Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Storytime Favorites

Halloween time is one of the best at the library. We decorate the children’s room and are rewarded by toddlers barreling into the area joyfully shouting, “Halloween!” upon seeing the confetti filled cauldron, jack-o-lantern lights and hanging cobwebs. We buy ghost stickers, purple spider rings and black cat bookmarks as treats for the kids. We put together costumes, shopping at thrift stores, sewing something from scratch or raiding our closets, in order to properly impress the little ones. We create festive flyers featuring images of pumpkins and scarecrows for the main focus of our Halloween celebrations - storytimes.

There are a plethora of delightful picture books to choose from for Halloween storytimes but my favorite ones are those that you don’t need to read but can tell instead. Doing weekly storytimes year round isn't conducive for proper storytelling without the book. It can be time intensive and takes a lot of prep but for our special holiday events I love to lose the book. I think groups have a more memorable and captivating experience when they must use their imagination and rely solely on the storyteller’s voice. It also allows for you to better connect with the audience and involve them in the story. Here are some of my favorites that I have used in the past few years.

The Teeny Tiny Woman by Paul Galdone
The incessant repetition of “teeny tiny” makes it easy to tell. Even if you don’t remember the story word for word, you can easily ad-lib and just tack on “teeny tiny” in front of whatever you say. Plus, kids find the fact that you are constantly saying “teeny tiny” exasperatingly entertaining.

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything 
by Linda Williams
A true Halloween classic. This is great with or without the book, although, you need something to show at the end since the big surprise is a scarecrow, so I’d recommend doing it as a flannel board. This interactive story is great for a wide range of ages and no matter how many times kids have heard it, they don’t get sick of it.

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman
Modeled after The Enormous Turnip, it is a fun story starring a witch who can’t get her big pumpkin off the vine so enlists the help of a ghost, vampire, mummy and a bat. Again, the repetition makes it an easy and engaging story to share. I speed up the sequences as it goes along to make it more dramatic.

The Little Green Witch by Barbara Barbieri McGrath
This one too is a spin off a familiar tale, The Little Red Hen. The ghost, bat and gremlin in the story are lazy and refuse to help the little green witch throughout the process of making a pumpkin pie so she decides to teach them a lesson and cleverly turns them into little red hens.

The Little Orange House by Jean Stangi
This is a cut and tell story so while cutting a piece of orange paper with scissors you describe how you are making a house for a little witch and at the end you have an unexpected picture of a jack-o-lantern. The audience is always pleasantly surprised.

Looking at my list, I realize the best Halloween stories all seem to feature petite women or witches. Another story I’m excited to try out in the future, that does not feature a little woman, is one I heard from a locally hired performer who tells campfire stories. It’s called The Ghost with One Black Eye. Again, it has all the right elements, repetition, humor and a somewhat unexpected ending.

When I do end up using the book during holiday storytimes, I select ones that have a little more pizazz since we get a huge turnout and it takes a little something extra keeping the attention of a large crowd of young ones. Here are some of my favorite books to use and they all have a musical bent.

Shake Dem Halloween Bones by W. Nikola-Lisa
I had high hopes for this one after looking last year for some fresh Halloween book fare. I somehow ended up watching a Youtube video of a teacher and her first grade class reading it. The class looked like they were having the best time performing it so I knew that it would work perfectly for storytime. I had the pleasure of reading it to preschoolers yesterday and it lived up to my expectations.

Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia Andrews
A super interactive story about a town's Halloween romp in the graveyard. It will get everyone moving, in high spirits and will be stuck in your head long after you finish reading it.

The Monster Mash by David Catrow
This is a recently published book with beautiful illustrations accompanying the well-known Monster Mash song. I must admit that I haven't been brave enough to actually try it yet. I’m not much of a singer and while I’ll unabashedly sing storytime rhymes and chant loudly and proudly, this might be beyond my scope. Maybe I’ll practice it and see if I’m up to it next year.

These special Halloween storytimes always feel magical and because Halloween programs are an easy sell to families, they provide a wonderful opportunity to share with kids the absolute joy of reading, introduce parents that are new library users to the fun and free activities that we offer and leave a positive and lasting impression on all who participate.