Score: 95+/100 (9.5+ out of 10)
The perfect Halloween children's book does exist!
When it comes to finding a Halloween book that hits on all cylinders and does everything right, look no further than Witches, Bats, and Mystical Cats by Julie Chapman! It is a beautifully written and well-illustrated children's book that not only excels as a children's book but also as a seasonal book, holiday book, and poetry book as well! In fact, this book contains some of the best and most enjoyable poems of the entire season. That's saying a lot!
Julie Chapman is truly a masterful writer, you can really tell. When it comes to writing poems that are grammatically and structurally sound, she's got it. She just gets it. She has the it factor as a poet.
The writing is exceptional!
Her poems are upbeat, fun, and enjoyable. Some of them are even educational! For example, did you know that jack-o-lanterns were intended to ward off the spirits of the dead? So, they actually served a protective purpose. We didn't! Did you know that black cats gained their bad reputation by being wrongly associated with evil witches? We didn't! Did you know that Candy Corn was invented in the 1800s as chicken feed? We didn't!
This book actually teaches you and your children about Halloween, and it does it with some of the best, funnest, most clever rhymes we've ever seen!
This book constantly reminds children that even though Halloween might be a bit creepy, weird, and even scary, it's all in good fun. Page 18 has one of our favorite illustrations of this as it shows people dressed in creepy, weird, scary, and cool costumes just dancing and having a great time at a Halloween party.
Now, there are a few poems in here that are legitimately creepy. There's a story in here about a haunted house in the neighborhood that was sold off by a widow. The soul of her husband who'd fallen down the stairs to his death still wanders the home, unwilling or unable to move on. What's incredible is that even though this story is a bit scary, it also garners you some sympathy for the ghost. The book even speculates if someone or something might be able to help the ghost of the old man to move on.
There's also an outright creepy poem about a vampire/Dracula accompanied by a somewhat haunting image of him scaring away some young trick-or-treaters with piercing red eyes and big, long fangs while inconspicuously holding a bowl of candy. Other legitimately scary parts include one about the wind through the trees being signs of the presence of the souls of the dead and another about a werewolf. Again, the book still leaves room for parents and teachers to remind their children/students that these are fantasy stories and that it's all for fun. That doesn't mean they can't potential incite some nightmares, but that's what scary stories are for after all.
This book maintains a very upbeat and positive tone even when you go through those more unsettling parts. For example, you can always try to find the cool, cute, and comforting black cat throughout the book. Children might enjoy doing that. They might also enjoy identifying all the different costumes such as the ones on page 6. Maybe they can even debate on which costume the character should choose. There are also some interesting moral lessons to be taught in this book. For example, one part invites children to cast a “spell” which is really just making a wish on a piece of wood. They are encouraged to only ask for good. There's another poem that reflects on being grateful to mother nature, seeing how fleeting and valuable that is with the changing season. There's yet another part that educates us to treat all living creatures, even black cats, with love and appreciation regardless of their reputation or color because they come “from above.” Another encourages children to count their blessings and to show gratitude.
The illustrations are pretty good too, although we do think there was a drop in quality due to some sort of conversion issue. We can easily forgive that. The main thing is that we can see the effort that went into them.
All in all, this is just about the perfect children's Halloween book!
Check it out on Amazon!