Halloween Picture Books

Holiday themed picture books that I am happy to read at story time (at the bookstore or in my own home) are rare. However, these are a few Halloween picture books that I never get tired of reading!

I don't know how I forgot Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler in my list of books last year.  I read it every October at story time and every year my appreciation of Donaldson's masterful rhymes grows.  A witch out for a spin with her cat keeps losing things - her hat, her bow, her wand - and animals help her to find them then hop on the broom for a ride.  The broom finally breaks sending them crashing to the ground except for the witch, who falls into the clutches of a hungry dragon.  The animals band together the rescue her and she rewards them with their own seats on a really cool, new broom.  This book is great anytime of the year!  Don't miss Julia Donaldson's other excellent books, especially The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child, also rhyming and also illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

Mostly Monsterly written byTammi Sauer and illustrated by Scott Magoon takes a familiar theme - how to stand out and fit in at the same time - and gives it a creepy, crawly twist.  Scott Magoon utilizes a gorgeous color palette that is paired perfectly with his cool cast of monsterly characters exhibiting some horrible traits.  Magoon's ability to keep things both simple and detailed at the same time, as exhibited in one of my favorite books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Spoon, is at work again in this richly illustrated story.
monster6.jpg image by jamesmargaret3rd

Bernadette looks and acts just like a monsters should... except for a few things here and there.

When she goes to Monster Academy her oddities start to really stand out.

She tries to win her classmates over with her specialty - cupcakes with sprinkles - but her monsterly mates don't share her enthusiasm for sweet treats.

Nevertheless, Bernadette is nothing if not creative.  She finds a way to express herself and share it with her friends in a way they will understand.  When Bernadette whips up a batch of monsterly greeting cards for her pals, cards that include bits of monster toenails and other icky stuff, her pals go crazy and jump right in to make their own cards.

When a Monster is Born, written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Nick Sharratt is a great circular story. Imagine Laura Numeroff's If You Give a Mouse a Cookie but with man eating, scary monsters. Published in 2006, When a Monster is Born won the Nestlé Children's Book Prize, the British equivalent of the Caldecott. The book begins, "When a monster is born there are two possibilities- Either it’s a faraway-in-the-forest monster or . . . it’s an under-your-bed monster. If its a faraway-in-the-forest monster that’s that. But if its an under-your-bed monster..."   It goes on from there with some surprising results...

The book is actually in brilliant colors, but the best images I could find were the coloring pages from Sean Taylor's website.  This book is very fun to read, especially for little kids who like things a bit on the scary side.

I never, never get tired of reading Mark Teague's superb tale of of a Halloween gone wrong, One Halloween Night. I have been a fan of Teague's illustrations (which always have a bit of a homey, 1950s feel to them) and books since the late 1990s when he illustrated Sweet Dream Pie and The Flying Dragon Room for Audrey Wood. These are, by far, two of the best, most creative, most engaging picture books in existence and they are both out of print! However, Teague does a great job with his Halloween story, which is available in paperback. Wendell and Floyd, stars of The Secret Short Cut (also superb) team up with Mona, partner since she met up with the boys in Lost and Found, and Floyd's baby sister Alice to tackle embarrassing costumes, scary clowns, crazy candy (Broccoli Chews? Sweet 'n' Sauerkraut?? Eggplant Fizzlers???) and a gaggle of menacing witches to end up safe at home with their candy spread out on the floor, a fire in the fireplace and steaming cups of cocoa. With his latest book, The Doom Machine, Mark Teague writes and illustrates his first chapter book in which aliens visit earth.

It is not Halloween without Dav Pilkey and his Hallo-Wiener.

You can probably guess the main plot points just by reading the title to the book, but it is entertaining nonetheless. Adults will laugh at the many ways Pilkey incorporates the many different names for "hot dog" into this story. Kids love the suspense and the gags. Pilkey's colorful cartoon like illustrations are as playful and cheery as his story.

Don't miss this treat featuring Dragon, the star of Pilkey's hilarious beginning reader series. The three short stories in this book are sweet, silly and only a tiny bit scary, just like Dragon.

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara (NEW IN PAPERBACK!!) is a great book for the five and under crowd. Told in rhymes and illustrated in black, white and orange, Kohara's story is sweet, simple and fresh. A little witch and her cat move into a new house that is haunted. But not to fear, the little witch rounds up the ghosts, washes them and uses them for tablecloths, curtains and even a blanket! This is a great way to introduce younger children to the imagery and creatures of Halloween without going too deeply into details that may be lost on them.

Emily Gravett is an author and illustrator who's books never disappoint. Her website is pretty cool, too. Gravett often incorporates collages of printed words into her illustrations. Her last book, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears (which could also be a very appropriate Halloween book...) is about a mouse who chews his way through a self-help book and learns about all the differnt phobias out there. Meerkat Mail, which is interactive, follows a meerkat who goes visiting his extended family all the while documenting his trip with postcards send home to his nuclear family. Orange Pear Apple Bear is brilliant in its simplicity, beauty and engaging nature. I discovered Spells while reading the New York Times Book Review last Sunday and finally got my hands on a copy. As always, her illustrations are both detailed and layered. Spells has an especially funny section with pages that are cut into thirds. The frog keeps trying out spells to turn himself into a prince, but, because the pages of the book are tattered and torn, he keeps mixing himself up into any combination of animals. The text and illustrations can be combined to make hilarious new animals and is very reminiscent of the now out of print book, Por-Gua-Can, some of you may remember.

Por-gua-can (Sara Ball Books)

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