Over the last month, I have had a few discussions with my kids, ages five and three, about what a mummy is.  Turns out, the mummy is an iconic image my kids haven’t yet learned.  When they hear my husband or I say “mummy,” they think “a mom.”

These confusing exchanges got me thinking about all the Halloween monster categorizations my adult brain takes for granted.  Zombies, witches, werewolves, ghosts, vampires, and mummies, too, are all featured in Halloween books, TV specials, costumes, and favors.  They make up a substantial part of American Halloween culture.

While I would never break out flashcards for memorizing horror symbols, these images are a predominate part of Halloween festivities.  Each of the books below present the classic images of Halloween, from cheery pumpkins to classic universal monsters, while also providing your youngster with age appropriate holiday entertainment and literacy experiences.

Young babies have unique literacy needs.  Newborns enjoy pictures of faces and high contrast.  Yaccarino’s jack’o’lanterns delivers both with the pumpkins’ varied expressions and black features.   For text, newborns enjoy hearing their parents’ voices, especially the rhythm and rhyme provided in the “Five Little Pumpkins.”   The book is very short making it great for repeat readings throughout the day to accommodate short attention spans.  Its also in board book format, perfect for standing up during tummy time or being gummed by accident.  As your child grows older, the board book pages are easy to turn and you can engaged in finger play with hand motions.

Older babies start to have a longer attention spans and desire to explore books with their hands. Karen Katz specializes in brightly painted board books featuring illustrations of cute babies. Many of her books have large flaps that reveal a surprise related to the text that are great for fine motor skills and delightful for young children to play with again and again. In her Halloween themed book, toddlers can search under leaves and behind doors to find a friendly ghost and sparkling bats.

The flaps in Walsh’s book are much smaller and relate to the text in more complex ways (versus Katz’s large hide-and-seek flaps). While also a step up for fine motor skills, Trick or Treat also raises the spookiness by introducing more Halloween images without turning them into cute caricatures.

Kohara makes a clever spin on a haunted house by making her protagonist a witch who confidently washes all the ghosts and directs them to become happy curtains and blankets.  Seeing the ghosts in the washer quickly robs them of their power to scare, and the witch’s confidence is contagious.  The illustrations are a joy with beautiful orange pages with thick black lines and transparent white ghosts.

Perhaps the scariest on the list, One Witch is a counting book featuring lots of creepy creatures and a gross witch’s brew; it represents the heart of Halloween fun.  A witch visits increasingly large groups of spooky friends, such as scarecrows, mummies, and skeletons, to gather ingredients for her cauldron.  Leuck delivers the correct amount of scary and fun.  Her illustrations are tamer than costumes and decor children will encounter Halloween night, yet she does not sugar coat the monsters, and instead shows them for what they are — monsters.  The illustrations are not cute, until the final page when all the characters come share the witch’s brew at a lively party.

Recently voted a top ten role model on TV for his PBS series, Arthur leads children through coming of age experiences through more than sixty picture and chapter books.  In Arthur’s Halloween, Arthur is anxious about everything creepy about Halloween, but learns to overcome his fear to “rescue” his little sister DW when she wanders off to trick or treat at the scariest house in town.  The neighborhood haunted house reveals not a witch, but a kind old lady who needs help maintaining her property.   Adults may find the plot overdone, but its new for children, and ripe with topics to discuss ranging from courage to Halloween traditions to not judging appearances.

So before the month is done, consider reading Where Is Baby’s Pumpkin? after taking your little one to the pumpkin patch for the first time.  Or, snuggle up with your big kid on the couch with some warm cider and give Arthur’s Halloween a try.  And if you have other Halloween favorites, please share them with us!

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