After a delightful summer getting to know my new baby girl, I am back to reviewing picture books for you. This time we’re going to enjoy some spook-tastic stories in honour of Halloween. I was considering giving them a scare rating, but that really depends on your children. For example, I asked my two sons if they wanted to hear any of the scary stories and the oldest one flat out refused because they were too scary while the younger one was super excited and a little upset that he couldn’t hear these stories every day.
But in case you do have a more easily frightened child, know that not all books on this list are scary. In fact, I would argue that none of them are, but I will leave that up to you to decide.
In Monsters 101 by Cale Atkinson (Tundra, 2020) you and your children can learn everything you ever wanted to know about monsters: where do they sleep? What do they like to eat? What makes a monster a monster instead of an animal or fantasy creature? And what scares monsters? This hilarious textbook of Monstronomy is fabulously illustrated and when you’re done reading it, you can walk away with a super serious diploma and the title of monster scientist. For ages 3 to 7.
One of the first things you should know about Owling: Enter the World of the Mysterious Birds of the Night by Mark Wilson (Storey, 2019) is that the cover glows in the dark. And if your children love glow-in-the-dark items the way mine do, that is a huge selling feature. The next thing you should know is that the photographs in this book are stunning. Wilson is a wildlife photojournalist and he has been caring for owls and teaching people about them for more than 25 years. And while some non-fiction books may be boring and feel like you are reading a school textbook, Owling is nothing like that. Wilson interweaves facts and humour, so while you will learn a lot about owls, you will also be entertained. For ages 8 to 12.
In The Babysitter from Another Planet by Stephen Savage (Neal Porter Books, 2019), Mom and Dad go out to the movies and leave their two children in the care of an alien. It’s a little weird at first, but in the end, the two siblings would never want another babysitter. This is a good bedtime story for days when you don’t want to talk because not every page has words on it, so you can let them enjoy the images and giggle at the silly things the babysitter does and save your voice. For ages 3 to 7.
The Bat (Tundra, 2016) is part of Elise Gravel’s Disgusting Critters series, where she teaches children about different animals or insects with her characteristic comic book style artwork. In this short book, children can learn about echolocation, what the bat’s scientific name means, how they use their hands to fly, and many other tiny tidbits. For ages 3 to 7.
The final book is In the Dark: The Science of What Happens at Night by Lisa Deresti Betik and illustrated by Josh Holinaty (Kids Can Press, 2020) teaches children about the night. Betik explains what happens when children don’t get enough sleep, moon gardens, light pollution and so much more. For ages 8 to 12.