Thursday, October 28, 2010
The Good, the Bad, and the ScaryWhat I love about Halloween for toddlers and preschoolers: a day devoted to pretend and imagination and playing dress-up! What I don’t love about Halloween: filling little minds with ideas of ghosts, witches, haunted houses, or otherwise scary creatures or places. Call me naïve or accuse me of sheltering my children, but aren’t there enough scary things in the world without telling them about imaginary things to be scared of “for fun?” When I taught middle school and my students devoured Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark, it made for a good discussion of urban legend and fun, chill-inducing read-alouds at Halloween time. However, finding books appropriate for younger children, engaging books that highlight the fun without giving the creeps, has proven a little challenging for me!
The best part of Halloween for young children is the dress-up. Deciding what to dress as, selecting or crafting a costume, and showing it off at parties or trick-or-treating is plenty of excitement for little ones. I was drawn to Here Comes Halloween, by Caroline Jayne Church, because the illustrations so closely match those in one of my favorite books, I Love You Through and Through (reviewed here). I was not disappointed once I got a look at the text. It is a board book, including some touch and feel features and flaps, but even at 4 years old B continues to enjoy it. A child explores his Halloween costume choices through dress-up and imagination. What fun!
Also centered on the choice of costume but including other seasonal elements as well is And then Comes Halloween, by Tom Brenner. This picture book has more advanced text and detailed illustrations. The feel is just magical as the family goes about seasonal preparations for Halloween, which include costume selection as well as decorations, pumpkin carving, and changing weather. The conclusion of the book is trick-or-treating and happily off to bed, which is exactly the kind of Halloween experience I hope for my boys.
Last week Maggie of Red Ted Art linked her review of Apples and Pumpkins to Feed Me Books Friday, and I just had to check it out. It was an excellent follow-up to our trip to the pumpkin patch with B’s preschool class. The harvest season is more emphasized in this story, but it does include carving the jack-o-lantern and trick-or-treating.
Prior to our pumpkin patch trip, I checked out Kids’ Pumpkin Projects, by Deanna F. Cook, from our library. It’s not a read-aloud, more of a reference for parents or a project book for older kids. Great year-round projects though, including planting a pumpkin garden, caring for it, harvesting, enjoying, and preserving pumpkins. We enjoyed several recipes and B is adamant that next year’s garden include a pumpkin vine.
Some Friendly Tricks
So how do you explain the phrase “trick-or-treat” without being too scary? B and I talked about tricks like riddles or fun surprises. B is a lover of riddles in general, so I used that interest and understanding to make a friendly introduction to some of the Halloween icons he’ll see in the stores, decorating the neighborhood, or costuming older kids. How Do You Know It’s Halloween, by Dian Curtis Regan, presents riddles in the form of listed clues and a revealing flap. Some of the items revealed include a jack-o-lantern, a skeleton, and a ghost, but the illustrations are friendly and nothing menacing is suggested by the clues. We used it as another opportunity to talk about real and pretend.
A similar lift-the-flap riddle book is Boo, Who? by Joan Holub. It introduces Halloween stand-bys like a ghost and a witch with simple, rhyming riddles and light-hearted illustrations. The final riddle reveals the “scariest monster” in a mylar mirror! Great reminder that the costumes kids encounter hide kids just like them and are nothing to fear.
Appropriate for: toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.
Any suggestions for making Halloween fun and friendly? Leave me a comment or link up a review of your own (whether or not it’s Halloween themed).
And don’t forget to enter the giveaway on Wednesday’s review post!