6 Halloween Books that Delight

After Christmas, there may be no other holiday written about more in children’s literature than Halloween, making it a difficult section to sift through for the best of the best. With my son in third grade this year, my window for reading picture books is closing, but one upside to this is that I’ve had nine years to find the ones most worth our October time. 

These are the six I’ll be reading with my son this month, our favorite Halloween books that have delighted us for nearly a decade: 

6. The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey (creator of Dog Man)

When my son was little, his favorite part of this book was the humor, such as Oscar’s fitting hotdog costume, but as he got older, the lessons at the heart of this story are what stuck: being proud of what makes you different (stay weird) and standing up for others.

After being teased by his classmates for his unusual shape, Oscar comes to their rescue on Halloween night, when they are being bullied by the neighborhood cats. Pilkey’s richly colored illustrations lend this story warmth even beyond its happy ending, giving it a classic feel. 

5. The Witches’ Supermarket by Susan Meddaugh (the first story with Martha Speaks)

Martha Speaks gained popularity as a show on PBS, but even before the first Martha Speaks book was published in 1992, The Witches Supermarket (1991) features the girl-dog mischievous duo, Helen and Martha dressed up as a witch and cat for Halloween.

Lured into the supermarket with a coupon for a free broom, the two realize quickly that they have entered a different kind of store. My son loves to play eye-spy with all of the unusual items he spots on the shelves, such as “Shake ‘n Bake Snake” and “Choco-Ants,” squealing, “Eww!” and giggling until the end. 

4. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything By Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

This is the best book for younger readers on the list, great for babies and toddlers, but because of the fear element, it still holds up throughout early elementary. My son was especially excited in Kindergarten when the teacher had the class color, cut, and glue the scarecrow’s components to popsicle sticks so that they could hold them up as she read the story aloud.

The book features onomatopoeia (a figurative language-learning moment and one of our favorite words to say), such as “CLOMP, CLOMP,” and “CLAP, CLAP,” which also offer an interactive opportunity to act out the movements of the scarecrows’ clothes as they chase the old lady all the way home. Best of all, the way in which the old lady conquers her fear at the end models a positive way to overcome the feeling of being afraid. 

3. The Vanishing Pumpkin by Tony Johnston, pictures by Tomie dePaola

We found this book by sheer accident on the library shelves last year, and after our first reading, it was one of our favorite books EVER. This is the funniest book on the list, and if you’re good at making voices, this book is your moment.

An 800-year-old man and 700-year-old woman wake up on Halloween morning to learn that their pumpkin has “been snitched,” and the hilarity ensues, encountering such wild characters as a rapscallion, brought to life in dePaola’s unique illustrative style. The couple doesn’t quite recover their pumpkin in the end, but what they do find is even sillier and arguably better. 

2. The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin by Margaret Wise Brown (published posthumously by the author of Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny), pictures by Richard Egielski

This is another all-ages story, much like The Little Old Lady book, in that because of just the right amount of spookiness, children can grow with it. Our fierce pumpkin grows from a “small green pumpkin the size of an apple” into a “fat little, round little, orange little pumpkin” that is selected by three excited children to be their “terrible pumpkin,” making all of the pumpkin’s dreams come true, to be “fierce and ferocious.” As you may have already gathered, this book is an excellent way to introduce or review adjectives. Besides the dreamlike illustrations, what might be most magical about this story is the varying perspectives of the field mice, the scarecrow, the children, and even the pumpkin himself! 

1. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alan Schwartz VERSUS Scary Stories to Read When It’s Dark from Reading Rainbow Readers

Schwartz’ Scary Stories is actually among the most banned books of all time. After catching the documentary about this book, “Scary Stories,” I had to check it out from the local library and introduce it to my son. Third grade (or eight years and up) is actually the suggested age for this book, and my husband actually said he could remember going to the library at that age and checking this title out each time. My son gets terribly frightened when we read it, jumping at the punchlines, but then proceeding to laugh and beg for more. It’s the perfect amount of fear to be fun. What’s most interesting about this book is that all of the tales are based on actual folklore from around the world, which lends to the eeriness of each story. 

If your child isn’t old enough for Schwartz’ book, then Reading Rainbow has got you. Their book of a similar title, holds a group of stories that capture that delicate balance of fear being fun for the eight and under age group. Each story has that BOO-like punchline that will make you jump and laugh at the same time. My son’s favorite story is “Bloody Fingers,” which is strikingly similar to his favorite from Schwartz’ book, “The Big Toe.” In the first, a man chases two boys with bloody fingers, screaming “Bloody fingers!” In the second, a boy who is haunted by something groaning, “Where is my to-o-o-o-o-e?” after the boy of course has already eaten the said toe. For full effect, these lines of dialogue must be read in your most exaggerated ghoulish voice.

Works Cited

Brown, Margaret Wise and Egielski, Richard. The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2003. 

Johnston, Tony and dePaola, Tomie. The Vanishing Pumpkin. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1983.

Meddaugh, Susan. The Witches’ Supermarket. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 1991. 

Meirick, Cody (Director). (2019). Scary Stories. Giant Thumb Studios. 

Pilkey, Dav. The Hallo-Wiener. Scholastic Inc., 1995.

Schwartz, Alan and Stephen Gammell. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Scholastic Inc., 1981.

Reading Rainbow Readers. Scary Stories to Read When It’s Dark. SeaStar Books, 2000. 

Williams, Linda and Lloyd, Megan. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. Harper Trophy, 1986. 

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