It’s finally October, my favorite month of the year, and also time for my annual Halloween Reading Roundup. This year, I have received so many fantastic and spooky-themed books that I’ve had to split the roundup into multiple parts! Today’s feature will focus on books for babies, preschoolers, and grade school kids, but look out over the coming weeks for roundups aimed at middle grade, YA, and adult readers. Hungry for more? Why not check out my Halloween roundups from 2018 and 2019 too?
Please note: This post contains affiliate links.
Happy Halloween from The Very Busy Spider, Written & Illustrated by Eric Carle
Let’s kick things off with a new title from a classic series. Happy Halloween from The Very Busy Spider is the latest title from the World of Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The Very Busy Spider is out looking for her friends on Halloween night in this lift-the-flap book that features some familiar faces hidden behind trees, clouds, and a spooky jack-o-lantern.
The art style throughout these pages is classic Eric Carle and will no doubt imbue parents with a sense of nostalgia while simultaneously engaging little readers with its bright colors and chunky shapes.
Those who enjoy this book might also want to consider picking up The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s 8 Nights of Chanukah released next month, or Merry Christmas from The Very Hungry Caterpillar which has been out for a few years but is still a fun read every December.
Halloween Hugs, Written & Illustrated by Marta Costa
Halloween Hugs by Marta Costa is another lift-the-flap book about friendship on Halloween. In this utterly adorably rhyming story, Zebra is waiting at home for their friends to arrive so they can begin a Halloween party. One by one, the friends arrive at the door in a variety of cute yet spooky costumes, but lifting the flap reveals who is hidden under the masks.
This charming story will help little ones who might be afraid of some Halloween costumes to understand that the scary masks at their door hide friendly faces who do not need to be feared. The illustrations are simple but cute with lots of bright Halloween colors and classic spooky touches. The rhymes flow well too, making this an ideal read-aloud tale for parents to share in the run-up to October 31st.
Pumpkin Baby by Elias Barks, Illustrated by Meg Hunt
Our third and final lift-the-flap book is Pumpkin Baby by Elias Barks. This chunky little board book follows Pumpkin Baby during Halloween night as they explore the town, hang out with bats, eat treats, and have fun until the morning.
There wasn’t much to this little story over its 12 pages, but the well-written rhymes and bright colors make it ideal for reading aloud to the littlest baby bats and its chunky shape will allow babies to explore the story in their own way.
The illustrations are very cute and bold with a modern style, I especially loved the autumnal colors that practically glowed on every page and made me impatient for the leaves to start changing here.
Look out for several more Elias Barks books being reviewed on GeekMom over the coming months.
Vegetables in Halloween Costumes, Written & Illustrated by Jared Chapman
Moving away from lift-the-flap but sticking with board books, Vegetables in Halloween Costumes by Jared Chapman is exactly what it sounds like from the title!
Carrot is heading to a Halloween costume party but there are just so many costumes to choose from. Spooky costumes, mysterious costumes, speedy costumes, and costumes from outer space. By the time the doorbell rings, Carrot is in a panic with just too many choices to be able to pick something. So what will they choose?
This incredibly simple yet incredibly funny book will be a delight for parents to read aloud and little ones to begin to read by themselves. Nearly every page features a different vegetable wearing a costume and families will love working together to guess what type of vegetable is dressed up and what they are pretending to be. The illustrations here are some of the simplest across all the books in this roundup, yet every single one made brought a smile to my face as I looked through the pages.
Vegetables in Halloween Costumes is a delight and if you enjoy it, there are more book in the same series including Fruits in Suits, Vegetables in Underwear, and Vegetables in Holiday Underwear – a perfect stocking filler this holiday season.
Little Poet Edgar Allan Poe: Nevermore! By Kate Coombs, Illustrated by Carme Lemniscates
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe has long been one of my all-time favorite poems, ever since I first saw the adaptation that formed part of the original “Treehouse of Horror” episode of The Simpsons. Today, my favorite version is the reading done by John De Lancie, but for those looking to introduce little readers to this classic spooky tale, Little Poet Edgar Allan Poe: Nevermore! By Kate Coombs is a perfect adaptation.
This board book version of the poem has two sets of text running parallel to one another, using two different fonts and sizes to make it immediately clear which set is which. The first set contains original lines lifted from the poem as written by Poe himself. Naturally, with only 22 pages, the vast majority of the poem is left out but the lines chosen for this adaptation form a concise but fully coherent version of the original story.
The second set is a drastically simplified and modernized version of the story aimed at young readers who wouldn’t be able to follow the original text. For example, the original line: “Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!” Becomes: “‘Will I see my love again?’ the lonely poet cried.” While this naturally loses much of the atmosphere and beauty of the original, the kid-friendly text does a great job of taking a sad, and occasionally scary poem and making it accessible and understandable by little readers.
The illustrations by Carme Lemniscates are cute but retain much of the gothic atmosphere so beloved in the original. They are all done in shades of blue and purple which adds to the gothic style and gives the book a distinctive yet kid-friendly look.
Day of the Dead: A Count & Find Primer, Written & Illustrated by Greg Paprocki
Moving on from something rather depressing to something far more celebratory, Day of the Dead: A Count & Find Primer by Greg Paprocki is a brightly colored look at Día de Muertos festivities with some added educational content to boot.
Each double-page spread in this striking book contains a beautiful scene where people prepare for and celebrate this important holiday. Each spread also shows a single number from one to ten and asks readers to find that number of a specific given object related to the events on the page. Across the book, we are asked to spot three Photographs of the Departed, six Pan de Muertos (bread of the dead), eight candles, and many other items too.
A page at the end explains the significance of each item in clear and easy to understand language. As someone who has never celebrated this holiday, I found this simple guide very helpful in understanding more about Día de Muertos.
Day of the Dead: A Count & Find Primer reflects that Día de Muertos is truly a celebration, using bright colors and smiling characters throughout, not the typical somber colors associated with death and mourning. This is a great book not only to introduce basic counting, but also cultural practices that may be different from your own.
Pumpkin Magic by Ed Masessa, Illustrated by Nate Wragg
Now we move to stories that are aimed at a slightly older, grade school audience. In this next book, Pumpkin Magic by Ed Masessa, jack-o-lanterns come to life and embark upon hilarious adventures by moonlight. The pumpkins roll down roads, balance themselves into stacks, go trick or treating, and wear silly costumes. As the night draws to a close, the pumpkins roll back to their porches to await the magical touch of moonlight the next evening
Pumpkin Magic had possibly my favorite illustrations of all the books in this roundup. The colors were so incredibly vibrant that they seemed to leap out at you, and the pumpkins practically glowed on the page. Although it was a darker book than many, this served only to add extra contrast and make the glowing windows of the houses seem even brighter and more welcoming.
The writing was beautiful too, with an almost musical fluidity to its rhyming that made it a joy to read aloud. This is a story I could see myself returning to year after year, regardless of whether I had any young children to read it to.
The Little Ghost Who Lost Her Boo! By Elaine Bickell, Illustrated by Raymond McGrath
Continuing with picture books that are a little more advanced, The Little Ghost Who Lost Her Boo! By Elaine Bickell is a sweet story about a young ghost who, upon finding a lady to scare, discovers that her boo has disappeared.
The little ghost flies around all night meeting friends and asking for their help, but none of them have heard her boo anywhere. Instead, they offer her their various sounds to try instead. Owl offers a whoo-whoo-whoo, Pigeon a coo coo and as morning approaches, Rooster offers a cock-a-doodle-doo. But while those sounds are all perfect for her friends, none are quite right for the little ghost, they’re just not as scary as her boo.
Finally, the little ghost spots someone else who might just be able to help her find her boo. You!
This is another colorful book with beautiful illustrations that allow the little ghost to almost glow from the pages as she swoops through the woods on her hunt. The story highlights the importance of finding what is right for you and knowing that it may be different from the things that are right for others, it teaches a few basic animal noises, and it may also help younger readers be less afraid of ghosts too. Not bad in just 30 pages!
Jade Braves the Dark by Valdene Mark, Illustrated by Sawyer Cloud
Our penultimate book is less obviously Halloween themed but still perfect for this time of the year when the nights are drawing in and kids are once again going to sleep in dark rooms. In Jade Braves the Dark by Valdene Mark, a little girl named Jade is frightened of the dark after she goes to bed. Jade imagines all sorts of creepy things lurking in her room; ghosts and monsters, naughty fairies, and scary bugs, but discovers with the help of a new friend that night time isn’t as scary as she once thought.
As with the scary costumes in Halloween Hugs, many kids are afraid of the dark and this book will help them to overcome those fears with a touch of moonlight magic. The rhymes here aren’t as easy to read aloud as some other books in this list thanks to a few slightly awkwardly structured sentences, but the overall story more than makes up for that. The artwork is also beautiful, filled with rich jeweled tones that keep some darkness on the page to fit the story while also allowing for bright colors to be included throughout.
Jade Braves the Dark is ideal for kids of any age who are frightened of the dark and need assurance both that they are not alone in their fears, and also that the dark is nothing to worry about.
When Pumpkins Fly by Margaret Lawrence, Illustrated by Amanda Sandland
Our final book takes a peek at what Halloween looks like for a remote community in the Canadian arctic. When Pumpkins Fly by Margaret Lawrence (who herself lives in the small Inuit community of Sanikiluaq) has an apt title because the Halloween pumpkins carved by children here are specially brought up aboard a cargo plane.
The book looks at Halloween traditions in this remote part of the world, some of which are familiar – trick or treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, and having a community costume contest – and some of which are not, such as the legend of the tunnaat. The end of the book explains a little of the pronunciation for the Inuktitut words used in the story.
This short book reminded me, perhaps a little strangely, of an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown as it showed how a beloved holiday can seem so familiar yet so alien when transplanted to such a different and distant place. These children cannot pick their pumpkins at a patch, nor even find them at a grocery store, yet the community has worked hard to make sure they do not miss out on the traditions they see in the media.
The illustrations here were actually some of my least favorite of all these books, seeming quite dull and flat compared with the vibrant images in the other books and also feeling mixed up in style, possibly due to the fact that two illustrators with differing styles worked together on the pages. However, none of this was enough to detract from an otherwise interesting story that made me want to learn more about these isolated communities and how they survive.
GeekMom received copies of these books for review purposes.