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Diverse Reads for Every Season: Spooky Tales for Autumn Nights!

Photograph of Lisely Laboy

Lisely Laboy is the project manager at Diverse BookFinder. Lisely holds a master's degree in Information and Library Sciences from Florida State University and undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida in Sociology and Women’s Studies. She has 10 years of public library experience, including time as a programming librarian for children and teens.

Here at Diverse BookFinder, we love to encourage the use of diverse books all year round! Today we've got another great list of titles for you that are just perfect for celebrating the spooky season.

We know that the use of picture books that feature BIPOC characters allows BIPOC children to see themselves reflected on the page and that it allows non-BIPOC children to see the beautiful diversity of our world, and to build empathy for others.

These are important lessons that should be emphasized no matter the time of year. However, did you know that authors and researchers alike agree that reading age-appropriate scary stories can also have positive effects on childhood development?

Just last year, Capstone Publishing offered resources and a great info-graphic on all the important ways that scary books can be important for helping children build skills like: resilience, understanding, control, and confidence.

And New York Times bestselling author and screenwriter; Cavan Scott, offered BookTrust insights into why he writes thrilling and spooky books for children.

A scary story is the literary version of a rollercoaster. You strap yourself in and are sent on a thrilling ride that quickens your pulse. Your stomach lurches and your fingers tingle. Then when it’s over, nine-times-out-of-ten, you laugh. You’ve just pushed yourself to the edge of your comfort zone, all without being in actual danger.

Cavan Scott for BookTrust

So, without further ado, we encourage you to check out some of the spooky (and not-so-spooky) picture books we've listed below and fill your autumn nights with some diverse thrills and chills.

Not So Scary Monsters

Illustration by Amber Ren from Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste

These books offer a fun and not-so-spooky take on ghouls, goblins, and a whole array of monsters. Many of the creepy creatures featured in these stories are based on folklore from around the world.

The ghoul

2020

by Taghreed Najjar, Taghrīd ʻĀrif Najjār, Hassan Manasra and Hassan Manasrah

The villagers are afraid of the "Ghoul." For years, they've tiptoed around the village for fear of disturbing it. The monster doesn't look like them, and it is believed to eat humans. One day, the brave Hassan embarks on a dangerous mission to face the long-feared Ghoul. When Hassan finally meets the Ghoul living on top of the mountain, he discovers that the Ghoul is just as terrified of people as they are of him. Hassan and the Ghoul realize that they can still be friends, despite their differences

Folklore

Grobblechops

2019

by Elizabeth Laird and Jenny Lucander

"A timeless tale of monsters under the bed, based on a story by the thirteenth century poet Rumi. Amir is worried about the little monster lurking under the bed. What if it tries to eat him up?! And what if that monster has a dad and a mom too? As Amir’s dad tucks him in, Amir wonders if the monster might just become a friend instead... This classic bedtime fear is hilariously brought to life by award-winning author Elizabeth Laird and Finnish illustrator Jenny Luncander. A timeless tale of monsters under the bed, based on a story from Masnavi, one of the best-known and most influential works by the thirteenth century poet, philosopher and Sufi mystic Rumi." -- publisher

Any Child

El Cucuy Is Scared, Too!

2021

by Donna Barba Higuera and Juliana Perdomo

"A boy and his monster confront their mutual fears in this unlikely friendship story that’s rooted in Mexican folklore Ramón is a little boy who can’t sleep. He is nervous for his first day at a new school. And El Cucuy is the monster who lives in Ramón’s cactus pot. He can’t sleep, either. It turns out that El Cucuy is scared, too! This gentle, perceptive story explores the worries that can accompany moving to a new place and beginning a new journey—and reveals how comfort, bravery, and strength can be found through even the most unexpected of friendships." -- publisher

Any Child Folklore

Looking for a Jumbie

2021

by Tracey Baptiste and Amber Ren

"’m looking for a jumbie. I’m going to find a scary one. But Mama says jumbies exist only in stories. So Naya sets out on a nighttime adventure to find out for herself. No such thing, say the friends she makes along the way. But Naya is sure that jumbies are real. Some have big mouths. Or thick fur. Or glowing skin. Or sharp teeth. Kind of like her new friends . . . New York Times bestselling author Tracey Baptiste’s picture book debut is a storytime-ready tale full of friendly monsters from Caribbean folklore." -- publisher

Any Child Folklore

Looking for a Jumbie

2021

by Tracey Baptiste and Amber Ren

"New York Times bestselling author Tracey Baptiste's picture book debut takes readers on an unforgettable romp through a forest filled with creatures from Caribbean folklore. I’m looking for a jumbie. I’m going to find a scary one. But Mama says jumbies exist only in stories. So Naya sets out on a nighttime adventure to find out for herself. No such thing, say the friends she makes along the way. But Naya is sure that jumbies are real. Some have big mouths. Or thick fur. Or glowing skin. Or sharp teeth. Kind of like her new friends . . . New York Times bestselling author Tracey Baptiste’s picture book debut is a storytime-ready tale full of friendly monsters from Caribbean folklore." -- publisher

Folklore

Poesy the Monster Slayer

2020

by Cory Doctorow and Matt Rockefeller

"A sweetly scary picture book about a girl whose monster-catching activities delay her bedtime. A monster slayer needs no bedtime! Once her parents are off to bed, Poesy excitedly awaits the monsters that creep into her room. With the knowledge she’s gained from her trusty Monster Book, and a few of her favorite toys, Poesy easily fends off a werewolf, vampire, and much more. But not even Poesy's bubblegum perfume can defeat her sleep-deprived zombie parents! With charming text from acclaimed author Cory Doctorow and gorgeous art from Matt Rockefeller, Poesy the Monster Slayer is a supercute and empowering picture book that will delight any reader." -- publisher

Any Child

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Illustration by Bethanie Deeney Murguia from The Too-Scary Story

Fears of the dark and bedtime fears are all too common among children (and some adults too). These tales offer characters battling their nighttime fears with spunk and bravery.

Good Dream Dragon

2022

by Jacky Davis and Courtney Dawson

"Good Dream Dragon comes to the rescue in easing a child’s bedtime fears in this magical story featuring a nonbinary child.  When a young child is afraid to go to sleep, they call on the Good Dream Dragon to help lead the way. Together, the pair race past comets as they travel through the night galaxy, making their way to the magical world of Dreamland.  This soothing bedtime story celebrates imagination as a way to help alleviate a child’s bedtime jitters. It is a gentle reminder to children that comfort is always within reach.  " -- publisher

Any Child

Halloween

Illustrations by Amanda Sandland & Margaret Lawrence from When Pumpkins Fly by Margaret Lawrence

With Halloween just around the corner, we've selected some diverse picture books that will help you celebrate everyone's favorite spooky holiday with a new spin.

When pumpkins fly

2020

by Margaret Lawrence and Amanda Sandland

"In a remote Arctic community, kids carve and light their first jack-o-lantern. But what will the spirits do with the pumpkin once it’s left alone? The air is cold, the nights are long, and Halloween is just around the corner. This is the time of year when pumpkins fly! In the remote, fly-in community of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, the last cargo flight of October brings some strange orange guests for the children. Seeing a pumpkin for the first time, the local kids eagerly carve and light their first jack-o-lantern. But when everyone adjourns to the community hall for the Halloween dance, the pumpkin is left alone outside. The land around Sanikiluaq is home to many spirits who love to cause mischief, especially this time of year. But what would a land spirit do with a pumpkin? This adorable book gives young readers a window into how Halloween is celebrated in an Arctic Inuit community, incorporating contemporary celebrations and Inuit folklore." -- publisher

Beautiful Life

Samurai Scarecrow

2018

by Rubin Pingk

Yukio gets tired of his little sister, Kashi's, questioning and copying him, but on Halloween, when Samurai Scarecrow frightens him and demands candy, Yukio refuses to give up Kashi's.

Any Child

Pick A Pumpkin

2019

by Patricia Toht and Jarvis

"The creators of Pick a Pine Tree are back with a joyful, energetic celebration of a Halloween tradition. Pick a pumpkin from the patch. Tall and lean or short and fat. Vivid orange, ghostly white, or speckled green, might be just right. Pairing a wonderfully rhythmic read-aloud text with expressive retro illustrations, author Patricia Toht and illustrator Jarvis capture all the excitement and familial feeling of a favorite holiday tradition. Readers will be happy to follow along with each step, from picking out the perfect specimen at the pumpkin patch (be sure to stop for cider and toffee apples) to carting it home, scooping out the insides, carving a scary face, and finally lighting a candle inside — savoring the familiar ritual of transforming an ordinary pumpkin into a one-of-a-kind glowing jack-o’-lantern." -- publisher

Any Child

A Tangle of Brungles

2018

by Shobha Viswanath and Culpeo S. Fox

A coven of witches stirs up a spell using a quiver of cobras, a lounge of lizards, a mess of iguanas, and other animal ingredients. From publisher: "One of the things we wanted to do with A Tangle of Brungles was to portray witches in the manner they are represented in Indian folklore – the ‘dayan’ (or daayan) has feet that face the other way, for example. We also consciously avoided showing them sporting tall pointy hats or broomsticks. The head witch wears a forehead ornament that is commonly worn in India during special occasions. There are other subtle things – for example, cooking in a large pot out in the open is a practice often followed during Indian festivals that are of a celebratory nature, e.g. Pongal, the harvest festival. As for Brungle, we wanted to portray him as a handsome, dapper character whose casually slung scarf and dark sunglasses are reminiscent of Indian movie stars in posters."

Folklore

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