With Halloween coming up, I did some browsing at my local library and bookstore to find some creepy books for kids. But, I wanted books that weren’t necessarily tied to Halloween so that we could read, enjoy, and be spooked by them all year long.
These six books range from funny and little spooky, to downright scary. So fair warning, you might not want to read some of them at bedtime; and not just for the kids.
You can find all these titles at our affiliate amazon or at your local indie bookstore.
At the lighter end of the creepy book spectrum is Creepy Carrots! written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by one of my very favorites, Peter Brown. Jasper the bunny helps himself to carrots from a nearby field whenever the heck he feels like it, and the carrots are over it. So, they start following him. He gets creeped out (rightfully so) and builds a fence around the field. Which is, of course, exactly what the carrots wanted. The lighthearted story is made more Halloween-y with a film noir style of illustration, and the result is a wonderfully funny-creepy kids’ book.
The first rule about Fright Club...exactly. In this book for preschoolers and younger kids by Ethan Long, a group of monsters are having a hard time actually being scary. (Think, Monster’s Inc.) Meanwhile, some cute neighborhood animals are trying to join their club but can’t work their way in. Ultimately, the squirrels and rabbits teach the monsters how to really terrify kids, and Halloween is a success. If you’re a monster, that is.
Sticky Monsters by John Kenn Mortensen is a collection of the artist’s fantastic drawings of monsters. No storyline to follow here, just weird, creepy creatures with a decidedly Edward Gorey feel to them. Fun fact: all of the illustrations were drawn on sticky notes! What I love about this book is that my kids, if they aren’t totally freaked out, can come up with amazing stories about what’s happening in this images. I think this is a really great way to foster imagination and even inspire kids to write their own scary books for Halloween some day.
In 2002, the talented Tony DiTerlizzi updated Mary Howitt’s classic cautionary tale, The Spider and the Fly, with dark, fantastical illustration that are so timeless, it could have come out any time between 1950 and today. The black-and-white drawings provide the perfect eeriness, making a perfect Halloween book, though Liz says her kids love reading it all year long. And the lesson — don’t be taken in by flattery — is actually important for our kids to learn, too.
I discovered What There Is Before There Is Anything There by Argentinian author/illustrator Liniers last year, and I’m still mesmerized by it. It’s every kid’s worst nightmare: Laying in bed at night afraid of the squeaks and thumps around the house, and worrying about what’s in the shadows. And this idea that these creatures come and just stare — super creepy. Spoiler alert: this story doesn’t end with an “everything’s going to be okay” ending like some of these books. Save it for your older kids who grew up on Goosebumps and can handle a seriously eerie book.
I can’t believe I only discovered the subversive classic, The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey, this year. Where has this book been all my life? Our editor, Liz, told me she’s owned a copy for decades — long before she had kids. In fact it’s really not for young kids at all (and probably for some adults), and I see what she means. The super dark alphabet poem recounts how cartoony, Victorian era children at one very unsettling home are killed: A is for Alice who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil assaulted by bears. So yeah, it’s basically American Horror Story before its time. But, within the rhythm of the poetry, teens and their adults may enjoy what is actually some dark, dark comedy. Read it if you dare.