As you may have read in the previous blog post or two, I’m a huge fan of fall. And one of the reasons why is Halloween. Now, I enjoy a good horror movie, but there’s nothing quite like a well-written scary story to provide nightmare fuel. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, watch Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (a great movie, by the way) and then read Stephen King’s The Shining novel and then tell me which one is more terrifying.
Anyway, we’re not about to show or read our kids The Shining, unless you want them sleeping in your bed until they’re 18. Fortunately, there are tons of kid-friendly Halloween-inspired books that you can read to your children at bedtime without worrying whether they’ll be sobbing in the fetal position until it’s time for school the following morning. For the sake of length, I narrowed this list down to 10 titles that I either enjoyed myself or loved reading to my kids when they were still at an age when they didn’t mind if I was in the same room as them.
In no particular order…
- It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! by Kara McMahon and Charles Schulz
We’ve all seen the classic animated Halloween special of the same name…poor Linus missing out on trick-or-treating to see The Great Pumpkin rise from the pumpkin patch. Poor Charlie Brown in his holey ghost costume, getting rocks in his pillowcase instead of candy. Poor Charlie Brown getting the football yanked away…again. Poor Charlie Brown, not getting invited to the Halloween party. Now that I think about it, this story is kind of sad. What did Charlie Brown ever do to these kids?
Pity aside, hanging out with the Peanuts gang is still lots of fun, and this book does a wonderful job telling the classic tale in beautiful, warm color and with all the personality of the beloved TV special and Peanuts comics.
- Where’s My Mummy? by Carolyn Crimi and John Manders
This is the story of Baby Mummy encountering lots of “scary” sights during his search for Big Mama Mummy. All he wants to do is play hide-and-shriek, but he needs to pass through the forest and some friendly (maybe?) creatures along the way. Where’s My Mummy? was a big hit in our household–both my son and daughter loved the fun, colorful, silly drawings and characters. Don’t worry–it won’t scare little ones, and there’s a happy ending.
- Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O’Connell
Perfect for beginning readers as well as kids learning how to count, this adorable story tells the tale of 10 ghosts who are scared of the witch who has moved in. One by one, she frightens them out of the house with her costumes and props. Once they’ve all left the house, they meet in the forest and figure out a plan to get their house back in time for Halloween! I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a revenge story (I mean, it is a kids’ book after all), but it’s a fun read that is colorfully illustrated and is a wonderful way to practice counting.
- Goosebumps (any) by R.L. Stine
We’ve got to have something on the list for older kids, and R.L. Stine’s legendary Goosebumps collection remains a go-to, even decades after the series began. You won’t want to read these to little ones before bed, but they’re just scary enough to give older readers a fun fright. There are literally hundreds of Goosebumps titles, covering every kind of scary creature you can imagine–werewolves, vampires, monsters, talking dummies, giant spiders and insects, and a whole lot more. My son LOVED these books when he was in the 9-11 age range, but these books are also adored by teenagers and adults. Plus, if your child enjoys Goosebumps books, they make great, inexpensive (and practically endless) gift ideas!
- Pete the Cat: Trick or Pete and Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins by James Dean and Kimberly Dean
I put two Pete the Cat Halloween books on the list because, well, it’s Pete the Cat. And everyone loves Pete the Cat. Both titles are written for little ones, with fun and vibrant illustrations. Trick or Pete follows Pete as he goes trick-or-treating–your kids can lift the flap at each house to see what kind of scary–or funny–surprise awaits Pete! Five Little Pumpkins is Pete’s rendition of the classic kids’ song of the same name. If your child loves Pete, there are plenty more Pete titles for them to enjoy. I know my kids got a kick out of this kooky cat.
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
OK, so this technically isn’t a Halloween book. But it has lots of playful monsters–and Halloween is all about monsters, right? Close enough. Anyway, this story is all about using imagination to create a magical world in which to escape. The art is absolutely iconic, and the story itself is legendary–it’s literally a must-have for any family. The book, a classic for decades, has inspired a movie and an opera, and it’s all because of Maurice Sendak’s gift of storytelling. So while it’s not specifically about Halloween, Where the Wild Things Are is a story for any and all seasons–and the monsters certainly help make it a fall favorite.
- Mr. Pants: Trick or Feet by Scott McCormick and R.H. Lazzell
Full disclosure: this book is totally nonsensical and goofy. All Mr. Pants books are. But it’s hysterical and a lot of fun, especially since Mr. Pants and his sisters are forced to spend Halloween night in an airport. Using their imaginations, they make the best of the situation and go trick-or-treating and play zombie tag throughout the airport. This was my daughter’s all-time favorite book when she was in her first few years of elementary school. I suspect it had something to do with the ridiculous voices that I gave each character when I read it to her (without fail, she’d crack up every single time) before bed. The illustrations are perfect for kids, and the story is silly enough to keep them entertained.
- Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
This book has become something of a modern classic, and it’s easy to see why. Julia Donaldson rhymes and frolics her way through this story of a witch and her cat who fly along on her broomstick, only to keep losing objects in the wind–like her hat, her bow, and her wand. They meet three helpful friends along the way, but is there enough room on the broom for them too? You’ll have to read to find out! Colorful pictures and Ms. Donaldson’s flawless prose are sure to capture the attention of any young reader.
- We’re Off to Find the Witch’s House by Richard Krieb and R.W. Alley
For me, this book is all about the illustrations. Don’t get me wrong…Mr. Krieb’s story is catchy and fun (and the perfect length for young readers), but R.W. Alley’s artwork captures the essence of fall and Halloween perfectly. Warm tones, vivid skies, and innocent characters make this book easy to embrace. Not to mention…will the kids make it to the witch’s house? Or will they be too frightened by the “spooky” (actually quite adorable) creatures they meet on their way?
- The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin
I saved this Sesame Street classic for last because it was one of my all-time favorite books when I was a little kid. The mark of a great book is that you can recall it and practically see it in your mind years later, isn’t it? That’s what this book does for me (along with Big Joe’s Trailer Truck). It helped that Grover was arguably my favorite Sesame Street character, and he takes center stage in The Monster at the End of This Book.
Again, this isn’t exclusively about Halloween, but it’s about…a monster at the end of the book!! The suspense and drama build for the reader along each page, as Grover begs and pleads for you not to turn the page…because there’s a monster at the end of the book! If you haven’t read this yet, you’re in for a surprise because…there IS a monster at the end of this book. But perhaps not the monster you’re expecting!
Writing this brought back quite a few memories for me, from both a child’s and a parent’s perspective. I remember a few of these books quite vividly from my own elementary school days, and I smile as I reflect on reading these titles to my own children–who are now well past the days of bedtime stories. And, to me, that’s what makes books special. The ability to simply look at an illustration or read a line brings back those emotions–my own terror of turning the page despite Grover’s dire warnings, and my own laughter and joy as my children sat in rapt attention, giggling and smiling as I read to them before bed.
That’s why I wanted to share this list of my Halloween favorites with you, in hopes that you can experience the same type of emotions as you read, smile, and laugh with your children this fall. I’d love to hear which Halloween titles are favorites in your household…please share in the comments below!