All of us – adults, teens, and children – enjoy a scary chill: the anticipation of a creaking door opening in slow motion, waiting for someone – or something – to walk through, and then a wind gust slamming that door shut. BANG! What better time of year to indulge in stories that make our spines tingle than Halloween? So bring them on – ghosts and ghouls, wizards and witches, haunted houses and black magic.
for ages 2-6
Youngest children love the fun of Halloween: costumes, trick-or-treating, and gentle tales of ghosts and goblins.
GHOSTS IN THE HOUSE
By Kazumo Kohara
For ages 1-6
There are fuzzy pumpkin costumes in sizes as small as six months, so why not a Halloween board book for toddlers? This one tells the tale of a little girl who moves into a new house only to discover it is haunted. No worries. Turns out she's a witch, and she knows exactly what to do. In a twist of the sheet-as-ghost-costume tradition, our little witch gathers up the pesky ghosts, puts them in the washing machine, hangs them on the line, and makes bed sheets out of them. Stylishly illustrated in orange and black, this is the just right balance for very young children.
GO AWAY BIG GREEN MONSTER!
By Ed Emberley
For ages: 3-6
This big-faced monster has two yellow eyes, a long blue nose, sharp white teeth, two little squiggly ears, scraggly purple hair, and a scary green face.
THE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO WAS NOT AFRAID OF ANYTHING
By Linda Williams; Illustrated by Megan Lloyd.
For ages: 3-7
In this cumulative story that will have everyone chiming in on the telling, we watch an unflappable little old lady encounter two clomping shoes, a wiggling pair of pants, a shaking shirt, two clapping gloves, a nodding hat, and one scary pumpkin head that says, "BOO, BOO!"
THE MONSTER RETURNS
By Peter McCarty
For ages 3-7
When the phone rings and Jeremy's blue monster announces that he is bored and coming back, Jeremy invites his friends over to draw their own monsters. Then, when Jeremy's monster arrives, he is greeted by a roomful of friends. And friends are just what the monster and Jeremy need!
for ages 6-9
New readers are ready for some scary stuff, mixed with humor, handled with a light touch, and happily resolved.
NIGHT OF THE PUMPKINHEADS
By Michael J. Rosen; illustrated by Hugh McMahon
For ages 5-8
All those pumpkins sitting on the porch want their turn to put on costumes and go trick-or-treating. And this year, they do! Illustrated with photographs of carved pumpkins, this Halloween treat also includes instructions for making your own pumpkin heads.
LOS GATOS BLACK ON HALLOWEEN
By Marisa Montes; Illustrated by Yuyi Morales.
For ages: 6-9
In a spooky graveyard on Halloween night, los gatos (cats) slink, las calabazas (pumpkins) burn bright, las brujas (witches) glide on their escobas (broomsticks), and los esqueletos (skeletons) rattle bones.
By Diana Wynne Jones; Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
For ages 7-10
Earwig was left in a basket on the doorstep of St Morwald's Home for Children with a note suggesting she had been left there by a witch. Earwig is happy at St Morwald's. Why not? She uses her "strange abilities" to get whatever she wants — from her favorite lunch to a new red sweater — until she meets her match in Bella Yaga and the Mandrake who adopt her. Her new home is strange to be sure: rooms change boundaries, smells and sights appear and disappear, and Thomas, the black cat, can talk. But Earwig is determined to take control, and she and Thomas begin to work some magic of their own.
DRAGONBREATH: CURSE OF THE WERE-WIENER
And other titles in the Dragonbreath series
By Ursula Vernon
For ages 8-10
Just as Danny's best friend Wendell the Iguana is about to bite into a hotdog-the hotdog bites back! By the next day, Wendell's finger has turned red, his back is growing hair, and Danny discovers this weiner was manufactured in (where else?) Transylvania. With witty one-liners, black and green-toned illustrations and balloon dialogue, this graphic-style novel will keep readers howling.
for ages 9-12
There's a bit of an "I dare you to scare me" attitude as kids in the middle grades and in middle school approach spooky stories. You can meet that challenge with some of these books
HOCUS POCUS HOTEL
(Volumes 1 and 2)
By Michael Dahl
For ages 8-11
When Tyler Yu (a bully) asks Charlie Hitchcock (a geek) to meet him after school, Charlie fears the worst. But Ty just needs his help solving a mystery at the Abracadabra Hotel, a retirement home for magicians, where his Dad is the manager. As the two join forces and discover the hotel is haunted, an unlikely friendship develops. A delightful spirited new series filled with riddles, magic tricks and secret.
By Naomi Zucker
For ages 9-11
Eleven-year-old Callie takes on the establishment to try and save Halloween when the Town Council votes to ban trick-or-treating and all scary costumes.
GUSTAV GLOOM AND THE PEOPLE TAKER
By Adam-Troy Castro; Illustrated by Kristen Margiotta
For ages 9-12
The moody blue cover of this first book in a series features a die-cut look through the door of a most unwelcoming house. But Fernie What (yes, that's her name) is undaunted as she follows her cat right in where she meets its only human resident, Gustav Gloom. Their search for Harrington takes them into every room and every corner of the house occupied by shadows and the haunt of the terrible People Taker. The author weaves elements from the scary tales kids tell on camping trips and on stormy autumn evenings and gives us a tour of one spooky mansion that readers will want to return to again and again. .
THE EMERALD ATLAS
(The Books of Beginning Series)
By John Stephanes
For ages 9-12
Siblings Michael, Kate and Emma, sent away by their parents years ago, live in a creepy orphanage run by a wizard, Dr. Pym. When they find a green leather-bound book, it transports them to the past and an evil Countess who will stop at nothing to get the ancient Atlas of Time back. In page-turning action, the children confront wolves, witchery, fearsome creatures, magic, and their own self-doubts in a race against time as they search for their parents.
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK
and MORE SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK
By Alvin Schwartz;; Illustrated by Brett Helquist
For ages 9 and 12
Don't forget your flashlight when you read or tell the spine-tingling tales in these funny/scary collections, based on American folklore. Genuine classics filled with all the delicious dark-side details kids love: blood, gore, murder, murderers, ghosts, horror, revenge, and of course, a couple of graveyards.
THE POISONED HOUSE
By Michael Ford
For ages 9-12
From the cover (a hand reaching up from a crypt) to the pulse-pounding crescendo ending, a haunting tale of a young woman in Victorian England who becomes convinced that her late mother was poisoned. Why else would she keep appearing in Abigail's dreams, if not to warn her daughter about the dangers that lurk within? Abigail doesn't know whom to trust. A haunting, atmospheric tale of love, betrayal, murder, greed and madness.
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK
By Neil Gaiman; Illustrated by Dave McKean.
For ages: 10 and up
Escaping a murderous intruder, a toddler finds his way to an old graveyard where he is taken in to be raised and kept safe by Mistress Owens and her husband—ghosts, both of them—and renamed Nobody Owens, or Bod for short.
WITCHES: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem
By Rosalyn Schanzer
For ages 10 up
A riveting, real-life horror story of what happened in Massachusetts in 1692 when two young girls began twitching and contorting their bodies into strange shapes and mumbling odd things. As the "virus" spread to other villages, people began to distrust their friends and neighbors, believing they were witches in cahoots with the devil. Mass hysteria reigned, reputations were ruined and lives were lost. A terrifying historical event, vividly brought to life.
for ages 12 and up
Books for teens mix the fantasy elements of scary tales with just enough reality to ramp up the fear factor.
GHOSTS I HAVE BEEN
By Richard Peck
Ages 11 and up
The time: 1914. Quirky, fun-loving Blossom Culp would do anything not to feel like a social outcast. So she conjures up a story about being able to see the future.( Since her mother is a fortune-teller, It's not as far-fetched as it seems.) And sure enough, her gullible schoolmates begin to believe it. But when some of Blossom's predictions come true, and she begins to have visions… flash-forwards… and a particularly vivid deja-vu about a young boy on the Titanic, Blossom realizes that her new paranormal "normal" has its own set of problems.
SPLENDORS AND GLOOM
By Laura Amy Schlitz
For ages 11 and up
Part fable, part fairy tale, this highly-original mix of gothic horror and fantasy tells of Parsefall and Lizzie Rose, two orphans in a Dickensian London who live with a puppeteer named Grisini who make a dreadful discovery: Grisini has kidnapped a wealthy young girl named Clara, and turned her into a puppet. Terrified that the same thing will happen to them, the brother and sister confront him. That's when they find a mysterious letter from a woman named Madama, promising them great riches if they join her in Italy. The two set out on the journey, taking the Clara-puppet with them, only to learn that Madama is an evil witch with a powerful secret, unveiled in the surprising climax. A vivid, powerful period drama about children caught in a world of magic and misdeeds — with much to teach about human nature at its best and worst.
WITCH AND WIZARD
and other books in the Witch and Wizard Series
By James Patterson
For ages 11 and up
A dystopian fantasy of what happens when two typical teenagers, Whit and Wisty Allgood have their lives uprooted by a sudden totalitarian takeover. The New Order, headed by The One Who Is The One, immediately abolishes what it considers subversive behaviors — in particular, the creative and dark arts. One night, hundreds of commandos storm their house and arrest the teens, accusing them of being a witch and a wizard. The siblings protest their innocence, but are suddenly aware of superpowers they never knew they possessed. Ignoring their pleas, the solders toss them into a dank prison overrun with sadistic guards, and filled with other young people who possess magical powers. A faced-paced thriller filled with dazzling special effects, sorcery and surprises.
Season One of the 3:15 Series
By Patrick Carman
For ages 11 and up
The ten short stories in this collection, each with a touch of Twiight Zone, are told, first in an audio recording that readers access on their computers; then on the pages of the book; and finally in a video ending, again accessed on the computer. The stories are genuinely chilling: a hermit woodsman with a golden hook for and arm; a teen discovering an enchanted mirror at the antique shop where she works; two fearless snow-boarding pals who ought to be a bit more cautious… Each story takes 15 minutes to listen, read, and watch – but they are sure to linger in readers' thoughts long after.
FRIENDS WITH BOYS
By Faith Erin Hicks
For ages 12 and up
A starkly beautiful graphic novel. Maggie has always had it easy…sort of. Her devoted Mom home-schooled her, so she never had to deal with the real world. All that changed the day Maggie's mother disappeared. Suddenly, life — or, more specifically, high school — loomed before her. Haunted by her mother's departure, Maggie finds herself haunted by something else as well: a real ghost hovering around her – the widow of a sea captain. And for some reason, the ghost won't leave Maggie's side. A story with great emotional intensity that will resonate with raw teens everywhere.
By Vera Brosgol
For ages 12-18
Fitting in is always tough. But what if you're an immigrant, ashamed of your Russian parents, trying desperately to look and sound like all the other kids at your posh school? That's the angst of Anya in this magical coming-of-age graphic novel. When Anya falls down a well, she meets Emily, a hundred-year-old ghost her own age. Anya believes she's found a real kindred spirit and BFF…until, slowly, the ghost takes on a sinister life of its own.
MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
By Ransom Riggs
For ages 13 and up
A creepy, scary, touching book about a young man's journey to discover the life his grandfather lived as a boy…only to discover a world of unexpected terror.
As Jacob stumbles into a time loop – part paradise and part nightmare –he finds himself trying to unlock the mysteries of Miss Peregrine's Home, and the peculiar children it housed who may all still be alive and hell-bent on ridding the world of monsters. Mesmerizing vintage photos give the story an added dimension and make the characters starkly real.
How can you make telling stories out loud really, well, SCARY? Starr LaTronica, Youth Services Manager at the Four County Library System in New York, gives some tips.
Now–huddle around with your kids and watch some creepy scary stories together!
For parents of middle schoolers looking for a great new book–read a sneak preview of DARK LORD: THE EARLY YEARS.