17 Books to Get Readers in the Halloween Spirit

Whether kids are looking for a sweet treat or a book to give them chills, these 17 titles will put them in a spooky state of mind come October 31st.

Once the Falll season is officially underway, Halloween is not far behind. Whether young readers are looking for something for a sweet treat or a book to give them chills, these 17 titles will put them in a spooky state of mind come October 31st.

 Looking for a Jumbie by Tracy Baptiste. illus. by Amber Ren. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062970817.
K-Gr 2–It’s getting dark, so Naya’s mother calls her to come to bed. But Naya says that she’s not scared of the Jumbies, creatures from Caribbean stories similar to fairies and trolls that come out at night. Naya’s mom tells her that Jumbies are only in stories, but Naya goes searching for one anyway. She doesn’t find a scary Jumbie, but she does discover an interesting cast of mythical creatures from Caribbean folklore.

Trick or Treat, Crankenstein by Samantha Berger. illus. by Dan Santat. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316458092.
PreS-Gr 3–It’s Halloween, Crankenstein’s favorite day of the year! But everything goes wrong. He gets a toothache, his brother laughs at his costume, it rains (and his costume isn’t waterproof), he gets lost in a corn maze, his pumpkin carving goes awry, someone else has the same costume as him (but better, of course), and, worst of all, he ends up trick-or-treating at the house that hands out toothbrushes! Poor Crankenstein. Just as he seems most defeated, the doorbell rings. It is someone dressed up as—him! As he finally laughs, he transforms into a human boy. As more friends dressed as Crankenstein show up and they have a party, Crankenstein realizes that the day isn’t so bad after all. This is a story about high expectations dashed by disaster that everyone can relate to.

How to Haunt a House by Carolyn Crimi. illus. by Edward Miller. Albert Whitman. ISBN 9780807534267.
K-Gr 2–Halloween is fast approaching, and three young ghosts have one more test to pass before they will be declared ready for the day. Madam Gray assigns three houses for the ghosts to haunt, each one more challenging than the last. Using a series of skills perfected in class, Groana, Moana (not to be confused with the Disney character), and Shrieky work together to achieve their goal. When their practiced tactics fail to work on the final house, however, the three classmates must examine the problem from another angle to succeed.

 Vampenguin by Lucy Ruth HCummins. illus. by Lucy Ruth Cummins. Atheneum. ISBN 9781534466982.
PreS-K–It’s a memorable trip to the zoo for the Dracula family, although it will be more memorable than some of them realize. After waiting on line, they head to their favorite exhibit, the Penguin House, where they are absorbed watching the adorable little fellows. Many other exhibits follow until finally they decide to head home. It was fun, but nothing special. Observant readers, though, will notice that one family member has a different experience. While the narrator describes the trip around the zoo, the pictures show that after sliding out of his stroller, baby Dracula mingles with the penguins and makes new friends. Baby Penguin, mistaken for the littlest Dracula, gets to enjoy a ride. It’s a concept made even more amusing by the uninformed but otherwise illustrative narrator.

The Three Little Superpigs: Trick or Treat? by Claire Evans. illus. by Claire Evans. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338770636.
PreS-K–The latest story about the three Superpigs finds them on a mission to save Fairyland’s Halloween candy from the greedy Wicked Witch, only to have an unexpected encounter with the meddlesome Big Bad Wolf. With reimagined bits of “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Three Little Pigs,” and even “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” this story follows a simple if slightly crowded sequence, from the Superpigs’ uncertainty about the right costumes to the Wicked Witch’s trail of sweets to the pigs’ subsequent capture by the Big Bad Wolf in a candied house. This fairy tale mash-up adventure with a Halloween twist will make a great addition to festive read-alouds and plot sequence lessons.

Halloween Is Coming! by Cal Everett. illus. by Lenny Wen. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. ISBN 9781728205861.
PreS-K–Readers follow three friends one Halloween as they visit a festival, gather pumpkins, trick-or-treat, and more. The trio present as a Black girl, an Asian girl, and a white boy who uses a wheelchair. Their class and community are diverse in appearance and include humans and imaginary creatures. The costumes range from ghosts and pirates to astronauts, strawberries, and artists, with nary a culturally appropriative costume in sight. Notably, one boy sports a blue tutu and lace-up ballet shoes. For readers who enjoy the playful, social aspects of the holiday, this is a solid choice.

There’s a Witch in Your Book by Tom Fletcher. illus. by Greg Abbott. Random. ISBN 9780593125151.
Toddler-PreS–The book takeover continues! Previous “Who’s in Your Book” titles saw monster, alien, and superhero narrators prompting the audience to participate in the narrative, and this time, a plump, green-skinned witch brews up a mess. Children better be ready, for when they are encouraged to wipe it away, the witch grows cross. Spells are slung, then undone, as page by page the wackiness increases. Whether readers are asked to pop bubble bunnies or use a “magic finger wand” while reciting a spell, these invitations are loads of fun.

 Poultrygeist by Eric Geron. illus. by Pete Oswald. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536210507.
K-Gr 2–Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, of course. But what happens when the chicken is suddenly mowed down by a semitrailer truck and wakes up “on the other side”? Geron’s debut picture book delivers a fresh take on the classic joke. An ideal Halloween read-aloud and great for children with an appreciation for the macabre.

1, 2, BOO!: A Spooky Counting Book by Paul Howard. illus. by author. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781547606405.
PreS-Gr 2–Adorably illustrated in bright colors, this short book features two white children who have a lot of fun counting Halloween ghosts, skeletons, bats, and candy from one to 10. The rhythm and rhyme will be enjoyed by the very youngest of listeners and make for a fun story time read. Friendly Halloween creatures and cherubic children keep this book cheery and not at all spooky.

 Frankenslime by Joy Keller. illus. by Ashley Belote. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250765802.
Gr 3-5–With the help of her canine lab partner, Igor, scientist Victoria Franken creates varieties of slime that excite and amaze. One night, after Victoria comes up with a new idea, she and Igor return to the lab and begin experimenting. This time, their hard work results in a slime like no other. The story is entertaining, and kids are sure to get a kick out of the detailed illustrations, which also include sticky notes, diagrams, and lists that Victoria has hung up all over her lab.

The Wheels on the Bus at Halloween by Sarah Kieley. illus. by Sarah Kieley. Doubleday. ISBN 9780593174883.
Toddler-PreS–While there’s no shortage of picture book versions of “The Wheels on the Bus,” Kieley’s seasonal spin on this perennial favorite is a sweet treat. This is a quick tale beginning with a community map and an invitation to climb aboard the Halloween Bus. Each spread features a friendly and familiar Halloween figure, including ghosts, candy, cats, and a cute coven of young witches. The text is a straightforward modification of “Wheels on the Bus” and works sung, chanted, or read aloud.

Brains!: Not Just a Zombie Snack by Stacy McAnulty. illus. by Matthew Rivera. Holt. ISBN 9781250304049.
K-Gr 2–A zombie chef decides to give up her favorite food: brains. Since the zombie chef has decided not to eat human brains anymore, she tries to look for a substitute, but animal brains aren’t nearly as tasty. Brains are extraordinary, so if she can’t have them, she won’t have anything at all. This picture book takes a fascinating deep dive into everything about the brain. The book is informative and shares fun facts in an understandable way.

 Pumpkin Heads by Wendell Minor. illus. by author. Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781580899352.
PreS-Gr 1–The Halloween season brings with it pumpkins that will eventually become pumpkin heads of all shapes and sizes. They appear se pumpkin heads everywhere, even floating in the sky. They like to play dress up, and you might find one pretending to be a cowboy or a snowman or even a witch! Some of the pumpkins have jobs like scaring crows away or greeting trick-or-treaters. Wherever they’re found, they wish visitors a happy Halloween. Gorgeous artwork and pumpkin heads abound in a picture book that’s sure to entertain children, especially fans of the season.

 Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima. illus. by author. S. & S. ISBN 9781534441705.
K-Gr 2–The house on the hill thinks that she might be haunted because no one lives there. It’s not her fault that her doors creak and the stairs squeak. She tries her best to hold her breath and be quiet, but as she quickly realizes, she likes being noisy. She hopes that maybe one day a family will move in that doesn’t mind a little noise and doesn’t care if she’s haunted. When that day arrives, the haunted house knows that her new family accepts her for who she is. An inventive picture book, this forces readers to focus on the house’s perspective, and build empathy for its plight.

Tiny T. Rex and the Tricks of Treating by Jonathan Stutzman. illus. by Jay Fleck. Chronicle. ISBN 9781452184906.
Toddler-PreS–Tiny T. Rex from Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug is back just in time for Halloween. Tiny and his friend Pointy are Halloween experts and want to share their tips with children to ensure they have the best holiday ever. This short and delightful board book is broken down into six “tricks” that are tips for Halloween enjoyment. Maps, costumes, the buddy system, and manners are all covered as readers learn the proper protocols to follow to become treat masters, but the ending shows readers that the biggest reward is sharing treats with others.

Boo Stew by Donna L. Washington. illus. by Jeffrey Ebbeler. Peachtree. ISBN 9781682632215.
K-Gr 2– A girl’s unique cooking style saves the day in this fun Halloween read sure to entertain in any season. Curly Locks loves to cook, but none of the townsfolk like her dishes of batwing brownies or cat hair cupcakes. Though she’s a little dejected, she continues to concoct her dishes. This is a fun story about pursuing one’s passions even when other people might not understand.

How to Help a Pumpkin Grow by Ashley Wolff. illus. by author. Beach Lane/S. & S. ISBN 9781481419345.
Toddler-PreS–An anthropomorphized pup begins planting pumpkins early in the year. As the seasons progress, animal friends join in the work and, ultimately, share in the pie and jack-o’-lantern rewards. The brief, rhyming text is ideal for sharing aloud. Children will also observe that only the dog possesses human traits, wearing clothes and wielding opposable thumbs, while the other animals are less anthropomorphic. Pumpkin tales abound, but Wolff’s contribution to the harvest is sweet and welcome.

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