It’s the most spooktacular time of the year! Gravestones line lawns, and bats and witches fill the night sky. October is my favorite month, and every year I look forward to haunted houses, corn mazes, pumpkin spice lattes, and watching The Worst Witch and Garfield’s Halloween. (Or even The Halloween that Almost Wasn’t – you can’t beat a disco Dracula!)
Halloween storytime is so much fun to prepare. From the classic Room on the Broom to the very creepy new Halloween Forest by Marion Dane Bauer and John Shelley, I love being just deliciously creepy enough to allow for some shivers without actually causing some scares. However, if there are very sensitive kiddos in the library (or parents very leery about Halloween), I also plan for a storytime full of thrills and chills without the tears and fears. Here are two of my favorite suspenseful picture books with no mention of Halloween:
An semi-oldie but goodie is Mara Bergman’s and Nick Maland’s Snip Snap! What’s That? I usually preface this reading by asking the kids if they’ve ever been afraid of anything. After all the shouts of “Spiders!” and “Dogs!” and “Scary movies!” I then ask them if they have ever realized later that what they were afraid of wasn’t really that scary. From here the kids know that although the upcoming book may be frightening at first, it will have a happy ending. The children in Snip Snap! are chased by a very onomatopoeic alligator throughout their house. At each junction, the author asks and answers, “Were the children scared? YOU BET THEY WERE!” The repetition allows for audience participation, and the rhyming text keeps the pace moving steadily along. At the end of the story, the children stand up to the alligator and scare him away. “Was the alligator scared? YOU BET IT WAS!” The alligator escapes the children and hides in the sewers (perhaps setting the scene for a future urban legend…). The children in my storytime love to answer the refrain and enjoy the somewhat silly tension throughout the story.
My current storytime favorite also has some suspense but with a much sillier tone. David LaRochelle’s and Jeremy Tankard’s It’s a Tiger! also allows for audience participation as the main character repeatedly encounters a tiger, no matter how hard he tries to avoid it. At every turn of the page, the children can join in yelling, “It’s a TIGER!” and run in place or stomp their feet. The story ends with the tiger not being so scary after all, but there is a circular twist to the finale. A take-home idea for parents relating to this book is to hide the letter of the word “tiger” around their house. As the child finds each letter, he or she can yell out, “It’s a ‘T!'” and run amok similar to the character in the story. This will not only enhance letter recognition and print motivation, but can also expend energy and end in giggles.
I am always on the lookout for more not-so-scary picture book titles! If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.
Happy Halloween, all!