Halloween Reading Roundup Header 2021

GeekMom Halloween Reading Roundup 2021: Picture Books

Books Entertainment Featured

How is it October already?! Once again, Spooky Season is upon us, and that means it’s time for the GeekMom Halloween Reading Roundup. As with last year, this will be split into multiple parts, so keep an eye out over the next few Fridays for more Halloween reads aimed at middle grade, YA, and adults. Today’s roundup is all about picture books, so keep reading to see eight spooktacular stories for the littlest of Halloween fans. If you can’t wait until next week’s post, why not check out our previous roundups? Links are at the bottom of the post. Happy Halloween!

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. All author and illustrator images are credited to themselves. 

10 Spooky Pumpkins, Cover Image Orchard Books
10 Spooky Pumpkins, Cover Image Orchard Books

10 Spooky Pumpkins by Gris Grimly

10 Spooky Pumpkins by Gris Grimly is a rhyming story about a little girl who heads out for an adventure on Halloween night. It’s also a counting primer, counting down from ten to one, as the little protagonist encounters all manner of creatures along the way.

As the little girl in her costume explores the area around her rural home, she finds all sorts of Halloween spooks, beginning with the titular ten spooky pumpkins. Also along her way are nine black cats, seven greedy goblins, five wild wolves, and three toothless witches stirring up a brew. All these encounters are rendered in unique watercolors that have a traditional, old-fashioned look reminiscent of Halloweens gone by. Don’t expect bright, bold, modern colors here, these illustrations are dark and creepy, filled with dark shadows and bright eyes that watch from them.

10 Spooky Pumpkins is a lovely, traditional yet spooky story that avoids all the trappings of today’s commercialized Halloween and is ideal for reading aloud thanks to its beautiful rhyming structure. Some youngsters might be a little scared by the illustrations, which are a long way from Disney’s not-so-scary, colorful style, but others will be fascinated by something that will almost certainly look totally different from almost everything else on your shelf.

Boo Stew, Cover Image Peachtree Publishing

Boo Stew by Donna L. Washington, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler

Boo Stew by Donna L. Washington is a new take on the classic Goldilocks fairytale with a diverse, southern twist. Curly Locks is a young girl who loves to cook, but nobody in her hometown of Toadsuck Swamp appreciates her unique culinary skills that include delicacies such as batwing brownies, toad eye toffees, and lizard skin lasagne. Also living in Toadsuck Swamp are the Scares—shadowy creatures that mostly keep to themselves but also keep the locals awake at night by hootin’ and hollerin’.

One day, one of Curly Locks’ dishes is swiped from her windowsill, and the very next morning, the Mayor finds his home taken over by several particularly naughty Scares. After several other adults try to help but are scared away, Curly Locks arrives on the scene and decides that what these Scares need are some good home-cooked meals.

Boo Stew is a genuinely unique picture book with traditional-looking illustrations that give it a timeless quality. The illustrations are a little darker here than in some picture books—think Roald Dahl rather than Julia Donaldson—but that only helps make it a perfect read for Halloween season despite there being nothing Halloween-specific to the story. The story itself uses language that is styled like a mild form of Southern American English (many verbs are shortened to forms such as cookin’, runnin’, and hollerin’), which also really helps to give the book a sense of place. There is quite a lot of text per page and a fairly detailed storyline here, which when combined with just a few spooks from illustrations that touch on creepy, make it a great next step book for little ones ready to move up a little with their bedtime reading.

The Wheels on the Bus at Halloween Cover Image, Doubleday Books
The Wheels on the Bus at Halloween Cover Image, Doubleday Books

The Wheels on the Bus at Halloween by Sarah Kieley

The Wheels on the Bus at Halloween by Sarah Kieley is a sing-a-long version of the popular nursery rhyme with a spooky Halloween twist that’s perfect for singing all month long.

The book opens with full-color illustrations of the Halloween bus itself and a map showing it trundling along roads past Pumpkin Cottage, Creature Cove, and Spooky Woods. Once we’ve been introduced, the words begin and you’ll be able to sing along as we might the various passengers on the bus. The ghosts on the bus go “Boo! Boo! Boo!,” the witches go “Tee! Hee! Hee!,” and the bats go “Flap! Flap! Flap!” on a spooky Halloween. There are also plenty of other creatures and items to meet including pumpkins, black cats, candy, and a monster of a driver!

This is a lovely book that adds a touch of silly spookiness to a favorite song that everyone will be able to join in with, and with cute cartoon characters throughout, there’s nothing in here to scare even the most nervous of little readers. It’s a perfect choice for your tiniest trick or treaters this October, and I’m sure you’ll find yourself singing the words to yourself even when they’re not around!

There's a Witch in Your Book, Cover Image Puffin Books
There’s a Witch in Your Book, Cover Image Puffin Books

There’s a Witch in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Greg Abbott

Part of the “Who’s In Your Book” series, There’s a Witch in Your Book by Tom Fletcher is an interactive picture book that will encourage little ones to get physically involved in the story.

As the book opens, we are introduced to a cute little red-haired witch who is currently making a mess inside your book. First up, young readers are encouraged to wipe away the mess with their hands, but this only causes things to get worse. Soon they’ll be blocking spells with their hands and using their fingers and special magic words to cast spells of their own, but without much experience, you’ll soon find the pages overrun with fleas, bunnies, see-through bubble bunnies, and even slime. Thankfully, there’s someone around to help but be careful or you might find that your own room ends up messy too!

This is easily one of the most adorable Halloween picture books I’ve come across, and little ones will love interacting with it on every page. It definitely falls into the sweet rather than scary category, so it should be suitable for all and will make for a great bedtime read this spooky season.

Spookytale Cover Image, Abrams
Spookytale Cover Image, Abrams

Spookytale by Christopher Franceschelli, illustrated by Allison Black

Spookytale by Christopher Franceschelli is a chunky, interactive board book that is part of the “Abrams Trail Tale” series. On each page of this book there are flaps to lift, holes to see through, and sections to unfold in order to reveal larger images. The story here is minimal, but throughout the book, you will follow two children and their dog as they travel through various spooky environments including a dismal swamp, deserted graveyard, and a pitch-black cave. As they go, they will encounter all sorts of creatures such as bats, cats, frogs, alligators, and raccoons, before finally arriving at a Halloween party in a spooky mansion.

This is a beautifully illustrated book that kids will enjoy interacting with, however, I felt the text itself was rather lackluster with no rhythm or enjoyable pacing for reading aloud. The story felt clunky and dull compared to many other books aimed at the same young audience, so while this would be a good addition to a playgroup or for hands-on book time, it’s not a book I would especially recommend for bedtime reading.

Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat, Cover Image Sourcebooks
Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat, Cover Image Sourcebooks

Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat by Tracy C. Gold, Illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff

Alongside black cats and spiders, bats are easily one of the most Halloween-y animals around, but despite having a reputation of being a little bit spooky, these flying creatures are actually super helpful and often very cute too. In Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat by Tracy C. Gold we meet a baby bat heading out to catch some dinner on Halloween.

As she flies through the night sky, this adorable little bat finds fireflies, moths, beetles, crickets, and other tasty snacks to feast upon. Her version of trick or treating looks (and tastes) a little different from ours—my son would be horrified at the idea of collecting bugs instead of candy while out trick or treating, and I’m sure your kids would be too—but she has just as much fun and ends up just as full of delicious treats by the end of the night. The final few pages teach little ones some interesting facts about bats; for instance, did you know that a single bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes per hour?! I didn’t and now I’m keen to make my home much more bat-friendly in the future to encourage some more spooky, flying friends to take up residence here.

As well as being a fun story that’s ideal for Halloween, Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat will help young readers learn not to be afraid of bats and to understand better why we need to look after them in our local environments.

The Secret Halloween Costume, Cover Image CrackBoom Books
The Secret Halloween Costume, Cover Image CrackBoom Books

The Secret Halloween Costume by Sophie Vaillancourt, illustrated by Karina Dupuis

Deciding what Halloween costume to wear can be one of the most challenging decisions little ones make every year, but what about if you were an actual witch? In The Secret Halloween Costume by Sophie Vaillancourt, Little Charlotte is a witch, and with Halloween fast approaching, everyone is getting ready to wear their scariest witch outfits because that’s what tradition dictates. However, Charlotte doesn’t want to be scary, she wants to wear something different that reflects who she really is.

After a little help from her friends, Charlotte secretly approaches her eccentric grandmother with a proposal. But can her grandma help Charlotte find a costume she really loves in time for the big day?

The Secret Halloween Costume by Sophie Vaillancourt is a really sweet story about defying traditions and ignoring expectations when they don’t suit who you are. Young readers will hopefully find a valuable lesson here that will help them find their own voice when being pressured into choices that make them uncomfortable or that simply don’t fit who they are—something even many adults struggle with.

Halloween My World in 100 Words Cover Image, Quarto
Halloween My World in 100 Words Cover Image, Quarto

My World in 100 Words: Halloween, Illustrated by Sophie Beer

My World in 100 Words: Halloween is a themed vocabulary primer that will help introduce new words and ideas to your youngest little readers. Each double-page spread has a spooky Halloween theme including “Picking Pumpkins,” “Baking Treats,” and “Trick-or-Treat.” These pages each show a scene with lots of labeled objects; for example, the Carving Pumpkins page includes labels for the knife, seeds, spoon, and even a watching dog. Not only objects are labeled, however—the same page also labels the color orange on some bunting, and introduces some other describing and doing words such as Excited and Scooping.

A few other pages focus on specific types of objects such as Decorations or Costumes. These pages don’t show a full scene but instead, several individual objects that are each clearly labeled, the Costumes page includes a Ghost, Skeleton, Witch, and Vampire. I particularly liked one of the spreads that used a variety of jack-o-lanterns to introduce words for emotions.

While there is no story per se here, the book does progress in a roughly chronological way beginning with picking pumpkins in the morning, continuing through baking treats and decorating the house, and concluding with trick or treating followed by midnight. In this way, it easily covers a full Halloween day that any young reader would love to have.

Further Reading

GeekMom received copies of these books for review purposes.

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