Let’s tell ghost stories!
8 offbeat picture books perfect for storytime, this Halloween

The spookiest day of the year is almost here. It’s the perfect time to go shopping for some haunted little reads. Come along!
David is at the bookstore with his four-year-old, Janet. He is a horror enthusiast. She likes… spooky things. David loves the horror genre so much, he named Janet after the lead actress from Psycho. Yes, the one who played the original Marion Crane! Janet is a lover of all things Halloweeny, particularly smiling ghosts made of sheets, pumpkins with wicked faces (that “aren’t scary at all, Dad”), and decorative skeletons with noisy bones.
Today, David and Janet are in the children’s section, wandering among picture books. Halloween is a week away, so of course they’re looking for a scaaawy little title — something with an old, abandoned house or naughty witches with naughtier plans. And yet, they’re not on the hunt for the run-of-the-mill Halloween storybook. They’ve already read the classics too (Room on the Broom included). They want something unusual — something off the beaten path. They’ve zeroed in on eight eerie reads, but they’ve sworn to only buy three. Let’s have a look at the list and make a guess as to which ones they walk away with. Shall we?

Creepy Pair of Underwear

Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown
Ideal for kiddos aged 3–6
Photo courtesy: Adventures in Storytime
What could be scarier to a little kid than glow-in-the-dark undies? Well, glow-in-the-dark undies that NEVER leave them alone! Creepy Pair of Underwear is part of a well-loved series by author-illustrator duo Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, and just like its immensely popular predecessor, it delivers on spooks, and how! But what we love most about this picture book is its message — one we’re certain will stay with readers. We also feel compelled to add here that Brown’s unique, monochromatic art style is a thing of beauty. Creepy Pair of Underwear just might be one of the three books David and Janet pick!

Snowmen at Halloween

Caralyn M. Buehner, illustrated by Mark E. Buehner
Ideal for kiddos aged 1–3
The Buehners caught our attention with this one by simply placing rotund snowmen against the chilling backdrop of Halloween. How cool is that! A part of the Snowmen series by the couple, Snowmen at Halloween starts with sudden snowfall on Halloween and ends with another unexpected event. In the middle, readers are enthralled by wickedly-dressed-yet-forever-jolly snowmen who — just like the readers themselves — are only looking for fun. But wait, are they or aren’t they real? Are the events of Halloween night a mere figment of a child’s imagination? David and Janet might be tempted to buy this one just to find out.

What Was I Scared Of?

Dr. Seuss
Ideal for kiddos aged 3–6
Photo courtesy: The Wild Detectives
To fans of his, Dr. Seuss can do no wrong, and we feel inclined to agree with them after reading yet another gem of his. The second picture book on this list with a charming color scheme, What Was I Scared Of? is perfect for storytime on Halloween. It serves up just the right dose of spooky without ever being scary, but if kids do get a fright or two while reading the book, they’ll realize at the end — just as the protagonist does — that there wasn’t really anything to be scared of. This is a picture book with a message for the ages and a message for all ages. We won’t blame our father-daughter book lovers for grabbing it right off the shelf!

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

Linda D. Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd
Ideal for kiddos aged 2–6
Photo courtesy: Honee Jang
This isn’t a list about role models, but if it were, the little old lady would have been at number one. There’s so much young readers can learn from this daring ol’ girl and the bravery she displays across these colorful pages. And yet, her bravery isn’t the star of the book. What makes The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything an instant classic is its unexpected and empathetic ending. She’s not just a little old lady who dares; she’s also a little old lady who cares, and that makes all the difference. We might be biased, but we’re sure rooting for David and Janet to choose this thoughtful title.

Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat

Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Ideal for kiddos aged 3–6
Storytime is always more fun when the story being told is one packed with delightful onomatopoeia. Throw some party animals (literal animals!) and Halloweeny elements into the mix, and you’ve got a winner. Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat is just such a winner. And that’s not the only thing to love about this book. Part of a bestselling series — the Click Clack books — this one, too, has a terrific ending. You won’t see it coming, and it’s sure to leave you and your little reader squealing with laughter. We have a feeling if Janet becomes a fan of this title, she’s going to beg David to haul home the entire series!

Duck & Goose: Honk! Quack! Boo!

Tad Hills
Ideal for kiddos aged 2–5
In the world of picture books, Duck & Goose are quite the celebrities. They have an entire series of books to their names! And Honk! Quack! Boo! is a star among them. In it, the two feathered friends get all dressed up to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. But oh, dear! There’s a swamp monster looking for them! Will the friends be brave and stand up to it? This is a series that celebrates friendship and bird species all at once, and its Halloween edition does that and more, creating a spooky tale with a cozy end. If Janet’s a bird lover, she just might go home with this Duck & Goose read.

And Then Comes Halloween

Tom Brenner, illustrated by Holly Meade
Ideal for kiddos aged 4–8
Photo courtesy: The Children’s Bookroom
When it comes to painting an all-encompassing picture of Halloween — one that can captivate preschoolers — it’s hard to find a book that comes close to this one. Part of a joyful series by Tom Brenner, And Then Comes Halloween has loads going for it: the illustrations capture the colors and shapes of Halloween, the words are almost poetic in the way they tell of the sights, sounds, and activities of autumn and its best-loved celebration, and the use of vocabulary is both rich and educational. We believe not just kids but parents and teachers will also fast become fans of this sweet little ode to Halloween, including our dad-and-daughter duo.

The Halloween Tree

Susan Montanari, illustrated by Teresa Martinez
Ideal for kiddos aged 3–6
The best stories ever told are the ones that warm the heart. The Halloween Tree does just that. In it, a little tree that doesn’t want to be a Christmas tree when it grows up fulfills its destiny in another sweet way. A picture book that we’re certain will ring through the generations to come, this one takes the you-don’t-need-to-fit-the-mold narrative to a wonderful, Halloweeny level, elevating the spooky festival itself to more than just a celebration of scares. We believe that while little Janet is sure to appreciate the colors and characters in this book, David will be moved by the magical juxtaposition of the warm ending it creates on a cold October day.
Gosh! It’s hard to pick the top three from these works of art, isn’t it? Well, we’ll leave you to it. Oh, and have a happy Halloween!
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