The witching hour is creeping closer which means three things: trick-or-treating for frighteningly delicious delights, dressing up as our favourite scary characters and cosying up with spine-chilling books. Here are our favourite spooky tales for all ages that are perfect for the dark winter nights. Caution: may contain monsters, witches and ghouls.
FOR READERS 0-5
Thomas and Friends: Who’s Afraid of the Dark?: A story about being brave, published by Egmont
When Gordon gets asked to pull the night train, he’s too embarrassed to admit he’s afraid of the dark! Can Thomas help his friend overcome his fear and get the job done?
The Really Useful Stories series is designed to support toddler development and explore key preschool themes including sharing, fear of the dark, making friends and teamwork. Each book includes suggestions for grown-ups about ways of using the story to help their child talk about new experiences.
Little Faces: Happy Halloween! by Matthew Morgan, illustrated by Pintachan, published by Words and Pictures
Here’s the perfect, non-scary introduction to Halloween for little hands. A cheeky spider is creeping up on Ghost, Witch, Skeleton and Pumpkin. How will each of them react when the spider says BOO? Small children love to read books featuring faces and about animals. This new book in the popular Little Faces series combines the two concepts brilliantly with a Venetian window device that allows the reader to explore emotions and have fun imitating different actions.
Matthew Morgan is a children’s author and editor who lives in London with his wife, three children and dog, Dotty. He loves making books that are fun, and that open a child’s imagination to the world around them.
Pintachan is an illustrator and designer who lives in the north of Spain. He is a confessed liquorice lover, enthusiast of old Sci-Fi movies and collector of children’s illustrated books.
I Want to Be In A Scary Story, by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien published by Walker Books
From the team behind the acclaimed Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise comes a very scary read-aloud story … or is it?
Monster wants to be in a scary story – but is he brave enough? Scary stories have creepy witches and creaky stairs and dark hallways and spooky shadows… Oh my goodness me! That is very scary. Maybe a funny story would be better after all? Brilliantly interactive, children will delight in the wickedly funny turns-of-the-page, see themselves in the goofy, unconventional monster, and revel in the bold, hilarious illustrations of celebrated graphic artist, Jean Jullien.
Five Little Pumpkins, illustrated by Ben Mantle, published by HarperCollins
Roll into Halloween with this wickedly funny rhyming book!
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, “My, it’s getting late!”
The second one said, “There are witches in the air!”
The third one said, “Good folk, beware!”
Five little pumpkins are sitting quietly on a gate until… night falls and they are joined by a cast of creepy characters – witches, spiders, bats, frogs and ghosts – all determined to cause plenty of Halloween mischief. What a terrific treat!
That’s not my witch…published by Usborne
There are five friendly witches to meet in this Halloween addition to the much-loved That’s not my… series. Babies and toddlers will love turning the pages and touching the textured patches as they try to find their witch. The bright pictures and textured patches to stroke are designed to help develop sensory and language awareness.
FOR READERS 5-8
First Prize for the Worst Witch, by Jill Murphy, published by Puffin
Accident-prone Mildred Hubble is the Worst Witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy. She’s always getting her spells wrong and landing herself in trouble. But Mildred is in the last term of Fourth Year and determined to prove that she’s not as useless as everyone thinks – could it be First Prize for the worst witch after all?
Mildred Hubble is the original Worst Witch. Her adventures began in 1974 and have been in print ever since. Hugely successful, in 2016 Mildred’s escapades with best friends Maud and Enid, were adapted for TV in 2017 to much acclaim and followed by a second series in 2018, with a third series to come in 2019.
Perfectly Peculiar Plants, by Chris Thorogood, illustrated by Catell Ronca, published by Words and Pictures
A vibrant, close-up exploration of plants, focusing on the extraordinary and unexpected. Each page or spread focuses on a different plant, from the tiny bee orchid to the mighty strangler fig. Looking at plants from across the globe, specimens featured include carnivorous and poisonous species, plants that provide us with food and materials, those that have a special symbiotic relationship with animals or other plants, as well as especially rare or record breaking species. Bursting with colour, there is something new and unexpected to discover on every page.
Dr Chris Thorogood is a plant hunter and botanist who has been fascinated by plants for a long as he can remember, having spent much of his childhood growing bizarre and unusual plants including carnivores and parasites. He is now Head of Science & Public Engagement at Oxford University Botanic Garden.
Born in Basel, Switzerland, Catell Ronca now lives and works in Lucerne. A graduate from the Royal College of Art in London, Catell works for a variety of international clients in publishing, editorial and advertising.
The Usborne Little Children’s Halloween Activity Book, published by Usborne
A spooktacular activity book packed with Halloween-themed activities, including puzzles, things to spot, drawing, doodling and colouring. Little children can use the stickers to create creepy Halloween monsters, learn how to draw a witch and wizard, match vampires with their shadows and much more. Puzzle answers are at the back of the book.
How to Make Friends with a Ghost, by Rebecca Green, published by Andersen Press
What do you do when you meet a ghost? If you follow the essential tips in this book, you’ll learn how a ghost can be the best friend you’ll find for the rest of your life and beyond
Download our activity pack to find out how you can make friends with ghosts
Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief, by Laura Ellen Anderson, published by Egmont
A brand new title in the bestselling gorgeously gothic and wickedly funny Amelia Fang series.
Amelia and her friends are taking part in a competition to visit Pumpkin Paradise Park – the most bloodcurdingly brilliant theme park ever! All they have to do is sell as many cookies as possible.
But the creatures of Nocturnia have begun to act very strangely . . . No one can seem to remember anything – including their own names or even Amelia’s big birthnight party!
Where have everyone’s memories gone? And how can Amelia save them when they have all forgotten who she is?
FOR READERS 8-12
Scared to Death , by Anthony Horowitz , published by Walker Books
This chilling collection of ten nightmarish and fiendishly funny short stories is a perfect read for fearless children. From a train journey straight to hell, out of control robots with a murderous streak and even a television show where death is the penalty – these terrifying tales display the dazzling wit and wicked humour of master storyteller Anthony Horowitz, and are guaranteed to make your blood curdle and your spine tingle.
Who Are You Calling Weird, by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Paul Daviz, published by Words and Pictures
A bold and stylish celebration of weird but wonderful animals. From the green fur of a three-toed sloth, to the pink and wigglyappendage of the star-nosed mole, there’s something new to marvel at on every page!
Did you know that it was thought if the strange looking aye-aye pointed its long finger at you, you were ‘marked for death’? This meant that aye-ayes were often killed for superstitious reasons, but its spidery finger is actually used to find grubs in trees!
This visually compelling book celebrates the weird but wonderful creatures that are hidden away in Earth’s forests, caves, and oceans. These animals might look or behave in peculiar ways but, as the reader will soon find out, every oddity serves a purpose. As well as finding out about each animal’s behaviour, diet, and habitat, readers will also discover folk beliefs and interesting anecdotes about each creature.
Mary and Frankenstein, by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Julia Sarda, published by Andersen Press
One dark and stormy night, Mary huddles around the fire telling well-known ghost stories. But Mary knows she can imagine better than any of them! After learning about electricity, she has a nightmare that inspires the birth of one of the greatest horror stories of all time: Frankenstein…
Celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein with the inspiring story of Mary Shelley, brought to life with stunning illustrations.
A Place Called Perfect, by Helena Duggan, published by Usborne
Who wants to live in a town where everyone has to wear glasses to stop them going blind? And who wants to be neat and tidy and perfectly behaved all the time? But Violet quickly discovers there’s something weird going on – she keeps hearing noises in the night, her mum is acting strange and her dad has disappeared.
When she meets Boy she realises that her dad is not the only person to have been stolen away…and that the mysterious Watchers are guarding a perfectly creepy secret!
The Trouble with Perfect, by Helena Duggan, published by Usborne
Having uncovered the secrets that lay behind the spookily pristine town of Perfect, Violet and the townsfolk are enjoying their new freedom from the maniacal rule of the evil Archer twins. But have they really seen the last of Edward Archer? Why is Boy acting strangely? And who is masterminding a scary zombie army? Another quirky, creepy and unforgettable adventure, perfect for fans of Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton.
Download the activity sheet and make your own specs
FOR READERS 12+
The Price Guide to the Occult, by Leslye Walton published by Walker Books
From the author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender comes a haunting tale of magic and murder.
When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Instead, guilt and fear led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona invoked the privileges of a witch; she cursed them. But such a spell always comes with a terrible price, and in punishing the island’s residents, Rona also bound her family ever tighter to them.
Fast-forward to the present day and all Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. And she has reason to hope that she may have escaped the thorny side-effects of the family matriach’s curse. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother – seems capable of performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice.
A storm is coming. It’s coming for Nor.
*Trigger warning: This book does contain self-harm related content, with relation to witchcraft
The Lost Witch, by Emily Thomas, published by Andersen Press
Bea has started to hear and see things that no one else can – creatures, voices, visions. Then strangers visit Bea and tell her she is different: she has the rare powers of a witch. They warn her she is being hunted. Her parents think she is hallucinating and needs help. All Bea wants to do is get on with her life, and to get closer to Lars, the mysterious young man she has met at the skate park. But her life is in danger, and she must break free. The question is – who can she trust?
Carnegie Medal-winner Melvin Burgess returns with a powerful, thrilling fantasy for young adults about magic, myth and following your instincts.
How to Hang A Witch, by Adriana Mathers published by Walker Books
After Sam’s father is hospitalised, she has to move from New York to Salem with her stepmother, Vivian. Unfortunately, Sam is related to Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, and to say she feels unwelcome in Salem is an understatement… She is particularly unnerved by The Descendants, a mysterious and tight-knit group of girls related to those persecuted in the Trials. At the same time, she must deal with Elijah, the handsome but angry ghost who has appeared in her house, and her new neighbour Jaxon only complicates things further.
When a centuries-old curse is rekindled, Sam finds herself at the centre of it. Can she stop history repeating itself?