Reading Time: 5 minutes
If you are like me, Halloween still endures as one of the Best Holidays Ever. What other holiday asks you to disguise your identity in costume and go door to door to collect candy from your neighbors? Of course, there is that undeniable element to Halloween — the long-lost ancient whisper of its pagan origins — that creeps in and lurks about the evening celebration. That spookiness gives this holiday a special zing that no other holiday can attest to.
I loved that zing as a kid and I still love it as a parent. I love it in films, television and books. In fact, reading creepy stories always set the mood for this festive holiday in the DiTerlizzi household. Here are some favorites that have endured for years.
From the youngest audience to the older:
1. I Spy Spooky Night: A Book of Picture Riddles — Jean Marzolio, illustrated by Walter Wick
My 5-year-old daughter and I have spent countless hours with the I Spy series. Scouring through Wick’s wicked settings in search of spiders, bats and jack-o-lanterns is the perfect way to get excited for one of our favorite holidays. Ages 4 and up.
2. Creepy Carrots — Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown
“Psychological thriller” is usually not a term used to describe a book for preschoolers but Reynolds twisted text and Brown’s spare use of color and dynamic angles create a classic, Hitchcock-ian tale for tots. Ages 4 and up.
3. The Charles Addams Mother Goose — Charles Addams
This is a macabre rendition of Mother Goose classics by the grisly genius that created The Addams Family. Need I say more? Ages 4 and up.
4. What Was I Scared of? — Dr. Seuss
Like me, you’ve probably read most of the good doctor’s whimsical stories to your child. And, like me, perhaps you’ve overlooked this bizarre gem from 1961. Only Seuss can spin a story of a haunted (bodiless) pair of pants and transform it into a tale of misunderstood fear. Ages 5 and up.
5. The Ink Drinker — Eric Sanvoisin, illustrated by Marin Matje
Imagine a peculiar vampire with a taste for ink instead of blood. And he’s not just hungry for any old type of ink — what he craves is the perfectly seasoned story. Watch out for his pen nib teeth! Ages 6 and up.
6. Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Halloween — Ed Emberley
I grew up drawing the geometric creatures that inhabit Emberley’s instructional books. His simplification of rendering recognizable characters and animals by use of basic shapes is essential groundwork for any young aspiring artist, especially if the result is a depiction of the Headless Horseman. Ages 7 and up.
7. The Witches — Roald Dahl
If you are a Dahl fan like me, then you’ll know that there is always a creepy element to all of his stories — especially his most beloved. While I was fascinated by the rules and lore of witches that Dahl has conjured here, what I truly enjoy about this story is the multi-generational aspect of a boy having a fantastic adventure with his grandmother. Ages 7 and up.
8. Coraline — Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean
This middle-grade masterpiece is the definition of eerie. When Coraline enters the shadowy world of button-eyed parents, you know she isn’t in Kansas any longer. What I love about Gaiman’s gothic tale is that it spooks the young reader, but never terrifies. Ages 8 and up.
9. The Gashlycrumb Tinies — Edward Gorey
The Grim Reaper watching over a gaggle of children on the cover of this book should immediately foretell the amusing morbidity about to unfold. This alphabet book describing the manner in which 26 children perish is Gorey at his dark comedic finest. Ages 10 and up.
10. A Tale Dark & Grimm — Adam Gidwitz
The Brothers Grimm seem an obvious choice for this list, but hooking a young 21st-century reader on these legendary tales can be tricky. Fortunately Adam Gidwitz has crafted a mischievous mix-mash of Grimm classics that thrill, spook and delight. Ages 10 and up.
New York Times-bestselling author/illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi is one of the most beloved kids’ lit authors in children’s publishing today. Tony’s Spiderwick Chronicles (a collaboration with Holly Black) has sold over 10 million copies and been adapted into a feature film by Paramount Pictures. Spiderwick has also been featured in ABC Family’s 13 Nights of Halloween. His science fiction middle-grade series from Simon & Schuster, The Search for WondLa, is also a national bestseller. Just in time for his favorite holiday, he celebrated the 10th anniversary of the publication of his Caldecott-winning picture book, The Spider and the Fly.