Children need to seen diversity in the literature! Be sure to include some multicultural and diverse Halloween books in your fall holiday reading. To help you, I've curated an inclusive list of Halloween picture books with diverse characters. Read them out loud while your kids dream of candy, munch on pumpkin seeds, and change their costume plans for the umpteenth time. Not all of these picture books are Halloween-specific; but all of them follow typical Halloween book themes such ghosts, monsters, witches or pumpkins.
Some of these books introduce children to traditions and stories from non-western cultures, but most are diverse Halloween picture books that feature children of color enjoying the holiday. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links. Affiliate links mean this blog earns a small commission from purchases. Books are chosen solely on merit.)
Books about Costumes and Trick or Treating
A Tiger Called Thomas by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Diana Cain Bluthenthal. This is one of my all time favorite Halloween books and I will keep my copy forever and ever! A lovely story of the new kid in the neighborhood who is too shy to meet his neighbors until he dons a tiger costume. When he discovers that his neighbors all know him despite the costume the result is heartwarming. (Note: The original 1963 edition does not feature an African-American protagonist.)
Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi is an excellent and unique addition to your Halloween story time! Kimin has a mysterious memory of seeing his grandfather with a scary face. One day he finds a box containing the face and Kimin realizes what he saw was actually a mask! He learns that his grandfather was a Korean mask dancer and Kimin decides to wear the mask as part of his Halloween costume. His unique costume brings the neighborhood kids together and they try a little Korean dancing of their own.
Halloween Monster by Catherine Stock. Halloween is coming and after Tommy is worried about monsters and other creatures he innocently hears about from his friend Billy. His understanding mother helps him through his anxiety and they come up with a costume idea together so Tommy can join his friends for trick or treating. The text here is straightforward and the resolution is easy, but the book is also friendly and well-written. Preschoolers will enjoy recognizing traditional fall activities like jumping in leaves and roasting pumpkin seeds and may even see themselves in Tommy as he checks for monsters under the bed and in his closet.
Sweets and Treats by Toni Trent Parker, photographs by Earl Anderson. This is a great book for toddlers and preschoolers with inviting photographs and lively rhymes about Halloween traditions. The series includes titles for other holidays, as well.
Books about Ghosts
These diverse Halloween books about ghosts will help children reimagine the scariness of ghosts! Only one of these titles has a specific Halloween theme but any of them are excellent choices for Halloween reading or any time during the year when children have an interest in, or a fear of, ghosts.
Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson. Leo is a ghost. He is looking forward to introducing himself to the new family moving into his house. The new family doesn't quite feel the same way, so Leo goes out into the world where he meets Jane, a young girl who loves imaginary play, and the two develop an authentic and charming friendship. Plus, author Mac Barnett's storytelling is so very, very clever. Robinson's illustrations are marvelous and offer the perfect amount of ghostly-ness.
Ghosts for Breakfast by Stanley Todd Terasaki, illustrated by Shelly Shinjo. A Troublesome Trio of neighbors informs Farmer Tanaka that there are ghosts out in his farm. The farmer takes his son out to investigate but it turns out the ghosts are actually daikon radishes! I loved the contrast between the fun-seeking father and his somewhat nervous son when they head out to solve the ghost mystery. A fun book that is different from the usual fare.
The Closet Ghosts by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Shiraaz Bhabha. Anu's family has moved and she now has ghosts in her closet! Since no one believes her she must call on the help of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. But a new friend at school helps Anu find a solution to the problem and overcome her fears. Although this is a story about ghosts, it is not scary.
The Bake Shop Ghost by Jacqueline Ogburn, illustrated by Marjorie A. Priceman. Cora Lee Merriweather now haunts the bake shop she once owned and where she made the absolute best cakes and pies. New owners abandon the shop, unable to stand up to Cora Lee's ghost. But when Annie Washington, she is determined not to give in and sets out to bake the one cake that will convince the ghost to allow her to be the new owner of the shop.
Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth. While the three main protagonists in this book are white, I am including it because the haunting ghost story about a woman who seems to live in two places at once and told by Stillwater the panda come from the Zen Buddhist tradition. The scenes of neighborhood trick-or-treating include children of color.
Books about Witches, Monsters and Other Creatures
Which Witch is Which by Pat Hutchins. A group of diverse children at a Halloween party speculate on which identical twin is "which witch." A wonderful choice for preschoolers, and even though the text is simple, it asks questions that encourage children to pay attention to the details of the story.
The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. The main protagonist of this marvelous story is a white boy, but he is accompanied by a diverse group of neighborhood kids, all of whom covet the delicious fruit on the local pomegranate tree located in the yard of a suspected witch. The lyrical, rhyming text is a real treat, as are the tricks both the witch and the kids play in order to get the fruit and have a joyful Halloween. (Note: Chronicle Books sent me a review copy.)
Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales. This wonderful bilingual poem is a little spooky and a little funny. The text, describing the fantastical journey of spooky creatures on their way to a haunted ball is mostly in English, but includes Spanish words that non-Spanish speakers are less likely to have heard. Children will have no trouble understanding, however! (Not to worry: a glossary is also included for us grown-ups.) A wonderful and unique multicultural Hallowee nbook to add to your holiday reading line-up.
Monster Trouble by Lane Fredrickson, illustrated by Michael Robertson. Winifred Schnitzel wants to get some sleep but she has a monster problem! She puts her creative skills to use and designs and builds a trap but it turns out the solution is quite simple: monsters don't like to be kissed.
We're Off to Find the Witch's House by Richard Kreib, illustrated by R.W. Alley. A diverse group of kids test their fears on Halloween night as they try to make it all the way to the witch's house. A great Halloween book for preschoolers.
Books about Pumpkins
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. With the focus on numbers and classroom calculations, I really love this book about a class that compares how many seeds are in each child's pumpkin. There's enough skip counting, addition and estimations to keep even the most dedicated little mathematician happy. Perfect for elementary grades.
Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming. I've always loved Fleming's signature torn paper collage illustrations and her rhythmic, spunky text. In Pumpkin Eye, children of color enjoy the festivities of Halloween. A great Halloween book for children of all ages, and especially preschoolers.
More fall and Halloween reading: