holiday, humor, illustration, scary

Book List: Nice Witches

10 Busy Brooms (Doubleday Books for Young Readers)
Written by Carole Gerber
Illustrated by Michael Fleming

For ages: 3-7
There’s no shortage of counting books out there in every shape & style you can imagine. So it’s only fair the witches have one of their own. One witch gets added to the group at a time as they encounter spooky Halloween creatures. It’s not too scary for the kids, though, drawn in an adorable cartoonish style by Michael Fleming. There are skeletons, goblins, mummies, werewolves, and everyone you can imagine. It will not blow any reader’s mind. Yet, it is a thematically fun way to enjoy the Fall holiday and keep young children developing their numeracy.

It’s Raining Bats and Frogs (Feiwel & Friends)
Written by Rebecca Colby
Illustrated by Steven Henry

For ages: 3-7
Young Delia is worried about rain ruining the annual Witch Parade. So, in a moment of magical genius, she uses her witchy powers to transform the raindrops into literal cats & dogs. At first, the other witches love her choice but start grumbling after a while. So Delia casts another spell resulting in a different pair that rhymes, hats & clogs. More and more spells must be cast, and even sillier, wilder things begin. Eventually, everyone is having so much fun with Delia’s spells that the weather doesn’t bother them anymore. The illustrations here are a perfect example of how to match a color palette with the context and themes of a book—an excellent way to celebrate Halloween.

Room on the Broom (Puffin Books)
Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

For ages: 4-8
I was unaware of this book’s popularity until I read it for this list. Room on the Broom has been turned into an animated short. It appears to be performed somewhat regularly by schools and pantomime in the U.K.? The witch in this story carries herself and her cat through a windy night on her broom. More passengers pile on until the flying object breaks and crash to the ground. A solution is found using witchy ingenuity, and the broom is updated for the modern era, accommodating everyone. The illustrations here are top-tier, with some lovely two-page spreads. The use of color is right on the dot, not too bright & bold, but with accents that draw the eye to the right spots.

A Very Witchy Spelling Bee (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Written by George Shannon
Illustrated by Mark Fearing

For ages: 4-8
Cordelia isn’t just a great witch; she’s also a fantastic speller. Every ten years, the witches gather to have a spelling bee, but it isn’t like the ones humans participate in. Contestants are asked to spell something presented to them onstage. Then, by adding one letter and a little magic, they transform it into something entirely different. For example, a shoe S-H-O-E is rearranged, and an R is added to make a horse, H-O-R-S-E. Cordelia might be too young, though, which worries her witchy parents. She will have to face the mean-spirited Beulah Divine with a 130-year winning streak. This book will do the trick if you want to engage your students in some fun spelling games. This would pair beautifully with a word scramble activity, particularly something Halloween-themed.

Grimelda the Very Messy Witch (Katherine Tegen Books)
Written by Diana Murray
Illustrated by Heather Ross

For ages: 4-8
Being a disorganized person does not lend itself well to witches. So when Grimelda needs her spell book and some pickle root, she finds she’s left her home in such disarray that they are seemingly impossible to find. Through rhyming verse, author Diana Murray delivers this comedic story of the pitfalls of messiness. Heather Ross’s illustrations are reminiscent of classic picture books while still feeling fresh. Every page is filled with typically witchy places and objects that will keep the reader hooked. While this may seem like a didactic book that admonishes children for being messy, it isn’t. Once Grimelda organizes everything in her house, she finds herself feeling uncomfortable. A quick spell undoes it all, and she can finally breathe easy, enjoying her messy life.

The Pomegranate Witch (Chronicle Books)
Written by Denise Doyen
Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

For ages: 4-8
This is another story told in rhyme (witchy books seem to do that) about a battle in a seemingly regular neighborhood. Five children want to enjoy the pomegranates growing on a tree, but a witch guards it. The kids grab makeshift weapons from badminton racquets to tree branches and rakes and prepare to fight for the fruit. The witch responds with water hoses and walnuts to trip them up. Eventually, a kind old woman who lives in the same house invites the children over, and peace is found. But are the witch and this lovely old lady the same? This is a great story about perspective and empathy, learning how to see who you think of as your enemy as your ally.

Big Pumpkin (Aladdin)
Written by Erica Silverman
Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

For ages: 3-7
In the tradition of looping songs like The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Big Pumpkin is about a witch trying to extract the titular gourd from the garden. It proves to be more than anticipated, and she will need help. Many other Halloween figures emerge: a ghost, vampire, mummy, etc.) helping add to the pull on the pumpkin’s vines. With its rhythmic, sing-songy style, students will be enthralled in this fun simple story. It’s dripping with Halloween atmosphere but refrains from becoming scary, just the right amount of spooky to keep everyone happy. 

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