All of us—adults, teens and children—enjoy a scary chill.
What better time of year than Halloween to indulge in stories that make our spines tingle?
It's the perfect time for your family to share some spooky stories each evening. To get you started, here are some Halloween books filled with ghosts and ghouls, wizards and witches, haunted houses and black magic that everyone can enjoy together.
PICTURE BOOKS for ages 2-6
The youngest children love the fun of Halloween: costumes, trick-or-treating and gentle tales of ghosts and goblins. Here are some books for this age group:
GHOSTS IN THE HOUSE
By Kazuno Kohara
For ages 1-6
There are fuzzy pumpkin costumes in sizes as small as 6 months, so why not a Halloween board book for toddlers? This one tells the tale of a little girl who moves into a new house only to discover it is haunted. No worries. Turns out she’s a witch, and she knows exactly what to do. In a twist on the sheet-as-ghost costume, our little witch gathers the pesky ghosts, puts them in the washing machine, hangs them on the line, and makes bed sheets out of them. Stylishly illustrated in orange and black, this story has just right balance for very young children.
GO AWAY, BIG GREEN MONSTER!
By Ed Emberley
For ages: 3-6
This big-faced monster has two yellow eyes, a long blue nose, sharp white teeth, two little squiggly ears, scraggly purple hair and a scary green face.
THE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO WAS NOT AFRAID OF ANYTHING
By Linda Williams; Illustrated by Megan Lloyd.
For ages: 3-7
In this cumulative story that will have everyone chiming in on the telling, we watch an unflappable little old lady encounter two clomping shoes, a wiggling pair of pants, a shaking shirt, two clapping gloves, a nodding hat and one scary pumpkin head that says, “BOO, BOO!”
THE MONSTER RETURNS
By Peter McCarty
For ages 3-7
When the phone rings and Jeremy’s blue monster announces that he is bored and coming back, Jeremy invites his friends over to draw their own monsters. Then, when Jeremy’s monster arrives, he is greeted by a roomful of friends. And friends are just what the monster and Jeremy need!
BEGINNER READS for ages 6-9
New readers are ready for some scary stuff mixed with humor, handled with a light touch, and happily resolved.
NIGHT OF THE PUMPKINHEADS
By Michael J. Rosen; illustrated by Hugh McMahon
For ages 5-8
All those pumpkins sitting on the porch want their turn to put on costumes and go trick-or-treating. And this year, they have their chance! Illustrated with photographs of carved pumpkins, this Halloween treat also includes instructions for making your own pumpkin heads.
LOS GATOS BLACK ON HALLOWEEN
By Marisa Montes; Illustrated by Yuyi Morales.
For ages: 6-9
In a spooky graveyard on Halloween night, los gatos (cats) slink, las calabazas (pumpkins) burn bright, las brujas (witches) glide on their escobas (broomsticks), and los esqueletos (skeletons) rattle bones.
EARWIG AND THE WITCH
By Diana Wynne Jones; Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
For ages 7-10
Earwig was left in a basket on the doorstep of St. Morwald’s Home for Children with a note suggesting she had been left there by a witch. Earwig is happy at St. Morwald’s. Why not? She uses her “strange abilities” to get whatever she wants—from her favorite lunch to a new red sweater—until she meets her matches in Bella Yaga and the Mandrake, who adopt her. Her new home is strange to be sure: rooms change boundaries, smells and sights appear and disappear, and Thomas, the black cat, can talk. But Earwig is determined to take control, and she and Thomas begin to work some magic of their own.
DRAGONBREATH: CURSE OF THE WERE-WIENER and other books in the Dragonbreath series
By Ursula Vernon
For ages 8-10
Just as Danny’s best friend Wendell the Iguana is about to bite into a hot dog, the hot dog bites back! By the next day, Wendell’s finger has turned red, his back is growing hair, and Danny discovers this weiner was manufactured in (where else?) Transylvania. With witty one-liners, black- and green-toned illustrations, and balloon dialogue, this graphic-style novel will keep readers howling.
PAGE TURNERS for ages 9-12
There’s a bit of an “I dare you to scare me” attitude as kids in the middle grades and in middle school approach spooky stories. You can meet that challenge with some of these books.
HOCUS POCUS HOTEL
(Volumes 1 and 2)
By Michael Dahl
For ages 8-11
When Tyler Yu (a bully) asks Charlie Hitchcock (a geek) to meet him after school, Charlie fears the worst. But Ty just needs his help solving a mystery at the Abracadabra Hotel, a retirement home for magicians, where his dad is the manager. As the two join forces and discover the hotel is haunted, an unlikely friendship develops. A delightful, spirited new series filled with riddles, magic tricks and secrets.
By Naomi Zucker
For ages 9-11
Eleven-year-old Callie takes on the establishment to try to save Halloween when the town council votes to ban trick-or-treating and all scary costumes.
GUSTAV GLOOM AND THE PEOPLE TAKER
By Adam-Troy Castro; Illustrated by Kristen Margiotta
For ages 9-12
The moody blue cover of this first book in a series features a die-cut look through the door of a most unwelcoming house. But Fernie What (yes, that’s her name) is undaunted as she follows her cat right into the house, where she meets its only human resident, Gustav Gloom. Their search for Harrington the cat takes them into every room and every corner of the house occupied by shadows and the haunt of the terrible People Taker. The author weaves elements from the scary tales kids tell on camping trips and stormy autumn evenings, and gives us a tour of one spooky mansion that readers will want to return to again and again.
THE EMERALD ATLAS and other books in the Books of Beginning series
By John Stephens
For ages 9-12
Siblings Michael, Kate and Emma, sent away by their parents years ago, live in a creepy orphanage run by a wizard, Dr. Pym. When they find a green leather-bound book, it transports them to the past and to an evil countess who will stop at nothing to get the ancient Atlas of Time back. In page-turning action, the children confront wolves, witchery, fearsome creatures, magic, and their own self-doubts in a race against time as they search for their parents.
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK and MORE SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK
By Alvin Schwartz; Illustrated by Brett Helquist
For ages 9 and 12
Don’t forget your flashlight when you read or tell the spine-tingling tales in these funny and scary collections based on American folklore. The books are genuine classics, filled with all the delicious dark-side details kids love: blood, gore, ghosts, murder, horror, revenge, and of course, a couple of graveyards.
THE POISONED HOUSE
By Michael Ford
For ages 9-12
From the cover (featuring a hand reaching up from a crypt) to the pulse-pounding ending, this haunting tale will keep readers riveted. A young woman in Victorian England becomes convinced that her late mother was poisoned. Why else would she keep appearing in Abigail’s dreams, if not to warn her daughter about the dangers that lurk within? Abigail doesn’t know whom to trust in this atmospheric story of love, betrayal, murder, greed and madness.
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK
By Neil Gaiman; Illustrated by Dave McKean
For ages: 10 and up
Escaping a murderous intruder, a toddler finds his way to an old graveyard. There he is taken in to be raised and kept safe by Mistress Owens and her husband—ghosts, both of them—and renamed Nobody Owens, or Bod for short.
WITCHES: THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE TALE OF DISASTER IN SALEM
By Rosalyn Schanzer
For ages 10 up
A riveting, real-life horror story of what happened in Massachusetts in 1692 after two young girls began twitching, contorting their bodies into strange shapes and mumbling odd things. As the “virus” spread to other villages, people began to distrust their friends and neighbors, believing they were witches in cahoots with the devil. Mass hysteria reigned, reputations were ruined and lives were lost. A terrifying historical event, vividly brought to life.
ADVANCED READS for ages 12 and up
Books for teens mix the fantasy elements of scary tales with just enough reality to ramp up the fear factor.
GHOSTS I HAVE BEEN
By Richard Peck
For ages 11 and up
The time: 1914. Quirky, fun-loving Blossom Culp would do anything not to feel like a social outcast. So she conjures up a story about being able to see the future (since her mother is a fortune-teller, it’s not as far-fetched as it seems). And sure enough, her gullible schoolmates begin to believe it. But when some of Blossom’s predictions come true, and she begins to have visions, flash-forwards and a particularly vivid deja-vu about a young boy on the Titanic, Blossom realizes that her new paranormal “normal” has its own set of problems.
SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS
By Laura Amy Schlitz
For ages 11 and up
Part fable, part fairy tale, this highly original mix of gothic horror and fantasy tells the story of Parsefall and Lizzie Rose, two orphans in a Dickensian London who live with a puppeteer named Grisini. The two make a dreadful discovery: Grisini has kidnapped a wealthy young girl named Clara and turned her into a puppet. Terrified that the same thing will happen to them, the brother and sister confront him. That’s when they find a mysterious letter from a woman named Madama, promising them great riches if they join her in Italy. The two set out on the journey, taking the Clara puppet with them, only to learn that Madama is an evil witch with a powerful secret, unveiled in the surprising climax. A vivid, powerful period drama about children caught in a world of magic and misdeeds, with much to teach about human nature at its best and worst.
WITCH AND WIZARD and other books in the Witch and Wizard series
By James Patterson
For ages 11 and up
A dystopian fantasy of what happens when two typical teenagers, Whit and Wisty Allgood, have their lives uprooted by a sudden totalitarian takeover. The New Order, headed by The One Who Is The One, immediately abolishes what it considers subversive behaviors—in particular, the creative and dark arts. One night, hundreds of commandos storm the teens’ house and arrest them, accusing them of being a witch and a wizard. The siblings protest their innocence, but are suddenly aware of superpowers they never knew they possessed. Ignoring their pleas, the soldiers toss them into a dank prison overrun with sadistic guards and filled with other young people who possess magical powers. A fast-paced thriller filled with dazzling special effects, sorcery and surprises.
THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
Season One of the 3:15 series
By Patrick Carman
For ages 11 and up
The 10 short stories in this collection, each with a touch of “The Twiight Zone,” are told first in an audio recording that readers access on their computers; then on the pages of the book; and finally in a video ending, again accessed on the computer. The stories are genuinely chilling and include a hermit woodsman with a golden hook for an arm, a teen discovering an enchanted mirror at the antique shop where she works, and two fearless snowboarding pals who ought to be a bit more cautious. Each story takes 15 minutes to hear, read or watch—but they are sure to linger in readers’ thoughts long after.
FRIENDS WITH BOYS
By Faith Erin Hicks
For ages 12 and up
A starkly beautiful graphic novel. Maggie has always had it easy—sort of. Her devoted mom home-schooled her, so she never had to deal with the real world. All that changed the day Maggie’s mother disappeared. Suddenly, life—or, more specifically, high school—loomed before her. Haunted by her mother’s departure, Maggie finds herself haunted by something else as well: a real ghost, the widow of a sea captain, hovering around her. And for some reason, the ghost won’t leave Maggie’s side. A story with raw emotional intensity that will resonate with teens everywhere.
By Vera Brosgol
For ages 12-18
Fitting in is always tough. But what if you’re an immigrant, ashamed of your Russian parents, trying desperately to look and sound like all the other kids at your posh school? That’s the angst of Anya in this magical coming-of-age graphic novel. When Anya falls down a well, she meets Emily, a 100-year-old ghost who died at Anya’s age. Anya believes she’s found a real kindred spirit and BFF—until, slowly, the ghost takes on a sinister life of its own.
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
By Ransom Riggs
For ages 13 and up
A creepy, scary, touching book about a young man who seeks to uncover the life his grandfather lived as a boy, only to discover a world of unexpected terror.
As Jacob stumbles into a time loop, part paradise and part nightmare, he finds himself trying to unlock the mysteries of Miss Peregrine’s Home and the peculiar children it housed, who may all still be alive—and hell-bent on ridding the world of monsters. Mesmerizing vintage photos give the story an added dimension and make the characters starkly real.