Terrifying Lit Picks
For this section, I’m not going to give you a ton of specific titles, simply because there are so many. When you’re browsing your library, check out their folklore section and look for titles on urban legends and the folklore of monsters, like vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, etc. Sometimes these are in different sections, so be sure to ask. Also, there are plenty of great ghost story books, both in the modern fiction genre and in the more traditional folklore categories. As a librarian, I’ve come across monster folklore titles for all ages, from cartoonish-types for younger kids to more spine-tingling selections for kids ready for more bite.
“Cornerboys” and “House of the Yaga” short films. STEAM-Powered Classroom Dad, Jamie, is an all around English guru, writer and filmmaker. Over the past several years, he has collaborated with artist Ali LaRock and musician/composer Kevin Smith to create two short films that explore traditional folklore stories. A third film is slated, but as of now still very much in the creative process. “Cornerboys,” is inspired by the Christina Rossetti poem, “Goblin Market.” Like many folk stories (Little Red Riding Hood, anyone?), it is a cautionary tale for young girls to watch out for predatory men. The second film, “House of the Yaga,” features the terrifying cannibal witch from Russian folklore, Baba Yaga. For specific ideas about how to use these films to create a rich literature and arts unit, click here.
Biographies: If you’re looking for something even more lit-ish, think about biographies of Spooky Authors, like R.L. Stine or Edgar Allan Poe (there are a lot of titles on him).
Classics: The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, Dracula, (I like the editions that Barnes and Noble has, so I’ve linked to them) and The Invisible Man are all great choices for kids ready to take on more challenging texts but still wanting a fun level of spine tingle. These made great read alouds too. And once you finish the books, check out the many film adaptations. But be sure to pop a bowl of popcorn!
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. A great spooky pick! That woman – the Other Mother – with the button eyes…. *shudder* …. And if you like Gaiman (and really, who doesn’t?), try the Newbery Award winning The Graveyard Book, which is bit less scary (think The Jungle Book, only in a graveyard), and then for smaller kids still, picture book titles The Dangerous Alphabet and The Wolves in the Walls. Yeah, I’m kind of a Neil Gaiman fan.
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg. Sometimes people die in bad or unusual, or even oddly funny ways. This book explores some of the more bizarre ends of famous people out of the history books.
History Channel: We use this resource regularly to augment our history studies. But they also have great Halloween resources. You can get lost on that site, with all the great videos, text, and activities available for free.
Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces by J.H. Everett. Description: Guided by tween “ghostorian” Virgil, readers will discover fascinating facts about calamitous events throughout history as they explore castles, palaces, and dungeons and those infamous figures associated with each. For instance, did you know that many castles were made out of wood painted to look like stone? Or that wealthy prisoners in the Tower of London could keep servants? Haunted Histories is chock-full of details that kids will find intriguing—dungeon life for prisoners, methods of torture, and even the most popular methods of poisoning enemies. So join Virgil and the other ghostly inhabitants for an historical adventure on the dark side.
Haunted History of Halloween DVD. Our family watched this documentary for several years in a row, and every time we got more out of it as we had covered a little more history. We like making the connections to our timeline studies. They have a several history documentaries on the holidays, so if you like this one, be sure to check out their Christmas Unwrapped.
Monsterific Math Picks
The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Both my kids loved this book – great for upper elementary to middle school ages. Description: In twelve dreams, Robert, a boy who hates math, meets a Number Devil, who leads him to discover the amazing world of numbers: infinite numbers, prime numbers, Fibonacci numbers, numbers that magically appear in triangles, and numbers that expand without . As we dream with him, we are taken further and further into mathematical theory, where ideas eventually take flight, until everyone-from those who fumble over fractions to those who solve complex equations in their heads-winds up marveling at what numbers can do.
Vi Hart video of her candy corn Sierpinski’s triangle. Watching the video is really fun, and we thought we understood the concept, but really you learn so much more by doing. By the time we finished our candy corn model, we both felt like Sierpinski Masters. She’s got other fun candy corn videos too. Check them out!
Ghoulish Science Picks
Monster Science series by Mark Weakland. This is one of my favorite new science series. In graphic novel format, the books use vampires, zombies, werewolves, ghosts and more to illustrate the basics of science. These titles definitely fall under the category of books that kids will read without your asking them to. The series includes Aliens and Energy, Bigfoot and Adaptation, Frankenstein’s Monster and Scientific Methods, Ghosts and Atoms, Mummies and Sound, Vampires and Cells, Vampires and Light, Werewolves and States of Matter, Zombies and Electricity, and Zombies and Forces and Motion.
Steve Spangler on the Ellen Show: Check out this fun YouTube video for fun Halloween themed science experiments. Then Google Steve Spangler and Halloween to find more. We tried out the elephant’s toothpaste chemical reaction, learning about it in the video below (if you’re in a hurry, start at the 4:25 mark). And while you’re at it, check out Steve Spangler’s website too for more fun science experimentation ideas.
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