Six frighteningly funny reads for Halloween
Published on: 17 October 2022
Laugh your way through the spooky season with these reading recommendations from Reece Carter, author of The Girl, the Ghost and the Lost Name.
There’s no doubt about it: Halloween books are just plain fun. They offer spooks and scares, thrills and chills, and quite often a good dose of humour too. A funny story at Halloween time is like a mug of hot chocolate or a big furry blanket on a dark and chilly autumn night: it wards off the cold and warms the belly. Here are some of my favourites:
Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Illustration: André Amstutz
This needs no introduction, and most parents will recognise this title from their own childhoods, but it’s impossible to write a list of funny Halloween stories without including this classic picture book. First published in 1980 and written in rhyme, it follows a big skeleton, a small skeleton and a dog skeleton as they head into the night, on a mission to frighten people. Mishaps ensue… as they should!
Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago
Illustration: Flavia Z. Drago
This is a much more recent, but no less essential, addition to my Halloween bookshelf. With charming, Day of the Dead-style illustrations, this colourful and heart-warming tale is as cute as they come (I mean, it’s about a ghost who loves to play the violin! What more would you want?) and apart from being funny, is a lovely story about making friends.
Both Funnybones and Gustavo, the Shy Ghost, are perfect for children aged three to six.
My Head Teacher is a Vampire Rat by Pamela Butchart and illustrated by Thomas Flintham
Illustration: Thomas Flintham
This is for slightly older (and possibly more independent) readers, and it is nothing short of hysterical. When Izzy and her friends get a strange new headmaster who keeps his office dark and bans garlic from the school, they come to the only logical conclusion: that he is a vampire rat. Together, they develop a foolproof plan to expose his secret.
The plan involves garlic muffins and turning him to dust in the sunlight. Enough said.
Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson
This is the first title in a laugh-out-loud illustrated series about a young vampire and her friends. In it, they have to recover Squashy, Amelia’s pet pumpkin, from the spoiled prince who steals him. There is so much to love about this book, but it’s the characters that will win your heart: for example, a ghost named Wooo, a young grim reaper in training, and a rare yeti named Florence Spudwick who hates being called a beast and can only talk in ALL CAPS.
My Head Teacher is a Vampire Rat and Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball will be loved by all readers but are particularly suited to those between the ages of seven and nine.
Unreal, Unbelievable, and Uncanny, all by Paul Jennings
All three are collections of short stories. Like Funnybones, they’ve been favourites of mine since I was a kid myself. Many of the stories were adapted for the Australian television series Round the Twist, which probably explains my continued love for spooky lighthouses.
Offering up tales like ‘Skeleton on the Dunny’, ‘Wunderpants’ and ‘A Good Tip for Ghosts’ these books are perfect for middle-grade readers who enjoy the truly bizarre.
Dead Good Detectives by Jenny McLachlan and illustrated by Chloe Dominique
Illustration: Chloe Dominique
This is a recent read and an instant new favourite. We’re firmly in middle-grade territory now, and this book is perfect for readers over the age of nine.
In Dead Good Detectives, Sid’s world changes when she realises that not only can she see ghosts, but she’s accidentally let one escape from the mausoleum in the cemetery where she likes to play with her best (and only) friend Zen. The ghost, a pirate by the name of Bones, needs help finding his treasure, and of course, our hero obliges. Expect swashbuckling fun and lots of belly laughs. I can’t wait for the sequel.
That brings me to the end of my list! However, the spooky season is still well and truly upon us, and so that means my to-be-read pile is a teetering stack of ghosts and ghouls, skeletons and spectres. Up next is Greta and the Ghost Hunters by Sam Copeland and illustrated by Sarah Horne. It promises plenty of ghosts and a bucketful of laughs – just my thing.