The 24 Best (and Only a Little Spooky) Halloween Books For Kids
Depending on the age of your children, Halloween can be a mixed bag. (And no, we’re not talking about the random toothbrush that finds its way into your kid’s trick-or-treating haul.) The very young one finds the festivities (i.e., throngs of people in bizarre costumes) a little too jarring, while the eldest of the brood is begging for permission to watch an R-rated slasher flick. While we can’t claim to have a solution for every family dilemma that comes up over the holiday season, we do have the reading list covered. Here, a spooky and silly round-up of Halloween books for kids, with offerings that will get both the big and littles ones psyched for the holiday.
1. “Big Pumpkin” by Erica Silverman
Some witches (and humans) want nothing more than to gorge themselves on homemade pumpkin pie. Here, the only problem is that the protagonist’s pumpkin is far too large to pick from the vine...at least not without the help of some festive friends.
2. “How to Make Friends With a Ghost” by Rebecca Green
Anyone who has ever seen Poltergeist might initially question the premise of harmless ghosts, but fear not: We’re in safe children’s book territory, friends. This whimsical story about getting to know the things that go bump in the night reads like a how-to guide—and its message of friendship will make any young child feel much more comfortable with the holiday.
3. “Room on the Broom” by Julia Donaldson
A rollicking story about a nice witch and her animal friends that culminates in a confrontation with a fire-breathing dragon. The rhyming prose will roll off your tongue, and the content—far less intense in picture book form than it is on the screen—is suitable for even the smallest kids.
4. “Little Witch” by Anna Elizabeth Bennett
A cute story that has stood the test of time, and for good reason. The narrative—about a charming witch who wants to attend school along with mortals—has enough magic, humor and imagination to turn any young reader into a bookworm.
5. “The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt” by Riel Nason
Once there was a little ghost who looked a bit different than the rest of his family and friends, because his presence was hidden under a heavy quilt, as opposed to the standard breezy sheet. A festive story about the importance of self-acceptance—this one boasts lots of social-emotional learning and zero scares.
6. “The Halloween Moon” by Joseph Fink
Halloween is a whole lot of fun...unless it never ends. That’s the nightmare scenario that Esther, the protagonist, and her ragtag team of classmates must avert in this tween-friendly novel.
7. “The Little Kitten” by Nicola Killen
An adventurous tot named Ollie (who some might know from Killen’s The Little Reindeer) sets off on a brief journey to return a lost cat to its home in this endearing read-aloud, which features understated holiday themes and striking mixed-media illustrations.
8. “Halloween Must Be Near” by A.L. Bullard
A quick and easy read that outlines all the sights and festivities—just right for little kids who are eagerly counting down the days until Halloween night.
9. “Little Blue Truck’s Halloween” by Alice Schertle
Little Blue (i.e., everyone’s favorite truck) and his animal crew are headed to a costume party in this cute, lift-the-flap board book. Introduce this one to your toddler and you’ll be able to recite it from memory before too long.
10. “The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything” by Linda Williams
Folk-art illustrations and energetic text with a refrain that will get stuck in your head—this engaging read-aloud about a woman who can’t be spooked has become a Halloween classic, and it’s easy to see why.
11. “Bonaparte Falls Apart” by Marjery Cuyler
Bonaparte, a young skeleton who keeps coming undone (literally), is dreading the first day of school until a cast of Halloween characters (i.e., his compadres) come to the rescue. This one is a simple story about the value of friendship, made all the more charming by its Tim Burton-esque illustrations.
12. “The Witches” by Roald Dahl
It should come as no surprise that this chapter book is mildly scary, given that the plot revolves around witches conspiring to turn kids into mice. That said, Roald Dahl’s zany and whimsical storytelling is sure to captivate the imagination of young readers.
13. “Gilbert the Ghost” by Guido Van Genechten
Gorgeous illustrations, refreshingly substantial text, and a charming narrative about a ghost who learns to love being different—this award-winning picture book deserves a place in every Halloween library.
14. “True Ghost Stories for Kids: Fifty Spine-Tingling Ghostly Tales” by Barbara Smith
The stories here are brief, but well-written and the content is entirely age-appropriate (and free of gore). Bottom line: This one is sure to delight any kid who is old enough to enjoy feeling a little scared.
15. “Crankenstein” by Samantha Berger
This light-hearted story is about a boy who transforms into a (familiar) cranky monster when confronted with minor disappointments. It boasts amazing illustrations from a Caldecott-winning artist and a humorous narrative that’s guaranteed to entertain toddlers and grown-ups alike.
16. “The Halloween Tree” by Susan Montanari
What happens when a grumpy, would-be Christmas tree decides to march to the beat of a different drum? A Halloween tree, of course. This holiday mash-up features a clever storyline that readers of all ages will find hard to resist.
17. “The Ickabog” by J.K. Rowling
Two young children embark on an adventure to uncover the truth about a fearsome mythical creature in this enchanting, albeit rather dark, fairytale. As you might expect from a J.K. Rowling book, The Ickabog is a page-turner that will keep kids engrossed from start to finish. (The full-color illustrations are just icing on the cake.)
18. “In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories” by Alvin Schwartz
This oldie-but-goodie has been revamped with new illustrations, but the chilling tales remain the same. There’s a girl who wears a ribbon around her neck for undisclosed reasons, a mysterious box in a (you guessed it) dark, dark room, and several other macabre horror stories that will give kids a scare without going overboard.
19. “Eek! Halloween!” by Sandra Boynton
As with all of Sandra Boynton’s board books, you’ll find simple rhyming text and colorful illustrations here. In other words, if you’ve got a tot under your roof, you can file this festive number under ‘read on repeat.’
20. “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman
A young girl discovers a passage to a parallel world within her new home, and at first this other place seems both familiar and benign. Needless to say, that’s not the case. This gripping novel from Newbery Medal-winning author Neil Gaiman is eerie, suspenseful and sure to enthrall tweens and teens. (Adults, too.)
21. “Snowmen at Halloween” by Caralyn M. Buehner
This Halloween installment in the best-selling series about what snowmen do when nobody’s looking features sing-songy rhymes and eye-catching illustrations.
22. “What Was I Scared Of?” by Dr. Seuss
The prolific children’s book author (and rhymer) Dr. Seuss makes everything a little more fun, and Halloween is no exception. Here, glow-in-the-dark illustrations accompany a humorous story with a comforting message to the tune of “they’re more scared of you than you are of them.”
23. “Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories” by Roald Dahl
An anthology of ghost stories compiled (not written) by the famed author—fans of Roald Dahl will appreciate his taste when it comes to the spooky and macabre. That said, parents should know that some of these stories are rather dated, and thus, might be a better fit for more advanced readers.
24. “Llama Llama Trick or Treat” by Anna Dewdney
The show, the books...Llama Llama is an all-around winner. Needless to say, this one covers all the Halloween bases with upbeat rhymes and a beloved character that babies and toddlers can’t get enough of.