Scary, But Not Too Scary: Halloween Entertainment for Kids

Filed under: Books for Kids, Movies, Video Games, Gear Guides: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Gear Guides: Big Kids, Books for Parents

Everyone likes to be scared on Halloween. But for a lot of little kids, "scary" means skeleton-in-a-top-hat, not "Saw 3D." Keeping that in mind, here are a few Halloween entertainment choices for nightmare-prone kids who still appreciate a good spooky shiver.

"Scream Street" by Tommy Donbavand (6 volumes, $6 each, Candlewick Press)
The titular boulevard in this six-book series (the final volume, "Claw of the Werewolf," is out now) is a secret neighborhood in which the government stashes all its supernatural creatures. Rather than figure out how to deal with vampires, mummies, zombies and the like, the mysterious G-men from G.H.O.U.L (Government Housing of Unusual Life-forms) simply kidnap them and relocate them to Scream Street -- which happens to be located in some interdimensional pocket with no outlet to the regular world we know. The saga begins when Luke, a young werewolf, is deposited on Scream Street with his normal non-monster family. Not looking forward to a lifetime of otherworldly imprisonment, he teams up with Cleo, a teenage mummy, and Resus, a human kid pretending to be a vampire so he can fit in, and the trio search for a way back home. The action is filled with just about every horror-story archetype you can think of; you'll get witches, rats, demons, shape-shifters, headless horsemen -- everything. And there's plenty of genuine suspense. But there's also an incredible sense of humor to it all. Sure, a lot of it is gross-out humor, but just as much of it is excellently witty (the zombies all talk like hazed-out surfer dudes, for instance, even while they still want to eat your brains). On the whole, this is a really fun series that deserves more attention.

"Haunted House" (Atari, $20, for Wii or Windows PC)
If you had an Atari 2600 way back when, you may have played a little game called "Haunted House" in which you were a pair of frightened eyes (i.e., white squares with one black spot in the middle as a pupil) moving around in pitch black rooms, running away from white pixel-blob ghosts. And as rudimentary and monotonous as that game might have been, you probably loved it. Atari has revamped the old "Haunted House" and given us a new hey-this-looks-like-a-real-modern-video-game version. And it's also a refreshingly fun alternative to all the throat-ripping, brain-splattering "survival horror" games that flood the market. In the new "Haunted House" you play as a brother-and-sister duo trying to find their way out of a ghost-filled mansion. They game uses darkness to good effect, especially when some not-too-scary-looking ghoulie can pop out of the shadows at any moment and start chasing you. Light is your only weapon -- and you'll have to use candles, torches, and even cell phones, to spook the spirits and find your way to freedom. It's scary in the way creaking-door sound effect records are scary.

"A Very Brave Witch...and More Great Halloween Stories for Kids" (Scholastic, $15)
In case you're not familiar with Scholastic Storybook Treasures, it's a wonderful DVD series that animates classic (and should-be-classic) picture books. This volume features, in addition to the topsy-turvy title story by Alison McGhee (in which a young witch girl is terrified of scary humans), seven other slightly-spooky tales. Some are more silly than scary, like "By the Light of the Halloween Moon," while others weave a genuinely creepy atmosphere, like the quick-punch "A Dark, Dark Tale" and the child-outwits-villain fable, "The Witch in the Cherry Tree." But all of these stories make great Halloween fare.


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.