Friday, October 28, 2022

Whether your children and teens celebrate the Halloween season with monster movies and ghost stories or cozy costumes and pumpkin spice, this list of the Iowa Reading Research Center’s fall book recommendations from our staff is sure to have something for everyone! This list includes a mix of cute and creepy holiday reads that are appropriate for readers ranging in age from 2–14+.

Sean Thompson holding up a book.

Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell

Ages 2+

Recommended by Sean Thompson, Communications Specialist

A girl and her parents go to the farm to pick apples and pumpkins, meeting the farmer and his animals during their visit. Later, the family shares their haul from the farm with the neighborhood on Halloween.

“The story is sure to get kids excited to take part in fall activities,” Thompson says. “There is a good mix of words that children will know and some they can learn, too. I especially like the descriptive writing using adjectives like ‘fat’ and ‘shiny.’ The plot all ties together from beginning to end, providing early exposure to the through plotline of a fictional narrative.”

Excuse Me… Are You a Witch? by Emily Horn

Ages 3+

Recommended by Meg Mechelke, Lead Student Writer

In this clever Halloween story, Herbert the cat goes on an adventure to find a witch to call his own. On the way he meets a cast of fun, quirky characters, including librarians, janitors, and more!

“My mom used to read this book to my brother and I every Halloween,” Mechelke says. “It’s a fun, seasonal story for kids who enjoy the holiday but don’t like to be scared. Also, the illustrations are adorable!”

Ben Walizer holding up two books.

The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat by Stan & Jan Berenstain

Ages 3+

Recommended by Ben Walizer, Interim Director of Operations and Project Management

Brother and Sister Bear are eager to trick or treat on Halloween Night. However, after one of their friends decides to play a mean trick on scary Miz McGrizz, the cubs learn that appearances are not always all that they seem to be.

“This book is just creepy enough for new young readers that it won’t give them nightmares when you are done,” says Walizer. “Berenstain Bear books always wrap up with a moral and this one isn’t any different. All around a great story with quality illustrations and a good message.”

The Littlest Pumpkin by R.A. Herman

Ages 4+

Recommended by Meg Mechelke, Lead Student Writer

Every Halloween, groups of children dash through the pumpkin patch, searching for the perfect prize to take home. But what happens to the pumpkins that get left behind? This sweet seasonal story tells the tale of the Littlest Pumpkin, who’s Halloween dreams come true in an unexpected way, thanks to the efforts of a troupe of tiny field mice.

“This was my favorite Halloween picture book as a kid,” Mechelke says. “The illustrations are beautiful, and I loved the gentle story and its charming ending.”

Kate Will holding up a book.

Ghosts! Ghostly Tales from Folklore by Alvin Schwartz and Victoria Chess

Ages 7+

Recommended by Kate Will, Program Coordinator

From Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark author Alvin Schwartz, this book is a beginner-friendly read that your early readers are sure to love. The stories are just eerie enough to be seasonal, but many are also silly and adorably illustrated, making them accessible to all kinds of readers!

“The most memorable story for me is a poem about ghosts eating buttered toast,” Will says. “As a kid, I loved this book because it came with a cassette that narrated all the stories and had spooky sound effects.”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Ages 7+

Recommended by Ben Walizer, Interim Director of Operations and Project Management

Join Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe as they enter a world of pure imagination! When Charlie finds one of five rare Golden Tickets, he earns the chance to take a tour of the famous Willy Wonka’s mysterious candy factory. What he finds inside will change his life and the lives of the other winners forever!

“This book is a personal favorite because of the colorful adventures that Mr. Wonka takes the kids on throughout his candy factory.” Walizer says. “You never know what room is next, or what will happen to the next kid. It’s a great story about how Charlie and his struggling family are able to ‘win’ and move out of their shack of a home into the factory forever.”

Cara Sullivan holding up a book.

Werewolves Don’t Go to Summer Camp and Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots by Debbie Dadey and Martha Thornton Jones

Ages 8+

Recommended by Cara Sullivan, Student Graphic Storyteller

These two installments of the hugely popular Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series are the perfect Halloween read for kids who want a good dose of fun with their thrills and chills.

Mr. Jenkins, the new director of Camp Lone Wolf, is a nice enough man… except for his hairy arms, his obsession with wolves, and his habit of eating meat almost raw! When the kids of Camp Lone Wolf hear the legend of a werewolf that wanders the campgrounds at night, they begin to wonder if there is more to Mr. Jenkins than meets the eye.

When the third-grade students of Bailey Elementary cause such a ruckus that all their teachers quit, they meet their match in Mrs. Jeepers, a strange woman from the Transylvanian Alps. Could Mrs. Jeepers be more than she seems? Or is she just what the Baily School kids need?

“My absolute favorite books to check out from my elementary school library were the Bailey School Kids books,” Sullivan says. “My favorites were the ones where the mythical being was kind of spooky, like a vampire, werewolf, witch, or ghost. I've always had such a fear of/fascination with mythical beings like these, and these books were a way for me to read about them that wasn't too scary.”

Meg Mechelke holding up a book.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Ages 8+

Recommended by Meg Mechelke, Lead Student Writer

In this creepy dark fantasy novella, Coraline Jones discovers a secret passageway in her new family home. When she travels through, she finds herself in a strange, ominous world that is eerily similar to her own. However, nothing in this mirror world is quite as it seems, and Coraline must use her cleverness and her bravery to save the day and find a way home.

“This was one of the first truly scary books I read as a kid, and I could not get enough of it,” Mechelke says. “If your child or adolescent is fascinated by the strange and the macabre, then this is the book for them!”

Taylor Miller holding up a book.

The Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine

Ages 8+

Recommended by Taylor Miller, Online Learning Specialist

When Carly Beth purchases a horrifyingly lifelike Halloween mask, she knows she is going to have the best costume ever! However, chaos ensues when Carly Beth finds that there is a catch to this strange mask… she can’t take it off!

“I was a huge fan of the Goosebumps series as a kid,” Miller says. “In particular, I remember enjoying Welcome to Dead House, the first one, a classic, and The Haunted Mask. I think I enjoyed these books so much since they were the first spooky stories I was allowed to read!”

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Ages 9+

Recommended by Natalie Schloss, Student Assistive Technology Coordinator

Cassidy Blake can see ghosts! In fact, her best friend Jacob just happens to be one. When Cassidy and her parents–an inept team of ghost hunters–head to Scotland to film a new TV show, Cassidy meets Lara, another girl who can see the dead. Together, the two of them must use their powers to protect the city from an ominous new presence.

“This is a fun story full of adventures and unlikely friendships,” Schloss says. “I love that it has the perfect amount of spookiness without being too scary.”

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Ages 14+

Recommended by Meg Mechelke, Lead Student Writer

Sisters Constance and Merricat Blackwood have a secret, and when their cousin, Charles, arrives for a visit to their crumbling, isolated home, that secret comes bubbling up to the surface. This unsettling gothic novel from author Shirley Jackson is a classic slow burn horror story filled with twists and turns on every page.

“I read this book in one sitting,” Mechelke says. “The unreliable characters and convoluted story of family secrets made this book impossible to put down.”

Natalie Schloss holding up a book.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Ages 14+

Recommended by Natalie Schloss, Student Assistive Technology Coordinator

Since the death of their parents, seventeen-year-old Ryn and her siblings have taken up careers as gravediggers in a small, isolated village. The problem? Their village is cursed. Risen corpses, known as “bone houses” plague the village and its residents, and it’s up to Ryn to stop them.

“This is a great book with a unique twist on zombies, mysterious forests, and ancient curses,” Schloss says. “I love the touch of folklore and suspenseful adventure!”

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Ages 14+

Recommended by Natalie Schloss, Student Assistive Technology Coordinator

The year is 1926, and Evie O’Neill is living it up in New York City. The only problem is that Evie has a secret: a supernatural gift that she has kept hidden for years. However, when the police find a murdered girl marked with a strange symbol, Evie knows that she must use her powers to help catch the killer.

“I love this series for its spooky atmosphere, complex storyline, and lovable cast of characters,” Schloss says. “It has real historical elements with supernatural twists that make every page exciting!”