Halloween is coming, but there won’t be any trick or treating in most places around the country. This year, my young readers and I will be doing a zoom party. To get ready, we pulled out some of our old favorite Halloween stories, added some new ones into the mix, and came up with these nine that we love to read.
What are some of your favorite Halloween books?
Happy Halloween from The Very Busy Spider:
A Lift-the-Flap Book
written and illustrated by Eric Carle
World of Eric Carle, 2020, 10 pages
I thought my young readers might be a little old for this lift-the-flap board book, but no. They are big fans of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and were very happy to see it make an appearance in this book. The text is written, for the most part, in rhyme, and follows the Busy Spider as he looks for his friends on Halloween, who are, of course, under the various flaps. The illustrations appear to be done in Eric Carle’s signature collage style – hand-painted tissue paper cut into the desired shapes, and layered for texture. I found that beginning The Very Busy Spider’s quest in prose, switching to rhyme, and ending in prose threw me off the first time I read this aloud, so be warned if you use it for a read-aloud. Otherwise, it’s a sweet introduction to Halloween for your youngest of readers (and so few sentimental 5-year-olds).
Gustavo, the Shy Ghost
written and illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago
Candlewick Press, 2020, 40 pages
Gustavo is a shy ghost who loves to do the usual ghostly things like walking through walls and glowing in the dark, but what he really loves is to play the violin. He also has a crush on Alma, a pretty (invisible) monster. But Gustavo has a problem – he can’t make friends because he can’t speak to any other monsters. He tries all kinds of ways to get noticed, but nothing works. So Gustavo decides to invite them to a Day of the Dead violin concert. And it looks like his fears that no one will like him are true when no one shows up at the concert. Gustavo begins to play his music anyway and next thing he knows, all the other monsters are suddenly there and loving his music. After that, no one ignores Gustavo any more and they even discover what he is a great friend to all of them. Though this isn’t a Halloween story per se, my kiddos like it and wanted to include it in our collection of seasonal books we like to read. Though there are pumpkins and monsters throughout the story, it also proved to be a great opportunity to introduce them to the Mexican Day of the Dead and what that means. There’s a multiplicity of cultural icons throughout, for example, the traditional papel picado banner and the many calaveras or skulls. Gustavo and his concert is a wonderful story about bravery and friendship, and about being seen and accepted for who you are. And while it is a seasonal story, it can be read and appreciated all year round.
Bears and Boos written by Shirley Parenteau,
illustrated by David Walker
Candlewick Press, 2020, 32 pages
This is the seventh book featuring these four cute, cuddly, pastel colored bears and Big Brown Bear. It’s Halloween and there’s a big box of items to make into costumes just waiting for four little bears. There’s a golden gown, a wizard’s hat, a magic wand, even a pirate hat, all up for grabs. And that’s just what they do, knocking Floppy Bear down in the process, and leaving nothing for her to make a costume. But when the other bears see what’s happened, they not only apologize for knocking Floppy down, but Fuzzy Bear offers her the golden gown she found, Calico Bear gives her the wand he found. and Yellow Bear gives her a necklace. Now, Floppy is the holiday queen and leads the parade of bears out to go trick or treating with Big Brown Bear. And what a good time they all have! This is a sweet Halloween story, told in four stanza rhymes and bearing a message about being kind, considerate, and sharing. What was nice about the bears apologizing to Floppy was that it was spontaneous after they saw that there was nothing left for her and they were not told to do it by Big Brown Bear. It is important for kids to realize the consequences of their actions and take responsibility for them. A particularly good message for anyone, actually, at any age. My young readers are already fans of these little bears, and this book was also sure to be a hit with them when we read it together.
Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale
written by Lynne Marie, illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo
Sterling Children’s Books, 2019, 42 pages
In this humorous retelling of the well-known fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Scare family and their blue dog Plasma live in a haunted house with room for four. As Papa Frankenstein makes some soup, he wishes there were a fourth person to eat the fourth portion, Mama Mummy wishes for a lab assistant as she mixes up a potion, and Baby Scare, a vampire, wishes for a playmate. When the soup turns out to be too hot to eat, they take Plasma for a walk while it cools. Enter Moldilocks, a zombie who has been without a family for a long time. Yes, she tries the soup, and eats Baby Scares portion, tries the chairs and breaks Baby Scare’s, tries the beds and naps in Baby Scares just right bed. What happens when the Scares return? They see what Moldilocks has done, and finds her still asleep. And it looks like everyone’s wish has come true, and Moldilocks finally has a new family. For a retelling, this was a lot of fun to read. There’s all kinds of word play going on, and the illustrations, done with pencil in Halloween colors, are more humorous than scary. But is carries a nice message about blended families, acceptance, and just being who you are. I read this to my young readers last Halloween, and a number of times since then.
Herbert’s First Halloween written by Cynthia Rylant,
illustrated by Stephen Henry
Chronicle Books, 2017, 36 pages
It’s Herbert’s first trick or treat Halloween, but he isn’t quite sure about it. After all, Halloween can be scary, but luckily, Herbert’s father, who is very excited for Herbert, understands that. First, he shows Herbert a photo of his own first Halloween, dressed up as a cowboy. When Herbert says he wants to be a tiger, his dad measures him for a costume. Then, father and son carve a pumpkin with a big jolly smile and put it on the porch. Yet, even after his dad tells him about all the candy, Herbert still looks unsure of things. On Halloween, after putting on his costume, Herbert and his dad go trick or treating with all the other kids. Herbert has such a good time, that he’s even looking forward to next year. This is kind of a young book, but I read it to my young readers because some of them were new to this country and didn’t know what Halloween was all about. And yes, it can look scary to young kids. But there is such a great message about being brave that I thought this book, along with Llama Llama Trick or Treat would be the perfect combination for talking to them about Halloween. And it worked. It was nice to see a very patient, supportive dad in the position of talking to Herbert about Halloween and even making his costume, strengthening their bond.
Llama Llama Trick or Treat
written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
Viking BFYR, 2014, 14 pages
This is the second favorite board book my young readers wanted to revisit. I think it’s the simple, but charming rhyme text that makes it memorable for them, since they can still recite the whole book. It’s also shows Llama getting ready for Halloween – picking out the perfect costume, finding just the right pumpkin and carving it into a Jock-O’-Lantern, putting candy in a bowl for trick-or-treaters – all the typical things that most kids also do to get ready for Halloween. The rhyme works, the illustrations are sweet and done in Halloween colors.
At the Old Haunted House written by Helen Ketteman,
illustrated by Nate Wragg
Two Lions, 2014, 32 pages
It’s a dark Halloween as a young girl and two small boys walk away from the bright street and homey homes where they have been trick or treating and head toward a dilapidated old house on a hill complete with a graveyard in the front. Inside is a wide array of creepy creatures, all involved in antics with their offspring, beginning with a witch: “At the old haunted house/ In a room with no sun/ lived a warty green witch/ and her wee witchy one.” There are also goblins, black cats, werewolves, vampires, and even bats. Each creature is one associated with Halloween, but the story is told in a really humorous counting rhyme. All their shenanigans end up in a Halloween party that begins just as the three trick or treaters arrive at the house. My young readers love this counting book. We’ve actually read it so frequently that they know bits of it by heart and recite them enthusiastically. The cartoon-like illustrations, done in a Halloween palette, help elevate this book into silliness so even the most anxious of kids won’t get scared. This book is always a winner.
Halloween Hustle written by Charlotte Gunnufson,
illustrated by Kevan Atteberry
Two Lions, 2013, 32 pages
This is one of our favorite books to revisit every Halloween. A boney skeleton in a orange pumpkin shirt is bopping down the street doing the Halloween Hustle, along his faithful companion. He’s having a good old time for himself until he trips and comes apart. A few well-placed rubber bands and he’s good to go, again. Getting on a bus, with a bunch of other Halloween creatures, they head to town to get some party clothes, all the while doing the Halloween Hustle. At an old haunted house, everyone is partying and dancing, but oops, the skeleton falls comes apart again. Luckily, a pretty girl skeleton is there to glue him back together, and the party continues as everyone does the Halloween Hustle. The story is told in a four stanza rhyme, with each one ending in a repeat of “Doing the Halloween Hustle.” The illustrations are bright despite being done on a black background and the monsters/creatures aren’t at all scary for young readers. You can find some great printable activities to go with this book at the author’s website HERE
Room on the Brook written by Julia Donaldson,
illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Dial Books, 2001, 32 pages
This fun counting book has been a long time favorite mine, so much so, that I’ve worn out more than one copy, and given away a few, too. A witch holding a caldron and her marmalade cat are contentedly flying on her broomstick when a gust of wind blows the witch’s hat off. Retrieved by a spotted dog who asks if there’s room on the broom for him. Eventually, the witch and her cat welcome a green bird, and a frog. But when the broom snaps in half from the extra weight, and a hungry dragon catches the witch, a favorite thing of his to ear, it is cat, dog, bird, and frog to the rescue. When the witch fills her cauldron and adds various ingredients, it isn’t to make some soup for the cat, the dog, the bird, the frog and herself,. No, indeed, our friendly witch stirs up a nice new broom with comforts for everyone. The whole tale is told in perfect rhyme, with equally wonderful witty, friendly illustrations. Though the witch looks somewhat like a customary witch, she is both kind and friendly, traits that will dispel any fears young readers may have that witches are mean. One nice result of reading this a lot to kids, is that soon you begin to hear an echo of young voices who have memorized the first few lines. You definitely won’t want to leave this out of your Halloween reads.