When the District’s leaves begin turning and the rain starts bringing cooler weather, Halloween is drawing near. There’s no better way to celebrate the spookiest day of the year than by creating a new family tradition of settling inside with a chilling tale.—By Mierka Willis and Tara Thomas, DC Public Library
‘Ghosts in the House’
Written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara
A little witch moves into an old house on the edge of town that turns out to be haunted. How inconvenient! Luckily, she knows just what to do in order to make her new house a home. Kohara’s minimalist illustrated picture book is perfect for a non-scary Halloween read.
‘The Scariest Book Ever’
Written and illustrated by Bob Shea
Are you braver than a ghost? This nervous ghost does not want you to visit the dark forest. Why would you do that when you could just stay home with the cat and eat donuts? Find out how brave you are with this funny and brightly colored book by the author of “Dinosaur vs. the Library.”
‘Los Gatos Black on Halloween’
Written by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
In this lively poem, written primarily in English, los muertos rise from the dead, los esqueletos dance while rattling their bones and young readers are introduced to Spanish words in a playful and humorous manner that begs to be read aloud.
Written and illustrated by Olivier Dunrea
Excellent for beginner readers, this seasonal addition to the Ollie series introduces Halloween themes. Join Ollie and his other farm friends as they dress in costume to spend the evening having haunting fun together.
‘Boo, Katie Woo!’
Written by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammie Lyon
Katie wants to dress up as a monster for Halloween, but when she goes trick-or-treating with her friends JoJo and Pedro, she isn’t scaring anyone. Katie’s story is a good pick about finding another way to enjoy a holiday when it’s different than expected.
‘In a Dark, Dark Room and other Scary Stories’
Written by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Victor Rivas
One of the most lasting collections of horror and urban legends for early readers, this book was re-released in 2017 with updated illustrations by Victor Rivas. A strong preface for a family read aloud of Schwartz’s “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” brave readers are sure to love these spine-tingling tales.
Written by Tracey Baptiste
Corinne doesn’t believe in the dangerous creatures her fellow islanders call “jumbies,” but when she chases an agouti deep into the forest and senses a creature following her, she’s not sure what to believe. This thrilling read, the first of a trilogy, is lush with Caribbean folkloric elements.
‘The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural’
Written by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney
A half an hour before it becomes totally dark, the monsters come out. This is the dark-thirty—an eerie time that serves as a perfect setting for nine short spine-tingling tales and one poem that span pre-Civil War to modern times. African-American storytelling comes alive as Black characters confront the realities of living in America’s racist history. Each story contains an author’s note that provides historical context and is accompanied by black-and-white scratchboard illustrations.
Written by Ellen Oh
When Harper moves with her family to a creepy Victorian house in D.C., her brother Michael starts acting strangely. Harper urgently wants to get out of the house and figure out why she’s experiencing an eerie sense of déjà vu with Michael’s new personality. Oh is a local author, and the book’s familiar setting make it a great choice for kids who want an extra realistic scare.
‘The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister’
Written by Stefan Bachmann, et al
This thick collection of three dozen haunting short stories is a collaboration between four authors. Featuring black-and-white illustrations throughout the book, these themed tales span from slightly creepy but merely shiver-inducing to realistically and frightfully disturbing, providing any teen with a definite case of the heebie-jeebies.
Written by Frances Hardinge
Triss wakes up from a traumatic experience and something doesn’t seem right. She’s hungry all the time, her sister Pen is acting strange around her and she can’t shake the feeling that her dolls are watching her. Part mystery, part fantasy, part sentient doll terror, “Cuckoo Song” is a wonderful Halloween pick.
‘Through the Woods’
Written and illustrated by Emily Carroll
With horrifying stories and skillful illustrations, this graphic novel contains a masterfully illustrated collection of five tales that will make you want to sleep with the light on. A variety of classic horror techniques gives each story its own ghastly feel and creates an unforgettable and terrifying read your teens will want to experience more than once.
A version of this story was published in the October 2020 issue of Washington FAMILY.