Leaves are once again crunching underfoot, which means your cobwebs, spiders, and long-handled sweeper-thingies are considered acceptable decor, and you can boldly indulge in pumpkin spice everything. It’s also your opportunity to build—ostensibly for your children—a Halloween reading list. Whether you’re fun-size or full-size—or your tastes skew more frightful or delightful—there’s something below for everyone to enjoy. Just mind that you don’t tear the pages of these macabre tales as you race to reach a particularly thrilling ending; I know we’ve all got a case of kettle corn fingers this time of year. (Or is it just me?)
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell
This kids’ horror compendium served as a slippery slope to the Goosebumps series, Christopher Pike, and, finally, onward to Edgar Allen Poe. I can recall the elementary library waiting list agony that preceded my greedy, feverish consumption of these stories, and my fascination at the illustrations that accompanied each one. By adult standards, tales like “Old woman all skin and bone” and “The Thing” are only mildly chilling, and perfect for the slumber party or campfire set. And the two books that follow up Scary Stories are filled with equally frightful fables.
The Witches, by Roald Dahl
Since I have yet to read a Roald Dahl book that I didn’t feel an intense need to miniaturize and stick in a locket (so I could carry it everywhere with me), this is an annual must-read in my household in the chilly days leading up to All Hallow’s Eve. This story focuses not on the caricatured witches who gained notoriety in The Brothers Grimm and films like “The Wizard of Oz,” but on the witches masquerading as real ladies—the ones who have infiltrated our society and are swiftly consolidating power. The story is told from the perspective of a young boy and provides each new generation of young readers with the hope that, though witches be crazy, they don’t always have to win.
Short & Shivery: Thirty Chilling Stories, by Robert D. San Souci and Katherine Coville
An exceptional collection of horror stories from around the world fills this volume. The chill factor is similar to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and the fascinating illustrations will be more than sufficient for the budding Hitchcocks of the pre-teen set.
Bats at the Library, by Brian Lies
“Can it be true? Oh, can it be? Yes!—Bat Night at the library!” is the narrator’s realization at the outset of this frightfully fun celebration of reading and fine literature. As this Halloween nears, grab your preschooler or early reader and join the book-thirsty bats as they make their nocturnal pilgrimage to the public library.
Only A Witch Can Fly, by Alison McGhee and Taeeun Yoo
Honest and powerful, McGhee’s story is a tale as old as time—soaring in spite of adversity—but it’s no less enchanting even when read for the fortieth time. (I can thank my four-year-old for that.) Set off by a complex, lively “sestina” rhyming scheme and Yoo’s bewitching block print illustrations, this story features an indefatigable young girl whose unwavering belief in magic—and in herself—enables her to “float past the stars, and turn to the heavens and soar. For only a witch can fly past the moon. Only a witch can fly.”
Ghoulish Goodies, by Sharon Bowers
Depending on your personality, party fare like monster eyeballs and screaming red punch will immediately sound yummy or yucky. But even if you’re in the latter camp, Bowers’ deliciously fun cookbook will likely give you pause. Filled with sweets and savories that could grace any Addams Family Thanksgiving spread, Bowers subtly challenges us—through a well-organized collection of creative, accessible recipes—to take our fun-size Snickers game up a notch with treats like glowing Jack o’ Lantern cookies or a Whistling Past the Graveyard cake.
What’s the Halloween book on your must-read list every year?