The best illustrated Halloween picture books

Jacqueline Rogers Author Of Goblin Moon
By Jacqueline Rogers

Who am I?

I grew up next to a cemetery, and being an avid young artist, I loved to draw all kinds of monsters and spooky themes. Halloween books are a perfect way to express my creepy…but not too creepy side. When I look at Halloween picture books, I'm immediately focused on the pictures, long before I read the story. What medium did the artist use? How do they depict night scenes? Are they realistic or stylized? How interesting are their characters? Halloween picture books are a perfect way to create moody and somewhat scary scenes that balance the creepy with the not-so-creepy. Kids love to be scared, but we don’t want to give them nightmares! 

I wrote...

Goblin Moon

By Jacqueline Rogers,

Book cover of Goblin Moon

What is my book about?

This charming picture book is perfect for spooky October nights. Snuggle up and enjoy this impish tale perfect for little goblins everywhere. With rhyming text and Jackie's signature style of illustration, this spirited story is just right for reading aloud. When old Goblin Moon rises on Halloween night, mischievous goblins come out with delight. They dance and swoon, they whoop and play, till one little girl helps them find their way!

The books I picked & why

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10 Spooky Pumpkins

By Gris Grimly,

Book cover of 10 Spooky Pumpkins

Why this book?

The absolutely gorgeous watercolors in Cris Grimly’s 10 Spooky Pumpkins jumped out and stole my heart! Rich color and high contrast pump up the Halloween mood, while his sensitivity to letting the washes flow in their own way shows a freedom and respect for the watercolor medium.

Grimly’s characters, including witches, ghosts and goblins to name a few, are stylized enough to balance the creepy with fun originality. Outlining watercolor with an ink line can flatten the art. But Grimly picks and chooses his sepia line work to draw you into detail, and then holds off to let the washes sing, creating great depth and space in his scenes.

This book makes me want to paint more night scenes! Thanks, Cris Grimly!

Bone Dog: A Picture Book

By Eric Rohmann,

Book cover of Bone Dog: A Picture Book

Why this book?

While the imagery and color palette seem simplified in Eric Rohmann’s Bone Dog, the mastery of his black line carries the art for me in this touching tale about a boy and his dog.

Rohmann uses a woodcut technique to create his black outlining. To actually carve around a drawn image, leaving the drawing raised up to ink and print on paper takes a tremendous amount of time for a 32-page picture book. The results are well worth it, these pages are stunning.

What I really love is the little bits of black around many of the carved areas having picked up some of the ink and left on the print, giving an added sense of movement, similar to cartoon motion lines. The dancing skeletons and running dogs really come to life!

The background washes of rich blue watercolor enhance the Halloween night mood, resulting in a beautiful mix of media in this charming book. 

Excellent work, Eric Rohmann!

Sir Simon: Super Scarer

By Cale Atkinson,

Book cover of Sir Simon: Super Scarer

Why this book?

While I am an intermediate student in digital art making, I am a big fan of digital art well done. Cale Atkinson’s fun ghosty picture book, Sir Simon: Super Scarer was a delight to discover!

Atkinson combines stylized skewed perspectives with a wealth of interesting design elements like multiple type styles, picture frame vignettes to divide up a page, hidden ghosts in wallpaper, inventive word balloons, cutaways, and active layouts to move the reader through this fun book.

What I really loved was Atkinson’s use of gravely textures over layers of saturated color favoring turquoise and terra cotta, with a smattering of purples and olives that made me smile. 

Sir Simon goes through a heartwarming change in the story, but I had already fallen in love with his simply designed, emotional charm. 

Hurrah, Cale Atkinson!

How to Help a Pumpkin Grow

By Ashley Wolff,

Book cover of How to Help a Pumpkin Grow

Why this book?

What I loved most about Ashley Wolff’s How to Help a Pumpkin Grow was her color! This luscious book is filled with gorgeous, intense full-spectrum color! Wolff’s wet on wet washes flow seamlessly into each other as a base layer. I am guessing, there may be some smooth pastel added to enhance the color in places. Wolff’s adept painting skill brings out details with multi-colored painted line work on top of the washes. 

Unusual touches like the addition of saturated royal blue to highlight the black coat of the dog and crow feathers add an interesting pop of color. The great asset of acrylic gouache is that it can be both transparent or opaque, enabling Wolff to add light line work on top of dark washes.

Gorgeous work, Ashley Wolff!

I Am a Witch's Cat

By Harriet Muncaster,

Book cover of I Am a Witch's Cat

Why this book?

While I love traditional painting as well as digital art, I also love imaginative and unconventional mixings of media. Harriet Muncaster’s sweet book I Am a Witch’s Cat exhibits beautifully staged photos of hand-built miniature scenes complete with fabrics and of all things, flat cut-out line art with simple color.

Added elements of strong light sources pouring in through windows and doors casting shadows that enhance the 3D effects. Little details like sunlight passing through a stained glass-like door cast a charming shadow that bends around a corner.

All the photographed scenes are faced with a flat 2D illustration with the type on the opposite page. The resulting images of hand-built props mixed up with flat line art make me want to pull out the old dollhouse and dress it up.

Cheers to you, Harriet Muncaster!

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