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Our top 5 spooky stories for Halloween

After the post I wrote on Zouk, the feisty little French witch, I thought it would be nice to rummage through our collection of books with subjects loosely related to Halloween.

My list will not be as long as this elaborate one where you will find great suggestions by age range. But our top 5 contains five tried and tested books that you can trust will please young readers in search of a not too frightful reading session.Room-on-the-Broom

First, I thought we should start with one of our favourite witches in the classic Room on the Broom by Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson. Do I really need to introduce Julia Donaldson considering the Gruffalo has sold over 6.5 million copies? I’m really not sure. My son’s currently obsessed with Superworm that he read at school, and I have read with him and his sister the Gruffalo, Zog, Stick Man and the Smartest Giant in Town countless times.

In this book, the witch loses her hat, her bow, and a wand, but luckily finds three animals: a dog, a frog and a green bird willing to help her find her possessions. For each loss she gains a new friend and each time she makes room on her broomstick and whoosh flies away. That is until the broomstick snaps in two, and they all tumble in a bog. Suddenly alone and face to face with a hungry dragon who’s eager to have witch and chips, she manages to escape thanks to her new group of friends. The care with which the story is written, its rhythm and its rhymes are a delight. No review can do justice to a reading, so here is a link to one that I like:

Now the fact that I have a child who’s allergic to cats does not mean that we don’t love feline creatures, quite the contrary actually. At the moment, we all have a bit of a crush for Wilburn, Winnie’s companion in the series of books Winnie the witch by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul. In Winnie Flies Again, my two kids love seeing Winnie both puzzled and scared when she turns her broomstick into a bicycle and later a skateboard in order to avoid the dangerous flying machines that she keeps facing in the sky. I’m not giving away the end as it is hilarious and unexpected, but trust me, this is a good one!


A more recent discovery for us is Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School by Simon Puttock and Ali Pye. It is a mouse’s first night at school and it’s going to take all the patience of her teacher and the kindness of the other pupils bat, cat and owl to make her feel less shy. This album is full of exquisite details that my children love: the jars and books of spells on the shelves of the classroom, the tables and chairs that are just right for each of the creatures, and the shiny bits on the cover. You can see how welcoming the classroom is on the illustration I chose for the whole post.  This book would also be a great choice for kids starting school, one to read with their parents during a peaceful summer at home.


Finally the last two titles we chose are quite different. If your children like books like Where’s Wally? and challenges, they will love The Best Halloween Hunt by John Speirs. Fear not and enjoy the mazes! All the answers are at the back if your little ones get too frustrated. This one is great to keep them busy on the train, or when you’re waiting for a meal at the restaurant.


And last but not least, here is another book by Rebecca Cobb titled Spooky Sums and Counting Horrors.  I know I have already reviewed another book by Rebecca Cobb, but this is such a hit with my son who loves counting that I could not keep it off this list.


Slightly older readers will delight in the gruesome details of the feast’s preparation. Look at these cocktails, aren’t they delightful?


My son adores the ten dancing monsters all in pairs. the yeti, the mummy, the dragon and dracula are clearly having the time of their life. I like the fact that at the end of the party, the little ghosts, exhausted yet happy, and needing their beauty sleep go to bed like everyone else.

If your kids are into numbers, you should try some of these Halloween maths games. I like the idea of spooky sums almost as much as that of Frankenstein puddings (although in the case of the later, I would probably change the recipe for a pistachio flavoured custard and homemade double chocolate cookies).

For more Halloween ideas, see my thematic board on Pinterest and have fun this Halloween!




Our top 5 space related picture books

After seeing Larry fly in a gorgeous and shiny looking rocket in The Secret Life of Suitcases at the Unicorn theatre, we had a good look at our shelves and re-read many of the books  we have about space and rockets.  It then occurred to me that it would be fun to select our top five picture books about space and-or aliens. I won’t be doing a detailed review for each of the titles we selected, but I will tell you why the kids and I like each of them in particular. And of course I will point you in the direction of other writers who may have reviewed them on their blogs, because isn’t sharing the love of books as well as recommendations the objective of this blog?!

*Lerry Korda‘s Little Nye is an adorable and resourceful character who likes nothing more than playing with bits and bobs and building things. After asking questions about space to his bookish friend Lester, he starts building a rocket with pots and pans. My 4 year old son loves all of little Nye’s friends: Nella, Grace and Lester, and he finds Little Nye’s stubborn clumsiness very funny! The character’s determination, the book’s bright colours and the happy ending with cupcakes adds to the magic of their imaginary trip to space. After all, why should you simply build a den when you can go for a rocket?!


If building a rocket is not your thing, and you much prefer the idea of cupcakes, you should try Nathasha’s lemon muffin recipe inspired by Korda’s book. They look yummy and would make a lovely tie-in activity.

*Simon Bartram‘s Man on the Moon describes Bob’s daily routine. The wonderfully detailed and lush illustrations are a real pleasure and Bob’s obsession with perfection is fun to watch. He has an extraordinary job since everyday he is the one who keeps the moon nice and tidy, and  needs to make sure that tourists have a great experience. The only problem with Bob is his denial that aliens exist. This is, you will have guessed, the book’s most comical aspect, as on many pages you can play ‘spot the alien’. Bartram has made several other books with the same character, so if your child is sold on Bob, give the others a try.



*Both my children love Oliver Jeffers‘s books and The way Back Home is no exception.  A  little boy decides to take a plane he’d forgotten about for a spin, but he unfortunately runs out of petrol and ends up all alone and afraid on the moon. Soon he is joined by a martian whose spaceship has also decided to stop working. So they decide to join forces and design a plan to fix their machines. The plan involves going back to earth and getting the right spanner and petrol. Once their machines are back to normal, they decide to go home, but keep wondering whether they will ever meet again. As usual with Jeffers, the images are both poetic and charming, and the characters very sweet.


There is no rocket in this book but if you are crafty, you could try to make lovely finger puppets like these? How cool are they?


Now our last two favourites both involve silliness and aliens. They are Colin McNaughton’s Here Come the Aliens 


and Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort. Both these books include aliens of all shapes and sizes, some scary, some silly. The details of their anatomy and their fashion sense are often outrageous but also hilarious!


I have no idea how much time we have spent discussing the various details of the longed after underpants, but it probably adds up to a few hours! Maybe that tells me I should write a post on pants.


I know I said we’d do a top 5, but since limiting ourselves to five was really difficult, I’ve decided to add a little bonus title, last but not least of our recommendations: Toys in Space. We’re big fans of Minnie Grey’s Traction Man and Biscuit Bear, and this one is also a winner. So if you’re curious, read a detailed review here.

Now if you want an alternative to our selection, check Steve Cole’s Top 10 on the Guardian, or the awesome selection about spaceships made on the blog Orange Marmalade.

If you want a break from reading, but are happy to indulge your little space fanatic, try Orchard’s Rocket game, perfect for kids from 2 to 4-5.


Finally, for a fun film night at home watch Moonman, the animated film based on Tomi Ungerer‘s brilliant book, who was one of my favourite authors as a kid!