My favorite Halloween book for older listeners comes from one of my favorite children’s authors, Chris Van Allsburg. Like all of his books, The Widow’s Broom has wonderfully detailed sepia illustrations. There are magical elements and sufficient “scariness” for 3rd and 4th graders to really enjoy the book.
Synopsis: A witch falls out of the sky when her broom wears out. She leaves with another witch but leaves her old broom behind. The Widow Shaw inherits the broom and finds it to be very useful. Not only does it sweep (it’s favorite activity), but it also chops wood, fetches water and plays piano. Neighborhood children tease it as it’s sweeping. The broom makes short work of their dog (flinging it into a tree) and scares the children. When the neighbors hear about the broom, they tell Minna Shaw that it is evil. She and the broom hatch a scheme that sends the neighbors away and leaves them in peace.
Another Halloween favorite for very young listeners. Ghosts in the House is sweet and funny with simple illustrations.
Synopsis: A girl moves into a house that’s haunted. That’s no problem, because she is a witch and likes ghosts. In fact, she finds them very useful. After throwing them into the washing machine and hanging them out to dry, her ghosts become curtains, a tablecloth and finally blankets for she and her cat.
While I’m still remembering my Halloween read alouds, I want to mention one of my favorites. Room on the Broom combines great rhyming with enough repetition to keep even the youngest listener engaged. The illustrations, by Alex Scheffler, are great and the story funny and sweet. I read this to my pre-k and K classes.
Synopsis: A witch is flying on her broomstick with her cat and drops her hat. A dog finds it but asks, “Is there room on the broom for me?”. As the story progresses, the witch drops a stunning number of things and gives a ride to many different creatures. When the witch’s broom snaps in half, all her passengers fall into a bog. She flies into a cloud, only to meet a fierce dragon who wants to eat her. All of her animal friends gather themselves together. Covered with bog slime and stacked one on top of the other, they look so fearsome, they scare the dragon away. Left without a broom, the witch and her friends make a brew and create a spectacular new broomstick with room for everyone.
Ah. Finally a great horror book for tweens and middle school. Darren Shan has written a book that will please your readers seeking “creepy” books. My son read the 12 books in the series in a matter of a month – six books in one week. It’s that compelling. I thought the writing was really good. I couldn’t wait to read what was going to happen next.
Synopsis: Darren Shan and his friends see a flyer advertising the Cirque du Freak. They pool their money and buy two tickets. Darren and his friend Steve win a game and get to use the tickets. They sneak out at night to an abandoned theater and are amazed at the “freaks” in the show. When Steve gets bitten by Madame Octa, a spider Darren stole from Mr. Crepsley, a member of the Cirque du Freak, the boys begin a page-turning journey into the world of vampires.
What a funny and fun read aloud with a very satisfying ending. This is your chance to accents and animation. If you do, you’re sure to get lots of laughs. Perfect for 2nd grade read alouds.
Synopsis: A cat named Jack loves eggs and omeletes. So, he makes the perfect nest so that birds will come and lay their eggs. When the birds find the nest, they love it. In fact, Jack finds that the Spanish-speaking chicken, the French duck and Southern goose love it so much, they argue about who will get the nest. Jack solves the problem by telling them about another “perfect” nest at the next farm. The birds race to claim the next nest, leaving their eggs behind. When the eggs hatch, Jack has a whole new problem to deal with.
If your middle schooler/tween is looking for action and excitement, this may be the series you’ve been looking for. In this 12 part series, beginning with January and ending with December, there is non-stop action and suspenseful endings that keep you wanting more. These books are less than 200 pages, also making them appealing for reluctant readers, and are numbered backwards from page 185 to 1.
Synopsis: Cal is a 15 year old boy whose father died from a mysterious virus. Cal lives with his mother, his little sister and his uncle. One day, Cal is stopped by a stranger and told to go into hiding for 365 days, or else. Suddenly, Cal is in almost constant danger and is even accused of trying to kill his little sister. Cal is forced into hiding, helped by his loyal and brainy friend, Boges. Cal suspects that the work his father was doing in Ireland before his death is at the bottom of this mystery. It’s up to Cal and his friend Boges to discover the secret behind the Ormond Singularity. The final book, December, leaves you wanting for more. Luckily, there are two more books that have been written for the Australian market and will hopefully be printed in the U.S. The first, Revenge, is written from Boges’ point of view. The second follow-on book is called Malice. Stay tuned!
This is a story of resilience and hope told by a main character whose matter of fact, funny and touching storytelling are memorable. An incredible book. Highly recommended for middle school.
Synopsis: It’s the late sixties. Doug is a Yankees fan who lives in a family with an abusive dad, a brother in Vietnam, another abusive older brother and a mom with a beautiful smile. When his father loses his job, the family moves to Marysville, NY, in the Catskills. Doug finds a friend, a mentor and the drawings of John Audubon. Doug manages to make an incredible number of friends, even when it seems all the odds are against him. The adults of Maryville and his one friend rally to his side in small, believable ways. Most incredible is Doug’s ability to see and recreate the beauty of the Audubon prints he sees in the library.
Moon Over Manifest won the Newbery Award in 2011. This book combines a compelling mystery with wonderful characters. It is filled because with poignant stories of a small town of people pulling together in the face of hardship, friendship and a parent’s love for their child. Highly recommended for middle readers or as a read aloud for fourth or fifth grade.
Synopsis: Moon Over Manifest is the story about a 12 year old girl who lands in a small Kansas town called Manifest in 1936 after traveling as a drifter with her father for years. She wants to learn about her father’ time in Manifest, where he spent time as a boy. Her story in 1936 is cleverly woven together with the town’s history from 1918, which she hears through the stories of an old Hungarian woman, other towns’ people and newspaper articles.
Sing, Sophie, Sing! by Dayle Ann Dodds never fails to get laughs when I read it aloud. I think it works best with kindergarten and 1st graders. There are lots of funny phrases. If you can sing and pull off a southern accent, all the better.
Synopsis: Sophie’s singing and guitar strumming bothers everyone in her family until a big thunderstorm scares her little brother. When Sophie stops Baby Jacob’s tears, everyone finally appreciates her singing.
Welcome to Kids’ Lit Corner, a blog about kid’s books. My name is Dagmar Serota. I’m a volunteer librarian at a pre-k through middle school public school in Oakland, CA.
I’m always on the hunt for great, read aloud books that keep my younger, pre-k through 3rd graders engaged and smiling and my older, 4th through 8th grade readers excited. I’ll highlight books that are my favorites and books that are real winners with students in my library. So, if you’re a children’s librarian, a teacher, a parent, a student or just a big fan of children’s literature this may be the blog for you.
Thanks for tuning in. Stay posted for my book reviews. I hope they help you with your book selections.