Halloween Picture Books: Scary or Not-So-Scary?

Lynn and Cindy: Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to round up of some new picture books for trick-or-treat season. Kids vary, of course, in the degree of scariness they are comfortable with, so here are some of this year’s Halloween books in ascending order of shriek level.



Low Shriek Level (for Halloween newbies)

Herbert's First Halloween by Cynthia RylantHerbert’s First Halloween, by Cynthia Rylant

Little Herbert is NOT sure about Halloween. This is his first, and it definitely seems a little scary. Herbert’s father, however, loves Halloween, and he gently reassures Herbert as he gets them both ready for the big day. They carve pumpkins, create costumes, and practice roars. When the big night arrives, Herbert is ready! Rylant’s sweet text and Steve Henry’s charming, retro illustrations will help first-time trick-or-treaters be happily brave.






Medium Shriek Level

Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron ReynoldsCreepy Pair of Underwearby Aaron Reynolds

Reprising their Caldecott Honor book Creepy Carrots, Reynolds and illustrator Peter Brown take Jasper Rabbit shopping for new underwear, and he talks his mom into buying a pair with a monster face: “So Creepy! So Comfy!”

But that night, when Jasper wears the new undies to bed, he discovers they light up the room with a “ghoulish greenish glow!” Jasper tries everything to get rid of the creepy underwear, but they keep reappearing!

This one is fairly creepy, but in a humorous, campy way that will tickle the (funny) bones of veteran ghosts and goblins.


High Shriek Level

The Pomegranate Witch, by Denise Doyen

There’s always that one house on the block, that one neighbor that causes rumors and stories to spread. Children either avoid them, or are drawn to them. In this book, it’s the old house with the scary tree out front—the one that yields big, red pomegranates. The children love the fruit, but the “witch” who lives there doesn’t share. In fact, she wages a pomegranate war against the children, spraying them with hoses and other deterrents.  There’s just one night a year when it’s safe for them to venture to the house: Halloween night, naturally, when the witch flies away and the Kindly Woman turns on the porch light, serves cider and snacks, and sends each child home with a pomegranate. It’s odd just how much she resembles the witch.

Doyen’s vocabulary-rich rhyming text brings to mind traditional tales meant for sharing aloud. Eliza Wheeler’s intricate ink and watercolor drawings are quirky and eerie and provide much to pour over while the story unspools. Like a pomegranate, each page is filled with many small delights. . . and just a few mild frights.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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