Spooky stories for your middle-grader
As the weather gets cooler and the days shorter, the dread of the Halloween season is sneaking in. For your budding horror and mystery fan, check out some of these seriously spooky stories.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell
For any young horror fan, "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" is a must-read. Alvin Schwartz's reimagining of classic American folk tales has been scaring kids since 1981 — in fact, it was number one on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most-challenged books of the 1990s. That's right: more people tried to get Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark banned from their local libraries than any other book for an entire decade.
That's because the stories are genuinely frightening. They're the type of tales that can make kids shiver, then laugh for being so afraid.
The real horror of the stories comes from the disturbing black-and-white illustrations, drawn by illustrator Stephen Gammell. Gammell's drawings are typically abstract, featuring bizarre, often horrifying figures.
Together, the stories and illustrations are unforgettable.
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
This 1967 Newbery Honor-winning novel features six intelligent children, a mysterious old man, and a horrifying murder — all set around a beautifully complicated, secret game the children created. When April, the main character, finds an old bust of Nefertiti in an antique store's storage yard, she and her friends begin to recreate their own ancient Egyptian society within the confines of the yard. Their game is disrupted by a brutal murder of another child, forcing the Egypt Game children to stay inside for weeks. The story is enchanting, and is sure to make your children fascinated with ancient Egypt (if they aren't already!)
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
When millionaire Sam Westing is killed, his will brings together 16 seemingly random people to solve his murder — whoever does will inherit his vast fortune. The story isn't exactly spooky, but it is extra-mysterious and will have your child frantically trying to figure out just who Sam Westing really is (answer: it's complicated).
The Westing Game takes place in a fictional city on Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, within a fictional apartment building called Sunset Towers. Sunset Towers faces east, toward the sunrise. This little twist on words is one of many featured throughout the book. Your young readers may want to pick this book up again a second time just to try and catch some of the more clever wordplay they may have missed the first time around.
The characters are delightful, and the brilliant and headstrong 13-year-old girl Turtle, who ultimately cracks the case, is a great role model for young readers. It's no wonder Raskin won the Newbery Medal for The Westing Game. Full of twists, turns, and fun, the story still feels fresh 40 years later.
This story is perfect for a rainy day or a road trip — your middle grader won't want to put this one down.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Full of gloom from the start, Coraline is just the right type of eerie for the season. After falling under the spell of a too-perfect stand in for her own mother, Coraline is on a race against time to save her real parents, as well as the souls of three lost children.
The story is spooky, and the drawings sprinkled throughout are beautiful (as you can expect from Neil Gaiman). This is a story your young reader won't forget.
Coraline is the right type of character for a young reader to admire. Whatever her faults, she stands up for what is right, and stands up to fear — no mean feat.