Picture Book Basket // October

When it comes to celebrating Halloween, we are decidedly un-spooky and gravitate instead toward the cheerful and festive. I want any books in our Halloween basket to reflect that! Until this year, I have never had any favorite Halloween picture books that I would want to read again and again. I had seen plenty about children trick-or-treating or attending parties or scaring their friends, but nothing that was especially clever or had enough substance to be remembered. So! This month I set out to find some. I have an ongoing list of seasonal picture books that I add to whenever I hear of an interesting title, so I went to our library and requested all the Halloween books I had written down. The kids and I spent the month reading them together--loving a few and returning many--and I am now pleased to present a list of our very favorite Halloween books to date:

I'm starting with Gustavo because it's my new absolute favorite Halloween book. I found it on display at Barnes & Noble and knew it was a keeper when I spent 30 minutes looking at the illustrations. Gustavo is a ghost who has trouble putting himself into social situations of any kind and doesn't think anyone notices him, which is kind of true since he can turn invisible and shape shift. He decides to take matters into his own hands and invites all the monsters in town to his violin concert on Dia de Los Muertos--but no one comes. What follows is an expertly woven, heartfelt, and funny story of being true to yourself to find your unique place in the world. Flavia Drago's illustrations will leave you smiling.

Ghosts in the House, by Kazuno Kohara
This is a charming book about a little witch who moves into a house haunted with ghosts. But she is clever and catches the ghosts to enlist their help around the house. You'll never guess how! We also loved Midnight Library by the same author.

A Tiger Called Tomás, by Charlotte Zolotov
Originally published in 1961, this story has been reprinted multiple times with new illustrations that highlight children of various ethnicities. The latest edition was illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns and highlights Tomás, a boy in a new house on a new street who doesn't think anyone will like him. Day after day, he sits on his front stoop watching neighbors go by--until one day, his mother brings him a tiger costume for Halloween. With his tiger mask, Tomas feels brave enough to trick-or-treat around the neighborhood--but he's not as much of a stranger as he thought. It is powerful to see ourselves in books, whether based on ethnicity, gender, or temperament, and I was surprised to see myself in this one. You never know what kind of friendship is waiting for you if you'll just show up and be yourself! Amen and amen.

We first heard this one at our Music Makers class for toddlers. A group of siblings go trick-or-treating with their dad and for every spooky encounter, they just yell, "Boo!" This felt like it had more of a storyline than some other books about Halloween night and has been a great introduction to my toddler about a) what happens on Halloween, and b) what to do if you see something scary!

Skulls, by Blair Thornburgh
Aren't you glad to have a skull? I'm smiling just thinking of this book. Again and again, we laughed all the way through this non-fiction book about the skulls we all have in our heads. The hilarious and surprisingly informative text taught us that skulls aren't creepy--they're kind of the best!

Apples and Pumpkins, by Anne Rockwell
This is the one book on this list that has stood the test of time in our house. We pulled it out this year and Emma still remembered it from when she was young! Addie always liked it because the little girl has red hair like she does. This is a simple book about a girl visiting an orchard and pumpkin patch with her parents. A great one to read after a similar family outing! I got my paperback copy used, but I was happy to see you can also order it as a board book. 

Carl's Halloween, by Alexandra Day
We're big fans of Carl the dog and this one is especially good. Once you get over the idea of the dog sneaking the toddler out of the house for hours at a time, the books are quite enjoyable. Alexandra Day's illustrations are visually stunning, and this book has some especially great watercolor spreads of trick-or-treating around a really festive neighborhood. 

Room on the Broom, Julia Donaldson
A widespread favorite, this book is about a witch who squeezes to make room on her broom for all her animal friends. Eventually the witch gets into some deep trouble and the animals must work together to rescue her! My girls love the rhyming text, descriptive pictures, and especially the ending. 

Five Little Pumpkins, Iris Van Rynbach
No basket of Halloween books for kids can be complete without this classic poem. I like this version because the illustrations are only mildly spooky and mostly friendly.

It's Halloween, by Jack Prelutsky
This is a solid collection of Halloween poems for kids. I've been searching for a book that includes "Skeleton Parade" and here it is! I still remember memorizing this poem with my mom when I was really young:

"Bony bony bony bones
With nothing in between,
Up and down and all around
They march on Halloween!"


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