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Fifteen Frightfully Fabulous Halloween Read-Aloud Books

by Katie Beltramo

We're always on the lookout for excellent books to read, and one of our favorite October rituals is pulling out our Halloween picture books, which I hide away during the rest of the year. Now, we love a good monster book any time of year (Where the Wild Things Are, anyone?) but Halloween calls for some special choices.  I asked around among the rest of the crew here at KidsOutAndAbout, and there were tons of family favorites. Some are classics you've likely already encountered, while others are sleepers. Whether you or your child are looking for a scare or a laugh, there are plenty of wonderful options for celebrating the season.



I Am a Witch's Cat, by Harriet Muncaster, is a new discovery for me. The narrator is a little girl who's convinced that her mother is a witch, and the evidence she presents is wonderful: kids will understand the silliness of it, but on another level, it really resonates with grown-ups (I loved the line about the mother getting together with friends: ". . . they sit in a circle and CACKLE and swap spell books"). The story is accompanied by charming, gorgeous mixed-media illustrations. This is a perfect mother-daughter gift.


Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody, by Michael Rex, is a goofy spoof of the classic Goodnight Moon that mimics its rhythm and replaces it with silly, monster-and-alien themed rhymes. This fun homage includes illustrations with marvelous details that kids will love--I've even met Goodnight Moon fans who like this one more. But a warning: if your child is prone to monster fears, you might not want to add all of these new monsters to their imagination library just yet!


Ten Timid Ghosts, by Jennifer Barrett O’Connell, is a fun one to read, and it helps kids to see that scary stuff isn’t necessarily so scary. This is also a great book for little kids because they want to count the ghosts (on every page, every time you read it) and the illustrations offer visual cues to the “mystery” of how the witch is scaring the ghosts. Getting pre-readers to really examine the pages of a book is a wonderful early literacy activity.

The Runaway Pumpkin, written by Kevin Lewis and illustrated by S.D. Schindler, is a favorite at our house because it has a great refrain that, once you conquer it (because it's a bit tongue-twistery), seems to mimic the runaway pumpkin as it rushes and bumps and tumbles down a hill. It also features the many delightful foods you can make with pumpkin, so if you’ve got a picky eater, it might encourage curiosity about trying pumpkin bread or soup or pie.


Creepy Carrots!, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown, is a bit of a psychological thriller with illustrations that feel like a cross between a comic book and an episode of The Twilight Zone (which Brown says he used for inspiration). A bunny named Jasper is so greedy for carrots that he begins to wonder if they might want revenge. This book is suspenseful and can be scary for young kids, but the end will have everyone laughing. It's one of our school librarian's very favorites because it's always a hit.
Moonlight the Halloween Cat, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is not scary at all. Instead, it's a sweet and soothing story of a cat who loves Halloween. This is a wonderful bedtime story, and it's a great choice if you have a little one who's a bit worried that trick-or-treating might be scary.
BOO!, written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, isn't my favorite. But my children love it. And I've seen groups of children howl with laughter as they listen to the story. Maybe it strikes such a chord because it's a child's secret fantasy come to life? A boy named Lance comes up with a costume that's so terrifying that everyone he meets shrieks and drops their candy, leaving him to scoop up all the booty. He even terrifies a police officer and a teenager.
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, written by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd, is another tale of suspense that turns out to be not-so-scary. This one incorporates a lovely repetition that builds as the book progresses, making it a great choice for children who want to join in or "read" the text with their grown-up.

Little Boo, written by Stephen Wunderli and illustrated by Tim Zeltner, is an appealing tale of a youngster who's desperate to be a grown-up, In this case, Boo is a little pumpkin seed who wishes that he could be big and scary. Children will relate to his wistful desire to be able to be more and do more, and the illustrations are compelling enough that on my first read, I was too focused on Boo's expression to realize that he was a seed! The story follows the life cycle of a seed through to Boo's triumphant maturity as a big, scary jack-o-lantern.


The Hallow-wiener, by Dav Pilkey, is the funny and touching tale of Oscar, who is "half a dog tall and one and a half dogs long." The dachsund is teased mercilessly about looking like a hot dog, so he's mortified when his mom buys him a hot dog bun as a costume. But he overcomes embarrassment and bullies and triumphs in the end when his humiliating costume helps him to become a hero and save his friends.


The Teeny-Tiny Woman, by Paul Galdone, is an old English ghost story about a woman who takes a teeny-tiny bone to make herself a teeny-tiny bowl of soup for herself. . . until the owner of the bone wants it back! This one's got plenty of spooky tension and it's great for reading aloud in alternating voices, squeaky and tiny and deep and ghostly. The repetition encourages kids to "read" along, and they're likely to shout out loud by the end.


The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin, written by Joe Troiano and illustrated by Susan Banta, is a lovely Halloween story that's not scary at all. Spookley is teased because he's different from all the other pumpkins, but he learns that being different can be pretty wonderful, too. The rhyming verse and sweet illustrations together celebrate kindness to all and respect for what makes each individual unique.

Who's There on Halloween?, written by Susan Hagen Nipp and Pamela Conn Beall and illustrated by Charles Reasoner, is a board book that toddlers will love. Googly eyes form a guessing game of simple rhymed riddles--who's there? Kids will turning the pages to find out the who's who the first time, and they'll quickly learn the riddles so that they can "read" along and guess over and over again.

Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness, with illustrations by Gris Grimley, will change your mind if you think that your teen is too grown-up for picture books. As if Poe's stories aren't scary enough, the illustrations are ghastly, gothic, and downright creepy. If you'd like to lure an avid teen reader into classics territory, or if you have a tween who enjoys getting the pants scared off of them, check out this book or its companion, Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Death and Dementia. But be warned: you might all have to sleep with the lights on!




Where's My Mummy?, written by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by John Manders, is a favorite at the home of one of our readers. She reports:"We love reading it out loud because of the fun sound effects, and the kids love the surprise of what scares the little baby mummy at the end." And we love that her quotation left it a mystery--no spoilers when we go out and read it!


© 2019, 

Katie Beltramo, a mother of two, is the Albany editor of KidsOutAndAbout and also blogs at Capital District Fun. After putting together this list, she tried to put her credit card on lockdown for a half-hour to restrain herself from buying way too many books, but then she remembered that there's actually no such thing as "way too many books."

Illustrations are from Amazon and are the property of the cited author/illustrators.