When the air turns cold and the leaves begin to fall from the trees you know it’s time to read a spooky book…at least it is for me. You might be thinking, “Wait! Creepy books for middle-grade readers—I don’t know…” What you might not know is that these dark tales are hot right now in the tween market—kids want to be scared! How do you know which books are just right for you or your middle-grade reader? I hope I can help with that by sharing with you some of my favorite spooky reads for the Halloween season and rate them from shivering to absolutely horrifying.
The Shiver Books:
These are the books that will give you’re the shivers.
They will not give you nightmares but instead make you jump
at things that go bump in the night.
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. This is a book about a boy raised in a graveyard by ghosts. Because they are always around you get pretty desensitized quickly that they are ghosts and I feel that removes most of the creep factor that would make this book scarier than it really is.
Summary: In this Newbery Medal-winning novel, Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place—he’s the only living resident of a graveyard. Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians’ time as well as their ghostly teachings—such as the ability to Fade so mere mortals cannot see him. Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? And then there are being such as ghouls that aren’t really one thing or the other. *The Graveyard Book won the Newbery Medal and the Carnegie Medal and is a Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel.
Another shivering tale by Neil Gaiman: Coraline
The Secret of Grimm Hill, by Linda DeMeulemeester. This one was a really fun read. I had the opportunity to exchange emails with the author and she is also delightful. This book had just enough creepy to keep you reading more. A super fun read for reluctant readers.
Summary: Winner of the OLA Silver Birch Award, and selected, Canadian Toy Testing Council’s “Great Books for Children.” Cat Peters just transferred to Darkmont High and is already desperate to get out. There’s no way her mom can afford the tuition at Grimoire, the posh, private school nearby, so when Cat hears that Grimoire is offering a full scholarship to the winners of a soccer match, she jumps at the chance! Once she makes the team, everything starts going Cat’s way. It’s as if the whole town is under a spell – all anyone cares about is the soccer game. Elated by her new celebrity status, Cat doesn’t pay much attention when her little sister, Sookie, and their bookworm neighbor, Jasper, try to tell her there’s something…just not right about the old school on the hill. But when terrible things start happening, Cat is forced to take Sookie and Jasper seriously and figure out what is going on. While investigating, Cat stumbles across a book of ancient Celtic myth and fairy lore and quickly realizes that something truly wicked is at work inside the walls of Grimoire.
More shivering tales by Linda DeMeulemeester: The Grimm Hill series
The Dream Keeper Chronicles, by Mikey Brooks (yes, I had to throw my own books in there). This series is not as spooky as it could be—the main reason is: I was too scared to write it that way (I’m a daffodil when it comes to bad dreams). It does delve into the nightmares of kids and for some that can be pretty shiver-making.
Summary: Dreams: Dorothy called it: Oz, Alice called it: Wonderland, but Nightmares call it: HOME. When an evil shifter takes over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, it falls to 14-year-olds Parker and Kaelyn to stop him. Their only hope lies with Gladamyr, the Dream Keeper, but can they trust a Nightmare to save their world?
Case Files 13: Zombie Kid, by J. Scott Savage. This book takes me back to my own childhood where I’d watch cult classics like The Monsters Squad (note: it’s an 80’s movie and thus packed full of cuss words—now shocking to my adult ears). This has plenty of creepy moments but Savage fills the tension with comedy and makes the book both enjoyable for kids and adults. It’s well worth the read.
Summary: You hold in your hands a very dangerous record. I have collected every side of the story and every piece of evidence on case number 13. Now, in this file, you will find all you need to follow the dark adventures of Nick, Carter, and Angelo, three boys who possess an unhealthy obsession with monsters, in a town so grisly, so horrific— Whoa, whoa, whoa. You’re telling it all wrong, dude. You make it sound like it’s a scary story. Ahem. Well, Nick, it is a scary story. In this volume alone, there are voodoo queens, graveyards even the dreaded Zombie King himself. Yeah, but there’s also the part where Angie gets mashed potatoes all in her face, and the part where I use my cool zombie powers to— All right, point taken. Now, if you don’t mind . . . You hold in your hands a very dangerous, very funny record, detailing the hilarious adventures of three boys who have an awesome obsession with monsters. This is the first volume. Read on if you dare. . . .
The Nail Biter Books:
Still not scary enough to inflict nightmares
but scary enough to keep you thinking about them long after you read them.
A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz. This is a fun book because it explores the darker-original fairytales and puts a twist on them by blending them together. The narrator tries to keep things funny but it does get pretty spooky as parents try to kill their children or old ladies try to eat them. It is exactly what it says, a tale that is dark and grim.
Summary: Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm (and Grimm-inspired) fairy tales. An irreverent, witty narrator leads us through encounters with witches, warlocks, dragons, and the devil himself. As the siblings roam a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind the famous tales, as well as how to take charge of their destinies and create their own happily ever after. Because once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, by Claire Legrand. This is a story about an orphanage you probably NEVER want to visit or be sent to. It’s got monsters masquerading as people running it, creepy-crawlies everywhere, and worse—children go missing after acting out or not doing what they’re told. A truly spooky read!
Summary: Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.) But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t come out at all. If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy.
The Goosebumps Books, by R.L. Stine. These books have remained the bestselling spooky books for kids since I was a kid. That’s pretty incredible. And with the new release of the Goosebumps movie I am sure these books will continue to be popular. I like that they are shorter reads that get pretty scary but don’t delve straight into the horror.
Summary: Goosebumps HorrorLand – the best-selling horror series – is still the must-have read for true horror fans. Fright-freaks will relish this collector’s set containing all 19 titles in the HorrorLand arc, plus Welcome to HorrorLand: A Survival Guide. Readers will find themselves trapped in the theme park which becomes more and more horrific with each book. Who – or what – is behind the evil plot to assemble these kids?
For other books by R.L. Stine (because there are TONS) visit his page by clicking here.
Nightmares! by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller. As you might have guessed, because I wrote a book myself about kids fighting nightmares, I like these kind of spooky books that are not only scary but funny. In order to save their town these kids have to face their worst fears. It’s a pretty sweet read.
Summary: What Charlie doesn’t know is that his problems are about to get a whole lot more real. Nightmares can ruin a good night’s sleep, but when they start slipping out of your dreams and into the waking world—that’s a line that should never be crossed. And when your worst nightmares start to come true . . . well, that’s something only Charlie can face. And he’s going to need all the help he can get, or it might just be lights-out for Charlie Laird. For good.
The Night Gardner, by Jonathan Auxier. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read a book by Jonathan Auxier now’s your chance. This one is fun! I first read his Peter Nimble book which was a delightful steampunk style book that had its own spooky moments. This one is a fun follow up about ghosts set in a Victorian world that is a creepy tale about human greed.
Summary: The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making.
The Absolutely Horrifying Books:
These are the books that will keep you up late at night because you are too scared to sleep. Yes they are downright creepy and will make you think about them long after you have finished wondering to yourself if the things in those pages might escape.
Yes! they are scary books for kids.
The Thickety: A Path Beginnings, by J.A. White. This book is rather intense…the whole series is intense. It starts off with a young girl’s mother being hanged for witchcraft. This is a downright creepy book but I loved it. I loved the chills and thrills it gave me. The second one is just as suspenseful and spooky and I am eagerly waiting the third.
Summary: When Kara Westfall was five years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. Years later, Kara and her little brother, Taff, are still shunned by the people of their village, who believe that nothing is more evil than magic…except, perhaps, the mysterious forest that covers nearly the entire island. It has many names, this place. Sometimes it is called the Dark Wood, or Sordyr’s Realm. But mostly it’s called the Thickety. The villagers live in fear of the Thickety and the terrible creatures that live there. But when an unusual bird lures Kara into the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book with unspeakable powers. A book that might have belonged to her mother…And that is just the beginning of the story.
Other books by J.A. White: The Thickety: The Whispering Trees
Doll Bones, by Holly Black. What kid didn’t like reading the Spiderwick Chronicles? That was pretty mild when I comes to this book on the level of scary—this one is more on the level of a horror (books about ghosts and creepy china dolls always send chills up my back!). It received a starred review from Kirkus and they don’t hand those out too freely so know the writing is awesome!
Summary: Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her. But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave. Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?
The Spooks Apprentice, by Joseph Delaney. I discovered this series on audiobook and it made me jump several times as I was listening. The Last Apprentice, the first book in this horrifying series, is about a boy who is learning the trade of vanquishing witches and other dark creatures. What he encounters is just frightening. Downright fighting! It’s awesome!
Summary: A wonderful and terrifying series by a new writer about a young boy training to be an exorcist. Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son and has been apprenticed to the local Spook. The job is hard, the Spook is distant and many apprentices have failed before Thomas. Somehow Thomas must learn how to exorcise ghosts, contain witches and bind boggarts. But when he is tricked into freeing Mother Malkin, the most evil witch in the County, the horror begins …
Miss Peregrine’s Homes for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. This book is classified as a YA but I think it’s one of those books that rests in the in-between (a tween read). This book gave me the creeps as I was reading it and it wasn’t just the monsters that take on human form but the strange kids that do or are peculiar. This is a book you want to see in print or eBook (not that the audiobook isn’t cool because the narrator does a great job) but you want to see the picture inside of the creepy children. (There is mild language in this one).
Summary: A mysterious island…An abandoned orphanage…A strange collection of very curious photographs…It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
Sleep with the lights on!
Let me know if you find lists like this helpful as I will most likely be posting again. So that’s it for now. Read and be scared! ~Mikey Brooks