Best Halloween Books for Kids

Halloween is about two things, candy and getting spooked. Kids have the candy part covered when they go trick-or-treating. However, getting them spooked can be tough. You obviously do not want have them watch horror movies like adults do and only so many "jump out and scare you" tricks work on kids. Halloween books come in all reading level and there is no limit to the spooks because they are all in your kid's imagination. That is why Halloween books are great for kids. They can get their spooks, tailored to their needs.

Halloween Books for Young Kids

"I Spy Spooky Night" by Walter Wick and Jean Marzollo

Suggested age range: 4-8

"I Spy Spooky Night" is a picture puzzle book. Kids are challenged to find Halloween-themed items hidden in spooky settings on every page. This Halloween book contains rhyming riddles by Marzollo and pictures by Wick. To be honest, this book is great for adults too. All of the I Spy books are capable of pulling anybody in.

"The Big Pumpkin" by Erica Silverman

Suggested age range: 4-8

"The Big Pumpkin" is a very popular Halloween book for small children. It has spooks, but it is non-threatening and fun. It is about a witch who wants to make a pumpkin pie, but has to grow a pumpkin first. The pumpkin gets too big and stuck on the vine, so she must enlist the help of a bat, a ghost, a skeleton and a mummy. This book contains illustrations by S.D. Schindler.

"No More Monsters for Me" by Peggy Parish

Suggested age range: 4-8

This book is about a girl who longs for a pet, but her mother will not let her have one. She runs away from home for a short while and finds a monster, which she brings back to her house. The problem is that the monster starts getting bigger and bigger until she is forced to take him out at night and find his real home. This is a great Halloween book for young children. It is not frightening in the slightest.

"No More Monsters for Me" is illustrated by Marc Simont.

Halloween Books for Older Kids

"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark," "More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" and "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 3" by Alvin Schwartz

Suggested age range: 9-12

The above three books are collections of scary stories, some of which you might recognize as urban legends. Their content has caused controversy ever since the first book was published because of their frightening nature. However, scary stories are not meant to be pleasant and these are aimed at an older, more mature age group. The illustrations are frightening as well. They are courtesy of Stephen Gammell. If your child is easily frightened, I would not suggest these books, no matter what their age. They are great for Halloween, but they can be a little too much.

Shelly Barclay

Be sure to gauge the fright level your kid can handle before giving them any of these books. You never know what will keep them up at night. If you give them too much of a scare, you will be dealing with the consequences long after Halloween.

Best Poetry Books for Children

The Jabberwock
Poetry is one of the most fun ways to introduce your children to reading. Simple rhymes with silly or funny content can really engage children and make them want to read or be read to more. Over the years, numerous books of children's poetry have been published. Some are fantastic. Some are nothing short of boring and others are too fluffy and sugarcoated for modern children. The following are the best that I have ever read.

"The Random House Book of Poetry for Children" poems selected by Jack Prelutsky

"The Random House Book of Poetry for Children" is a collection of poems for children by many different authors. Some of these poems are obscure. You may have never heard of them before. However, there are also some very familiar poems, such as "The Jabberwocky." This was the first poetry book that I ever gave to my stepson. He is eight-years-old now (this was written many years ago) and has nearly twenty poetry anthologies. He still reads this one regularly. I know. I find it next to his bed in the morning at least once a month.

"Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein

"Where the Sidewalk Ends" is a collection of poems by the extremely talented Shel Silverstein. Some of these poems are nonsensical, some are silly, and some are serious. I have yet to meet a child who does not like at least one of them. This collection was around when I was a child and it is still enjoyed by children today.

"A Light in the Attic" by Shel Silverstein

"A Light in the Attic" is another very popular collection by Shel Silverstein. It is very similar to "Where the Sidewalk Ends," but slightly less popular, at least with today's children. That is not saying much, as both have sold millions of copies.

"The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury" poems selected by Jack Prelutsky

"The 20th Century Children's Poetry Treasury" is yet another brilliant collection by Jack Prelutsky. In this anthology, Jack puts together poems from every decade of the 20th century. It is actually a rather clever way of doing it, as there is something for every taste and every age group. Grandparents and parents reading this book to the children in their lives may spot something that was read to them during their own childhoods.

These four books will introduce your children into the world of poets' imaginations. They will beware the Jabberwocky. They will walk with a walk that is measured and slow to where the sidewalk ends. In addition, much to your chagrin and their delight, they will learn how not to have to dry the dishes.

Please feel free to share your favorite children's poetry books in the comments section below!

Shelly Barclay

Three Influential Female Writers of the 19th Century

The nineteenth century was an interesting time for female authors. Many of the world’s greatest female authors were published during this time and the work they published would change the face of literature for more than just women. The publishing world had been truly opened up to them, even if many of them were still forced to publish under pseudonyms, for various reasons. Listed here are three of the best book-writing women of the time, in no particular order.

Mary Shelley
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born on August 30, 1797. Her mother passed away eleven days after she was born. Her father eventually remarried and Mary grew up with her siblings, her father, her stepmother and her stepsiblings. She was mainly home schooled, but she was influenced greatly by her father and his intellectual friends, who were among some of the best thinkers of the time. Presumably under their tutelage, Mary published her first poem when she was only ten years old.

In 1814 at the age of sixteen, Mary ran away with the man who was the love of her life, Percy Bysshe Shelly. Percy was married at the time, but both of the lovers were impetuous and romantic. Mary went on to write a book about their impromptu trip together called "History of a Six Weeks Tour." She soon became pregnant with Percy’s child. She lost the child and two more, but the couple did go on to produce a son together.

In 1816 Percy’s wife committed suicide and then Mary and Percy married on December 30, of the same year. Two years later, in 1818, Mary Shelley published her greatest work, the timeless classic, "Frankenstein." In 1822 Percy Bysshe Shelley died in a drowning accident while going to visit with friends. After his death, Mary published several novels, but none were as popular as "Frankenstein." She died in her home in London on February 1, 1851.

Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily’s father was a lawyer and worked as the treasurer at Amherst College. He was also very active in politics. Emily was a bright young girl and by all accounts was witty, but shy. She had a normal childhood and traveled when necessary. She also attended Amherst College for a short time before having to drop out due to an illness.

Despite her normal upbringing and relatively active childhood, Emily slowly became a recluse after her time in college. She was rarely seen out of her house later in her life. However, she did manage to form and maintain close bonds with her friends through letters. Her works actually seem to have been improved by her self-imposed confinement. She was a prolific poet and her works spoke very authoritatively on matters such as love, death and suffering.

Emily lived in her parents' home up until her death. She never married or had children. In fact, it seems that she never had a romantic relationship at all. She died in 1886, at the age of eighty-six. It was only then that the true extent of Emily’s talent was revealed. During her life, she had only revealed a scant few of her poems to her closest friends and family. Upon her death, her sister discovered that Emily had written close to two thousand poems.

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born in England on December 16, 1775. She was one of eight children. At the age of eight, Jane went to a boarding school, where she received her formal education. However, most of her knowledge and inspiration for her work came from her family and her father’s library. Jane came from a very loving and close family that encouraged her writing and extensive reading very much. She would write poems, plays and stories that she would read to her family or enact with them.

In 1795 an event occurred that was likely the inspiration for many of Jane’s future novels. Jane Austen met Tom Lefroy. The pair fell in love with each other, but their union was frowned upon by Tom’s family, which was paying for his schooling and thought the match below him. They sent Tom away and the pair never saw each other again. Four years later, Jane published a novel that she called “First Impressions.” This masterpiece would later become known as "Pride and Prejudice." There are many similarities between this story and Jane’s life, but there is one major difference, the couple lives happily ever after.

Jane went on to publish a handful of novels in her lifetime, all of which met with success. They also shared a common theme, couples that married for love and not for money. Jane must have decided that she herself would never marry without love. She remained single for the rest of her life after losing Tom, and died at the age of forty-two at her home in Winchester, England.


Jane Austen Biography, retrieved 9/5/09,

Biography of Emily Dickinson, from Michael Myers, Thinking and Writing about Literature, 138-42, retrieved 9/5/09,

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, retrieved 9/5/09,

Overview of The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

Cover for the first book in the series
The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice are well-written, historical, sophisticated stories of love, lust and, well, bloodsucking. Anne Rice incorporates many amazing factual places and events into these works of fiction. Better yet, her vampires are dramatic, romantic and appropriately evil.

Here are brief descriptions of the first three books in the series. There are ten (update: 11) novels in the original Vampire Chronicles and two new tales of the vampires. All of them are excellent novels.

"Interview with the Vampire"

"Interview with the Vampire" was published in 1976 and was the first of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The novel begins with the seemingly young Louis deciding to tell the tale of his life to “the boy” (the boy’s name is Daniel in later novels). Louis tells the boy that he is a vampire and that he would like for the boy to record the story of his life.

Louis’ story begins in 1791. He is wracked with guilt over the death of his brother and seeks death. A vampire named Lestat becomes fascinated by Louis and eventually turns him into a vampire. Louis, who is sensitive and forlorn by nature, loathes being a vampire and is torn between love and hate for the flamboyant Lestat. Louis tells the boy a heart wrenching and bitter tale that spans centuries.

"The Vampire Lestat"

In "Interview with the Vampire," Lestat de Lioncourt is portrayed as a selfish and antagonistic creature, but comments he makes in Interview hint at a gloomy past. After reading Interview readers are left wanting to learn more about the enigmatic Lestat. "The Vampire Lestat" fills in all the details of how Lestat, unwillingly, became a vampire and later turned his mother and best friend into vampires.

Eventually, after the events that occurred in Interview, Lestat becomes just as discontented as Louis and decides to retreat into the ground. Fifty-five years later he is awakened by the sound of a heavy-metal band practicing nearby. He joins the band and becomes the lead singer. With Lestat at the helm, the band becomes famous. He then blatantly exposes the vampire world with his lyrics and by writing and publishing "The Vampire Lestat."

"The Queen of the Damned"

After Lestat becomes famous with his band, one of the oldest vampires on Earth, Akasha, awakens from her centuries-old slumber to seek out Lestat. The vampire world is angry with Lestat for his overt behavior, but Akasha is smitten with him. Unfortunately, Akasha is also going on a murderous rampage, killing all of the vampires she considers to be weak. Several other older vampires then come out of hiding, thus introducing readers to many new and interesting characters. In this novel Anne Rice weaves many new tales and blends many characters, new and old, together to create a story that is both intriguing and satisfying.

Novels in the Vampire Chronicles:

"Interview with the Vampire"

"The Vampire Lestat"

"The Queen of the Damned"

"The Tale of the Body Thief"

"Memnoch the Devil"

"The Vampire Armand"


"Blood and Gold"

"Blackwood Farm"

"Blood Canticle"

Update: "Prince Lestat"

Shelly Barclay

Plot Summary and Review of "A Mother of Five" by Bret Harte

Bret Harte in 1862 
"A Mother of Five" by Bret Harte begins as a shocking story of an overly young mother. It only takes a few sentences for it to evolve into the story of a quirky young girl who has a fondness for the strangest of dolls. Wrapped up in this evolving story is a glimpse of the wonder of children's imaginations and how a nine-year-old girl with five oddly constructed dolls can fancy herself a mother of five children. In the end, it is the story of how easy it is for a child to leave behind her childhood, but also of how difficult it is for the adults who loved her to do the same.

The titular character of "A Mother of Five" is a nine-year-old girl named Mary. Mary has a motley crew of dolls that the men of her neighborhood help her maintain. She imagines her children are the progeny of a gentleman who lives in a fancier neighborhood. The adults around her play along with her story and encourage the strange, neglectful maternal instinct of the girl. Bret Harte makes it impossible not to be amused by the way these men humor her. The characters are of the best sort -- kind, perhaps a little odd and utterly indulgent of childish whims.

As the "A Mother of Five" wears on, the reader learns of Mary's habit of leaving her children out in the cold. People find them in all kinds of odd places, such as snow banks. They have their fair share of run-ins with both wild animals and farm animals. This does not stop Mary's admirers from helping her care for her children when they come back damaged, nor does it stop them from indulging her fantasy. Bret Harte skillfully introduces the reader to Mary's neglect, but does so in a way that the reader acknowledges Mary's utter trust that her children will be fine.

In the end, Mary must grow up and go to school. At this time, she must choose a single doll to bring with her. To everyone's surprise, the mother of five chooses the least strange of all her children. This is odd because her taste had formerly run to the strangest of the bunch. Her admirers imagine that this is a sign she is growing up and realizing how best to fit in. She gives her other four children to four men who promise to care for them and allow her visits, but she eventually has to move out of state and leave her children behind. Much to the reader's amusement, the men keep her dolls for her in her absence, but when she returns as a young woman, she is completely disinterested in dolls. She has moved on, but Bret leaves our poor "foster fathers" adorably embarrassed that they expected the same Mary to return.
Overall, "A Mother of Five" by Bret Harte is well-written, heartwarming, enlightening and playful. The language is dated, given the age of the story, but it is still quite relatable as girls have not given up their mothering of decrepit dolls and men have not given up indulging them. In a word, the story is timeless.

Shelly Barclay