There are three types of people in this world. Those who don’t celebrate Halloween, those who see it as a fun day for kids, and those like me, who see Morticia Addams as their spirit animal.
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It’s my absolute favorite time of the year. And while for me, that means wearing an orange tank top and drinking cold pumpkin chai lattes because I live on the surface of the sun, (while snuggling in my skull blankey with the AC turned up,) it’s still nearly Fall.
Which means, it’s my favorite time of year to read. In preparation for our spooky fun day, ( a term my daughter coined to describe the sort of ‘spooky fun’ we have, and not the ultra scary gore-filled occult stuff we sometimes see at stores) we pull out all of our favorite Fall books and read them, to get us into the right frame of mind.
I understand there are varying ideas about Halloween in the church, and I get that. If it’s not right for your family, Fall and Thanksgiving are still a great time to snuggle up together and read and check in with each other in preparation for the crazy Christmas season.
There is baking to be done and boots to be worn!
But for me, I think my absolute love of Halloween comes from my Dad. My earliest memories of him are carving pumpkins, and jump scares.
But he also loved books. And one thing I’ve always held onto was his love of reading. My mom was a reader too, and I often snuck into their bedroom after my bedtime to see them each reading their own books in the warm lamplight, before they lovingly hauled me back to my own bed for the eight millionth time.
I grew up listening to Washington Irving’s The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow (and subsequently watching the movie version with Jeff Goldblum (does anyone remember that?) and Rip Van Winkle, followed by watching Disney’s Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
I would curl up in my Mamas lap and she would sing me Five Little Pumpkins. The smell of mulled wine on the stove, before watching, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.
As a child with anxiety, there was something healing about being just a little scared, and finding safety in my parents jovial holiday laps. Calm in the dark.
Once a year in our culture, we are confronted with mortality and what it means. And as a child, this fascinated me.
Buy my Dad? I remember, he laughed at Halloween. And I learned that I could too.
Fear doesn’t have to devour us. Laughter takes its power away.
The beautiful thing about this Christian life, is that we know in Christ, death itself has been overcome.
And we let our jackolantern lights shine for another reason. Because God has saved us. It is a beacon to others who are suffering and hurting. A beacon to those whose leaves are falling away, who can’t see past the upcoming winter.
As Christians we know life will bloom again.
So we can laugh and smile with joy in the face of death, because it holds no power over us.
And that’s how I see Halloween and Fall. An exploration of what scares and haunts the world, but no longer holds any sway over our lives.
We light our Jackolanterns to show the world the light of Jesus. We dress up as things we love and share joy with our neighbors. Or we dress up as things that scares us, to show we aren’t ruled by fear.
And we spend time together.
When every other day of the year, I’m a little weird, a little bit macabre and possibly morbid, with brightly colored hair standing out; during Halloween, Morticia Addams and I, we have our day in the sun–er moon.
We are just like everyone else, or maybe everyone else is just like us. Just for a night.
A practice in being unafraid. A practice in exploring grief from a far.
A night when death truly has lost its sting.
Things don’t go bump in the night when we have Jesus.
Maybe Fall is the giant wake nature holds before winter, to celebrate all the life that came the year before.
Because nothing is forever. And everything has a season. And Halloween is a practice in letting go of the passing season. Jovially celebrating what was, before the quiet of winter sets in.
So to get ourselves ready, my family and I have special books we read. We carefully unpack them from their bin each fall and marvel at their newness and nostalgia. We keep them in a special basket near our bookshelf so they are easy to find, and we read.
I’d love to share that list with you. Because what’s better than mulled wine (or hot cider for the kids) and some Gothic Literature on a cold foggy night.
Here are 20 books we love, to help usher in some spooky fun during fall.
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1. The Pumpkin Gospel
This has been one of our families favorite books since our first kiddo was born eight years ago. As a new Christian mama, I struggled with how to celebrate Halloween. A lot of new moms around me in the church weren’t celebrating, and I could see their view point. But I also saw God using the holiday in my own life. After a lot of prayer, someone in our church recommended this book to me. And this simple board books gave my feelings words. Now every time we carve a pumpkin the we all marvel at how God takes our “mushy gushies out,” and sets his light in us. A perfect fall allegory for the gospel.
2. My Happy Pumpkin
This super cute book is another gospel allegory.
3. Room in the Broom
This popular book has its own netflix adaptation. We love it. There is always room for another in our hearts and homes. And that kindness just might save us in the end (you know, from Dragons.).
4. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
This one needs no introduction. The television special is a classic, but we love curling up with the book.
5. It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse!
This is my favorite to read with my son. Dog’s pumpkin goes, “Boo!” and we laugh and laugh! Its short, and sweet, and now that he is in Kinder, he is practicing reading it on his own.
6. The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree
This is a favorite from my own childhood. Just a little bit scary, but not too much. I love how the siblings all work together. Fall nostalgia at its finest.
7. The Berenstain Bears In The Dark
Oh no! We overdid it on (slightly) spooky stories! Or the neighbor went all out and their house is super scary! This book is a great way to deal with fear of the dark. Another nostalgia title from my own childhood, and it’s held up well over the years.
8. Penguin and Pumpkin
We discovered Penguin books when Kohls had them. Now we are all fans. Penguin travels to experience the joys of fall, and its super sweet.
9. P is for Pumpkin
A sweet Fall themed alphabet book. Simple, festive, and full of scripture.
10. Jane Eyre
Grown ups! Read this book. It’s my absolute favorite. A Gothic Romance with a ghostly presence in the attic. But, it’s also a proto-feminist book, love story, and the story of a young woman’s own spiritual growth. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a long read, but sets the perfect mood for October.
11. Little Miss Bronte: Jane Eyre
For kids! It’s just a little counting primer, and there is nothing spooky, but it’s a must have for Bronte fans (which you now are after reading #10)
This is an absolute classic. It’s short. You should read it.
13. Five Little Pumpkins
A little rhyme my Mama has been singing me since I was little. Now my own kids love it.
14. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
This is a tough read, I wont lie, but it’s a classic story. The language is beautiful and little archaic. But I always love the source material, and this is the quintessential American ghost story.
15. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Yes. I know. This isn’t a book. There isn’t a great kids retelling that I’ve found. But this is a great adaptation none the less. I grew up watching this. Its classic old disney. Which means sometimes… it’s weird. But our kids need a little weird now and then.
16. Wuthering Heights.
I do not like this book. I won’t lie. But its a great fall read. Ghosts, spirits, moors, and manors. It has it all. Unfortunately, I find Catherine and Heathcliff’s romance so horrifyingly toxic I spend the whole novel wanting to yell, “Get over yourselves!” But it does have some great quotes, it’s moody, and I think I’m in the minority opinion about ol’ Cate and Heath, so give it a try!
17. Wuthering Heights: A Weather Primer
18. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Yes, it’s the best Halloween movie ever. But did you know that before it was a film, it was a poem? Written in iambic pentameter, its old fashioned rhyming fun. I absolutely love it. We are all unique, and have our own gifts. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison, and try to be other people, but God made us as individual with our own gifts. Follow Jack as he learns to embrace who he is.
19. A Christmas Carol
I feel this is the perfect bridge between holiday seasons. I know, I know, Thanksgiving. I haven’t forgotten, but this short story covers it all. A ghost story, a story of charity, thankfulness and generosity, CHRISTMAS. It has it all. All of my favorite things, wrapped in a bow, by the Glorious Charles Dickens. Read the unabridged version. It’s great. My kids love it. Its a short story, so its not terribly long, for Victorian Lit. We spread it over a few nights, because there is a lot of new vocabulary. Then watch all of the movies!
20. A Christmas Carol (Illustrated)
There are many illustrated and abridged versions, and they are great for getting younger kids involved who have trouble listening. But really, I often read aloud the harder text while they color. It seeps in. And we are all about spooky literary seepage in our house.
I love the illustrations in this one though.
And that’s it! Our twenty favorite Halloween books. Some for grown ups, some for kiddos, some for both. Some are specifically faith based and Christian, and some are just great stories (I feel like I’m waxing a bit Doctor Suess-y!). So grab a few, snuggle up, and read! It’s the best time of year to do it.
And let me know in the comments if you have any books you love that aren’t on this list! Or if one of your favorites made it.