Daniel Postgate (illus)
An old woman, whilst out picking beans, finds some peculiar treasure… a hairy toe! She decides to take it home but doesn’t expect the owner to come looking for it late that night…with scary results.
This traditional American folktale is humorously illustrated and is a spooky dramatic read, especially at Halloween.
Share the story
Before reading the story, encourage children to look at the cover and to talk about what they see. What kind of story do they think it will be? Why do they think that? Then read through the story using your voice to add to the scary atmosphere, and talk about the pictures at the turn of the page. Pause just before the end of the story to ask children what they imagine will happen next.
As you read and reread the book, encourage children to join in, especially with the repeated phrases. They will be able to read more by themselves as you reread the book together.
Talk about the story
Scary stories help children to cope with their fears within the safety of a fictional world. Talk together about which part of the story children like best and why. What scares them and why?
Tell the story
Using the pictures in the book, children can retell the story in their own words.
Watch the story
From Christine Hsu
Things to make and do
Record the story
Children can practise telling the story and make a recording, with sound effects to make it really scary. They can play it to their friends and family at night by torchlight.
Act the story
Children can dress up and make a hairy toe storyprop to act out the story as they tell it. Play it to friends and upload to YouTube!
Make a story box
Using a shoebox, children can decorate the inside to make a scary scene, such as a creepy old house, a castle dungeon, a dark forest. Add objects which have scary potential and use to tell scary stories, eg toy cat or wolf/monster/hat/mask/fang/ghost/a pretend toe or finger, potion or candle/a key.
Children can add or remove objects to make different stories.
Tell a scary story
Sit in a circle with friends and/or family to make up your own scary stories. You can build a scary atmosphere by sitting in the dark with torches.
Draw the scariest monster
Talk together about what makes something scary. Children can draw and label their own scariest monster using pens, crayons, charcoal or paints.
Find out more
Find more books by Daniel Postgate, author/illustrator:
Big Mum Plum
Kevin Saves the World
Find other scary stories:
As well as the scary stories in this section you might like to look out for:
A Dark, Dark Tale, Ruth Brown
In the Night Kitchen, Maurice Sendak
The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
Fairy tales by Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen
Older children might enjoy The Witches, Roald Dahl
Find more videos
Video of Hairy Toe – see retelling here (forward to 3.50 to start) and watch an animation by children here with very scary sound effects!