Favorite picture books can help kids mark the seasons. Children anticipate the special books that coincide with special days- often waiting to read them when “it’s time.”
Though Halloween may not be at the top of your list of heart-felt family holidays, here’s our list of Top 10 Halloween picture books to make enjoying the day and season more fun together.
Reading aloud to children is one of the most significant influencers of both literacy and verbal ability. But beyond that, reading together is easy yet great family quality time and also provides both preschool and elementary-aged children with rhythm and connection. Holidays and seasons provide great reasons to discover new books together and return to ones you enjoy year after year. Your local library will have a holiday section where you can pick picture books that may quickly become family favorites. Here are our Top 10 Halloween picture books to give you a start!
5 Halloween Picture Books for Preschoolers
While preschoolers use costumes and dress up in play throughout their day, Halloween often means processing frightening, or at the least, different images around them. These Halloween picture books provide a lighter, sillier slant on the holiday. They’re great at helping preschoolers cope with the overwhelming aspects of Halloween, without diminishing the fun.
1. Click Clack Boo (Cronin and Lewin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013)
Fans of the “Click Clack Moo: Cows who Type Series” will be immediately familiar with these silly, shameless animals having a Halloween party in the barn. Even more, the story begins with Farmer Brown not liking Halloween, or anything scary, and taking to his bed to wait out the night. When the story ends on a heartwarming note, Farmer Brown does not admit to changing his stance. He does, however, enjoy the kindness of his eccentric livestock.
2. Bad Kitty: Scaredy-Cat (Bruel, Roaring Book Press, 2016)
Bad Kitty tells the elaborate and suspenseful story of how she became so scared. This is a delightful, tongue-twisting, alliteration-using farce describing the cat’s terrified response to all the scary trick-or-treaters visiting the house, that is, until she sees the candy. Preschoolers and younger elementary students will love the cartoonish images of this crazy feline and the perspective on what one will endure… for the sake of candy.
3. Not Very Scary (Brendler and Pizzoli, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2014)
Melly, a small vampire, is on her way to her friend’s Halloween party when she is followed by a sequence of Halloween characters. After each one, she declares “Not quite scary” but shudders all over. The story resolves at the party, where the different characters are the surprise guests – and none of them are scary at all. The playful images in this Halloween picture book help children process the different Halloween symbols they may see around them and the conclusion celebrates friends having a great time together, not frightening each other.
4. Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins (Dean, Harper Collins Childrens, 2015)
This Pete the Cat volume builds on the preschool classic “Five Little Pumpkins”….The picture book story is simple, finishing with the Pumpkins rolling away on skateboards to trick or treat. The Pete the Cat coolness factor is all here, as the Pumpkins are undeterred by a late night, witches, and darkness. This Halloween picture book lets readers know that these Pumpkins are in it, like most, for the candy.
5. Plumply Dumply Pumpkin (Serfozo and Petrone, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2001)
If you want a picture book void of any of the scarier symbols of Halloween, this is a great option. The story resolves with a jack-o-lantern but the narrative is built around choosing just the right pumpkin, a ritual many preschoolers have experienced with family or field trips, and then choosing what to make out of it.
Halloween Picture Books for Elementary-Aged Children
Elementary-aged children are certainly still processing the various Halloween images and symbols, but developmentally, holiday rituals can become more exhilarating – and more stressful. Children heap extensive expectations onto Halloween. For example, with finding the perfect pumpkin and carving the coolest jack-o-lantern. Or when they’re feeling super-proud of their get-up in the costume parade.
Children also are wise enough to know that even the silliest holidays do not leave behind the dynamics of ordinary life. These Halloween picture books for the elementary ages help children work through the layers of feelings and various outcomes that can accompany any special day.
6. The Biggest Pumpkin Ever (Kroll and Bassett, Holiday House, 1984)
“Once there were two mice who fell in love with the same pumpkin.” This first sentence provides readers with the whole story, and a familiar conflict for elementary-aged children. The two mice both work to nurture and grow the pumpkin, hoping to win the town pumpkin contest. Readers anticipate a fight when the two eventually realize they have been grooming the same pumpkin. Instead, this Halloween picture book beautifully resolves in laughter, then collaboration, and a gigantic Jack-o-lantern.
7. A Tiger Called Thomas (Zolotow and Stock, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1963, 1988)
Thomas has recently moved to the neighborhood and is convinced that no one will like him. He is too afraid to leave his porch and engage his neighbors, until Halloween, when his Tiger costume and mask give him the confidence to go trick-or-treating. At each house, he is startled when the neighbors give him candy and call him by name. In this Halloween picture book, Children will resonate with the extra bravery they feel while wearing a costume. They’ll love the joy of finding out you are known when you have felt invisible.
8. The Perfectly Horrible Halloween (Poydar, Holiday House, 2001)
Arnold has high hopes for Halloween. His plan is to win the prize for “scariest of all” in his classroom costume contest. However, when he accidentally leaves his whole costume on the bus, the day turns horrible. Children (and parents) will connect with a perfectly planned day that goes awry. Yet, Arnold learns to improvise with the help of his class community. The day, though not what expected, does not have a horrible end.
9. The Costume Copycat (Macdonald and Wilsdorf, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2006)
Angela wants so badly to have the best costume on Halloween, but her sister, Bernadette, always outshines her. Siblings will recognize the endless struggle for recognition and space and the temptation to mimic each other while grasping for their own individuality. This Halloween picture book ends with a sweet moment of sharing, even when Angela finally has the chance to keep all the Halloween glory to herself.
10. The Thirteen Hours of Halloween (Regan and Baeten, Albert Whitman & Company, 1993)
This goofy picture book is based on the 12 Days of Christmas. It lists the 13 gifts the extended family gives a young girl – all the worst of the Halloween spooks. There is no rich story or lesson, and the pictures are less cartoonish than most preschoolers would prefer. But elementary-aged children REALLY get into the song. It ends each round with a rousing “A Vulture in a DEAD TREE.” This Halloween picture book is ridiculous, surreal, and fun. But most significantly, when you are done, you feel as if you’ve all been somewhere together (And maybe that’s the gift of Halloween…)