Just the Right Amount of Spook: 12 Slightly Scary Halloween Picture Books

Creepy Carrots

Ghosts, goblins, witches, and werewolves… No doubt about it—Halloween can be an intimidating day for a little kid. (Or, you know, a grown-up!) And while we’d love to keep our wee ones sheltered from the scarier side of Oct. 31, Halloween can’t be all pumpkins and princesses forever. There comes a time when our costumed cuties want to experience the signature thrills and chills that come with the trick-or-treating territory. And so we’ve rounded up twelve hair-raising reads with just the right amount of fright factor. Read them together in the dark with a flashlight—because nothing is better than a good BOOOOOk!

Stumpkin, by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Stumpkin is perfect in every way-round, orange, and the absolute perfect size for carving. He just has one fatal flaw—no stem. As Halloween draws closer, Stumpkin remains on the store display, waiting and watching as, one by one, his fellow pumpkins all leave to their new homes. When even the bumpy gourds are gone, Stumpkin fears he will never be a jack-o-lantern. Until one evening, a very special customer reveals a very special plan.

Click, Clack, Boo! : A Tricky Treat, by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
Everybody’s favorite clever barnyard animals are featured in this Halloween adventure. Farmer Brown is not a fan of Halloween and has big plans for an early night in bed. But the barnyard animals have a few plans of their own. It’s time for a not-so-spooky holiday party and you can be sure that Farmer Brown will have anything but a peaceful night.

Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise, by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen
Like any good pet owners, the Watsons have decked Mercy out for Halloween. Meet Mercy, the Porcine Princess, complete with tiara and sparkly gown. Mercy is less interested in the costume and more interested in the treating, especially the piles of buttered toast she imagines are awaiting her behind every door. But when the Lincoln sisters’ cat gets loose, the night takes on a turn even more hilarious than a pig in a ballgown.

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, by Ben Hatke
While not specifically a Halloween story, this book of mystical, mythical delights is a certain crowd-pleaser. New to town, Julia quickly settles into her picturesque neighborhood by the sea. There’s only one problem. Julia’s new home is too quiet. To remedy the situation, Julia opens her house up to lost creatures. Soon she’s hosting everything from goblins to mermaids. Life is deliciously noisy. Now, if only Julia can figure out a way to get all those creatures to behave.

Leo: A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson
Fans of Casper will love Leo, a friendly ghost who loves drawing and snacks. When a new family finally moves into Leo’s long abandoned home, Leo is thrilled. But his attempts to make the new family feel welcome (predictably) don’t go as planned, and Leo moves out to see more of the world. He meets Jane, who is thrilled with her new imaginary friend. Leo and Jane are perfectly paired for grand adventures, leading up to the night when Leo becomes the hero of his own story.

Who Will Haunt My House on Halloween, by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by David Biedrzycki
Zombies, bats, and dinosaurs—Halloween is chock-full of frightfully fun characters. But are they real or just silly kids in costume? One little girl envisions all the scary creatures that could show up at her door to trick or treat and haunt her house.

Creepy Carrots, by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown
There’s nothing creepy about carrots… Or is there? Jasper Rabbit helps himself to carrots from Crackenhopper Field morning, noon, and night. But when he starts seeing eerie carrots everywhere, his favorite snack becomes his biggest threat. Is he imagining things? Or are these vexing vegetables really following him? Inspired by the Twilight Zone, Creepy Carrots’ black, white, and orange illustrations are clever, campy, and entirely entertaining.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd
Clomp Clomp. Wiggle Wiggle. Shake Shake… A little old lady, who is not afraid of anything, goes for an evening walk in the deep, dark forest. But her brave persona begins to falter (as her pace starts to quicken) when she stumbles upon a few ominous articles of clothing along the way.

By the Light of the Halloween Moon, by Caroline Stutson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
A bold little girl lets her legs dangle from a bridge and taps a tune with her carefree toes. But mysterious, menacing, and monstrous creatures below threaten to nibble her feet in this enthralling tale that proves bravery trumps fear.

The Dark, by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Laszlo, like many kids, is afraid of the dark. Fortunately, the dark stays in cupboards and closets and behind the shower curtain. But, mainly, it lives in the basement. One night, the dark comes to Laszlo’s room and beckons him to the basement, where he must conquer his fear once and for all.

Scarecrow Magic, by Ed Masessa, illustrated by Matt Myers
When the sun sets and the night falls, the raggedy scarecrow comes to life to play by the light of the moon. Soon enough, his ghoulish friends join in on these secretive shenanigans. But when the first hint of morning appears, the party is over and the scarecrow must return to his post—until the evening comes again.

The Wolves in the Walls, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean
Lucy hears suspicious sounds in her house, and she’s convinced there are wolves in the walls. And everyone knows that when the “wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.” Soon they emerge, and Lucy’s family flees. To reclaim their home, they’ll have to get creative. Fair warning: With cryptic imagery and scary situations, this book has actual scare factor—so, parents, read and share with caution.

What are your favorite slightly scary picture books?

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