Recommended reading for Halloween

The books recommended below, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine, were published within the last several years. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion. For even more spooky recommended reads, click on the tag Halloween books.

 

Picture Books

Suggested grade level listed with each entry.

Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat written by Doreen Cronin; illus. by Betsy Lewin (Atheneum)
Halloween humbug Farmer Brown puts out candy and a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign. When he hears strange noises outside Farmer Brown trembles under the covers, but never fear: it’s just the farm animals hosting their own Halloween bash in the barn. K–3. 32 pages.

Trick or Treat by Leo Landry (Houghton)
Ghost Oliver and his supernatural guests are surprised when two (human) trick-or-treaters arrive at their Halloween celebration. Cheery watercolors and make this not-scary story more treat than trick. Grade level: PS. 32 pages.

The Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Stories written by David LaRochelle; illus. by Paul Meisel (Dutton)
Ghost siblings Franny and Frankie demand a story before bed. Of course, one is never enough, and Father Ghost is persuaded to tell three full of perfectly calibrated humor. Grade level: 1–3. 40 pages.

Vampirina Ballerina written by Anne Marie Pace; illus. by LeUyen Pham (Disney-Hyperion)
Fangs aside, deep down this young dancer is just like any other budding ballerina. The message that hard work and patience have beautiful results is inspirational; visual jokes will tickle both vampire fans and balletomanes. Also see sequel Vampirina Hosts a Sleepover. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann (Roaring Brook)
Skeletons come out of the graveyard to taunt trick-or-treater Gus; he’s protected by the ghost of his beloved dog. The skeletons’ silliness nicely balances the poignant reunion of boy and pet. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Ten Orange Pumpkins: A Counting Book by Stephen Savage (Dial)
Rhyming text counts down through a mildly “spooky night” as nine pumpkins disappear; the last — now a jack-o’-lantern — wishes us a “Happy Halloween!” Clear silhouettes in the foreground contrast with vivid pumpkins and bright backgrounds. Grade level: PS.

 

Younger Fiction

Suggested grade level for each entry: 1–3

Spooky Friends written by Jane Feder; illus. by Julie Downing (Scholastic)
In three brief stories, vampire Scarlet and mummy Igor argue, then eventually learn how to compromise and work together. Spare pen and watercolor illustrations give the pair distinct and humorous personalities as they cope with relatable childhood experiences. 40 pages.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances written by Lenore Look; illus. by LeUyen Pham (Random House/Schwartz & Wade)
A misunderstanding leads Alvin’s classmates to first think Alvin’s grandfather has died – then to believe he’s a zombie. Copious illustrations capture moments both silly and sad. 199 pages.

 

Intermediate Fiction

Suggested grade level for each entry: 4–6

Zombie Mommy [Pals in Peril] written by M.T. Anderson; illus. by Kurt Cyrus (Simon/Beach Lane)
In this fifth book in the good-humored satirical series, Lily and her friends must free Lily’s mom from the clutches of a ghost — and themselves from the scorn of a snotty it-girl. Black-and-white illustrations aptly combine the hair-raising with the tongue-in-cheek. 220 pages.

Doll Bones written by Holly Black; illus. by Eliza Wheeler (McElderry)
Zach, Poppy, and Alice have created an imaginative game acted out with dolls and action figures. When Poppy steals a precious doll for the game, she’s haunted by the ghost of a girl whose ashes are inside it — and who won’t rest until she has been properly buried. 247 pages.

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion)
Florence is happy to leave the orphanage, but soon senses that Something Is Not Right in Crutchfield Hall. This truly scary period tale is both rousing historical fiction and ghost story. 153 pages.

Invisible Inkling: Dangerous Pumpkins written by Emily Jenkins; illus. by Harry Bliss (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
Hank and his bandipat friend Inkling (an invisible, pumpkin-loving creature) face a gloomy Halloween: Hank has no one to trick-or-treat with, and he gets in trouble when Inkling devours his sister’s jack-o’-lanterns. 154 pages.

 

Middle-grade fiction

Suggested grade level for each entry: 6–8

The 9 Lives of Alexander Baddenfield written by John Bemelmans Marciano; illus. by Sophie Blackall (Viking)
Alexander comes from a long line of miscreants, who all died young. Alexander, however, has nine lives, giving him the opportunity try dangerous stunts. Puns, anagrams, and good-natured satire abound; the accompanying illustrations are humorously gruesome. 140 pages.

Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booraem (Dial)
Conor O’Neill is a worrier. When a cute banshee named Ashling moves into his closet, Conor’s anxiety skyrockets. Meanwhile, Ashling heads to Conor’s middle school. Complex characters and plenty of exciting moments make this an appealing read. 320 pages.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (Roaring Brook/First Second)
In this wry and spine-tingling graphic novel, Anya falls into an abandoned well and meets Emily, who’s been dead and trapped inside for ninety years. When Anya is rescued, Emily goes too. 222 pages.

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade/Random)
A living teen spends an evening listening to adolescent ghosts recount the stories of their demise. The tales (all set in the Chicago area and spanning from the 1850s to today) are full of suspense, chills, and, occasionally, gore. 200 pages.

Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus written by Mary Shelley; adapted and illus. by Gris Grimly (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
This graphic novel adaptation faithfully abridges Shelley’s tale, while inventive illustrations relocate Frankenstein and his creation to a Tim Burton–esque reality mixing modern, nineteenth-century, and steampunk sensibilities. Grimly makes excellent use of his format with dynamic panel pacing, sizes, and shapes.

The Screaming Staircase [Lockwood & Co.] by Jonathan Stroud (Disney-Hyperion)
Ghosts have become the world’s worst pest infestation. Lucy and her colleagues at Lockwood & Co., an independent agency, take on a high-profile haunting. Part ghost story, part caper, the tightly plotted tale deftly balances creepiness and hilarity. 374 pages.

 

Older Fiction

Suggested grade level for each entry: 7 and up

The Infects by Sean Beaudoin (Candlewick)
In this black comedy, Nick is sentenced to a reform camp after causing a meat contamination incident at the chicken processing plant where he works. When a few cannibal campers turn into a full-blown zombie outbreak, Nick and other survivors fend off the horde. 376 pages.

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough (Candlewick)
Cora learns of a string of child deaths and abductions associated with Guerdon Hall, her family’s crumbling manor. Delving into Guerdon history, she and a local boy see ghosts of the children and of a tormented Elizabethan priest. 456 pages.

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore (Delacorte)
Striving for normality in her magic-practicing family, Amy is happy for a summer on her aunt’s Texas ranch — until an apparition pulls her into a dangerous mystery. This lively teen ghost story offers plenty of suspense, humor, and local flavor. 408 pages.

The House of Dead Maids written by Clare B. Dunkle; illus. by Patrick Arrasmith (Holt)
In this gothic tale inspired by Wuthering Heights, Tabby is taken to dreary Seldom House to watch over a small, wild boy; the children are soon visited by a ghost. 151 pages.

The Circle by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg; trans. by Per Calsson (Overlook)
After hearing a prophecy of the rise of ancient evil, six girls become supernatural heroines-in-training who fight demonic forces. Their dark motivations, conflicting desires, and many secrets make for six dynamic protagonists. 600 pages.

Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein by Stephanie Hemphill (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
This verse novel follows Mary Shelley’s life — full of radical politics, philosophy, and poetics — from her infatuation with Percy Bysshe Shelley through their elopement, penury, travels, the writing of Frankenstein, the births of their children, and Percy’s drowning. 309 pages.

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan (HarperTeen)
Mel (who believes vampires shouldn’t fraternize with humans) follows her best friend’s vampire boyfriend home — and is surprised to meet a human boy living there. Both fearsome and funny, this is a fresh entry in the popular subgenre. 348 pages.

Beyond: A Ghost Story by Graham McNamee (Random/Lamb)
Seventeen-year-old Jane has always sensed her ghostly part, a shadow making her do bad things to herself. Jane and best friend Lexi are the Creep Sisters, living a dark fairy tale. a well-plotted, chilling tale full of ghosts, evil, murder, and redemption. 229 pages.

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel (Simon)
When sixteen-year-old Konrad contracts a mysterious illness, his twin brother Victor risks his own neck to concoct the Elixir of Life. A meticulously researched Frankenstein origin story. Also see sequel Such Wicked Intent. 298 pages.

Three Quarters Dead by Richard Peck (Dial)
Sophomore Kerry is thrilled to be allowed into a clique of super-cool seniors. When the other girls are killed in a car crash, Kerry feels she’s “three quarters dead” — until the dead return. 195 pages.

Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn (HarperTeen)
At the start of this gripping novel, DNA proves that the girl who stumbles out of the woods is missing Annaliese, but she has no idea who she is. Flashbacks reveal that the girl, originally named Anna, murdered Annaliese — and many girls before her — then possessed their bodies through a grotesque ritual. 442 pages.

The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith (Atheneum)
When ghosts of slaves begin haunting Katie, she and classmate Law suspect the so-called “treasure” in a mansion slated for demolition is money meant to finance the illegal importation of slaves. 312 pages.

The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón; trans. by Lucia Graves (Little)
After Irene’s friend Hannah dies mysteriously, her family  becomes aware of evil at the Cravenmore estate: a shadow with a will of its own. With a clever plot, sympathetic characters, and a richly detailed 1930s Normandy setting, Zafon’s writing is accomplished. 229 pages.

 

Poetry

Suggested grade level listed with each entry.

Your Skeleton Is Showing: Rhymes of Blunder from Six Feet Under written by Kurt Cyrus; illus. by Crab Scrambly (Disney-Hyperion)
A child helps a lost ghost dog in a graveyard find his master’s tomb; as they pass headstones, readers learn about each grave-dweller’s demise. Black-and-white illustrations complement the dead-on pacing and tone of these ghoulish but funny rhyming poems. Grade level: 4–6.

Trick-or-Treat: A Happy Haunter’s Halloween written by Debbie Leppanen; illus. by Tad Carpenter (Simon/Beach Lane)
This collection of poems told from shifting perspectives — those of the scared trick-or-treating youngsters and the creepy monsters — range from mildly chilling to humorous, and they sound smashing aloud. Grade level: 4–6.

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