You know it’s coming up soon. The summer reading lists from school, the summer reading programs at the library (and in other places too– my kids’ tae kwon do studio holds a summer reading program, if you can believe it)!
What to do for the kid who wants a scary book for his summer reading? On the Indiana K-2 state recommended reading list, the only book that probably qualifies is Where the Wild Things Are. So is there anything out there that didn’t win the Newbery Award that a monster-loving kid could get into? Of course there is!
Between the point where all reading is grown-ups reading aloud to kids, to the point where kids are fluently reading chapter books, is a transitional category of books called easy readers. Easy readers were pioneered by Dr. Seuss and Else Holmelund Minarik and have been a blossoming category of books ever since. They’ve come a long way since Margaret Hillert’s Happy Birthday, Dear Dragon.
And here are a few books that might catch your early reader’s interest.
There Is a Bird On Your Head! (Elephant and Piggie) by Mo Willems
Before getting specific to monsters, chills and thrills, first I have to recommend above and beyond almost any other easy reader the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. They are so absurdly funny that you probably won’t mind reading them over and over again and again. And your first grader will probably be able to read them to you, too. There Is a Bird on Your Head! won a Geisel Award, and for good reason. You just cannot go wrong with Mo Willems. Unfortunately, once you’ve read all of the books, you will find there really isn’t anything else like them. I asked the librarian at our library, and she couldn’t come up with anything. If you do find something that measures up, I want to know!
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Maybe you never considered this interpretation, but a lot has been written about the creepiness of this book, with a giant intruder breaking in to the children’s house while their mother is gone, and causing havoc.
Spooky Hayride by Brian James (Level 1)
Who spooks who? How spooky IS the hayride, anyway? This book uses very simple and limited vocabulary and still tells a story with wit.
Looking for Bigfoot by Bonnie Worth (Level 4)
Kids transitioning to easy chapter books may miss out on some of the more complex easy readers. Looking for Bigfoot is aimed at kids who can read paragraphs independently and is as long as some of the shorter chapter books, at almost 50 pages. This is more of a nonfiction title about the mysterious cryptid than a scary story, but monster loving kids may still get into it.
Beastly Tales: Yeti, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster (Eyewitness Readers) by Malcolm Yorke (Level 3)
When it comes to Bigfoot, there’s no such thing as too much, at least in this house.
In a Dark, Dark, Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz (Level 2)
Alvin Schwartz’s name should be familiar: he’s the guy who compiled the classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and its sequels. We get questions here every once in awhile where someone who can’t remember its name describes a story from this book. It may have been around long enough for you to remember reading it as a kid yourself, but it never gets old.
Ghosts! Ghostly Tales from Folklore by Alvin Schwartz (Level 2)
Alvin Schwartz collects together ghost stories for early readers.
No More Monsters for Me! by Peggy Parrish (Level 1)
This is a classic I Can Read story. Minneapolis Simpkin desperately wants a pet, and when she encounters a monster, she sneaks it into her house. Sneaking a monster into the house, she discovers, really is not a good idea.
I Spy A Scary Monster (I Spy) by Jean Marzollo (Level 1)
It’s I Spy–you can’t go wrong! You can read this with the earliest readers. The objects they are supposed to find in the photographic spread on the page opposing are pictured next to the clue, so words can be matched with pictures, and then discovered in the photo.
Amanda Pig and the Awful, Scary Monster (Oliver and Amanda) by Jean Van Leeuwen (Level 3)
Amanda overcomes her fear of bedtime monsters when Oliver helps her build a monster trap.
The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches by Alice Low (Level 4)
Alice Low wrote several children’s books with witches as characters. According to a reviewer at Publisher’s Weekly, this is “an irresistible way to add joy to the scarey fall holiday.” But you can also read it as a way to add joy to your summer holiday.
Three Claws in the City (Meet the Monsters of the World) by Cari Meister (Level 3)
This is one of a series about some monsters that are more funny than frightening. Their look: cartoony. Their names: Snorp, Ora, Moopy, and Three Claws. The publishing imprint, Stone Arch, also published the early graphic novel series Monster and Me by Robert Marsh.
Don’t Go In The Water! (Easy-to-Read Spooky Tales) by Veronika Martenova Charles
This book is also part of a series of ten books, and the books, while labeled “easy to read,” have not been leveled. They are 56 pages long, which is long for an easy reader, but the books, depending on the child, are readable by first and second graders. Each book has three ‘spooky tales,’ loosely related to a folktale, and the ending of the last story is open ended. These would probably be appreciated most by the kids who REALLY are looking to be spooked, and not just those who want a mildly funny monster story.
The Vampire Bunny (Bunnicula and Friends) by James Howe and Jeff Mack (Level 3)
Who knew that James Howe’s classic middle-grade novel Bunnicula would spawn so many sequels and spin-offs? This is one of an entire series of Level 3 easy readers starring the characters from the original novel. This one follows the plot of the book fairly closely.
Hope that gets your early reader started for summer reading! Enjoy!