This year’s jack-o-lanterns and our rubber rat.
My First Halloween by Tomie dePaola
A mom, a dad and their four kids carve jack-o-lanterns, make Halloween decorations to hang up around the house, dress up in non-scary costumes (the mom is a friendly looking gorilla), go trick-or-treating together and then come home with their friends for a Halloween party with apple bobbing and orange frosted cupcakes. Tomie dePaola’s illustrations feel like home. This is the book that got me started loving Halloween picture books. We got it last year, and we’ve been reading it all year long.
Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara
A little girl moves into a house that happens to be haunted, but there’s no cause for alarm because she happens to be a witch and she knows just what to do. She puts on her witch’s hat, and her white cat puts on his black cat costume, and together they catch all the ghosts in the house, stuff them into a hamper, wash them in the washing machine and then put them to work around the house as curtains, table cloths and sheets. The illustrations are beautiful and all of the ghosts are printed in barely transparent white ink, so you can see through them. This is one of my favorites.
AlphaOops! H Is for Halloween by Alethea Kontis
This book is super cute. The letters of the alphabet are putting on a Halloween show and they get all out of order in the process. The letter “B” keeps picking costumes that other letters have picked synonyms for until he finally finds the perfect word starting with B. At the end all the letters have a big Halloween party. The pictures are cozy little kid Halloween style instead of creepy, and the text is both short and interesting enough that you can read it to toddlers over and over and both of you will enjoy it.
Pinning more snakes onto the snake wreath.
Pumpkins by Ken Robbins is a beautiful book. There are gorgeous pictures of pumpkin farms, and pictures showing the life cycle of pumpkins from seeds to decomposition. It also shows how big and small they can be and how different they can look. The farm pictures include a wagon like the one on the cover and a tractor in the background, which were some of the most excitedly exclaimed over pages in our house. It also devotes a few pages to Halloween and jack-o-lanterns. It’s the perfect book to read at the beginning of October just as pumpkins start showing up everywhere.
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We read it before visiting the Tanaka Farms pumpkin patch in Irvine, and it was a great preparation. At Tanaka Farms, you can pick pumpkins off the vine, and you can ride around the farm in a wagon attached to the back of a tractor.
Unlike the book, it had a petting zoo, and it was the best petting zoo we’ve been to so far consisting of relatively sturdy, small animals that are unlikely to stress kids out and that kids are unlikely to stress out in return. There were no rabbits or chickens, for example, which was wonderful, and there were lots of pygmy goats and baby pygmy goats, and young normal goats and a few sheep and pot bellied piglets. There were three separate pens, each one a good, respectable petting zoo on its own, and one of the pens was getting a rest period while we were there to give the animals a chance to relax. The animals we visited with seemed pretty comfortable with the whole situation.
It also had a produce stand, old-fashioned games for older kids (bean-bag toss sorts of games with no flashing lights or loud noises) and a track surrounded by large potted plants where kids could ride gas-powered mini tractors around.
We’ll definitely be going back.
Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch
5380 University Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
Just Say Boo! by Susan Hood
I love Just Say Boo! The pictures look like they are from a beautiful, platonic New England-y (or Pasadena-y) suburbia where neighborhoods are full of kids and everyone dresses up — kids and adults — in homemade costumes and goes trick-or-treating at twilight. It’s like a fantasy childhood Halloween. The book teaches kids what to do if they get a little scared by all the Halloween decorations and costumes (Just say “Boo!”), and the rhythm and rhyme of the words makes it fun to read out loud over and over. Little ones can chime in with a “Boo!” every other page or so.
Excuse Me Are You a Witch? by Emily Horn
I love picture books, and I especially love Halloween picture books. I like my Halloween books to be more cute than scary, and we found some very cute Halloween books this year. This one — Excuse Me Are You a Witch? by Emily Horn — is about a lonely black cat who hangs out at the library when it is cold out, and who discovers from his reading that witches love black cats. He goes out in search of a witch, and eventually he finds a whole school of little witches in training right back where he started — at the library.
This sea star had just eaten a shrimp when we visited the touch tanks at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. You can see its body inside the sea star’s stomach, and some of its antennae are still sticking out.
This snail was sliding along eating something (algae?) off the glass.