Halloween in Australia isn’t the all-out holiday it is in America, but it can still be fun to play dress-ups and choose some spooky stories for bed-time reading. Here’s a list of picture books that blend horror with humour for young readers.
- My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen, illustrated by James Foley (Walker Books Australia, 2015). This book was shortlisted for the 2016 CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards, and tops my list as the scariest book for youngsters. Think Pet Sematary for preschoolers. Read it yourself first to be sure your little one can handle it, and laugh out loud at the gory zombie bunny Brad, complete with smiling worm poking out of the skull. I love rhyme when it’s done well; Sigi Cohen nails it here.
- Inside Mary Elizabeth’s House by Pamela Allen (Penguin Books Australia, 2001). Mary Elizabeth is an adorable yet sinister girl who lets her classmates, ‘the boys,’ in on a secret: there’s a monster living at her house. The boys scorn her, so Mary Elizabeth counters with more and more details about her monster friend. At last, she invites the boys over for ‘dinner’. Pamela is an author-illustrator who really knows her stuff. This book uses rhyme without being a rhyming book, which is easier said than done. Kids will be firmly on Mary Elizabeth’s side as the boys find out what happens to people who don’t believe in monsters …
- I’m Going to Eat You by Matt Mitter, illustrated by Jimmy Pickering (The Five Mile Press, 2006). This spooky pop-up book features bogeymen, sea serpents, ghosts, skeletons and werewolves, but the last page reveals something even more terrible. A fun introduction to scary creatures that will appeal to even the youngest blooming horror aficionados.
- Fright Club by Ethan Long (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2015). Vladmir (a vampire, of course) is the leader of Fright Club, and on the eve of Halloween he has ideas about what kinds of creatures can be in on ‘Operation Kiddie Scare’. A clue: monsters, witches, ghosts and mummies are in. Bunnies, tortoises, butterflies and squirrels are out. This book has the beautiful interaction between text and illustration that happens when a skilled author-illustrator has a good sense of humour. Will the equal rights movement win the day? Have fun finding out.
- Wake Up Do, Lydia Lou by Julia Donaldson (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2013).Lydia Lou dozes through a ghost’s increasingly desperate efforts to stir her. When she wakes, her response to the scream-seeking ghost is perfect. Julia Donaldson is the current Queen of the rhyming picture book. Wake Up Do, Lydia Lou won’t disappoint kids looking for a wild and spooky Halloween read.