Glen Huser’s Top 5 Halloween Movies for Kids

The Elevator Ghost

My novel The Elevator Ghost is a story that begins and ends on Halloween, and, as I’ve grown older, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around just what it is about the day that enchanted me as a youngster and has continued to do so. The key I think is in that word ‘enchanted’. Halloween pulls itself away from its commonplace siblings by the very way it spurs us to view the world around us as a place of wonder and danger, where things — like nature itself — are not always what they seem. I would add another word to wrap around the appeal of Halloween for me: humour. The best Halloween moments are scary or awesome … or funny.

A tradition for me over many years has been to watch a movie after the calls of “Halloween apples” have faded away and my doorbell has quit ringing. I’m fond of the animated films of Tim Burton and Henry Selick and staples such as Joe Dante’s Gremlins, but more often than not I’m apt to slip one of these old favourites into my DVD player:

Meet Me in St. Louis

Vincente Minelli, 1944

In brilliant technicolor, we follow the Smith family in St. Louis over the year (1903) that Dad considers and then decides against a move to New York. A fall sequence features Totie (6-year-old Margaret O’Brien) in her tramp costume volunteering to visit the scariest house on the street to “kill” (throw flour in the face of) Mr. Braukoff. Among the other treats, of course, is Judy Garland — never more beautiful or in finer voice. (For viewers of all ages.)

E.T.

Steven Spielberg, 1982

This picture remains a spellbinding sci-fi/fantasy. No matter what age you are, it’s impossible not to identify with the lost and frightened extraterrestrial. I love that it applauds the empathy and powerful spirit of children. A key scene has them bicycling through the sky (shades of Peter Pan) on Halloween with E.T. garbed as a ghost. (For viewers 8 and up.)

To Kill a Mockingbird

Robert Mulligan, 1962

There’s a very scary house (complete with a bogeyman) on the street where 6-year-old Scout (Mary Badham) and her older brother Jem (Phillip Alford) live. We follow the two over a summer and fall in a sleepy southern town in the 1930s that is riled to life by the trial of an African-American man for rape. A knuckle-biting scene near the end has Scout, costumed as a Thanksgiving ham, being pursued through the woods by a madman. (For viewers 11 and up)

Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton, 1955

After a bank robbery which leads to their father’s imprisonment and execution, two children — John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce) — are on the run from a murderous, demented preacher (chillingly portrayed by Robert Mitchum) intent on getting the money stashed in Pearl’s doll. Terrible circumstances lead them on a downriver journey to sanctuary in the hands of an old woman (Lillian Gish) who collects and protects abandoned children. (For viewers 11 and up.)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Charles Barton, 1948

I’m not a huge fan of Abbott and Costello, but this one is a Halloween treat as the comedy team, baggage handlers for a house of horrors, meet not only Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) but Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.). An enjoyable introduction to some of Universal Studio’s pantheon of horror stars. (For viewers 8 and up.)

Author picks for the holidays: Ian Wallace recommends A SALMON FOR SIMON

The book:

A Salmon for Simon, by Betty Waterton and illustrated by Ann Blades
ISBN: 978-0-88899-276-5 * $6.95

The recommender:

Ian Wallace, illustrator of Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Ian says:

Published in 1978, A Salmon for Simon is a timeless classic, simply and respectively told by Betty Waterton with thoughtful illustrations by Ann Blades that capture the tenderness inherent within.

IAN WALLACE is an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books — one of Canada’s best known and loved. Over a long and distinguished career he has published many picture-book classics, including Chin Chiang and the Dragon’s Dance, Boy of the Deeps, The Name of the Tree by Celia Barker Lottridge, The Huron Carol and The Sleeping Porch. He has won the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award, the Mr. Christie’s Book Award, the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award and the IODE Violet Downey Book Award. He has also been nominated for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. Ian currently lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife, Deb.

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Author picks for the holidays: Marie-Louise Gay recommends HARVEY

The book:

Harvey by Hervé Bouchard and illustrated by Janice Nadeau.
ISBN: 978-1-55498-075-8 * $19.95

The recommender:

Marie-Louise Gay, author and illustrator of Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth!

Marie-Louise Gay says:

A lovely, poignant, marvelously illustrated novel about a young boy named Harvey whose father suddenly dies. A simple story about death and the impact it has on a child’s imagination. Harvey tells the story with a sense of wonder and terrible sadness. He fantasizes about The Incredible Shrinking Man and feels himself disappearing when he finally sees his father in his coffin. The delicate drawings of Janice Nadeau create an emotional rhythm throughout. Breathtaking.

MARIE-LOUISE GAY is a world-renowned author and illustrator of children’s books. She has won many prestigious awards, including the Governor General’s Award, the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award, the Vicky Metcalf Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. She has also been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Her books have been translated into more than fifteen languages and are loved by children all over the world. Marie-Louise lives with her family in Montreal. Visit www.marielouisegay.com for more.

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