With Halloween coming up, consider these reads for everyone from toddlers to adults
By Christine Brenner and Angela Dunn of Read With Me Books & Art
With October rolling in, it’s a fun excuse to explore books that are a little more spooky than your regular fare. From classic Halloween characters like pumpkins and vampires, to haunting tales from all over the world, to dark mysteries that match the season, this list of books from the folks at Read with Me for kids of all ages — and adults, too — will be a thrilling addition to your October reading list.
Board Books, ages 0-3
EEK! Halloween! by Sandra Boynton
The chickens are nervous. Strange things are happening. They see pumpkins with eyes, a giant mouse, a witch, a wizard and other weird things on a dark night. Then someone shouts: BOO! Why are the chickens nervous and scared? Read EEK! Halloween to find out.
I love Sandra Boynton’s books. EEK! Halloween! is a fun and playful way for the youngest readers to celebrate Halloween. It has the spooky elements of Halloween and teaches them not to be scared. Your baby or toddler will love reading this book with you. –Angela
Little Blue Truck’s Halloween by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
A perennial favorite, Little Blue Truck and his friend Toad take us to the farm’s costume party. Follow along with the bouncy rhymes and lift-the-flaps to unmask their costumed friends.
There are 8 books in the Little Blue Truck collection and each one is a hit! This one will get the littles all excited to dress up for Halloween. –Christine
Picture Books, ages 4+
Stumpkin and Vampenguin by Lucy Ruth Cummins
A double-feature from one of our favorite author/illustrators, Lucy Ruth Cummins.
Stumpkin is nearly the perfect pumpkin to use for a jack o’lantern, except Stumpkin is missing a stem. With only a stump, will anyone choose to take Stumpkin home?
Vampenguin is a brilliantly funny book and a master-class in picture book illustration. When the Dracula family visits their favorite penguin exhibit at the zoo, there’s a major mix-up that only the other animals on exhibit seem to notice.
Both of these books are great picks for more sensitive kids who just want to dip their toes into a spooky story. –Christine
Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima
From the creator of Not Quite Narwhal, writer and illustrator Jessie Sima introduces us to another lovable character, House, who is not so in love with theirself. House tries to be as quiet and calm as possible so no one will notice that they’re actually haunted. When pretending fails, as it always does, House learns to embrace and even enjoy their spooky side.
A World Full of Spooky Stories: 50 Tales to Make Your Spine Tingle by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Madalina Andronic
Spooky stories can be found in cultures throughout the world. In this gorgeously illustrated collection of 50 folk and fairy tales, meet characters, new and old, like the eye-stealing Yezinkas from Czech Republic, the Chenoo of the N. America Passamaquoddy to favorites like Rumpelstiltskin of Germany.
While the stories have a dark tone and spooky characters, the stories are short in length and often end with a somewhat positive note. The collection gives you a great way to introduce the universal idea of overcoming fears to younger readers. Great choice for read-alouds. –Christine
The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
Coming in at almost 200 years old is the one and only poetic tale of The Spider and the Fly. This edition features stunning illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi (Spiderwick) inspired by the aesthetic of 1920’s horror films, with silvery line-drawings on a deep black background eerily highlighting the two main characters. This edition leaves you begging the fly not to listen to those too sweet words every time you read it. –Christine
Amulet (series) #1 The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
This 8-book graphic novel series is a magical mix of mystery, fantasy and adventure starring siblings, Emily and Navin. The pair and their mother have just moved into a spooky old house belonging to their great-great grandfather. While dusting and exploring the possibly haunted house, Emily and Navin’s lives quickly turn upside down after Emily finds an amulet in the old library. They have to save their mother from a dangerous creature and travel to another world while being helped by a rabbit and a robot.
My son has read this series cover to cover countless times. We encourage you to read it together, thinking of this gorgeous graphic novel as a private movie where you get to do the voices. –Christine
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
Molly and Kip’s parents have disappeared and are believed to be dead. The siblings decide to leave Ireland and travel to England for work, only to wind up at an old, dilapidated mansion with a huge creepy tree next to it. The house is inhabited by a very mysterious family who have fallen on hard times. As Molly and Kip settle into their work, strange and creepy things begin to happen at night. One evening, Molly encounters a spooky man caring for the scary old tree. Who is this stranger and how does he connect to the family secrets?
If you love mysteries, fantasy, and ghost stories, The Night Gardener is a great choice for you. This book is perfect for reading this time of year. You will love it! – Angela
Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury
Content warnings to include blood, gore, violence and death. Described as a blend of Afro-futurism meets urban-fantasy, Blood Like Magic follows Voya, a 16-year-old member of a witchcraft-practicing family who is about to receive her Calling — a challenge in order to inherit her magical abilities. Except the Calling becomes all of her worst fears come true. In order to receive her magical gifts and save her family’s future, she must make impossible, deadly decisions.
So. Much. Blood. I don’t think I’m particularly squeamish, but the book does begin pretty graphically. I actually loved that aspect of it, though, because I was forced immediately into the story. Voya’s intergenerational family was so enjoyable and getting to learn the intimate details of the witchcraft community was exhilarating. There’s a fabulous parallel story dealing with high-tech genetic modifications and dating that blends beautifully together in the end. Highly recommend, especially if you’re impatiently waiting for the sequel to Legendborn. –Christine
Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Patricia’s life is pretty typical of a Charleston housewife in the 1990s. She and her book club friends love to read and discuss books about true crime and serial killers. Patricia’s life takes an exciting turn when she meets a newcomer to their neighborhood. James Harris makes her feel things she hasn’t felt in a long time… but she becomes suspicious of him after a series of events that occur after he moves into his aunt’s house. First, her elderly mother in law seems to recognize him as someone she met when she was a child. Then, someone tries to break into her house at night. At the same time, children begin to go missing from a nearby community. Is he connected to all the strange happenings? Patricia is determined to get to the bottom of this spooky mystery.
This book is a page turner! I wanted to read it in one sitting. Patricia perseveres to solve the mystery despite the way her husband and their friends treat her when she tells them about her suspicions. It really made me connect with the character. If you like thrills and chills, this is the perfect book for you! –Angela
Christine Brenner is the owner and book curator of Read With Me Children’s Books & Art. She created RWM as a book-lovers haven for families to enjoy together right in the heart of the lively downtown Raleigh. She is extremely passionate about kid lit and has degrees in elementary education, English, and Library Science. When not at RWM, she loves yoga, sewing, hiking with her dog and playing video games with her son and husband. Angela Dunn is the newest member of Read With Me’s bookselling team, and she’s a born and raised North Carolinian! She worked as a school librarian for 22 years and has a deep passion for children’s books. Other than books, she enjoys crocheting, drawing, and rooting for her favorite sports teams. Visit them at 111 E. Hargett Street, #110, or online at shop.readwithme.us.