If Christmas is a time for ‘sharing with your kids’, then Halloween is a time for ‘scarying the living daylights out of your kids’.
But let’s not forget, kids love being scared just as much as adults. Ghost trains, haunted houses, Goosebumps books, the Hotel Transylvania films, zombie slime and the Granny App (oh man, it’s a really freaky online game for kids where an old lady tries to find you and stab you in the head. The internet has a lot to answer for).
If you think it’s time to add a sprinkling of vampire dust and a dollop of witches brew to storytime with your munchkins then here are my top five suggestions.
5. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
It’s a slow burner, but wooow this is a fantastically spooky middle-grade book (I’d say 10+).
The Night Gardener is a perfectly recreated Victorian Gothic Ghost Story. Molly and Kip are Irish orphans who have fled to England. They become servants of the Windsor Estate which, as legend has it, is cursed. They hear heavy footsteps at night, find a mysterious locked room and must uncover the dark forces at work before they too succumb to them.
It also covers a long list of subjects – growing up without parents, the power of storytelling, the hardships of Victorian poverty, survivor’s guilt, the consequences of greed, xenophobia and the Irish Potato Famine.
Creepy, atmospheric, full of adventure and magic and some really spooky stuff. This book is the ideal autumnal read.
4. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
This book is a strange mixture of an adventure detective and a gory horror story . . . and I loved it! As you can see, it ticks a lot of boxes:
– a Bentley
– a skeleton wearing a hat
– even the kitchen sink (and by that I actually mean some genuinely wonderful throwaway lines that stitch the story together).
I would compare Skulduggery (the skeleton who wears the hat and drives the Bentley and is the main source of the kitchen sink factor) to James Bond with a history degree. He is highly entertaining and has enough mystery about him to keep young readers hungry for the next book. And the ending is very satisfying indeed… but you’ll need to read it to find out just how satisfying it is.
Five stars. I’ll certainly be reading the next one soon.
3. The Witches by Roald Dahl
If you are looking for a fairytale, look away now!
As you probably already know, witches are REAL (according to Roald Dahl). This is the story of a grandma and her grandson and how witches turn him into a little mouse. Inside you’ll learn all about witches, how to evade their capture and, most importantly, how to recognise them.
“She might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of her cleverness. I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one. It is most unlikely. But—here comes the big “but”—not impossible.”
This is a clever and courageous tale of a young boy and her spirited grandmother who decide to fight back! Thank goodness for Roald Dahl, who cunningly combines scariness with funny stuff making this a wonderful Halloween book for ages 7-9.
2. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
From scary witches to a friendly witch (for much littler readers).
Room on the Broom is about a witch with “long ginger hair in a braid down her back” and a cat who ride through the night on a . . . you guessed it, a broomstick. It soon gets breezy up there and things start to blow away. Fortunately, several different animals come to her rescue in exchange for a spot on her broom until a dragon tries to make her its dinner!
You can instantly recognise her books from the whimsy and friendly illustrations. They’re truly fantastic! (From a marketing perspective, it’s 100% intentional and helps us parents with cash in our pockets make an instant connection). If you’re looking for a light-hearted Halloween book you can read to your little witches (I’d say aged 1 to 6) then look no further.
P.S. Please, please, please, when reading this book to your kids, read it in your best British accent and I guarantee it’ll make the experience even better.
1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This is an extremely imaginative book . . . and it won the Newbery Medal so that proves it!
Bod is the only living resident in the local graveyard. A childless ghost couple adopts the parentless toddler and a vampire becomes his guardian and teacher. The book follows the boy’s childhood with a new chapter for each year of his unusual and spooky upbringing. Can a boy raised by werewolves and vampires and ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? (So, in summary, it’s The Jungle Book but for Halloween.
“It takes a graveyard to raise a child”
Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller. The Graveyard Book is a delightful blend of the macabre and the grave. It’s a haunting and mesmerizing allegorical tale about the joys of childhood, the gradual transition to adulthood, and the philosophical ponderings of life and death.
Be sure to put this in the hands of 10+ aged kids and do yourself a favour by keeping one eye on where the book ends up so you can add it to your reading pile afterwards).
… and, last but not least, here’s my HALLOWEEN kids book
Was your candy bag only half full on Halloween last year? . . . Does your sweet vampire tooth come out on a full moon? . . . Need some inspiration for a spooky costume that’ll put a smile on everyone’s face (and your belly too)? . . . Then here’s 49 (extremely silly) excuses for bagging more candy at Halloween!
Join the comical adventure of these mischevious kids who will try absolutely anything to trick their neighbours into more treats, dress up in the most devious and devilish costumes, and swag the most candy humanly possible on 31st October. With an illustration for each haphazard attempt, you’re guaranteed to laugh, smirk, and chuckle for hours.
Disclaimer: reading this eBook will definitely get you into trouble! (So if your parents ask where you heard these excuses you didn’t hear them from me. Do we have a deal?)