Spine-tingling tales of witches, monsters and ghouls are an essential part of this season – and there’s no reason for your little ones to miss out on the fun.
While Harry Potter and The Worst Witch might be a bit too advanced, these picture books have plenty of hubble and bubble but without the toil and trouble for your babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
She’s been one of our favourite literary witches for more than 45 years but even after all that practice, poor Meg’s spells still go wrong.
From this first story where she mistakenly turns her four pals into mice at a Halloween party, to new time-travelling tale Meg and the Romans, our pointy-hatted heroine is accompanied on her adventures by loyal cat Mog, their pal Owl and plenty of mayhem.
Helen Nicoll’s fuss-free text, paired with Jan Pienkowski’s cartoon-style drawings in bold primary colours, give these books a pleasing simplicity perfect for babies and upwards. Buy from Amazon
2. I’m Not (Very) Afraid Of The Dark by Anna Milbourne, illustrated by Daniel Rieley. £12.99 (hardback), Usborne
Fears are funny things. Your head can tell you that they are silly but your heart is harder to control. While the little boy knows the Dark shouldn’t be scary, he can’t help the creeping dread as day turns to night and the Dark grows from small to big.
In this cleverly designed book, which uses lovely paper technology to illustrate stars and make scary faces become sweet, the boy and the reader discover that the Dark can be things other than frightening – and lots of fun too.
We especially like the spread where the monster under the bed are rendered harmless the moment you turn the page and turn the light on. Hugely effective. Available from Amazon
3. Funnybones by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. £6.99 (paperback), Puffin
This frightfully funny story about three skeletons and their japes after dark is a real classic and brings back all sorts of memories for me of the animated version back in the early 1990s.
Janet’s illustrations feel more cartoonish than their other books, probably due to the block colours, and the layout itself has a cartoon strip feel, with boxes and speech bubbles. We love the scene where they put their dog’s bones back together the wrong way and also singing ‘Dem Bones’. Buy from Amazon
The unknown is often more frightening than reality is the moral of this atmospheric book by award-winning Benji Davies.
Beautiful illustrated in a Victoriana style and completely written in rhyme, you can practically see the mists of mystery swirling over the pages as Rubi and Sam ponder what the thing that goes bump in the night could be. And why exactly is it still Policeman Vickers’ knickers?
This suspenseful story will have your child on the edge of their seat – and thrilled by the charming twist when all is finally revealed. Buy from Amazon
5. Beast Feast by Emma Yarlett. £10.99 (hardback), Walker
This tasty tale has three ingredients that make it so moreish – a funny but touching storyline, amazing artwork and clever interactivity in the form of letters to open and read.
Beast is ever so pleased to have captured Dinner and invites his monstrous pals over for a feast, sending each one an invite. As their replies come in, Dinner uses his wiles to win Beast round and escape his dreaded fate – becoming a guest at the party instead of the meal. Buy from Amazon
When a kind-hearted witch returns a favour to the animals that have helped her during a storm, her trusty broom ends up rather cramped and snaps in two.
Cue a farcical, funny adventure of friendship and quick-thinking as she and her passengers find themselves in the path of a greedy dragon who craves witch and chips for his tea…
This modern classic from the magical pairing of Donaldson and Scheffler has catchy rhyming text that children will love to chant along with, while a sound book version is available for younger readers. Buy from Amazon
It’s the classic Halloween dilemma. You want to hear a scary story but not TOO scary, okay? Little Monster goes one further. He wants to star in one but as the narrator attempts to place him in different spooky scenarios, the poor purple creature is petrified.
With its witty dialogue between reader and character, this playful book is a perfect Halloween tale for children of a more nervous disposition. We love the in-your-face artwork by hot French graphic designer Jean Jullien, too. Buy from Amazon
8. That’s Not My Bat by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells. £6.99 (board book), Usborne
This bat-themed version of the bestselling touchy-feely series is a perfect Halloween read for the tiniest little devils, with fluffy ears and shiny wings to explore. Don’t forgot to look out for the little mouse who narrates the story as you flap through the purple and orange pages!
There is a witch version and monster edition that are suitable for this scary season too. Buy from Amazon
9. There’s A Troll On My Toilet by Catherine Jacob and Mike Byrne. £6.99 (paperback), Scholastic.
Enter a house of horrors where werewolves shriek in the shower, mummies magic up trouble and a zombie band plays the blues. It’s enough to make you run and hide, especially when the troll blocks the toilet with an enormous stinky poo – eew!
But your child should fear not, as this spooky rhyming tale is frightfully funny and the spine-tingling residents are simply your family having lots of Halloween high jinks. A tongue-twisting triumph. Available from Amazon.
10. Hugo Makes A Change by Scott Emmons and Mauro Gatti. £9.99, Flying Eye Books
Hugo has a hankering for something to eat – but it’s not what you’d imagine. He’s sick to his pointy fangs of red meat and craves a fresh and healthy meal that will fill him with energy for his nighttime escapades.
This rhyming tale about a vampire-turned-veggie is wonderfully light-hearted and humorous, with boldly coloured illustrations and a lead protagonist that puts us in mind of Count von Count from Sesame Street. A perfect story for encouraging greens-avoiding children to give peas a chance, too. Buy from Amazon
11. Emily Brown and the Thing by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton. £6.99 (paperback), Hodder Children’s Books
There’s a Thing under the bed that is keeping Emily Brown and her trusty bunny Stanley awake at night – but not for the reasons you might think. He’s thirsty, hungry and lost his cuddly, imploring the kind-hearted gal to help him find the comforts he needs to sleep.
This clever twist in the tale about monsters under the bed is brilliantly observed and illustrated, with Emily the sort of can-do heroine every child needs in their life. And after doning her see-in-the-dark goggles to navigate scary woods, whiny witches and whirling wastelands, Emily realises the answer is simple – the Thing is just scared and needs a little reassurance, like we all do sometimes. Available from Amazon
12. Pick a Pumpkin by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis. £6.99 (paperback), Walker
This Halloween companion to one of our favourite modern Christmas books is a joyful, atmospheric celebration of the ritual of visiting the pumpkin patch and carving your chosen squash into a scary lantern.
Patricia Toht’s rhyming text trips off the tongue and is lots of fun, while Jarvis succeed in giving that gorgeous autumn glow to the artwork, from the hazy leaf-turning days to the candlelit charm of Halloween night itself. An absolute treat. Buy from Amazon
13. Pretty by Canizales. £6.99 (paperback), Templar
Witch has a hot date with Troll but as she heads off to meet him for a picnic, the woodland creatures put doubts in her mind. How could anyone possible love her potato-shaped nose, pointy chin and crooked back? She uses her magic powers to make her body ‘perfect’ but alas, the results do not have the desired effect of wooing her man.
Brilliantly combining a positive feminist message about being true to yourself with a wicked twist at the end, this visually arresting new book by Columbian author-illustrator Canizales will have you cackling with laughter. Buy from Amazon
14. The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner. £12.99 (hardback), DK Children.
Certain members of the animal kingdom get an unfairly bad rap, not least the bat. But author and illustrator Charlotte Milner does a fine job of making a case for these unique flying mammals in this fact-packed, fascinating book.
Discover how they fly, communicate and sleep with the help of gorgeous illustrations and engaging anecdotes, to show your child that bats are not scary and also incredibly important for our environment. Buy from Amazon
15. Poppy and Sam’s Halloween Party by Sam Taplin and Simon Taylor-Kielty. £5.99 (board book), Usborne
The rebooted Farmyard Tales series gets a not-so-spooky twist when Poppy and Sam dress up for Halloween. But Rusty the dog has gone missing. Can your child help the preschoolers find the pup in time for the party?
With textured pages and interesting peep holes, this board book is perfect for engaging babies, who will enjoy spotting the bats, pumpkins and spiders in the autumnal landscape among the usual Apple Tree Farm animals (and the classic little yellow duck!). Buy from Amazon