Spooky Kids Books For Halloween (Toddler/Preschool)
Updated on January 06, 2020. First posted on September 02, 2019 in Dark Books by Marie
Looking for a spooky book to share with your toddler or preschooler this Halloween? Here's a list of books suitable for 2, 3 and 4 year olds which my girls have liked reading. Nothing too scary, and more fun than creepy, including a couple of children's classics.
Despite the seasonal theme, we've read these books throughout the year as the girls have been asking for spooky stories; they know I like 'spooky things'. The stories below have been shared as bedtime stories, and a grown up - Mummy, Daddy or Nanny - has read them aloud. The independent reading age for them is a bit higher than the 'enjoyment' age I've given. All are still in print and easy to buy. Spoilers included, but I want to describe the books in full to be useful.
Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski
First published 1972. Enjoyment age 2+. This is the first of the Meg and Mog books, a series about a witch who lives with a cat and an owl and has lots of adventures. Its distinctive bold-coloured illustrations and clear, simple text have made it a favourite for generations of toddlers, and the series was adapted into a cartoon in 2003. In this story, Meg is preparing to meet her witch friends at a Halloween spell party, but her spells have a habit of going a bit wrong.
Wake Up Do, Lydia Lou! by Julia Donaldson and Karen George
First published 2013. Enjoyment age 2+. Other lists of kids' Halloween books I've seen usually include Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, but it's not a spooky book; it just features a witch. This book is about a ghost trying unsuccessfully to wake and scare a little girl, fitting the Halloween theme better. He enlists animals to help, so it includes animal sounds and lots of repetition, making it easy for little children to join in.
Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O'Connell
First published 2000. Enjoyment age 2+. A witch moves into a haunted house and scares out the ten timid ghostly residents, partly by dressing up as various monsters. This lovingly-illustrated rhyming book has lots of nice repetition and counts down each ghost leaving until there are none. The last ghost realises what the witch has been doing and the ghosts band together to get their home back.
Ten Minutes to Bed: Little Monster by Rhiannon Fielding and Chris Chatterton
First published 2018. Enjoyment age 2+. This is the second book of the rhyming Ten Minutes to Bed series, about the activities of fantasy creatures in the ten minutes before they go to bed. Each minute is counted down, until they - and hopefully your children - finally go to sleep. This isn't strictly a Halloween book, but it features a cute little monster and an impromptu party that happens when her friends visit.
Where's My Mummy? by Carolyn Crimi and John Manders
First published 2008. Enjoyment age 2+. A baby mummy playing 'Hide and Shriek' with his mama mummy abandons the game to find her, and encounters various monsters who tell him to go to bed. He's not scared by any of them, until he runs into something truly terrifying: a mouse! Luckily mama mummy arrives to comfort him and take him home. This is a familiar story retold with spooky environments and creatures (e.g. graveyards, swamps), but they don't make the tale too scary for little children.
Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara
First published 2008. Enjoyment age 2+. A girl moves into a new house with her cat, but finds the house is haunted. Luckily, she's a witch, and she knows how to deal with them: catch them, wash them, dry them on the line. Then they can be used in place of all manner of household linen. This fun book is entirely black, white and orange.
Mr. Tickle and the Scary Halloween by Adam Hargreaves
First published 2017. Enjoyment age 3+. Mr. Tickle - the classic Mr. Men character - reclaims Halloween in this story, after Little Miss Scary had made the holiday too frightening for everyone the previous year. He hides and tickles her, secretly disrupting all her planned spooky pranks. This is a good book if your children are already fans of the Mr. Men and Little Miss series.
Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
First published 1980. Enjoyment age 3+. This bright classic children's book is the first in a very popular series. It was adapted into a cartoon in 1992. Three skeletons - a big skeleton, a small skeleton and a dog skeleton - leave their cellar home for the night to go for a walk and to find somebody to frighten. They visit the park and the zoo, and end up frightening each other. The book references the song Dem Bones (the toe bone's connected to the foot bone...) which children might recognise and be able to sing along to.
A Dark, Dark Tale by Ruth Brown
First published 1981. Enjoyment age 3+. This book reads a little like the opening to Funnybones, but spread over many beautifully illustrated pages. A dark, dark moor. A dark, dark wood. A dark, dark house, and so on. The reader is drawn into the house - which is the shadowy mansion of my dreams - and finally gets a surprise: in a dark dark box, there's a mouse in a bed!
I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien
First published 2018. Enjoyment age 3+. This book is nice in how it engages the reader, as if they are being spoken to directly. A small, cute purple monster tells the reader/narrator that it wants to be in a scary story, but the location and plot suggestions are maybe a bit too scary for the monster to handle. Perhaps a funny book would be better? Then the monster finds a way to make the book both funny and scary.
I Want My Light On! (A Little Princess Story) by Tony Ross
First published 2007. Enjoyment age 3+. The Little Princess wants her light on to sleep. She's not really afraid of the dark, just ghosts. Everyone insists ghosts don't exist, then and the Maid's suggestion that they must be very small makes the Princess braver. So brave in fact, that when she does see a little ghost in her dark room she says "Boooooo!" to it, and sends it running scared back to its mum. The mummy ghost reassures her son: "There are NO such things as little girls".
The Grotlyn by Benji Davies
First published 2017. Enjoyment age 3+. This very prettily-illustrated rhyming book is a spooky story about a creature, barely glimpsed by the inhabitants of a town. An organ-grinder performs a song about the 'Grotlyn' moving through houses, although the tune advises that our eyes can trick us, falsely confirming first impressions. It seems the Grotlyn is real and it steals some apparently unconnected items from the nervous townsfolk. It is eventually revealed as the organ-grinder's monkey, who has constructed a hot air balloon from the items to escape its master.
Scary, Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting and Jan Brett
First published 1986. Enjoyment age 3+. Green eyes in the darkness observe monsters on Halloween (actually children very convincingly dressed up for trick-or-treating). They are described in tension-evoking rhyming verse, and beautifully illustrated with a vintage feel. Finally, the green-eyed observers are revealed as a family of cats - the real night stalkers - heading out into the streets once the 'monsters' have all gone.
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams and Megan Lloyd
First published 1986. Enjoyment age 3+. A brave old lady encounters animated articles of clothing and a scary pumpkin head as she walks home from a dark forest. There's lots of repetition in this story and opportunities for children to act out the actions of the clothing, which lessens the genuine creepiness of the tale somewhat. Unable to scare the lady, the clothes and the pumpkin head find a new purpose as a scarecrow. The illustrations have a lovely vintage feel to them.
What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss
First published 1961. Enjoyment age 3+. Originally appearing in The Sneetches and Other Stories, this story has been republished as a separate volume. It's another one which - oddly - uses the device of animated clothing, in this case, a pair of pants/trousers. The protagonist gets more scared as he keeps seeing the pants around, eventually befriending them when he realises the feeling is mutual. This is a rhyming book, like all the classic Dr. Seuss stories, and illustrated in his signature style.
Pretty by Canizales
First published 2017. Enjoyment age 4+. I omitted Room on the Broom because its only Halloween connection was a witch character. This book is included because it has a strong message about self-acceptance, and a rather dark ending (which might be missed by younger children). A witch going on a date with a troll changes her appearance based on the advice of woodland animals, becoming conventionally 'pretty', but realises her mistake... and takes her revenge. She uses the animals as ingredients for her picnic menu.