Halloween and Day of the Dead celebrations have always inspired books and movies like Room on the Broom, Coraline, The Witches, Coco, and more. As the weather gets cooler and the nights get longer, it’s the perfect time to start collecting books that will keep kids interested (who doesn’t like a little scare?) and reading. Check out our suggestions below and add your own in comments!
Preschool and Elementary Readers
10 SPOOKY PUMPKINS by Gris Grimly is for pre-K through grade 3, and it is sweet and just a bit creepy. The countdown is filled with rhymes for each number, and each section is connected to the next making for a fun and smooth read-aloud. The illustrations are gorgeous, with muted fall colors and quirky characters that take the edge off of what could be scary for younger readers. Especially fun is that the more frightening characters like goblins, wolves, and witches are portrayed as goofy and full of Halloween joy.
BIG PUMPKIN by Erica Silverman is another pre-k through grade 3 book. It is a fun story about a witch who wants to make pumpkin pie, and the friends who try to help her get a pumpkin off the vine. With a cast of traditional Halloween characters, children will find the story entertaining in the haunting spirit without being scary. As a bonus, lessons about cooperation are emphasized. Illustrations by S. D. Schindler are expressive and age appropriate without being babyish.
GUSTAVO THE SHY GHOST by Flavia Z. Drago is a ghost story of the sweetest kind. Gustavo is shy and worries that no one can see him, but he really wants to make friends so he can share in the celebration of Day of the Dead. This picture book is about working to achieve what you want without giving up who you are. The bright illustrations are a delight, and Gustavo will win over every reader’s heart.
Middle Grade Readers
BLOOD DIARIES: Tales of a 6th Grade Vampire by Marissa Moss follows in the journal-entry style of many popular book in the middle grade age range. Blood Diaries centers on Edgar, an uncool vampire who defies his family to bravely attend middle school. Bullied by a classmate and facing all the usual middle school challenges, Edgar has to navigate being uncool to humans and vampires alike. Or does he? Kids will enjoy the relatable problems and gross lunches as they follow Edgar’s adventures.
THE GRAVEYARD RIDDLE by Lisa Thompson is the follow-up to Thompson’s earlier middle grade novel, GOLDFISH BOY. With an abandoned building next to a graveyard and everyday characters that intimidate and keep secrets, this novel will keep readers curious as a mysterious character is revealed. Topics about friendship, trust, and overcoming assumptions are addressed.
LIVING GHOSTS & MISCHIEVOUS MONSTERS written and selected by Dan Sasuweh Jones of the Ponca Nation is filled with wonderfully disturbing stories of ghosts, witches, monsters and more based on Native American tales. The chapters are short but packed with detail and introduced with background from the author’s personal and cultural background. While appropriate for middle grade, readers should be prepared for topics like car accidents, near drownings, realistic frights, and things that bump, squish, and shriek in the night. Also good for teen readers.
THE HOUSE ON HOARDER HILL by Mikki Lush & Kelly Ngai is a middle grade novel with magic, mystery, and whimsical adventures. Brother and sister Spencer and Hedy discover clues about their family that lead them to explore “off limits” rooms in their grandfather’s house. With spooky thrills and a multi-leveled mystery to solve, readers will enjoy following the siblings’ discoveries to the end.
Teen and Young Adult
A WEREWOLF IN RIVERDALE by Caleb Roehrig is an original Archie Horror novel. Yes, based on the Archie comics! This is a gory, fun take on the Archie-verse with Jughead as a werewolf and Betty as a werewolf hunter. There is tension, action, and surprisingly enjoyable for the season. Chapters are short enough to appeal to reluctant readers, and the character development and detail will keep regular readers interested and wanting more.
CAST NO SHADOW by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa is a graphic novel that hits all the adolescent pangs without being saccharine and predictable. The main character is dealing with loss, change, and generally eye-rolling at his hometown. His crush on a local ghost complicates matters considerably. The mystery of why the main character doesn’t have a shadow culminates in the novel’s climax, and while adult readers may feel it’s too crowded at the end, most teens will find a lot to relate to and recognize. The illustrations are at once simple and expressive, and the story and dialogue are touching and funny.
NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE SERIES (The Skeleton King & The Oracle’s Blessing) by Monk Inyang (Montclair Author!) has a fantastical adventure mystery that involves adventures that crossover from dreams to reality. The series follows Uko Hill, a 12-year-old from Newark as he fights monsters in his own dreams as well as in others’ dreams. Sometimes he fails, sometimes he’s successful. And through the guidance of his Nightmare Detective mentor, Uko works towards becoming a talented Detective – and maybe more – on his own terms.
A BLADE SO BLACK and A DREAM SO DARK by L. L. McKinney are fantasy young adult novels that combine Alice in Wonderland allusions and a main character who kicks ass while still maintaining a very-much-a-teen presence, a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of the most effective aspects of both novels is the connection between the monsters the main character Alice must fight and kill. These monsters, which get more terrifying as the series continues, are created and fueled by human fears and nightmares as well as real life tragedies and anxieties. The death of Alice’s father and her heart-wrenching response is the earliest example, but the senseless gunning down of a young woman in Alice’s neighborhood continues the thread both realistically and painfully.