The 6 Best Not-So-Scary Halloween Books From Your Childhood, Plus 3 Modern Ones To Read Now

LONDON - OCTOBER 31: A child enjoys traditional candle-lit Halloween pumpkins on October 31, 2007 in London. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Source: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Halloween is the perfect time for scary stories and horror movies, but if you're not into the chills, October 31 is still a great time to celebrate. And there are plenty of Halloween-centric stories out there that don't leave you sleeping with the lights on. Think: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown rather than Nightmare on Elm Street.

As anyone who goes to her costume party as a Freudian Slip, a Cereal Killer, or Jackie-O-Lantern knows, Halloween can be even more about the treats than about the tricks. So, when it comes to Halloween reading, the point doesn't have to be terrifying yourself through Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (though, I wouldn't argue against it). Witches, pumpkins, and ghosts have fun stories, too.

Especially when we were younger, our parents would read aloud these cute and fun Halloween stories, probably do we didn't bother them all night with nightmares. And I still remember many of these books just as well as the ones that terrified me. As as a witch-crazy little kid, there were still stories that could speak to me where witches weren't the evil ones, they just liked to cause a little mischief. These six stories in particular fit the bill perfectly.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

This little old lady was a badass. Not only is she not afraid of the shoes that go "clomp, clomp," the pants that go "wiggle, wiggle," the shirt that goes, "shake, shake," the gloves that go "clap, clap," or the hat that goes "nod, nod," on her way home in the dark, she invites them all over into her backyard to make a scarecrow so they can be happy scaring things. That's a win-win.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Like Glinda, this witch is one of the good ones. When a gust of wind blows her hat, bow, and want from her broom, generous animals pick them up for her. But they want something in return — a ride on her broomstick. When there's no more room on the broom, it snaps under the weight, just when a hungry dragon is in the area. But now, the witch has pals, and they work together to fight him off. Frankly, the whole thing is adorable.

The Pumpkinville Mystery by Bruce B. Cole, illustrated by James Warhola

The Pumpkinville Mystery was one of my absolute favorites when I was a kid. And don't be tricked by the creepy man on the cover — he's the good guy in this tale. He's basically the Occupy Wall Street contingent of a land called Turkeyville, doling out pumpkin seeds to the townspeople who have been under the thumb of the corrupt, rich councilman. They start a new town called Pumpkinville, where they make all sorts of delicious treats like pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, and probably pumpkin spice lattes, too, if they had been invented yet.

But the greedy councilman won't stand for this, and he heads to Pumpkinville to get some revenge smashing pumpkins like the cool teenagers in '80s movies. To scare him off, the tradition begins of carving scary faces into the pumpkins, and voila! Jack o' lanterns!

The Pale Green Pants (aka What Was I Scared Of?)  by Dr. Seuss

It can't be said enough: Dr. Seuss is an absolute master. In very few words, Seuss tells the "ghost story" of "pale green pants with no one inside them." These pants scare the heck out of our protagonist, and he takes bicycle, boat, and any other means of transportation to escape him. But in the end, we learn that the pale green pants are just as afraid of him as he is of them

Yet again, Seuss manages to teach children (and adults!) about compassion, and learning to say "Hi" to people (and yes, ghost pants) that are different from you, to get to know them rather than being afraid. 

The Witches Four by Marc Brown

Oh how I wanted to be the fifth witch of this little clan in Witches Four. They're best pals, and they all go out creating mischief together, as witches are wont to do. They brush their teeth with spider paste and eat batwing sandwiches.

Basically, they were the green-faced The Craft girls, without the whole turning-on-each-other thing.

Little Witch's Big Night by Deborah Hautzig, illustrated by Marc Brown

I'm pretty sure I read every single Little Witch story when I was grown up. But Little Witch's Big Night will hold a special place in my heart because it kicked off the whole series. Little Witch is being punished on Halloween night because she made her bed and cleaned up her room, and as we all know, witches aren't proper like that.

But it doesn't end up being as bad as she thought — a feeling many of us have when we stay home to watch scary movies on Halloween. Loads of trick-or-treaters come to her house dressed as astronauts, devils, and pirates, and she makes friends by giving them broomstick rides, because she's a real, live witch.

If You Don't Like Being Too Scared, But Love Halloween, Try Reading...

1. Conversion by Katherine Howe

OK, so full disclosure: Conversion is pretty chilling, but not because it relies on cheap thrills. Instead, all of you hooked on the Salem Witch Trials will see just how much it can still resonate today.

2. Rooms by Lauren Oliver

This isn't your ordinary ghost story. Yes, Rooms is technically about a haunted house, perfect Halloween material, but it has more to say about family and memory than it does about poltergeists.

3. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya's new BFF is a ghost, but when you don't have many friends you can't be picky. Brosgol's graphic novel is a little spooky, but it's also sincere and heartfelt.


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