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 ones find the festivities (i.e., throngs of people in bizarre costumes) a little too jarring, while older kids beg 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 the best Halloween books for kids that 2022 has to offer, with reads that will get both the big and littles ones psyched for the holiday.
The 39 Best (and Only a Little Spooky) Halloween Books for Kids
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.
25. Hocus Pocus: The Illustrated Novelization by A.W. Jantha
This faithful retelling of the cult film “Hocus Pocus” features stunning illustrations from renowned artist Gris Grimly and a storyline that will bewitch tween and young adult readers. Much like beloved movie, this one will likely make an appearance for many Halloweens to come.
26. Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell
A pumpkin gets relegated to the garden once it starts turning to mush, but the young boy who carved it hangs around to watch its transformation into a brand new plant. This tender and beautifully illustrated story explores the cycle of life in a wholly relatable way.
27. Leo a Ghost Story by Mac Barnett
Anyone familiar with Casper the Friendly Ghost will recognize the storyline in this charming picture book about Leo, an oh-so likable specter who leaves home feeling misunderstood after a human family moves in. That’s when he meets Jane, a very special young girl who can not only see him, but also see him for who he is. This is a sweet and whimsical ghost story with powerful messages about friendship and zero scares.
28. Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago
Here, another quirky ghost story with a lot of heart. Ghosts and monsters alike are humanized in the most charming way by Flavia Z. Drago’s vivid artwork and poignant story about Gustavo, a shy ghost who struggles to fit in and feels, well, unseen by his ghoulish peers. Fear not: There’s a happy ending, and it boasts positive messages about self-acceptance, courage and friendship, to boot.
29. The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea
Comedy is author Bob Shea’s calling card, so it should come as no surprise that laughs are in store when you read The Scariest Book Ever. This silly story, told from the perspective of a fearful and rather histrionic ghost, is a riotous and witty read-aloud that will have kids in stitches—provided the delivery is adequately theatrical, that is.
30. School of the Dead by Avi
Spooky, smart and full of suspense—this mystery about a school-aged boy on a mission to hunt down the ghosts that are haunting him is a page-turner that will engross even the most reluctant tween reader.
31. Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Stumpkin is destined to become a jack-o-lantern. After all, he’s picture-perfect in every way, the cream of the crop…or at least he would be, if only he had a stem. Truly original and brimming with charm, this cute and simple book from critically acclaimed author and illustrator Lucy Ruth Cummins is one the kindergarten crowd will want to hear on repeat.
32. The Last Kids on Earth and the Nightmare King by Max Brallier
The third book in Max Brallier’s immensely popular series for tween readers begins with a plot twist—namely that the main character, Jack, and his gang might not actually be the last kids on Earth. Nevertheless, the tight-knit group prove that friendship conquers all as they battle a fresh duo of villains, the Nightmare King and ancient evil, who are threatening to destroy their comfortable post-apocalyptic life. Thrilling, funny and full of imagination—this spooky book certainly lives up to its bestselling status.
33. Bone Soup by Cambria Evans
Finnigan the insatiable skeleton is faced with a Halloween dilemma when none of the monsters in his new town will share their food. Fortunately, a dash of ingenuity and a sprinkling of magic are all Finnigan needs to cook up a cauldron full of good eats. Cambria Evan’s quirky picture book for the under-ten set boasts delightful illustrations, rich vocabulary and top-notch storytelling.
34. Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O’Connell
After being ousted from their home by a mean witch, ten timid ghosts plot to reclaim their turf. We won’t spoil the ending, though, since all you really need to know is that this bestseller from Jennifer O’Connell is proof that not every preschool counting book will bore you to tears.
35. Lilac Skully and the Haunted House by Amy Cesari
A well-conceived storyline, a plucky protagonist, and just the right combination of humor, adventure and age-appropriate spookiness make this girl vs. ghost story a winner that will leave tween readers enthralled.
36. Scaredy Bat and the Art Thief by Marina J. Bowman
The sixth book in Marina J. Bowman’s Scaredy Bat series is a supernatural whodunnit in which an (adorable) young heroine investigates the mysterious disappearance of a painting from the museum. There are cliffhangers aplenty and only a touch of spookiness, so it’s guaranteed to be a hit among young independent readers (think: grades two through five).
37. The Good, the Bad, and the Spooky by Jory John
This festive follow-up to Jory John’s bestselling picture book The Bad Seed has the same quirky protagonist facing a whole new problem—namely, the challenge of finding a perfect costume for his favorite holiday. The illustrations and writing harmonize wonderfully to create a playful and expressive story that communicates the wisdom of not comparing yourself to others and the importance of being able to power through a bad mood.
38. Ghost Afraid of the Dark by Sara Conway
As the title suggests, Ghost Afraid of the Dark is another story about a sweet, shy ghost. The main character is adorable, the illustrations are eye-catching and the premise that ghosts are scared, not scary, is a reassuring introduction to all things Halloween that tiny tots will surely benefit from.
39. Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima
This story about a self-conscious house who’s unsure whether or not she’s haunted, and whether or not she will be wanted, uses sparse text and soft-hued digital illustrations to create an atmosphere that’s so gently spooky, it’s almost comforting. Needless to say, there is an important lesson on self-acceptance here, too.