How Spooky Should We Go?
Halloween stories are lots of fun. For the younger students we have stories of funny witches, and pumpkins, and costume contests. But for the older students there are several books with what are considered "scary stories." Is this valuable literature for children? The debate goes on. Some of the most read are the "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series by Alvin Schwartz. While some of these are collections of tales from American folklore, personally I feel they may be a little intense, especially for children who are living in a world where the overall environment is more than a little frightening. Couple this with their exposure to the media and I have begun to wonder if reading scary stories is the right thing to emphasize on Halloween. So this year I spend the early weeks in October doing research with them on spiders and reading stories with a spider "theme." I liked this. Here we are, however, nearing Halloween and I admit I love reading those stories, but I have chosen stories for fourth, fifth and sixth grades that, while a little spooky, are somewhat humorous. I also chose them to illustrate the style of writing where a writer uses the length of sentences and the rhythm of sentences to create tension and mood so after we were done being "spooked" we "de-constructed" the scary part and looked at those literary devices. The story I read for fourth grade is a Spanish folktale Esteban and the Ghost by Sibyl Hancock. For fifth grade I read "Duffy's Jacket" by noted children's author Bruce Coville, and for sixth grade it's "The Surprise Guest" by none other than R.L. Stine.
Also in the library this week.....
Kindgergarten--Kindergarteners loved the rollicking rhyme of Room On the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffle. What happens when a witch lets too many passengers on her broom and it breaks? She has to face a scary dragon with half a broom, but her friends come to the rescue at the last minute. And her new broom? Well, let's just say it's the Mercedes of brooms!
First Grade--One of the worst things that could happen on Halloween is to have the wrong costume, and in Trick or Treat Smell My Feet by Diane Degroat, Gilbert and his sister accidentally switch costumes for their school's Halloween parade. To make matters worse, Gilbert has to wear the costume in the parade....a pink ballerina tutu! The best part of this story is how he handles it all with aplomb by dancing his way to the food table---a good lesson for us all!
Second Grade--Poor Dr. Smart Pig. He's all alone without a friend on Halloween since his brothers were eaten last year by the Big Bad Wolf. But since he's a scientist he comes up with an ingenious plan to create a friend. After a few missteps, he creates.....a monster pig who eats him out of house and home (literally). But when the Big Bad Wolf appears dressed as granny to trick or treat at his door, Porkenstein saves the day. His insatiable appetite actually comes in handy! Porkenstein is by Kathryn Lasky and illustrated with wonderful humor by David Jarvis.
Third Grade--Chris Van Allsburg is one of my favorite children's authors and I must say The Widow's Broom is my favorite of all his books. The story is mesmerizing and funny at the same time and the illustrations are exquisite. Third graders loved the twist at the end and got the subtle but powerful message that we should not judge without information.
Happy Halloween (and don't get spooked!)