Stack Overflow: 21 Titles for Halloween That Put the “Boo!” in Books

One of the weird things about reviewing books is that I get books about Halloween in the middle of the summer, and now that Halloween is approaching, Christmas-themed books are showing up. So I get a little mixed up sometimes. (I can’t even imagine what it’s like being a publisher—presumably you get to read Halloween books in February.) At any rate, we’ve compiled a stack of books filled with creepy crawlies for you and your kids to enjoy in the weeks leading up to Halloween!

They’re arranged roughly in order of age recommendations, so little kids first, then bigger kids, and then adults.

Fingers for Halloween

Fingers for Halloween by Brandt Lewis and Cori Doerrfeld

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

This board book is a sequel to Fingers for Lunch and features a cute monster who just loves nibbling on fingers, this time as a Halloween treat. There are holes so that your child can stick their fingers through (incorporating their fingers into the illustration), and the rhyming verse extols the tastiness of each digit. On the next page, there’s one less hole, because the monster has eaten that finger! It’s a cute little counting book and a silly story. My four-year-old loves both books and will sit and count down her fingers on her own, too.

The 12 Days of Halloween

The 12 Days of Halloween by Jenna Lettice, illustrated by Colleen Madden

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

The 12 Days series gets little kids ready for various occasions—kindergarten, Valentine’s Day, and now Halloween—with a rhyming verse set to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” In this book, you’ll find vampires grinning, werewolves howling, spiders crawling, and one very eager trick-or-treater. The illustrations are cute, showing friends and neighbors dressed up as the various creatures mentioned in the verses: the howling werewolves are a band, and the spiders are costumed dogs out for a walk. But the witches seem to be real?

Herbert's First Halloween

Herbert’s First Halloween by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Steven Henry

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Herbert (a little pig) is a little hesitant about his first Halloween dressing up and going trick-or-treating, but his dad is excited. Together, they talk about what Herbert wants to be, and his dad tells him all about Halloween while making up a costume. By the time the big night rolls around, Herbert is ready, and has practiced his tiger roar. This one is all sweet with no scares—a cute story about a kid and his dad enjoying Halloween.

Zip! Zoom! On a Broom

Zip! Zoom! On a Broom by Teri Sloat, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

This one’s another counting book—this time up to 10 and then back down again. Ten witches gather together for a midnight spell—and, to be honest, they’re mostly kind of rude. So when they’re all crowded onto one giant broom, the countdown begins as they fall off one by one. The story is in rhyming verse, and all of the witches (except for the smallest one) look grumpy and mean—though some of them still get happy endings.

Monster Trucks

Monster Trucks by Joy Keller, illustrated by Misa Saburi

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

What do monsters do the rest of the year, when it isn’t Halloween? They drive monster trucks, of course! This cute rhyming story shows various monsters driving different types of trucks, each tied to their personalities. For instance, the broom-riding witch drives a street-cleaning truck, the minotaur drives a bulldozer, and the mummies are perfect for the ambulance with all their bandages. This one’s a clever book that could be read any time of year—during October because it’s about monsters, or the rest of the year because that’s when they’re driving their trucks!

The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra

The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ana Aranda

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Okay, so this one isn’t technically a Halloween book, but it features the goat-eating chupacabra, so I figured it was okay to include. Three little goats ponder what to do about the chupacabra who lives up the hill—what will happen when he comes down and eats them all up? Jayna, the smallest of the goats, decides to take some initiative, charging up the hill armed with a candelabra … which the chupacabra eats. The book continues with a fairly silly series of events as you never quite know if the chupacabra likes to eat goats or something else, and the goats keep trying different ways to keep the chupacabra appeased. (And despite the goats’ fear, the chupacabra in the story is quite cute, if voracious.)

 

Creepy Pair of Underwear

Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

This book is a sequel of sorts to Creepy Carrots, though you don’t have to be familiar with that book to enjoy it. Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear, but he’s not a little bunny anymore. He convinces his mom to get him a pair of Creepy Underwear—green, glow-in-the-dark underwear with a Frankenstein’s Monster face on it. But that ghoulish, greenish glow freaks him out, so he ends up hiding the underwear … only to find himself wearing it in the morning! He tries all sorts of tactics to get rid of the creepy underwear, but it just keeps showing up again.

Okay, yeah, that is a bit creepy. But Peter Brown’s illustrations are hilarious, and kids will find themselves laughing at what would otherwise be a horrific story. And, you know, everything turns out okay in the end—but I’ll let you find out how for yourselves.

The X-Files: Children Are Weird

The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird illustrated by Kim Smith

(suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Quirk Books has introduced a series of picture books based on TV and movie titles. The first is based on The X-Files, and features little Dana and Fox as kids having a backyard campout. Fox, of course, sees evidence of aliens everywhere—but Dana figures out the totally rational explanations for things. Kids will delight in the spooky-but-goofy story and the surprise at the end, and parents will chuckle at this new take on an old favorite. (Sophie Brown shared more about the book earlier this month—alas, the giveaway is over, but you can still check out her take on the book.)

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial illustrated by Kim Smith

(suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Another in Quirk’s series, this one is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the movie, adorably illustrated by Kim Smith. The book hits the major plot points from the film—the discovery of E.T., healing Elliott’s finger, phoning home, dressing up for Halloween—but omits a few things so the book is okay for wee readers—like E.T. getting drunk, or Elliott getting sick. There are scientists trying to track down E.T., but you don’t see them a whole lot. I’ve always loved E.T., and the book is a fun way to experience the story with my toddler.

The Pomegranate Witch

The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Up on the hill outside of town, there grows a pomegranate tree filled with luscious fruit—but it’s guarded by a clever witch! This book tells the story of a band of kids and their desperate attempts to snatch some pomegranates for themselves. On Halloween, though, the Pomegranate Witch flies away to celebrate, and in her place, the Kindly Lady finally shows her face, inviting the neighborhood for cider… and a pomegranate in each bag. The story is told in rhyme, and clever kids will be able to figure out what the words imply but don’t say.

don't read this book before bed

Don’t Read This Book Before Bed by Anna Claybourne

(Suggested by Z.)

National Geographic Kids publications are always a big hit in my house, especially those having to do with the outlandish, unexplained, or downright macabre. So, of course, Don’t Read This Book Before Bed: Thrills, Chills, and Hauntingly True Stories has become our go-to book of the Halloween season.

My 12-year-old loves it because of its focus on ancient legends (“Fish People”), cryptozoology (“The Beast of Bodmin”), and the wonders/terrors of the natural world (“Zombie Ants,” “Yellowstone Supervolcano”). I, on the other hand, appreciate that it’s well researched and tempers its more supernatural subject matter with a healthy dose of reason and skepticism.

Could creatures like Nessie and Champ really inhabit our modern waterways? It’s highly doubtful, but enthusiasts still seem to think so. Could horrible, flesh-eating zombies exist? No, but there are illnesses that can radically change human behavior in violent and dangerous ways. Are places like Mexico’s Island of the Dolls truly touched by the spirit world? Of course not, but that doesn’t make them any less spooky… or fascinating.

Divided into relevant sections, interspersed with fun interactive quizzes–covering everything from common phobias to spotting fake photos–and with its content individually rated on the “Fright-o-meter” based on overall creepiness, Don’t Read This Book Before Bed is just perfect whether you’re exploring the marvels of science, like monarch migration, or debating the existence of the Mongolian death worm. [Review materials provided by: National Geographic Kids]

Elizabeth and Zenobia

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Elizabeth and Zenobia is a spooky tale for middle grade readers—maybe not exactly a ghost story, but a ghostly story at least. Elizabeth and her father have moved back to his old home, Witheringe House, a dusty old manor that certainly houses some secrets. Elizabeth is always accompanied by Zenobia, her best friend, though one that nobody else can see or hear. Unlike Elizabeth, Zenobia is bold and brave, and is currently fascinated by clairvoyance. She thinks that Witheringe House must surely be a place with a Spirit Presence, and is bound and determined to find it … What are the secrets of this place? What’s with the creepy nursery and its wild wallpaper? How does Mrs. Purswell, the housekeeper, appear out of the shadows like that? Who’s that friendly-but-unsettling gardener? If you’ve got a middle grader who likes tales of the not-quite-normal, Elizabeth and Zenobia is a great title to read for Halloween.

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Here’s a comic book filled with monsters and skeletons and the undead—as well as delicious desserts and sweet romance! Princess Decomposia pretty much runs the kingdom because her father is ailing and never feels up to handling state business himself. When their chef quits (the king’s tastes are extremely demanding and fickle), Decomposia interviews several potential candidates, finally settling on Count Spatula, a vampire with a sweet tooth. The pair hit it off right away because the Count is always ready to lend an ear to the Princess’s complaints, and his delicacies help smooth over many a diplomatic crisis.

The book is a love story, though it’s a fairly reserved romance—mostly it’s about being good friends. The Princess has to figure out how to live her own life when she’s so busy managing her father’s, so it’s also a story about growing up and becoming her own person.

Stitched

Stitched: The First Day of the Rest of Her Life by Mariah McCourt and Aaron Alexovitch

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Crimson Volania Mulch just woke up in a cemetery, with no knowledge of who she is except her name, and the fact that she seems to be pieced together like patchwork. She soon meets some of the other residents of the Cemetery of Assumptions—a wolf-girl named Wisteria, a sea-creature boy named Simon, and who’s that beautiful vampire kid she sees floating around? She also discovers the Rose mansion, now populated by ghosts, and feels a connection there that she doesn’t quite understand.

Stitched is a fun comic book filled with monstrous characters. So far this first volume feels like it’s just setting the scene and introducing the players—we know that Crimson has some memories that pop up at certain times, and she’s determined to figure out who she is and how she ended up in Assumptions.

Graveyard Shakes

Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Poor Modie. He’s a little dead boy, but his father keeps him alive by stealing life from other kids, with the help of some rowdy ghosts. So when Katia and Victoria, two sisters, show up at the private boarding school, you’re pretty sure that they’re going to end up meeting Modie and his dad at some point.

This middle grade comic book has a lot going on: it’s about the two sisters, who have been home-schooled until now, and their adjustment to being in a fancy school with other students. Victoria, the older sister, wants to fit in and be liked; Katia is okay being a lone wolf and doesn’t want to change for anything. The story is also about Little Ghost, a young boy ghost who doesn’t like being mean and nasty like the other ghosts. And it’s about Modie, who doesn’t like what his father has to do to keep him alive, and his father, who just can’t let go of his son. The story does have a happy ending eventually, but there are a lot of adjustments and changes in store for everyone.

Cast No Shadow

Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Greg Shepherd is just your average kid, growing up in the somewhat boring town of Lancaster, but he’s got one odd quirk: he has no shadow. He was born without it, but after the doctors checked him out, they couldn’t find anything else wrong with him. Of course, that hasn’t made it easy for him to fit in.

Eleanor Turner lives in the creepy old house outside of town—well, lives might not be the right word. You see, Eleanor is a ghost. She’s been dead for some time, but most people can’t see her. All they know is that if anyone tries to take something from the house, crazy things happen. But somehow, Greg can see Eleanor, and despite growing up in very different times, they quickly form a connection.

Cast No Shadow explores a lot of different relationships—aside from Greg and Eleanor’s new friendship, we also meet Ruth, Greg’s stepmother (whom Greg is having a lot of trouble accepting); Layla Morgan, Greg’s best friend since she rescued him from some bullies; Jake Anders, the mayor’s sun and a royal pain in Greg’s behind. It’s a love story and a ghost story. Oh—and it’s not entirely a spoiler (since it’s right there on the cover) but Greg’s shadow does eventually make an appearance, and it’s pretty spectacular.

The book is illustrated in black and white, and I like the way that Greg is the only character who has no shading anywhere—he’s just a line drawing, living in a world of people with shading and texture.

The Witch Boy

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

(Suggested by Kelly Knox)

The Witch Boy, a middle grade graphic novel by Molly Ostertag, may have witches, shapeshifters, and magic in its pages, but it’s highly relatable for readers both pre-teen and adult. Thirteen-year-old Aster is born into a magical family where the girls are expected to become witches and the boys shapeshifters. Each boy is chosen by an animal to become one with its spirit, but Aster hasn’t been chosen yet. Instead, his heart lies with magic.

Aster sneaks in magic lessons with the girls and practices on his own because no one is willing to let a boy become a witch. But when everyone he loves is threatened by a monstrous creature, Aster knows he must rely on his witchcraft to save them all.

The Witch Boy is an engaging read for anyone who’s ever felt like they want to be something other than what everyone else expects. At heart, it’s a book about challenging gender norms, with characters that all readers will want to be friends with themselves. (On sale October 31, 2017.)

Thornhill

Thornhill by Pam Smy

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

Thornhill is a ghostly pair of stories—one is told in prose, as a series of diary entries, and the other is told only in illustrations. The diary entries are from 1982, by a girl named Mary who lives at the Thornhill Institute (apparently an orphanage), where she is bullied by one of the other girls. She doesn’t like to talk, and her abuser is very clever at making the adults think that she’s changed her ways. The illustrated portions take place in 2017, when a girl named Ella has moved into a home that looks out onto an old, boarded-up building surrounded by “Keep Out!” signs and barbed wire. But she can see a girl running around over there, and mysterious light in a window at night.

I’ve included it in this list because it’s a ghost story, but Thornhill isn’t a book just written for thrills and chills: it’s tragic account of bullying and the circumstances that allow it to continue—the actions of other kids, the willful ignorance of the adults in Mary’s life. The two stories begin to intersect, coming to a surprising conclusion.

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Vol 2

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, Volume 2, by M. R. James, adapted by Leah Moore and John Reppion

(Suggested by Jonathan Liu)

M. R. James was a master of ghost stories, and influenced many authors (including H. P. Lovecraft). This book is a graphic novel adaptation of four stories from his Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, illustrated by four different artists: “Number 13” is about a mysterious hotel with a room 13 that is sometimes there and sometimes not—with very odd consequences. “Count Magnus” is about a long-dead count who may not be as dead as he should be. “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” tells the story of a man who finds an old whistle, and rouses something that he shouldn’t have. “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas” is a story of the search for hidden riches, and the consequences of its discovery.

One interesting thing about the story is that the narrator tends to be dry and scholarly—they’ve been received secondhand, told by an acquaintance or uncovered in some lost papers. The stories are eerie, relying a lot on the unknown for their effect—though it’s hard to say whether having the horrors illustrated accentuates that effect or not. The stories were new to me, though, so I didn’t know what to expect before reading them. I liked most of the stories—they have a slightly unsettling feel, and don’t necessarily resolve neatly at the end. (Volume 1 is also available.)

Halloween Carnival Volumes 1-5, Image: Cemetery Dance Publications
Halloween Carnival Volumes 1-5, Image: Cemetery Dance Publications

Halloween Carnival Volumes 1-5, Edited by Brian James Freeman

(Suggested by Sophie Brown)

The Halloween Carnival series is a set of five ebooks, each containing five short stories set on and around October 31st. One volume has been released every Tuesday beginning October 3rd, with the final volume due to be published on Halloween itself. The books all contain stories by different authors so there is a wide range of styles on display; however, I would have liked to see more female authors included (just six of the twenty-five stories are written by women).

The stories cover a range of story types, some involving supernatural forces at play while in others the evil comes from more human sources – between the two, it’s hard to decide which type was the most horrifying. There is a noticeable American bias to the collection, which is understandable, but a few stories do focus on Dia de Los Muertos as well. Oddly, for a Halloween collection, I didn’t find very many of the stories to be particularly scary. Tragedy seemed to be more present than fear, although that sadness was always laced with spooky undertones.

As with any collection, there are hits, and then there are misses. Thankfully, those real misses are few and far between here, with far more good quality stories to be found than their poorer cousins. Personally, I found volumes one and three to be the best of the bunch in terms of overall quality, and volume four the weakest, although there is little to separate them. “The Rage of Achilles” by Kevin Lucia, “La Hacienda De Los Muertos” by Lisa Morton, “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” by Glen Hirshberg, “The Way Lost” by Kelley Armstrong, “When The Leaves Fall” by Paul Melniczek, and, “Swing” by Kevin Quigley were my stand out stories of the bunch.

Each of the five volumes is available on Kindle for just $2.40, so if you’re looking for some cheap chills to read this Halloween you can’t really go wrong.

Meddling Kids

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

(Suggested by Jim Kelly)

Mix a dose of HP Lovecraft with some HB’s Scooby-Doo (that’s Hanna-Barbera), and you’ve got Meddling Kids. Author Edgar Cantero spins a tale of four young friends and a dog who solve mysteries during their summers. But one mystery has endured for years, and now the twenty-something detectives are returning to the scene of a horrifying incident that the group is starting to recall after blocking it out. Read the full review here.

It Devours!

It Devours!: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

(Suggested by Jonathan)

This is the book I’m going to be reading this week leading up to Halloween—so, full disclosure, I don’t know a whole lot about it because I’m only a few pages in as of this writing. But I can already tell it has the distinctive voice of Welcome to Night Vale in it, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

For the uninitiated, Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast about a small town out in the desert where some really bizarre things happen. It’s narrated as if it’s a small community radio station, with helpful public service announcements remind you that the dog park doesn’t exist and that the Sheriff’s Secret Police would like you to stay indoors on Monday afternoon. It has a delightfully eerie quality, full of wonderful weirdness, and if you’ve never given it a listen, I highly recommend it. The novel is supposedly fine for both fans and novices, though I imagine fans of the show will probably get the most out of it. (There are three other books—two volumes containing the show scripts, and one other stand-alone novel.)

Looking for more?

Check out our Halloween Stack Overflow columns from 2015 and 2016 for a few more suggestions!

Disclosure: We received review copies of these titles. Making purchases through our Amazon affiliate links helps us keep the site going, thanks!

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