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The Ghost Train

the ghost trainAllan Ahlberg, Andre Amstutz (illus)
Puffin Books 
Age 5-7

One night a big skeleton, a little skeleton and a dog skeleton go for a ride on a ghost train. They have a lovely time and are not scared by any of the monsters they meet until they encounter a very scary….BABY!

This quirky book in the Funnybones series is fun to share and return to. Its repetitive story language makes it a great book for children who are beginning to read for themselves.



Share the story

Read aloud
Read the book aloud to your child perhaps whispering the opening ‘On a dark, dark hill..’ to make it seem quite spooky. You might like to sing the section beginning ‘The ghostly train goes into the night with a whoooo!’ These words can be sung to the rhythm of ‘The runaway train goes down the track’. Click here.

Join in

When you read the story again children will be keen to join in with parts such as the chorus at the beginning and end ‘In the dark, dark town’ etc, the song about the ghost train, and the conversation between the skeletons. Pointing to these repeated words as you re read the book will help children recognise them.

Talk about the story
As you share the book children will notice details in the pictures such as all the things the ghosts do at Ghost-Town-by-the-Sea. Allow time to talk about the things they spot. It might be interesting to talk about why the ghosts were scared of a baby crying but not of the monsters!

Tell the story
When children have heard the story a couple of times you can encourage them to tell the story in their own words using the pictures as prompts or with puppets see below. They are likely to include some of the phrases from the story as they do.

Watch the story 

From HunterCalito

Things to make and do

Draw on a chalkboard
If you have a chalkboard and white chalk children can draw skeletons and have a go at writing about their pictures. Black sugar paper would be good for this too.

Make a skeleton
Use the skeleton template provided and follow the instructions to create a skeleton – this could be a skeleton that dangles or is stuck on coloured paper.

Make a ghost puppet.
Make  ghost puppets together or several.

To make stick puppets draw a ghost shape on white card and stick it onto a lollystick. Click here for ghost templates.

To make fabric ghost puppets cut a circle of white fabric and fold into quarters. Use a couple of stitches through the layers at the sides to keep its shape. Children can draw a ghostly face with felt pens.

 ghost puppet

Write a postcard
The skeletons had a lovely time at the seaside. What would children enjoy doing if they went to Ghost-Town-by-the-Sea? They can write a postcard for a friend or member of the family about the things they did on their imaginary trip and illustrate it with a  picture. Click here for a postcard template.

Find out more

Read more books by Allan Ahlberg and Andre Amstutz. Titles include:


Skeleton Crew

Give the Dog a Bone

Mystery Tour

Other books by Allan Ahlberg include:

 Mr Tick the Teacher

The Jolly Postman

* The Jolly Christmas Postman

Burglar Bill and Cops and Robbers

*Each, Peach, Pear, Plum

Starting School

The Baby’s Catalogue

*See more lovemybooks activities