12 Gently Spooky Picture Books: A Read, Discuss, Do Book List

by Rebecca J. Gomez

Halloween is upon us, and that means many people are looking for something spooky to read as part of their festivities. But not everyone likes to be scared out of their skin, and even spooky picture books can sometimes be too much for sensitive little ones. So with those sensitive ones in mind, I’ve put together a list of gently spooky (or spooky-ish) books for you to share with your children this Halloween or any time of the year. I hope this list of gently spooky picture books inspires you to curl up with a kiddo or two and share just a hint of a scare! Be sure to extend the story time by talking about the book and doing an activity together...if you dare.


Ideas for things to discuss:


  • What are you afraid of?

  • Have you ever had to be brave in a scary situation?

  • What is your idea of a scary monster?

  • What are some ways we can learn to be brave?

  • What is your favorite scary story or movie?

  • Did you find the story scary, a little scary, or not at all scary?


Ideas for things do do:



And now, here are ten gently spooky (or not-so-spooky) picture books for some spine-tingling fun at Halloween or any time of the year!


The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen - Yeah, it’s got a bit of a creepy vibe, but what better way to encourage kiddos to face their fears?


Duckworth the Difficult Child by Michael Sussman, illustrated by Julia Sarda - I love the dark, dry humor of this one, even though the idea of getting swallowed by a snake is pretty terrifying. Don’t worry. Nobody dies.


The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. This rhyming, lyrical story has a magical eerie vibe that makes for a great read-aloud. 


Two Tough Trucks Get Lost by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, illustrated by Hilary Leung - There are some slightly scary moments in this book, which are enhanced beautifully by Hilary Leung’s spooky illustrations.



The Scariest Monster in the World by Lee Weatherly, illustrated by Algy Craig Hall (only a little spooky in the beginning, unless you find hiccups terrifying)


The Bake Shop Ghost by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman - This one’s a bit long, but it’s a ghost story that may appeal to the older readers or can be good for a family story time around the fireplace or read by flashlight. 



Ghost Cat by Kevin Atteberry - It’s got a gentle, ghostly vibe, but this heartwarming pet story is more sweet than spooky. 


Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown - A little more silly than scary, but if you thought your favorite snack food was stalking you, you'd be spooked too!



Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Alex Scheffler - Witches are spooky, right? Well, this one is more fun and friendly than spooky, but I couldn’t leave it off of this list because it is such a fun one to read aloud!


Alfred’s Book of Monsters by Sam Streed - The descriptions of the monsters in Alfred’s book are pretty creepy, but the story itself is anything but...until the end.


And for those kiddos that simply find monsters just a little too scary...


Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly - This one is especially fun for toddlers who are spooked about monsters at bedtime. Tell that scary monster to go away!


Good Night, Baddies by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Juli Kangas - Soothe your little one's worries by assuring them that the bad guys from spooky stories are sleeping when they are.

Do you have any favorite spooky picture books? Let us know in the comments!


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