filled with bones–bare bones of trees, bat bones, cat bones, and rat bones, which stare down. The reader also sees dog bones, hog bones, frog bones, and even fog bones. The bones are every child’s worst nightmare, but the reader does not sigh, cry, or dash away in dismay. No, the reader does not worry about rattling bones. Instead, she cries, “Poo! “” and “Booh!” in response. The reader wiggles and squiggles her bones before yelling out, “Trick or treat! Smell my feet! Give me something good to eat!” At the end of this delicious story, the reader collects a bag of wonderful candy. Young readers will love being a character in this interactive tale by Newbery Honor writer, Marion Bauer; they will also enjoy the finely crafted illustrations by John Shelley. 2012, Holiday House, Ages 4 to 8, $16.95. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780823423248

Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces
J. H. Everett and Marilyn Scott-Waters

Be prepared to learn the gory reality behind majestic castles and romantic knights as Virgil Dante, the narrator and ghost historian, takes you through hundreds of years of history. With him is his companion, a raven named Thor. Together they escort you behind the scenes of how castles were built, why they existed and who lived there. Illustrations throughout explain the class structures of society, devices used for torture, and even the “secret code of Heraldic symbols.” While many history lessons involve only grown-ups, Virgil offers tales of what life was like for children of so long ago, including ways that kids would help defend castles and some of the disgusting chores that today’s youth are free from. This book has a table of contents, a tombstone timeline, a world map showing the locations of the castles, and a list of resources. It’s sure to be a popular addition to any library or classroom. 2012, Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan, Ages 9 to 12, $14.99. Reviewer: Cherie Haas (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780805089714

Haunted Love
Diana Gallagher

In the third book of the “Claudia & Monica: Freshman Girls” series, both of the girls are finally officially dating their respective crushes: Brad and Rory. Claudia is enjoying the perks of dating the Pine Creek Panthers’ star quarterback, Brad, which includes being part of the popular crowd. Monica is enjoying having a ride to school each day in Rory’s car. When the popular Sutton brothers decide to throw a Halloween party, Claudia is excited. The only problem is that most of her other friends don’t know the Suttons or have connections that could get them invited. The girls’ friend, Sylvia, is also having a party on the same night at the same time. If the girls don’t go to Sylvia’s party, they may end up losing her as a friend. Which party will the girls decide to go to? Will they be able to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings by choosing one party over the other? The book flips back and forth between the two girls’ points of view, which might confuse some younger readers. The vocabulary is appropriate for a third-grader, but the subject matter would likely be too advanced for a student of that age group. The chapters are short and the font is larger, which will appeal to reluctant readers. 2012, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Ages 8 to 10, $6.95. Reviewer: Heather Welsh (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781434232779

Make Your Own Horror Movie
Jonathan Quijano

For teens who aspire to be future Hitchcocks or Spielbergs, the “Velocity: Make Your Movie” series offers enthusiastic advice about film genres, writing a script, shooting the film and editing it, as well as tips on performance, like perhaps renting a local movie theater. Horror films feature a range of scary characters: slashers, zombies, monsters, and werewolves, not forgetting vampires. (Pictured are terrified Janet Leigh in Psycho and Lon Chaney, Jr., as The Wolf Man.) Moving on to preproduction, Quijano takes teens through the intricacies of plotting, choosing a setting (“a cornfield, wooded area, or cemetery”), figuring out the characters, and writing the script-not so easy, but the format of a proper movie script is painstakingly demonstrated. The longest and most chillingly interesting is the section on shooting, which covers cinematography with a reference to German Expressionism, recommends equipment (kids might rent a high-quality digital camera, but a video-camera or even a cell phone would do) and tips on using lights and cameras, working with actors, and making a storyboard. The best part is creating special effects like gooey or gushing blood, cutting into flesh, and biting into flesh (using ground beef and spaghetti)-teens will love it! Editing is the final step, often the most creative part; the author advises using a basic movie-editing program and offers “tips” for establishing sequence, making jump cuts, adding sound effects, and writing a score (to be added with editing software), each one of which sounds like a career in itself. Well, teens can certainly give it a go-everyone has to start somewhere-and have fun doing it, but parents or teachers may want to keep track of expenses and supervise scenes like the one that requires setting fire to a miniature house in your backyard. The glossary and bibliography may prove helpful. 2012, Capstone Press/Capstone, Ages 13 up, $31.32. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781429675284

Monsters Aren’t Real
Kerstin Schoene

We meet our monster hero on the first double page, astounded as it is surrounded by the repeated statement in may type faces: “Monsters aren’t real!” Contemplating itself in a mirror, it wonders, “Then what am I?” It knows it has all the necessary monster requisites, so it sets out to prove that monsters are real. Writing it everywhere, even confronting people, it finds that nobody is even paying attention. Trying to frighten a youngster watching TV, it ends up joining him on the floor. Just when it is about to give up, another monster turns up to prove its point. Off they go together, hand in hand. “Monsters are real. Really.” The hero is more cute than scary, with large eyes, antlers, claws, and a blobby body. The mainly double-page settings are basic, like walls for graffiti, or the dock on which a fisherman is untroubled by the huge octopus the monster drags along to show him. Many scenes are wordless fun. One of the balloons to which the monster has attached his “Monsters are real” notes, filled with gas, and floated away drifts across the end pages. 2012 (orig. 2011), Kane Miller/EDC Publishing, Ages 4 to 8, $14.99. Reviewer: Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781610670739

Pumpkin Countdown
Joan Holub
Illustrated by Jan Smith

The class is going on a trip to the pumpkin patch. There are nineteen students and one teacher, so the book starts the counting at twenty. The class and teacher sit two by two in ten rows and, as they journey, there are items to count. At thirteen they arrive at the pumpkin patch and meet Farmer Mixenmatch. Along the fence is a row of thirteen pumpkins representing as many varieties. There is a petting zoo which provides an opportunity to count the animals. Next, the kids and the reader learn how a pumpkin grows and watch bees make honey. What is a pumpkin patch without a maze and this one has ten scarecrows. Finally it is time to pick pumpkins and in the course of that activity, everyone sees pumpkins of many shapes and colors. The numbers that accompany this trip and countdown are featured in the corner of each page and are printed on the more common orange pumpkin. The endpapers are filled with pumpkin facts. A good selection for any fall or Halloween lesson. 2012, Albert Whitman, Ages 4 to 7, $16.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780807566602

Pumpkin Fever
Charnan Simon />Illustrated by Jan Bryan-Hunt

Erin’s family goes to the pumpkin field and chooses two round pumpkins. Dad and Erin carve one pumpkin while Mom uses her pumpkin in a different way. Most of the double-page pictures have less than ten words of text. The simple, colorful illustrations tell a large part of the story. This “Rookie Reader” deals with counting, numbers, and shapes. Beginning readers will get practice reading the math and shape words one, two, circle, rectangle, round, square, and triangle. The best use for this book might be as a read-aloud book to introduce these math concepts to young children. The blurb at the end of the story introduces the author and illustrator and this is followed by several activities to reinforce the lesson in counting and recognizing shapes–a rebus poem, maze, counting and grouping, as well as matching shapes. There is list of the fifty-nine words that make up the story. It will make a nice, not scary, Halloween story. Part of the “Rookie Ready to Learn-Seasons and Weather” series. 2011 (orig. 2007), Children’s Press/Scholastic, $22.00. Ages 2 to 6. Reviewer: Betty Key and Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780531268032

Ready for Pumpkins
Kate Duke

What a delightful picture book! The story and illustrations are terrific and this is one book that I am sure kids will want to hear a few times and look at the illustrations many times. Hercules is a classroom guinea pig and he has a really good life. He is fed, has plenty of water and the kids love him. Herky as he is called learns plenty and last fall he learned about Halloween. He saved some pumpkin seeds for later, but did not realize that they would be more than something he could much on until his summer trip. In school Herky watched the students plant seeds which grew to produce green beans and he was bit with the gardening bug. His big chance came when he spent the summer with the teacher’s father. Herky meets up with a rabbit named Daisy who helps him create a garden and plant his pumpkin seeds. Our class pet is impatient and wants the seeds to grow immediately. Thank goodness for cool-headed Daisy who helps him wait patiently for the seeds to sprout. The big day arrives and then the tiny shoots turn into big vines with lots of blossoms. They each enjoyed a few pumpkin flowers and watched the birds and insects also peck at and nibble on the growing pumpkins. Herky is not happy to leave his pumpkins, but it is time to go back to school. The ending provides a nice twist. The watercolor illustrations impart plenty of information about gardening from clearing the ground to planting seeds to the first fruits. There is also another lesson about patience which may be the hardest one for Herky to learn. An excellent choice for any young child. 2012, Knopf/Random House, Ages 3 to 8, $16.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature). .

ISBN: 9780375870682

The Scariest Thing of All
Debi Gliori

The tiniest bunny in a large, busy burrow, Pip is afraid of a near-endless list of things. When he hides in the warm, green grass, he is lulled into a nap that lasts until the smell of cooking wafts across the field. Raaaarrrr! Raaarrrr! The terrifying noise causes the little guy to turn and run into a forest full of creatures and shadows to add to his list of scary things, and the noise stays right with him. He stumbles into a twisty dark shape that does not budge when the terrible noise rumbles again. Standing still before the shape, Pip finally has time to realize that the noise is only his tummy, rumbling for dinner. In a slightly forced conversion, Pip decides that he must be “The Scariest Thing of All” and, if he is not afraid of himself, then nothing else should scare him either. Scampering back through the woods, he confronts one former fear after another, leaving the wigglers and gobblers and trolls of the forest frightened and shaking in his wake. The text will make for a fun parent/child read-aloud and Gliori’s watercolor and ink creations will provide delightful discoveries as the little ones explore the book on their own. 2012 (orig 2011), Walker Publishing/Bloomsbury, 3 to 7, $16.99. Reviewer: Barr Lichty (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 978080272391

We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt
Susan Pearson
Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

The familiar cadence and words associated with We’re Going on a Bear Hunt are giving a seasonal twist by Pearson. These kids are heading off on a ghost hunt. The foursome sneak down the stairs and head outdoors. The moon is bright and their shadows play on the lawn as they skip along and head for the murky swamp. They are not the least bit frightened. They charge through a cornfield, swim across a stream, and walk through a forest. The lilting text repeats at every change in landscape, the refrain–“It’s a starry night. The moon is bright. We’re not afraid.” But when they reach the graveyard and a ghost appears, their courage wavers and they make a fast trip back home retracting their steps through the woods, across the stream, cornfield and swamp to race into their beds. It was so much fun that they want to do it all over again the next night. The illustrations are full of humor and plenty of additional creatures to identify so little ones should not be spooked by this ghost hunt. 2012, Amazon Children’s Publishing, Ages 3 to 6, $16.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature). .

ISBN: 9780761463078

Working Mummies
Joan Horton
Illustrated by Drazen Kozjan

The play on words is what makes this story work, so if little ones do not get the connections then the story falls flat. The mummies are mommies and they work at typical jobs. The beautician mummy however files the nails of a yowling black cat, the waitress mummy serves scream of wheat, the doctor mummy prescribes coffin syrup and so on. The quatrains on each page have a simple rhyming scheme-ABCB and they work well without any awkward choices to force a fit to the scheme. The illustrations are the real focal point of this picture book. The mummies all have a different look and the variety of goblins and beasties throughout will offer young readers plenty to look at and discuss. There are lots of added extras such as signs in offices, room decorations, and clothing which add to the humor. While the book may appear dark, the text is upbeat and it ends on a sweet note. Perhaps that is one of the real issues with the book. The text and its play with words require a bit of sophistication-mummies do not unwind until they hug their boys and ghouls-features quite a bit of word play. A little different choice for Halloween and one that teachers in early grades might find useful in language arts classes. 2012, Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan, Ages 3 to 8, $12.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780374385248

Updated 10/1/12

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